UPDATED: WHAT REDISTRICTING MEANS: Only one competitive congressional race in 2014. Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball political rankings show what happens when congressional districts are packed with like-minded folks. Of the state's 13 congressional races, only one is deemed competitive between parties. The seat is Democratic Congressman Mike McIntyre in District 7. McIntyre won a close race in 2012 -- one of the few where Mitt Romney won the president vote -- and another tight contest is expected in 2014. The pundits at University of Virginia give him the early edge, though, ranking the race "leans Democratic."
***You are reading the Dome Morning Memo -- more news and analysis below.***
TODAY IN POLITICS: Lawmakers left town after a short work week and Gov. Pat McCrory is not holding any public events. The State Ethics Commission meets this morning.
BIG HEADLINE -- NEW DHHS PICK QUITS BEFORE SHE STARTS: The state’s health and human services agency is scrambling to find a director for its children’s division after the new administration’s first choice abruptly withdrew Thursday amid questions about her commitment to pre-kindergarten programs and criticism of her hotly worded online postings.
McCRORY AND AGENCY MUM ON VETTING:Wos’ office declined to make the secretary available for an interview or provide further information about how well Dianna Lightfoot had been vetted, or to discuss whether her hiring signaled a weakening of North Carolina’s support for pre-kindergarten and early childhood education programs. Republican legislators tried to cut funding for the program last session, but a Superior Court judge ruled that the state could not deny access to the program for at-risk 4-year-olds. There was no comment on the controversy from the governor’s office, other than references to McCrory’s past statements.
SECOND HIGH-RANKING McCRORY ADMINISTRATION DEPARTURE IN A WEEK: Lightfoot is the second major McCrory pick to depart this week. McCrory's communications direction resigned Saturday citing family reasons.
GLEN BRADLEY MAKES BID FOR GOP LEADERSHIP JOB: Former state Rep. Glen Bradley -- who introduced legislation for the state to establish its own currency and sounded alarms about the United Nation's Agenda 21 -- is apparently running for vice chairman of the N.C. Republican Party. A conservative blog on Thursday posted an interview with Bradley in which he makes his intensions clear. The current Vice Chairman is Wayne King, who just took a job with Congressman Mark Meadows to serve as a senior advisor, splitting his time between North Carolina and Washington. King recently said he intends to finish his term through June but would not say whether he will seek re-election.
WHY HE IS RUNNING. In the blog interview, Bradley says: "The Republican Party has a principle problem. We have compromised and compromised until we are often scarcely distinguishable from Democrats once we get into office. ...I have been asked by scores of people from the Constitutionalist movement to run for Chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party, but one of the primary jobs of the Chairman is fundraising, which I am terrible at. Although the support is there amongst constitutionalists, conservatives, and libertarians, I felt that running for a position which one of the primary duties I am under-qualified for was too much ‘ego’ and not enough working together for the common cause of returning constitutional and conservative values to North Carolina and the United States, so I opted instead to run for Vice Chairman, whose focus is more about outreach, principle, and party unity.”
UNC REVEALS NEW VISION FOR ITS FUTURE:The UNC system aims to churn out more graduates, prod campuses to be more efficient, and spend money on research areas that may be an economic boon to North Carolina, under a five-year plan to be adopted Friday. The UNC Board of Governors is expected to vote for the strategic plan and to ask the state legislature to spend an additional $910 million now through 2018 to implement it.
WHAT IT SAYS: The plan emphasizes online instruction, more standardized benchmarks for learning, and measuring that learning through student testing. Those elements have drawn criticism from professors, who have said the UNC strategy infringes on the faculty’s role to make decisions about curriculum and assessment of learning. Fourteen faculty governing bodies from across the state have echoed those concerns with resolutions in recent days. Ross acknowledged that the plan doesn’t appeal to everyone, but said, “in general, I think that’s a sign of success.” Change will be difficult but necessary, he said.
MORE DMV PROBLEMS FOR McCRORY: McCrory pledge in the campaign to fix the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles -- and told his new transportation secretary to do it fast. Now there's a new problem. From AP: State Division of Motor Vehicles officials said power would remain out at the agency’s headquarters Friday, affecting some driver’s license and vehicle registration services statewide. The power went out Thursday morning. The DMV urged people to call their local offices before going there so they can find out if the service they need has been knocked out by the problem.
SENATE GIVES QUICK APPROVAL TO NEW DIPLOMAS: From AP --The state Senate has made quick work of legislation supported by Gov. Pat McCrory to create new kinds of high school diplomas and course plans that emphasize vocational or career paths that don't require four-year college degrees. The Senate voted unanimously Thursday for the bill now heading to the House. The bill directs the State Board of Education to require beginning with the 2014-15 school year that diplomas carry new seals endorsing graduates as "career ready," ''college ready" or both, depending on their courses.
WHAT DOES PRO-LIFE MEAN? The Charlotte Observer's Tim Funk posed the question and readers responded.
STATE SCIENCE PANEL AMENDS FOCUS TO ACCOMMODATE GOP LAWMAKERS: From the Wilmington Star-News -- "A state science panel will narrow its focus on a report studying future sea-level rise, due to be presented to legislators and North Carolina residents in 2015. ... The science panel's first sea-level rise report, released in 2010, ... ignited a maelstrom of controversy among developers and was later scrapped from the policy, but in its wake the General Assembly passed legislation requiring the CRC to further study sea-level rise. That bill also placed a moratorium on the adoption of any official rates of sea-level rise for regulatory purposes until July 2016. The focus of the science panel's next report will shift to incorporate the guidelines specified in that legislation, said Tancred Miller, coastal policy analyst for the state Division of Coastal Management."
WAPO TAKES NOTICE OF McCRORY'S HIGHER ED COMMENTS: From the Washington Post -- "There’s a new voice in the continued and rather tired trashing of higher education and the liberal arts by conservatives: North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory."