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Morning Memo: GOP fundraising, Rural Center face major questions

GOP ABANDONS PLEDGE FOR TAX REFORM: From Rob Christensen's column: Tax reform in North Carolina died last week. RIP. …The House has rolled out its plan, and the Senate has rolled out an alternative plan. Those plans focus almost exclusively on cutting corporate and personal income taxes, rather than revamping the 1930s tax code. So tax reform is dead. In its place, we have large tax cuts, the size and shape of which will be worked out in a House-Senate conference committee. Cutting taxes is in the Republican comfort zone. Reforming the tax code is not. Full story.

LOBBYING FIRM ACTED AS TILLIS, McCRORY FUNDRAISING CONDUIT: The giving by the sweepstakes industry also puts a spotlight on fundraising efforts organized by McGuireWoods. Multiple contributions from sweepstakes operators were often recorded on the same days, with the largest group coming on May 16, 2012, when the Tillis campaign tallied a total of $60,002 from 19 individuals. Days earlier, on May 10, McGuireWoods held a fundraiser at its Raleigh office attended by Payne and lobbyists from other organizations. Harry Kaplan, a McGuireWoods lobbyist, said he invited clients who were interested in meeting with Tillis to talk about the issues they represented. They could also make campaign contributions, which some did, he said.

***More on Tillis, McCrory campaign fundraising, the sweepstakes industry and questions clouding the N.C. Rural Center and top Republicans below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: House begins budget writing

WILL THE STATE BUDGET FINISH IN TIME? As the House begins crafting its own state budget this week, the phrase "continuing resolution" is being heard more frequently in the hallways at the statehouse. The idea is this: with the Senate's budget delay, will the House finish writing its own in time to get it approved before the end of the fiscal year June 30? And if it gets close, and House and Senate budget writers are still deadlocked in conference, will they need to find an escape plan to keep government running? House budget writer Nelson Dollar dismissed the talk in an interview last week, but House Democrats are openly discussing the possibility. "I don't see how it's going to be avoided," said Rep. Mickey Michaux, a veteran Democrat. The state budget negotiations this year are complicated by House and Senate Republican leaders' attempts to imbed a tax overhaul that cuts government spending into the state budget, especially because the two chambers are so widely split on the issue.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: With money on the table, a strong lobbying presence is expected this week. A group of physicians will make the rounds Tuesday asking the House to put money in the state budget to pay for youth tobacco use prevention. House budget committees begin meeting at 8:30 a.m. Another House panel will consider the new school vouchers bill at 10 a.m. and a transportation committee will hear a ferry toll bill at noon. The House convenes at 1 p.m. but there are no bills on the calendar. The Senate convenes at 4 p.m. but will also hold a skeletal session with no action expected. Gov. Pat McCrory plays Mayor Pat again Tuesday morning in Charlotte, speaking to the local rotary club. Elsewhere, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan will honor military spouses at an even in Fayetteville.

***Read more Dome Morning Memo below to get a roundup of North Carolina political news from the holiday weekend. ***

Thom Tillis issues a warning to Republicans about overreaching

House Speaker Thom Tillis issued a warning last weekend to his fellow Repubicans about overreaching with their supermajority power.

"I was the GOP minority whip in 2009," he began in a Facebook post. "My job was to get conservative Democrats to help us defeat liberal legislation. The Democratic leaders, heavily influenced by their most liberal members and far-left groups, could not resist the pressure to move too far to fast. They did not compromise and they went too far.

"They got out of step with the citizens of NC and they lost their majority as a result. It was their lack of discipline that laid the groundwork for Republicans to have House/Senate super majorities, a GOP governor, and (lieutenant) governor," he concluded. "Our lack of discipline will lay the groundwork for their ascendency and if they succeed we will only have ourselves to blame."

What generated the post is unclear. A Tillis spokesman declined to elaborate and answer specific questions. "Speaker Tillis was simply recapping what occurred under Democratic leadership before Republicans won a majority in 2010, and pointing out that the Republican majority should learn from the mistakes of Democratic leadership of the past," spokesman Jordan Shaw said Monday.

Morning Memo: Senate moves with speed, Muslim remarks put GOP on the spot

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: In a metaphor for this legislative session, the Senate is moving fast to raise the speed limit to 75 mph on some highways. The full Senate is scheduled to hear the bill Thursday, a day after it passed a committee and a week after it was filed, AP reports. The Carolina Panthers incentives bill also won approval in committee Wednesday and heads to the floor. Senate convenes at 10 a.m. The House is expecting a longer-than-normal day with a busy calendar, including a measure to limit the N.C. Lottery's ability to advertise and sell games. It starts at 1 p.m. Earlier in the day, House committees will consider a wind energy bill and IT changes requested by the McCrory adminsitration.

Gov. Pat McCrory will attend the UNC system Board of Governors meeting in Pembroke -- where he will surely face questions about the budget cuts he proposed -- before making an economic development announcement in the area.

HOW WILL GOP REACT? As AP reports, an American-Islamic group wants national Republican leaders to repudiate comments by a North Carolina legislator who compared Muslim prayer to terrorism. The Council on American-Islamic Relations said Wednesday that bigoted comments must be rejected if the GOP wants to reach minorities. State Rep. Michele Presnell of Yancey County did not respond to messages seeking comment.

***The Dome Morning Memo sets the stage for the day in North Carolina politics. Get more news and analysis below.***

Morning Memo: Voter ID legislation takes stage after crazy day at legislature

VOTER ID DUEL STARTS THE DAY: Democratic leaders frame the day with a 9:45 a.m. press conference about recent election legislation, from curtailing early voting to voter ID measures, but it better not take too long because House Speaker Thom Tillis will take the same podium at 10:30 a.m. A Republican announcement of a voter ID bill is possible given next week's Elections Committee hearing seeking public comment on the issue.

GOP FLOODGATES OPEN: Voter ID joins a long list of other major policy changes blossoming at the same time in the middle of this legislative session. Let's try to put it in one sentence: With voter ID, the House is launching the most politically volatile issue of the session at the same time Senate Republicans explore a major income tax overhaul that would redefine who carries the burden of the state's tax system and Gov. Pat McCrory readies a long list of policies to reverse course on Democratic rule for the past 20 years, starting with his Medicaid overhaul and state budget proposal, while other lawmakers push plenty of smaller but equally major bills to create a separate governing system for charter schools, repeal the state's renewable energy credits, support gun ownership, restart the death penalty, legalize some sweepstakes, put restrictions on those seeking public assistance, consider an Arizona-styled immigration checks and establish a resolution that says N.C. towns and cities can set an official religion. All this arose in various ways in a single day. When's sine die?

***Don't miss today's Dome Morning Memo -- a recap of news and analysis from a big day at the statehouse. More below. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com.***

Morning Memo: Democrat files first tax bill, McCrory concedes ground

UPDATED: DEMOCRAT FILES FIRST MAJOR TAX BILL: With a bipartisan list of sponsors, Charlotte Democratic Sen. Dan Clodfelter beat Republicans to the punch on tax overhaul legislation. Clodfelter filed a bill Thursday to lower personal and corporate income taxes, as well as the state sales tax with a more modest expansion of taxable services. One big proposed change: a flat income tax rate at 6 percent, instead of three-tiered structure now, as well as exempting the first $11,000 in income from taxation. Clodfelter said it would help all taxpayers but especially low- and middle-income residents.

McCRORY SAYS NO INCOME TAX ELIMINATION: Gov. Pat McCrory, who campaigned on a plan to significantly lower personal and corporate income taxes and possibly eliminate them, is now conceding ground. McCrory took his budget tour on the road Thursday to Wilmington. The Star-News reported: "Even though McCrory cited the state’s tax system as a disadvantage in competition with South Carolina and Virginia, he said it was not possible now to eliminate the personal or corporate income taxes as part of his upcoming tax reform proposals."

***It's March Madness -- in basketball and state politics. Read more Dome Morning Memo below. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com. ***

Morning Memo: Emails show Tata's troubles as former Wake education chief

TATA'S TUMULTOUS TENURE AS SCHOOLS CHIEF REVEALED: Newly released email shows that former Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata -- and now state Transportation Secretary -- spent his final month in office surrounded by growing distress and concern from school board members and parents over his handling of the school bus problems and student assignment. More than 3,400 pages of email released this week as part of a public records request by news media organizations, including The News & Observer, show how much the bus fiasco affecting thousands of families was a daily concern during the first month of school. (More on this story below.)

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: A bill to limit local governments from requiring inspections of homes in some instances -- a measure that is opposed by environmental groups -- is on the House calendar. The House will also consider legislation to make it a felony for a parent to fail to report a missing child, dubbed Caylee's Law after the Caylee Anthony case, in which the 2-year-old was found dead and her mother didn't report her missing for a month. At 10 a.m., Senate committee will consider (for discussion only) a midwife bill and a measure to put teeth in the state's public records law. On the Senate floor later in the day, the "red route" bill gets a final vote with toll road language attached. Gov. Pat McCrory is making an economic development announcement in Raleigh at 1 p.m.

***Good morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. Click below more more North Carolina political news and analysis. Send tips and news to dome@newsobserver.com.***

Morning Memo: Charlotte issues, legislation thwart McCrory announcement

CHARLOTTE ISSUES STEAL McCRORY'S THUNDER: Gov. Pat McCrory triumphantly returned to his home city Monday for an economic development announcement -- but you wouldn't know it from the front page of The Charlotte Observer this morning. Two controversial local issues -- control of the airport and Carolina Panthers stadium upgrades -- stole the show and the front page. McCrory punted on the airport issues but said the effort to transfer control from the city to an independent authority needed more thought. And on stadium upgrades, McCrory said no to the use of state money. (More on those stories below.) Expect more of the same today, when McCrory holds a press conference with the Metro Mayors Coalition but will likely face myriad questions about voter ID and other legislation.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House will convene at 2 p.m. but no votes are expected; the Senate opens at 2:30 p.m. to consider a handful of legislation on the calendar. The action is on Gov. Pat McCrory's desk where four bills await his signature -- including a bill to block Medicaid expansion and prohibit a state-based exchange. McCrory's press conference starts at 2:15 p.m.

***Good morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- a tipsheet for North Carolina politics. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com. ***

Morning Memo: GOP battle on boards, voter ID effort headline the week

THIS WEEK IN POLITICS: The action at the legislature will resume full-speed this week with more intra-party fighting among the GOP on a bill to sweep clean state boards. An amended version is before the House for final approval and then goes to a reluctant Senate, setting up negotiations in conference committee. House Speaker Thom Tillis will hold a news conference Tuesday to outline plans for a voter ID bill, despite mixed messages that such a measure would not require a photo ID. Gov. Pat McCrory will make an economic development announcement Monday in Charlotte and Tuesday will host metropolitan mayors at the governor's mansion, a group close to his heart as the former Charlotte mayor. On Friday the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission meets amid legislative changes to speed the fracking timetable in North Carolina.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. This is Severe Weather Awareness Week, so declared by the governor, so go get a disaster kit. Send tips and items to dome@newsobserver.com***

Morning Memo: McCrory, Foxx square off as legislature takes fast track

UPDATED: IS IT MAYOR PAT OR GOVERNOR PAT? Gov. Pat McCrory told two city of Charlotte staff members this week that state money for the light-rail extension to UNC Charlotte could be at risk if the city builds a controversial streetcar, according to a memo sent Thursday. Without the N.C. Department of Transportation’s $250 million grant, the $1.1 billion Lynx Blue Line extension can’t be built. As Charlotte mayor, McCrory, a Republican, championed light rail, which was one of his signature accomplishments. But he vehemently disagrees with using city property tax dollars to build a streetcar, and used the meeting in Raleigh to relay a message to City Council, according to the memo.

FOXX 'OUTRAGED' OVER WHAT HE CALLS A THREAT: “It’s particularly alarming that he would choose to deliver messages to city staff, particularly messages that contain threats," said Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, a Democrat and potential challenger to McCrory in 2016. “He is governor of the state, and there are a host of issues – tax reform, health care. Why the governor would choose to place focus on a transit project, particularly one contained in a transit plan that he voted to implement makes no sense,” Foxx said.

***This is the Dome Morning Memo a tipsheet on N.C. politics. Click "Read More" for other headlines and news.***

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