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Morning Roundup: Myrick spends most on family business

No member of Congress has spent more campaign money on a business owned by his or her family during the last two elections than U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, a watchdog group says in a new report.

The Charlotte Republican paid Myrick/Gunter Advertising – owned by her stepdaughter – $408,818 since 2007, according to the nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Read Jim Morrill's report here.

In other news:

--Former presidential candidate Herman Cain said he expects the Republican presidential contest to extend well past North Carolina’s May 8 primary and possibly end in a brokered convention. “The process has been unpredictable from the beginning,” Cain told reporters. “I believe that the rest of this process will also be unpredictable.” Read more from his visit to the Triangle.

SEANC: Don't layoff yet

SEANC is taking on Erskine Bowles over layoffs.

Dana Cope, executive director of the State Employees Association of N.C., sent a letter today to the president of the University of North Carolina system.

In it, he says he's learned of an e-mail at UNC-Chapel Hill that calls for reducing staff size now in order to save money in the budget starting July 1.

He cites a rule by the State Personnel Commission which says reductions can only happen once there is a shortage of funds.

"There is no shortage of funds yet, as the next budget has yet to be passed and signed into law," Cope writes. "The General Assembly may, in fact, find a way to fund UNC for the next fiscal year in such a way that no redutions in force are required."

Copies of the March 26 letter were sent to Gov. Beverly Perdue and Office of State Personnel head Linda Coleman.

Bowles RIF letter.pdf

Drunk driver fee funds Bowles Center

An alcohol research center has been funded by drunk drivers.

The Bowles Center on Alcohol Studies has received money from a fee paid by people who had their licenses restored after charges of driving under the influence.

For years, $25 of the $75 fee has gone to the University of North Carolina system to for an endowment for the alcohol research center at UNC-Chapel Hill. Next year, the payments would have totaled about $500,000.

The fee was designed to sunset when the endowment reaches $10 million, which is expected on June 30. Gov. Beverly Perdue proposed to use the half-million dollars to help balance next year's budget.

Rob Nelson, a spokesman for the UNC system, said that the center will now rely on interest from the endowment and grants from national health groups.

Already, some in the state Senate are pushing back.

Sen. Richard Stevens, a Cary Republican, has filed a bill that would continue to give the money to the Bowles Center for annual expenses. One of his cosponsors is Democratic Sen. Linda Garrou, a budget writer.

Update: An earlier version of this post was unclear. The $25 fee itself, not just the transfer of money, would expire this summer if no action is taken. 

Bowles names Watkins UNC lobbyist

The UNC system has a new lobbyist.

Anita S. Watkins, legislative counsel for the N.C. League of Municipalities, will serve as vice president for government relations for the multi-campus UNC system, Eric Ferreri reports.

She replaces Andy Willis, who resigned earlier this month to become a senior adviser to Gov. Beverly Perdue.

UNC President Erskine Bowles announced her appointment today. It is effective Jan. 26.

Watkins will serve as the university's primary liaison to the state legislature, the governor's office and state government agencies. She will also work with Bowles, the UNC Board of Governors and senior staffers to develop policies and programs.

She holds a law degree and a master's degree in city and regional planning from UNC-Chapel Hill, as well as undergraduate degrees in political science and Spanish from N.C. State University.

After graduating from NCSU in 1994, she served for three years as a research assistant in the office of state Senate leader Marc Basnight. She later was senior policy analyst for the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources before going to the League of Municipalities.

Perdue appoints Willis, Crowder

Beverly Perdue named her legislative lobbyist and director today.

As expected since earlier this month, the governor-elect announced that she would appoint Andy Willis as her senior advisor for governmental affairs. She also named Courtney Crowder as legislative director.

Willis is currently vice president for government relations for the University of North Carolina system and a former fiscal analyst for the state Senate. He has a master's degree in public administration from UNC-Chapel Hill and a bachelor's in political science from N.C. State.

Crowder currently works as a lobbyist for Capstrat and previously worked at the N.C. Department of Insurance and for U.S. Rep. Bob Etheridge. He has a master's degree from Duke University and a bachelor's degrees in English literature and French from N.C. Central University.

"Andy and Courtney will bring to our team a wealth of experience and proven ability to get things done," Perdue said in a statement. "They'll play key roles in making our vision to get North Carolina back on track a reality."

Willis to be Perdue's liaison?

Andy WillisAndy Willis may be Gov.-elect Beverly Perdue's legislative liaison.

Currently the vice president for government relations for the University of North Carolina system, Willis' name surfaced this week as a likely pick to lobby the legislature for Perdue.

Willis has a lot of experience at the legislature.

From 1996 to 2003, he was a senior budget analyst with the Fiscal Research Division of the General Assembly, serving as the primary staffer for the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

Perdue chaired that committee from 1995 to 2000.

For three years afterward, he worked a an assistant to the chancellor of N.C. State University. He's been at the UNC system for the past three years.

He has an undergraduate degree from N.C. State and a master's of public administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Moeser's Long Goodbye

If board meetings had movie titles, Friday's get-together of the UNC system's Board of Governors might be called "The Long Goodbye."

The board spent much of its two-hour meeting Friday morning bidding adieu to various board members, administrators and campus leaders. Speeches were authored. Resolutions awarded. Hugs given and received. Kind words all the way around, Eric Ferreri reports.

Much of the praise Friday was directed to James Moeser, the retiring chancellor at UNC-Chapel Hill. Moeser came to Chapel Hill in 2000 from the University of Nebraska to fill the void left by the death of Michael Hooker.

UNC system President Erskine Bowles said Moeser arrived to find a campus with room to grow.

"He took a very good university and, in his quiet but firm manner, demanded we make it great," Bowles said, pointing to Moeser's successes in leading a $2.4 million fundraising campaign, shepherding a massive construction boom, and defending the university’s decision to select a book about the Islamic holy book as the summer reading selection soon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Moeser’s successor is Holden Thorp, a chemistry professor and current dean of UNC-CH's College of Arts and Sciences. He begins work July 1.

Gage elected head of UNC board

Hannah Gage, a retired broadcast executive from Wilmington, was elected this morning as the first woman to lead the UNC Board of Governors.

Gage, 55, was unanimously chosen as the board's chairwoman. Raleigh government relations consultant Peter D. Hans was elected vice chairman, and Roper mayor Estelle “Bunny” Sanders was re-elected board secretary, Eric Ferreri reports.

The founder and former owner of Cape Fear Broadcasting Co., Gage was first elected to the Board of Governors in 2001. She has led several committees of the UNC system's governing board and co-chaired task forces on tuition policy and teacher recruitment. She is a Fayetteville native and a 1975 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill.

The 32-member governing board makes policy and sets tuition for the 17-campus system, which includes 16 public universities and the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics in Durham.

Bill would require student tutoring

Those seeking a bachelor's degree in the state's public and private colleges and universities would be required to spend 20 hours a semester tutoring or mentoring students in public elementary, middle or high schools if legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand becomes law.

Rand's legislation seeks to honor two students recently killed by gunfire in the Triangle: UNC-Chapel Hill Student Body President Eve Carson and Duke University graduate student Abhijit Mahato. The community service program would be named after them, Dan Kane reports.

Rand, a Fayetteville Democrat, said the legislation would serve a twofold purpose: to instill a sense of community and responsibility in college students and to provide help to struggling public school students.

"In our public schools, we always say if we could get the family involved how much better everything would be," Rand said. "Well, some of our children in public schools don't have families. Sometimes the family doesn't want to be involved. And so programs involving these college students in the schools would be a real boost."

More after the jump.

Bowles, Dole and basketball

Erskine Bowles and Elizabeth Dole

UNC president Erskine Bowles, and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole take in the second half of the UNC vs. Clemson basketball game on Sunday in the Smith Center. Bowles ran unsuccessfully against Dole in the 2002 Senate race. (Robert Willett)

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