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Tillis opens N.C. House session with right-to-work pledge

House Speaker Thom Tillis pledged to keep North Carolina a union-free state in his opening address at the legislature Wednesday.

The Cornelius Republican said the Republicans in the super-majority "will continue to be the least unionized state in the United States," spurring applause from Republicans and blank looks from Democrats.

Morning Memo: McCrory cabinet pick faces more questions, legislature returns

SKVARLA FACES NEW QUESTIONS: Secretary John Skvarla's memo to staff at the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources this week is getting a good bit of attention and creating more questions than it answers. As reported here first, the agency's new mission statement includes this line: "environmental science is quite complex, comprised of many components, and most importantly, contains diversity of opinion." The memo also suggests the agency is more service organziation than state regulator. It raises big questions for the McCrory administration: Is climate change a scientific fact? What about sea level rise? And are human's responsible for global warming?

McCRORY DODGES GLOBAL WARMING QUESTION: As the DENR secretary questions the validity of science, the new Republican governor is sidestepping the global warming issue entirely. Pat McCrory told Travis Fain at the News & Record: "John (Skvarla) and I aren’t going to get caught up in the political semantics of either the left or the right on climate change or global warming. We believe in clean air, clean water and clean ground. ... As my father used to say ... we must walk the fine line between continuing our economic prosperity while also protecting the quality of life and the environment which brought may of us here. And that’s the fine line leadership must continue to walk.” Expect this question to re-emerge Wednesday.

GOP legislative leaders to Perdue: Thanks for the budget, great doorstop

Gov. Bev Perdue issued her proposed budget Thursday and Republican legislative leaders soon issued statements essentially dismissing the document as a doorstop.

Republicans' problem: Perdue's budget is built on a 3/4-cent sales tax hike, making much of it unusable in their minds. 

Senate leader Phil Berger: "We must break state government’s habit of throwing money at problems and adopt innovative solutions and meaningful reforms.  The cycle of irresponsible taxing, borrowing, and spending must stop.” 

House Speaker Thom Tillis: “Gov. Perdue’s budget proposal is, disappointingly, more of the same failed approach that led to the fiscal mess the Republican legislative majority inherited. ... It is time we budget responsibly without demanding more from the pockets of our citizens.”

Democrats don't appear to trust Tillis; plan to attend special session

House Democrats are planning to return to Raleigh next week for a legislative mini-session, despite Republican Speaker Thom Tillis' pledge not to take any votes.

"We have all heard the 'no votes' pledge before and there were votes," Democratic state Rep. Tricia Cotham tweeted. "Often late night votes."

Democratic legislative leaders scheduled a caucus meeting and asked members to attend the session, said Bill Holmes, the spokesman for House Democratic leader Joe Hackney.

The move highlights the lack of trust between Democratic and Republican lawmakers after the divisive midnight session in December in which Republicans hastily scheduled a special session and 1 a.m. vote to override a veto of a teacher's dues bill.

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