ABORTION BILL IS 'CHRISTMAS IN JULY': The abortion bill resurfaces for discussion in the House on Tuesday after a vocal protest against it a day earlier. (More on Monday's demonstrations below.) So we know what critics say about the abortion bill, but what about supporters? Christian Action League's Rev. Mark Creech is asking proponents to "pray for Christmas in July." On the group's website, he writes: "In all my days, I have never seen a bill so full of good content. I have shared with my friends that the legislation is a veritable Christmas tree of beautiful lights and ornaments representing life, justice and other righteous principles. The only thing missing is the crowning star of final passage and the governor’s signature. For those of us who believe in faith, family, and freedom, this bill is Christmas in July."
McCRORY'S MISFIRE AT OBAMA: Gov. Pat McCrory sought to deflect blame for North Carolina's decision to curtail jobless benefits by pointing the finger Monday at President Barack Obama's administration. The problem is he pointed in the wrong direction. (Read more below.)
***Click below for details about the controversial abortion bill and more North Carolina political news and analysis in the Dome Morning Memo.***
WHAT McCRORY SAID: The Republican governor and GOP lawmakers championed a move earlier this year to reduce benefits to lower the amount businesses owed the state in unemployment taxes. McCrory told reporters Monday that the money the state owed the federal government to cover unemployment benefits necessitated the legislation, but suggested the White House could have intervened to help.
"The debt we owe the federal government, last I checked, has not been forgiven by the administration in Washington. Nor has the waiver been accepted that we requested many months ago," McCrory said. "The waiver was not accepted by the Obama administration and had it been, we most likely would be extending unemployment.
McCrory is wrong on at least three points: 1. The debt is not a state obligation; it is owed by businesses who pay taxes to refund the state for unemployment benefits; 2. The "waiver" was a matter before Congress, not the president; 3. It sought to exempt the state's plan to cut benefits, so it wouldn't be subject to the penalty (the loss of federal extended unemployment benefits for more than 100,000 people) and it would not lead to additional benefits; in fact, it would allow the opposite.
A McCrory spokeswoman later acknowledged the governor misspoke about the Obama administration's role. She said the "waiver" remark referred to a letter Republican legislative leaders sent to Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan's office asking to be grandfathered. It goes without saying that only Congress -- the majority of North Carolina's federal delegation is Republican -- could absolve the money the state borrowed, not the Democratic president on his own.
With his remarks, McCrory essentially pulled out the Aldona Wos card.
McCRORY STEPS OUT ON ABORTION ISSUE: After initially dodging the lightning rod issue days earlier, McCrory discussed his concerns with the bill at length Monday.
Here's the report: Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday voiced reservations about the abortion bill before the legislature – just days after his administration shuttered its second abortion clinic in a three-month period for safety reasons.
McCrory said he would move aggressively to protect women’s health. But he acknowledged a campaign promise that he would not support new restrictions on abortions. “There is a fine line between safety measures and restrictions,” McCrory told reporters at the Executive Mansion. “But those two lines should not be confused. I am very concerned about the responsibility to ensure that the health of women is protected.”
But McCrory left in doubt whether he would support the bill, perhaps leaving himself room for negotiations. Asked whether he viewed the abortion bill as primarily dealing with women’s safety or restricting access, McCrory said, “I think parts of the bill, personally, deal with safety and help protect these women, as has been seen in Durham. But I also see that there are parts of the bill that clearly cross that line that could add further restrictions to that access. I think that is where we need further discussions and further debate.”
ABORTION CLINIC SHUT DOWN: State inspectors on Friday shut down The Baker Clinic for Women in Durham after having found that the facility “failed to ensure quality control was performed in blood banking” for 108 patients. The state inspectors found that the clinic failed to ensure that the blood was tested daily, was not kept in an acceptable room temperature range, and was otherwise not meeting testing specifications.
BERGER REAX: Supporters of the abortion legislation cited Durham shutdown as justification for their legislation. “This is exactly the type of substandard ‘medical’ care threatening women’s health that we intended to fight with the legislation we passed last week,” said Senate leader Phil Berger, a Republican from Eden.
DOCTOR DOWNPLAYS INFRACTION, SUGGESTS ATTENTION IS POLITICAL:Dr. John Baker, the clinic’s founder, said the clinic was still in its start-up phase had seen only 108 patients – a small number for such a clinic. Baker said he was unaware of a regulation that requires abortion clinics to perform a control test while doing Rh(D) (Rhesus) testing. An Rh test identifies the blood type of a woman as either Rh positive or Rh negative. Women who test Rh negative are treated to prevent problems if they become pregnant again. “This is my own lack of understanding of that requirement,” he said. “I take responsibility for correcting it.” Baker called the regulation a “technicality” and said the clinic will fix the issues found in a review. He does not know how long the re-opening process will take.
Baker also said that although the timing of his clinic’s review and the current legislative climate are coincidental, the “hyper vigilance” of the health department results from the political scene. “This has nothing to do with patient safety,” he said. “Legislators around the country are trying to legislate abortion out of existence. They can only go so far, so they go as far as they can.” He also sees the suspension as evidence that the health department is “doing its job and doing it well,” ensuring the safety of women who receive abortions. Full story.
MORE THAN 60 ARRESTED: Demonstrators gathered at the North Carolina Legislative Building as they have for 10 Mondays now, but many women wore pink this week to protest what they described as an assault on women’s rights and access to health care. Police estimated the crowd to be about 2,000 people. Organizers estimated nearly 4,000.
“Moral Monday” organizers have organized next week’s demonstration to focus on women – with women speakers scheduled to talk about the impact that new laws and policies will have on the state’s females. Women’s issues, however, were very much a topic this week. Janet Colm, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, was among the more than 60 arrested on Monday. Full story.
TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The abortion bill is scheduled for a two hour hearing that starts at 10 p.m. in room 643 of the Legislative Office Building. It will dominate Tuesday's headlines. The The House meets at 1 p.m. with a loaded calendar of bills on the cusp of making it to the governor’s desk, including many noncontroversial measures such as increasing penalties for drivers who don’t stop for school buses. The Senate’s calendar is likewise loaded and includes a bill to require background checks and drug testing for welfare recipients. The chamber meets at 2 p.m.
ABORTION CAVEAT: The House, technically, doesn't have a bill to consider yet. It is sitting in the Senate clerk's office and won't likely get send to the House until later Tuesday. The House can then put the legislation on its calendar for consideration, or it can send the bill to a committee to make a recommendation about whether to concur -- a rare but not unprecedented action. At this point, the House can't amend the bill on its own. If the House votes to not concur, it would set the stage for a conference committee between the two chambers. What happens after today's discussion will indicate whether Speaker Thom Tillis will let the measure come to the floor for a vote and whether it is likely to pass.
LEGISLATIVE OVERTIME: One more thing McCrory said that many in the statehouse hope is wrong is his prediction that session goes for another "two to three weeks." But at this point, it seems like an accurate forecast. The House is in no hurry this week. It won't even hold a Friday session and the resolution of the tax plan and budget will take days. Speaker Thom Tillis announced the House will shut down its committees after this week to focus on the budget and taxes, and other lingering issues on the calendars.
TAX WATCH -- House not likely to concur with Senate tax plan: As Dome reported earlier, Gov. Pat McCrory is suggesting this may be the week for a tax deal. But Rep. David Lewis, the lead House tax negotiator, said Monday that Republicans in his chamber won’t agree to the plan the Senate approved last week. Like McCrory, Lewis said the House wants a much smaller plan that only make changes through 2015, not longer term plans. The Senate wants to phase out the corporate income tax over five years. Lewis said he is concerned that revenues won’t meet projections and any tweaks lawmakers make to the plan would look like a tax increase.
Lewis said the House GOP caucus looked at the bill Monday and will again Tuesday. Whether the two chamber go to conference or the House puts their tax plan in a repurposed bill remains unclear, he said.
BOOM: State Rep. Mickey Michaux, a veteran Democratic lawmaker, dropped a verbal bomb during the debate Monday evening about Senate Bill 315, a measure that overrules the Durham City Council. In noting the Republican legislature's intervention in local matters in Charlotte, Asheville and now Durham, Michaux said the three cities "just by coincidence happen to have black mayors."
Republican state Rep. Charles Jeter responded on Twitter saying: "New low in NC House with latest comments." The House approved the measure 76 to 33, sending it to the Senate to concur.
REDISTRICTING DECISION PUTS DEMS IN A BIND: North Carolina’s legislative and congressional boundaries were upheld Monday by a three-judge panel, a decision lauded by state Republicans who oversaw the drafting of the maps in 2011. Full story.
OVERSHADOWED STORY OF THE DAY: An effort to require all welfare recipients to pass a drug test to qualify for benefits that passed the Senate earlier this session has been given a facelift, but advocates for the poor say it’s still an ugly bill.
House Bill 392 requires county Social Services employees to do background checks on all applicants for Work First benefits – the state’s welfare program – and food stamps to ensure they’re not parole or probation violators, or have outstanding felony warrants.
It also requires drug testing of any Work First recipient suspected of being a drug user. That provision is a step back from a bill the Senate passed in April that required drug testing for all Work First applicants. Worries over the legality of the Senate bill led lawmakers in the House to insert a new version of the testing requirement into the background checks bill. Full story.
YOUNG IMMIGRANTS GET LICENSES, AS IMMIGRATION OVERHAUL WAITS: While legislators prepare for hot debate on an immigration bill that would combine strict enforcement measures with driving privileges for people here illegally, North Carolina already is giving driver’s licenses to thousands of young immigrants who would be covered by the proposed new measures.
The Division of Motor Vehicles issues the licenses to teens and young adults who have received work permits though the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which postpones deportation for immigrants who entered the country illegally as children or stayed illegally after their visas expired.
“I got my license a month ago, and it’s a good thing,” said Ivan Benavides, 20, of Raleigh, who is looking for work and taking business classes at Wake Tech. “I don’t have to be asking people for rides now. I can just drive myself.”
The deferred-action licenses were the focus of controversy earlier this year. Conservatives, including Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, argued that the state was wrong to grant driving privileges to people who weren’t legal residents. Immigrant advocates complained about a red-letter label on the license stating that the driver has “NO LAWFUL STATUS” in the United States. Full story.
COMMERCE SECRETARY SAYS TAX REFORM, LEGISLATIVE DISCUSSIONS MAKE IT HARD TO MARKET THE STATE: She said the persistent protests of legislative actions are making it hard to market the state. “I’m fielding calls every day,” Decker said. “The current climate makes it very challenging to market North Carolina.”
While the so-called Moral Monday protests have drawn national attention, Decker said that most of the calls she gets are about the tax plan. She said later to questions about the regular protest demonstrations: “I think it’s important folks speak up, and I encourage that.” More from the interview here.
ADVOCACY GROUPS HIT DUKE ENERGY: Advocacy groups made their last-minute public appeal Monday to block Duke Energy’s third rate increase request in the past four years, as rate hearings got underway in Raleigh before the N.C. Utilities Commission. Full story. RELATED: Duke Energy said Monday that it made an accounting mistake when it tried to pass on to customers more than $326,000 in political contributions to a clean-energy advocacy group and Republican Party organizations when it asked to raise electricity costs for North Carolina consumers by more than $200 million a year. Full story.
CHARTER SCHOOLS: A bill creating more rules to govern a growing number of public charter schools in North Carolina but omitting the creation of a powerful panel to oversee them has passed the House. Full story.
THE TALKER: From Charlotte Magazine: "A new narrative is starting to emerge from publications on the institutional left, your Nation, your Atlantic: North Carolina is the new Wisconsin. They have a point, sort of. In short, the comparison works, but only superficially. What’s happening here is far more extreme, far-reaching and damaging." More here.
PITTENGER OPPOSES IMMIGRATION BILL: With U.S. House Republicans poised to debate their strategy on an immigration overhaul this week, one Charlotte Republican said he can’t support any plan that calls for a path to citizenship for those here illegally.
Rep. Robert Pittenger of Charlotte said Monday he won’t support the kind of comprehensive immigration changes approved last month by the Senate. “ ‘Comprehensive’ is a nice word for ‘pathway to citizenship,’ and we don’t buy that,” Pittenger told the Observer. “What we do understand is we have 11 1/2 million people here (illegally) and the system is broken.” Full story.