Under the Dome

Morning Memo: Arrests near 500, Democrats debut anti-Tillis website

TOTAL ARRESTS NEAR 500: Eighty-four demonstrators were arrested by the N.C. General Assembly police on Monday, bringing the total since April 29 to more than 480. Holly Jordan, 29, a teacher at Hillside High School in Durham, said she decided to get arrested on Monday because she was thoroughly upset with the education policies and budgets proposed. She knew that some of the Republicans had described their naysayers as “aging hippies” and “outsiders” who considered it “en vogue” to get arrested.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The Senate will take a final vote on its tax plan, and send it to the House. The two chambers remain far apart on how to cut taxes. The House will consider Gov. Pat McCrory's transportation funding bill. In committees, House lawmakers will consider a bill to raise the speed limit to 75 mph on certain roads and a bill requiring cursive -- which is likely to be remade entirely at the last minute, given a similar bill passed earlier this session. Senate lawmakers will meet in committees to consider a bill requiring background checks on those who receive some public assistance and another measure to roll back energy efficiency regulations on building to 2009 levels.

Gov. Pat McCrory will visit another rotary club, this time in Winston-Salem, before meeting with unidentified business leaders in a private meeting at Womble Carlyle, a law firm that also has a lobbying practice.

***Below in the Dome Morning Memo -- U.S. Senate race news, remembering Jim Holshouser and a legislative roundup.***

FOXX LEADS GOP SENATE FIELD: A new PPP poll on the Republican field for U.S. Senate is scheduled for release Tuesday. Politico has the early numbers from the Democratic firm showing U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx is the leader at 23 percent. She's not even an announced candidate, though. House Speaker Thom Tillis, the most prominent name in the race to challenge Democrat Kay Hagan, is at 9 percent in the hypothetical GOP primary matchup. Check Dome later for more numbers. 

DEMS LAUNCH ANTI-TILLIS WEBSITE: Even though Tillis isn't polling well yet, Democrats are focusing their attention on him. The N.C. Democratic Party will launch a website today -- as part of its attempt to link him to special interests and lobbyists. The main page features a photo of the House speaker deep in  mud pit (he recently competed in a Tough Mudder race) with the tagline: "Thom Tillis: Neck deep in dirty special interests."

MORE ON THE RACE: The National Journal weighs in on the race under the headline "Will North Carolina shape the future of the Senate?" While AP's Gary Robertson offers this look at the race.

HOLSHOUSER OBIT: James Eubert Holshouser Jr., the first Republican governor of the 20th century and a champion of education, the environment and health care, died Monday after several months of declining health. He was 78. Holshouser broke decades of Democratic rule when he was elected governor in 1972, during a GOP sweep that helped make North Carolina a two-party state. Although restricted then to one term, Holshouser would become a widely respected figure in education, religious and civic circles. He died at First Health of the Carolinas Medical Center near his home in Southern Pines, where he continued to practice law until recently.

FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS: A wake will be held at Brownson Memorial Presbyterian Church in Southern Pines from 6  to 8:30 p.m. Thursday with a funeral at the church at 1 p.m. Friday.

HOLSHOUSER'S POLITICS: At first glance, Holshouser seemed an unlikely political leader. A boyish-looking, mild-mannered man with chubby cheeks and an aw-shucks style, he seemed more like your next-door neighbor than someone who could help transform the state’s political landscape.
While prominent conservatives such as Helms and former U.S. Rep. Jim Gardner thundered from the right, tapping into the white backlash against civil rights and the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations, Holshouser represented a softer brand of conservatism. “He didn’t threaten anybody,” said Gene Anderson, his longtime political adviser. “Everybody who supported him thought he was on the same level. He was one of us.” Full obit.

PROTESTERS REJECT McCRORY'S LABEL: For the seventh Monday since April 29, a growing crowd of demonstrators gathered late in the afternoon outside the legislative building to raise voices of dissatisfaction with the Republican majority’s legislative agenda. Since Gov. Pat McCrory described the demonstrators as “outsiders” to Republicans gathered earlier this month at a Charlotte convention, participants of the Moral Monday protests have worked to let the GOP leaders know that their mass protests are homegrown. Many in the crowd gathered in the grassy Halifax Mall outside the legislative building held up signs with their home towns or ZIP codes listed.

WHO ARE THE PROTESTERS? Fred Stutzman, one of the eight UNC-CH data collectors, did a sampling of the crowd asking 316 people their ZIP codes, race and age. Their findings showed that five of the respondents were from out-of-state and 311 were from North Carolina, overwhelmingly from the Triangle area but also from such metropolitan regions as Wilmington, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Asheville and Charlotte. The average age of the protesters, according to the UNC researchers, was 53, with 25 percent under age 36. Sixty percent were female, and the racial breakdown largely matched the 2010 Census findings – 79 percent were white, 17 percent African-American, 6 percent Hispanic and the rest were Asian, Pacific Islander, Indian or other. Full story.

Protest photos: Gallery here.

CONSERVATIVES TAKE AIM: The Civitas Insitute features a blog post deriding the protesters, saying it isn't real civil disobedience, not like Ghandi or Thoreau. Blog post here.

And likewise from faith groups on the right .... per Tami Fitzgerald, the leader of the N.C. Values Coalition and mother-in-law to Sen. Chad Barefoot:  She writes in a recent letter to the editor: "There may be clergy present at these “Immoral Monday” gatherings, but that hardly means they are condoned by God, and it is completely inappropriate for the state’s largest paper to intimate otherwise. Balancing our state budget, lowering taxes, creating jobs, improving our educational opportunities and protecting the unborn are basic values that will promote the health and sustainability of our families and ultimately our economy. Those are godly values – not the ones endorsed by this newspaper and the radical activists it applauds." Full story.

BONUS LINK: Ari Berman at The Nation adds more national exposure to the protests. Read here.


Gov. Pat McCrory: 'His counsel was invaluable. Compassion was the foundation of Governor Holshouser’s life. He was a champion of education. He made health care available in counties that didn’t have doctors. And he provided historic professional opportunities to women and minorities. North Carolina is a better place because of his leadership and heart.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr: “Gov. Holshouser was one of the kindest and most sincere people to ever become involved in North Carolina politics. Staying true to his mountain roots, Jim would always shoot you straight and stay true to his word. His lifelong dedication to service to our state was defined by many outstanding accomplishments that made North Carolina a better place to live. To those of us who knew him personally, Jim was a trusted counselor, leader, and, most importantly, a great friend. Today, all North Carolinians have lost one of the true statesmen of our time.”

Former Gov. Mike Easley: “I think he was one of the last quintessential statesman who was focused on trying to bring people together and build consensus He was a just a very kind person. It was tough dealing with all the illness throughout his life. What I appreciated most about him was his humility. He never tooted his own horn.”

Former Gov. Jim Hunt: “No one needs to think he wasn’t a tough Republican. He was. But he supported public education. When he became governor he raised teacher pay to 27th in America. We had been down near the bottom. He put in public kindergartens. He put in the Coastal Area Management Act to protect our coast. He really believed in building the state. In later years, he was one of the great leaders for the university system.” More here.

DEAD ON ARRIVAL: June Atkinson, the state Superintendent of Public Instruction, told News & Observer editorial writers and reporters Monday that teachers should be exempt, but said she would not have made the suggestion if teachers were going to receive raises next year. The tax break for traditional K-12 and charter teachers would cost about $300 million, she said.

The House and Senate have developed separate tax proposals. Neither included a tax exemption for teachers, and Atkinson’s proposal probably won’t be considered. While the idea may be well-intentioned, Rep. David Lewis, a Harnett County Republican and a tax-plan author, said, “I don’t think that particular one is as well thought out as it should have been.” Full story.

WSJ COLUMNIST touts N.C. tax efforts: Stephen Moore writes: "This year, eight states dominated by Republican legislatures pledged deep income tax cuts. It now looks as though North Carolina will wind up delivering the most meaningful tax cut of them all." Moore recently headlined an event sponsored by the Civitas Institute, which is supporting the GOP tax efforts. Moore's piece here.

LAWMAKERS MOVE FAST -- in more ways than one: When our legislators want to move fast, by golly, they move fast. Take Sen. Neal Hunt’s proposal to let drivers go 75 mph on some North Carolina highways. It would bump up the state speed ceiling established 17 years ago at 70 mph. Hunt, a Republican from Raleigh, filed the legislation in early April. It zoomed through the Senate in nine days, passing in a 45-1 vote. Don’t look for protracted deliberations Tuesday when the House Transportation Committee takes up the 75 mph bill. Quick approval is expected, with minimal debate, in the committee and later the full House.

Safety concerns: North Carolina would become the 17th state to let drivers go this fast on at least some rural freeways. Safety experts worry that more speed will cause more crashes and more deaths. Going faster gives drivers less time to react to hazards, and it multiplies the destructive force of every accident. “This is just not a good idea,” says David L. Harkey, director of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center in Chapel Hill. “When you’re traveling at a faster speed, you’re more likely to be involved in a crash. And the higher speed is going to result in more likelihood of injuries occurring.” Full story.

GOP LAWMAKER SAYS TEACHERS NEED A RAISE: Twenty Johnston County teachers who are fed up with how they’re being treated aired their grievances Monday at a forum with state Rep. Leo Daughtry. The N.C. Association of Educators organized the forum, one of many the group has organized across the state in the hope that hearing firsthand from teachers would make legislators more sympathetic.

North Carolina’s teachers salaries are ranked 48th in the country. Proposals in the Senate and House budgets that would increase class size, decrease supplements for a master’s degree and end tenure have made the relatively low salaries even less bearable, teachers say. High school English teacher Jennifer Holley said that after seven years as an educator, she only makes $34,000 and is unable to afford health insurance for her three children. She said she took out $20,000 in loans to get her master’s degree, but it didn’t bring any more job security.

The quote: “It is a really sad situation,” said Daughtry, a Republican from Smithfield. “I’m not sitting here defending the House and the Senate. I know you all need a raise.” Full story.

McCRORY UNSURE GOP CAN REACH BUDGET ACCORD IN TIME: From AP -- Gov. Pat McCrory said Monday he's unsure if he and fellow Republican legislative leaders can agree on a final North Carolina state government budget before the new fiscal year begins in two weeks.  In an interview, McCrory said it's still his goal to work out a two-year budget he can sign into law by July 1, thus avoiding the need for a stop-gap spending measure to keep government operating beyond that date while negotiations continue. “We've got to come to a conclusion in a very short period of time,” he said. “We've gotten this far. We're very close to the finish line but small things can also trip it up.” 

Negotiations are expected to begin in earnest after the Senate, as expected, rejected the House version of the budget Monday night. A conference committee will be formed to work out differences between the plans, which are only $12 million apart in overall spending for next year but far apart on dozens of spending and policy decisions. McCrory, who offered his own plan three months ago and whose veto power gives him a role in negotiations, said he has problems with parts of both the House and Senate versions. 

McCrory made specific critiques publicly about the Senate plan when it was released four weeks ago, such as the absence of funds to expand the number of slots for the state's pre-kindergarten program and to compensate victims of the state's former forced sterilization program. The House plan, which would spend $20.6 billion next year, has money to expand North Carolina Pre-K and to compensate eugenics survivors. He hasn't been as explicit about problems he may have with the House version, noting that negotiations are nearing a critical time. 

ROUNDUP: For other legislative action from Monday, Click here.

RURAL CENTER RESPONDS: The center's president Billy Ray Hall writes: "We are deeply disturbed about articles this weekend in The News & Observer that have painted a partial and inaccurate picture of the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center and its work on behalf of rural communities in North Carolina.  Read his full response here.

ART POPE ALSO RESPONDS: Pope, the state's budget director, wrote a letter to the editor in response to an N&O editorial about judicial campaign financing. Read it here.


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Teacher's Deserve a Break

With education reform on America's mind, it is time for teachers to get what is long overdue to them; a salary that is equal to their hard work. There is alot wrong with the American educations system, but this is one idea that must remain strong and should be at the front of everyone's minds. We are losing good teacher's to other careers. Lets keep good teacher's in the classroom and lets give them what they deserve!

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