Under the Dome

Morning Memo: All eyes on the House, NAACP fires back at McCrory

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The budget and tax watch continues. House and Senate lawmakers are negotiating on both issues this week hoping to break the logjam. Some movement may emerge later this week. In House committees, lawmakers will discuss a power shift at the Charlotte airport, a sweeping bill to weaken environmental protections and consider four election-related bills. With the election bills, it’s not so much what’s in them now -- but how they may get amended. Talk is rampant about an highly-controversial omnibus elections bill. The chambers convene at 2 p.m. The abortion bill is in limbo but not likely to come to a House vote Wednesday -- though stranger things have happened. After a one-day delay, the Senate will debate a bill to impose drug testing and background checks on some welfare recipients.

NAACP PRESIDENT CALLS McCRORY REMARKS 'DISINGENUOUS': Gov. Pat McCrory's take on "Moral Mondays" didn't sit well with Rev. William Barber, the N.C. NAACP president who is leading the weekly demonstrations. In a statement, Barber said McCrory is trying to "play nice and move away from his original comments about Moral Monday protestors being outsiders." He compared McCrory's words to George Wallace, who dismissed segregation as a few isolated instances.

***Read more reaction below -- and get the latest North Carolina political news and analysis -- in today's Dome Morning Memo.***

NEW YORK TIMES SCATHING EDITORIAL -- “The Decline of North Carolina:” It reads: “In January, after the election of Pat McCrory as governor, Republicans took control of both the executive and legislative branches for the first time since Reconstruction. Since then, state government has become a demolition derby, tearing down years of progress in public education, tax policy, racial equality in the courtroom and access to the ballot. …

”North Carolina was once considered a beacon of farsightedness in the South, an exception in a region of poor education, intolerance and tightfistedness. In a few short months, Republicans have begun to dismantle a reputation that took years to build.” Read the entire piece here.

MORE FROM BARBER STATEMENT: "McCrory now says he respects the way Moral Monday protestors act, but he still refuses to respect their position on his policies. He also says we shouldn't call those policies immoral, claiming that the remarks are a personal attack. McCrory knows we are attacking his policies, and his policies only. It is immoral to pass policies that hurt the working poor, hurt the unemployed, hurt poor children, create voter suppression and allow known discrimination to exist in our judicial system even when applying the death penalty."

Barber went on to quote the Bible and then challenged McCrory on his statement that he's met with many protesters. Barber's group sent a letter weeks ago asking for a meeting that receive no response.

CARTOON: On abortion, McCrory's talking out of both sides of his mouth. Editorial cartoonist Kevin Siers at the Charlotte Observer crystalizes the governor's waivering remarks on the abortion bill.

McCRORY ADMINISTRATION EXPRESSES CONCERNS ABOUT ABORTION BILL:The momentum behind the contentious abortion bill the Senate rapidly approved last week slowed in the House on Tuesday, where the state’s public health regulators told lawmakers they have serious questions about the proposed law. As a result, House and Senate authors of the legislation agreed to try to work out concerns with the state Department of Health and Human Services. Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a Republican from Charlotte, said she hoped the questions could be resolved this week and a bill sent to the governor before the legislature leaves this summer.

NEXT STEP UNCLEAR: Reacting to criticism over the rushed handling of the bill in the Senate last week, House Speaker Thom Tillis wanted to give the controversy a further public airing and so had it sent to the committee that met Tuesday, his spokesman said. House leaders said Tuesday evening that they didn’t know when the bill would be scheduled to come before the full House.

GOP NOT UNITED BEHIND BILL: Freshman Rep. Charles Jeter of Huntersville told The Charlotte Observer he wasn’t inclined to go along with the current version of the bill. Jeter said he thinks that if the same standards that apply to ambulatory surgery centers are going to apply to abortion clinics, they should also apply to every place surgery is performed, including dental offices. “I didn’t come up here to vote on social issues,” Jeter said. “I came up here to get jobs back.”

Rep. Tom Murry of Morrisville said the bill’s prospects were unclear. “It seems like there’s work to do,” said Murry, a Republican. “There’s room for discussion about the rules. The concern is to get a consensus on what that fix is.”

Rep. John Blust, a Republican from Greensboro, said he thought Tuesday’s committee meeting proved the case for the bill’s passage. “The committee hearing was fairly decisive in favor of the bill,” Blust said. Full story.

SENTENCING CHANGES LEAD TO PRISON CLOSURES: One of the deepest cuts in the budget proposals under consideration comes from closing several state prisons – tens of millions of dollars diverted and hundreds of jobs lost. The rationale from budget writers in the House, Senate and governor’s office: There are fewer prisoners in North Carolina than there used to be. The prison population is declining because the state’s growth rate is slowing down – especially for males between 16 to 24, who are the most likely people to get arrested – and because crime trends are going down across the country.

But the main reason for the shrinking prisons is the state’s massive revision of its sentencing laws, which is meant to keep as many offenders out of prison as possible through closer supervision and treatment. One part of the Justice Reinvestment Act, approved by the legislature last session, shifts those who have committed misdemeanors from prisons into county jails. Another provision increases the amount of a sentence to be served in jail instead of prison. Full story.

REACTION TO ACLU'S GAY MARRIAGE LAWSUIT: Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the N.C. Values Coalition, called the ACLU’s strategy “a miscarriage of justice” and referred back to Amendment One, the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in North Carolina that passed last year. “The voters of North Carolina deserve to have the last say on marriage, not the federal courts,” Fitzgerald said in a statement.

Equality NC, an advocacy organization for gay and lesbian people, supports the proposed expansion of the lawsuit. “It seems clear that supporting families and children in the state of North Carolina and beyond includes relationship recognition for those couples and those families, giving them protections, rights and responsibilities,” said Jen Jones, Equality NC’s director of communications. Full story. SIDEBAR: And Read more about the effort here.

ROAD RAGE:State Transportation Secretary Tony Tata wrote a stern warning letter to his predecessor, Gene Conti, in March after hearing “rumors” that Conti might have misused state Department of Transportation logos and data, a spokesman said Tuesday.

In a March 18 letter, Tata said Conti is “not authorized to use Departmental trademarks, logos or images for any purpose” when he speaks in public, or to give any appearance that he still represents DOT. He asked Conti “to abstain from using data or information” gleaned from DOT during his four years as its secretary, unless it is public information.

Conti said he did nothing improper. Tata spokesman Mike Charbonneau said he could not provide evidence that Conti misrepresented himself or misappropriated DOT images and information. Tata sought the advice of DOT’s legal counsel after hearing informal reports through DOT employees, he said. Full story.

WHAT MADE A1 IN NORTH CAROLINA: Greensboro's News & Record played the ACLU lawsuit on the front while Asheville's Citizen-Time gave the House's move on the abortion bill prominent billing. The Charlotte Observer put the airport bill as the lead story, along with a piece on former Mayor Anthony Foxx and the gay marriage lawsuit. Fayetteville Observer also led with abortion. And even the Hendersonville Times-News put an abortion banner at the top of the front page. The only other story with more front-page presences than abortion: the Kroger purchase of Harris Teeter.

STATE COULD GIVE GE AVIATION $10 MILLION: GE Aviation could receive up to $9.9 million in state incentives for following through on its previously announced plans to create 242 new jobs at four North Carolina locations – including its plant in Durham.

On Tuesday, the state announced the incentive package for GE Aviation, a division of giant conglomerate General Electric that makes jet engines and other aircraft components. The incentive package, which is conditioned on GE fulfilling its targets for job creation and investing $195 million over the next five years, also includes a grant from the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center and an employee training grant from the state community college system. Full story.

PRIEST BARRED FROM PREACHING AT JAIL AFTER MORAL MONDAY ARREST: An Episcopal priest is barred from ministering to inmates at the Mecklenburg County jail because she was arrested during a “Moral Monday” protest at the state legislature.“It was like a slap in the face,” said the Rev. Jane Holmes. “I love doing what I’m doing.”

Holmes was arrested on the evening of June 3 in the halls of the General Assembly building in Raleigh. Back home in Charlotte the next morning, she got a call from the chaplains’ office for the jail. She said she was told that her clergy privileges were being revoked because of her arrest and that she needed to return her badges immediately.

Asked why Holmes is barred as a jail chaplain, a spokesperson for Sheriff Chipp Bailey said in a statement: “The sheriff absolutely supports a person’s right to peacefully protest their convictions. However, he will not allow a person who is an employee or volunteer representing the sheriff or his office to willfully disobey a legal directive given by a law enforcement officer and get arrested.

“It is disrespectful to the badge and authority of law enforcement officers across the state. He and citizens hold Sheriff’s Office employees to a higher standard and expect all to obey the law.”

Said Holmes: “What I did had absolutely nothing to do with the Mecklenburg County jail.” Full story.

CLT AIRPORT BILL RESURFACES: A bill to transfer control of Charlotte’s airport to an independent authority is back on the fast track after city officials rejected an offer to join lawmakers in a study commission. A new version of the authority bill is expected to pass the House Finance Committee Wednesday morning and could face a vote by the full House as early as Thursday.
The latest House version represents the failure of a last-ditch effort supported by Gov. Pat McCrory and House Speaker Thom Tillis to bring the sides together. Full story.

FIRST POLL IN RACE TO REPLACE WATT: On Tuesday, Public Policy Polling came out with a new poll on the prospective race. It showed Sen. Malcolm Graham leading several challengers with 31 percent of the vote. Rep. Alma Adams from Greensboro had 22 percent. George Battle III had 8 percent. More polling numbers here.

N.C. ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE QUESTIONS DUKE'S PROFITS: Attorney General Roy Cooper’s staff spent much of a Tuesday hearing probing the profit margin for investors built into Duke Energy Carolinas’ request for a 5.1 percent rate hike. The return on common equity, or ROE, is a critical component of the case before the North Carolina Utilities Commission. By agreeing to pare its initial 11.25 percent request to 10.2 percent, Duke gave up $112 million in new revenue. Full story.

HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN TARGETS BURR, HAGAN: Advocates for a bill in Congress that would protect employees regardless of their sexual orientation touted the legislation Tuesday, calling it essential for attracting a competitive workforce to North Carolina. At an event hosted by the Human Rights Campaign, leaders called on U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan, both from North Carolina, to back the bill, called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Burr and Hagan both serve on the Senate’s 22-member Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which will vote on the bill Wednesday. The legislation would protect members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community by prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Full story.

PLANE CRASH AN EARLY CHALLENGE FOR FOXX: When Anthony Foxx took the oath as U.S. transportation secretary last week, it had been more than four years since the last fatal commercial airline accident on American soil. That changed Saturday, when Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed while landing at San Francisco International Airport en route from South Korea, killing two passengers and injuring more than 100. Full story.


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