Under the Dome

Morning Memo: Democrats hit GOP on education in new ad campaign

SEE IT HERE FIRST: N.C. Democrats launch ad campaign hitting GOP on education: The headline "Republican leadership has failed teachers in North Carolina" is hitting newspapers across the state this week in full-page advertisements paid for by the N.C. Democratic Party. The ads target 17 legislative districts (eight Senate, nine House) and criticize Republicans for not increasing teacher pay, forcing class size increases, eliminating some teacher assistants, ending the back-to-school tax holiday, cutting money for textbooks and supplies, taking away the graduate school bonus for (future) teachers and allowing private school vouchers.

"We’re putting Gov. McCrory and Republican legislators on notice that their assault on public education is not going unnoticed," said Robert Dempsey, the party's executive director.

***See the ad and get a list of the targeted lawmakers below in today's Dome Morning Memo.***

THE AD REPUBLICANS WROTE FOR DEMOCRATS: The Democratic Party's newspaper ad is largely straightforward and accurate -- minus a few debatable wording choices, such as clarifying that only future teachers won't receive the graduate school bonus, not all of them. And the ad's kicker is an allusion to Gov. Pat McCrory's "three E's" -- his priorities, education, efficiency and the economy.

It reads: "Tell Gov. McCrory and General Assembly Republicans to study up on the three R's: Raises, Resources and Respect."

See it here. The cost of the ad buy was not disclosed. It is running in these Republican districts: House District 118, Michelle Presnell; HS 93, Jonathan Jordan, HD 8, Susan Martin; HD 9, Brian Brown; HD 63, Stephen Ross; HD 64, Dennis Riddell; HD 51, Mike Stone; HD 1, Bob Steinburg; HD 3, Michael Speciale; Senate District 50, Jim Davis; SD 12, Ron Rabin; SD 1, Bill Cook; SD 2, Norman Sanderson; SD 18, Chad Barefoot; SD 15, Neal Hunt; SD 9, Thom Goolsby; and SD 31 Pete Brunstetter.

TODAY IN POLITICS: State Rep. Valerie Foushee will formally resign at noon, delivering a letter of resignation to the House clerk. She will then be sworn as a state senator (filling Ellie Kinnaird’s seat) by Judge Beverly Scarlett at the Chatham County Courthouse at 2 p.m.

Gov. Pat McCrory will attend a N.C. Chamber forum at 3 p.m. that his office says is closed to the press about the future of the state.

Big National Journal cover story on North Carolina: 'GOP GONE WILD' The influential D.C.-based magazine writes a lengthy piece about North Carolina's transformation. It starts: "She was the self-described "new sheriff in town," and Bev Perdue promised, a thousand years ago in 2008, to change the way North Carolina did business. As a woman and a Democrat, she embodied the quantum electoral shift that was occurring across the nation, one powered by the nascent Obama coalition. The nation's first African-American president had just edged out a stunning win in this Southern state, and Gov.-elect Perdue had ridden the surge, along with Sen.-elect Kay Hagan. With its diversifying electorate, its thriving cities, and both legislative chambers and the Governor's Mansion in Democratic hands, the state seemed on the verge of a new, more progressive—and, yes, if you want go there—bluer era.

"Cut to: The new sheriff's being run out of town on a rail, along with the Democrats running the General Assembly. The state is once again subject to single-party hegemony, but it looks a lot different. Now the only progressives who can be claim to be doing anything meaningful in the state capital are the ones who jammed it in protest every Monday this summer as they watched conservative legislators dismantle as much of their legacy as fast as possible.

DEEP IN THE PIECE: "The Republicans, too, are out to reshape the way the state does business, but in a much more radical way. They have the keys to the entire kingdom. … Conservatives nationwide have watched the state with envy—and liberals with horror—as their bedrock ideological principles have alchemized from shopworn cable-news talking points to tangible policy. It's as if the House of Representatives were allowed to run the country, a prospect that must make Eric Cantor gaze at the moon like a dreamy child." Read the full story here.

STECKEL LEAVES STATE TO WORK FOR COMPANY SEEKING STATE BUSINESS: Medicaid Director Carol Steckel will spend her last weeks on the job cut off from the Medicaid planning she’s led for months. Steckel is leaving her $210,000 state position to be senior director of public policy at WellCare Health Plans, which provides managed care plans for Medicaid and Medicare.

The state Department of Health and Human Services is working on a plan to transform Medicaid that will open the $13 billion government health insurance program for the poor, elderly and disabled to management by private companies. They call the plan the "Partnership for a Healthy North Carolina," and Steckel had the lead role in creating it. Read more here.

MARK WASHBURN: We are a gambling state: The Charlotte Observer columnist writes: Here’s a business that wants to move to North Carolina, wants to invest millions in construction and wants to create hundreds of jobs. It wants to do all this, and it is not asking a penny in state incentives.

Our governor and about 100 lawmakers are crossing their arms, pursing their lips and shaking their heads in stern opposition. No, no, no, they say. This idea the Catawba tribe of South Carolina has for building a casino in Kings Mountain is unacceptable. Is it even remotely possible that our leaders subscribe to the laughable myth that North Carolina is not already a gambling state? Read more here.

DENR REJECTS GRANT TO TEST WATER BEFORE FRACKING: North Carolina’s environment agency has taken the unusual step of returning a federal grant to study streams and wetlands that could be harmed by hydraulic fracturing for natural gas.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources had itself recommended last year that baseline water-quality data be collected where drilling might occur. The information would help document any problems linked to drilling. But under new leadership appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory, the department now says it doesn’t want the $222,595 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency. The department also returned a second grant of $359,710 for wetlands monitoring.

Division of Water Resources director Tom Reeder said the fracking study will be done, but not now and not by the unit that applied for the grant. The Program Development Unit, which housed experts in aquatic ecosystems, is being disbanded in a reorganization of the division. Reeder said other scientists within the division are equipped to do the work. It will start, he said, once the location and start of fracking, and pollutants of concern, become clear. Read more here.

CONTESTANTS TO REPLACE FOUSHEE GROWS: Orange County Commissioner Bernadette Pelissier announced this week she intends to seek a vacant N.C. House District 50 seat. Pelissier said now’s the time to step up or give up. Read more here.

COOPER WANTS E-CIGARETTES REGULATED: North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has joined 39 of his colleagues across the country asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to regulate electronic cigarettes in the same way it regulates tobacco products. Cooper signed a letter Tuesday that says e-cigarettes are being marketed to children through cartoon-like advertising characters and by offering fruit and candy flavors, at the same time they are becoming more affordable and available. Read more here.

ELIZABETH WARREN RAISES MONEY FOR HAGAN: From "Extending her political star power to other Democrats facing potentially tough re-election bids in 2014, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., sent a fundraising letter to supporters on Tuesday warning that without their support, the U.S. Senate could, like the House, end up under Republican control. In a pitch for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Warren said that without Democrats retaining control of the Senate, GOP priorities she described as extreme may pervade both chambers of congress following the 2014 mid-term elections. Read more here.

COMMISSION APPROVES RATE HIKE: The N.C. Utilities Commission on Tuesday awarded Duke Energy Carolinas, which serves Charlotte, an overall 4.5 percent rate increase. The hike, Duke Carolinas’ third since 2009, rises to 5.1 percent after two years. Typical residential bills will go up about $7.60 a month in 2015, to an average $110. Read more here.

FROM THE STUDENT PRESS: The North Carolina General Assembly passed a tax reform bill this summer that will directly impact university dining plans on college campuses. Read more here.

JOHN LOCKE FOUNDATION APPLAUDS TAX LAW: The conservative think tank writes: "North Carolina's new tax reforms help set the stage for long-term economic growth in the state. That's the assessment of the John Locke Foundation's top tax expert, who analyzes the reforms and suggests future improvements." Read the report here.

N.C. HERITAGE AWARDS: From the governor’s office: "The 2014 North Carolina Heritage Award recipients are: Bobby Hicks, a 10-time Grammy award-winning bluegrass fiddler; Susan Morgan Leveille, a weaver and grand-niece of Penland founder Lucy Morgan; Sid Luck, a fifth-generation potter from Seagrove; Bill Myers, whose band The Monitors has played rhythm and blues and jazz music for more than 50 years; and Arnold Richardson, a Haliwa-Saponi artist who has influenced the revitalization of North Carolina Indian arts."

FOR YOUR CALENDAR: The State Board of Elections will meet via teleconference Sept. 30 to fill a vacancy on the Cleveland County Board of Elections and discuss rules for multipartisan teams. Meeting starts at 1 p.m. and can be heard at the state office.

NAMED: Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro will join the inaugural cohort of Arcus LGBT Leadership Initiative Fellows. The program is fun by the Arcus Foundation and supports promotion and development of the LGBT rights movement. "With so little funding coming to the LGBT movement in the South, Arcus's investment in Equality NC and our work across the state and region inspires us to do more to build a state of equality here at home and beyond," Sgro said in a statement.



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Shezanne Cassim, the American jailed in the United Arab Emirates after posting a video parody, was sentenced Monday to one year in prison and a fine of 10,000 UAE dirhams (approximately $2,700).
The young American living in the UAE has been imprisoned since April, his family says, for posting what was intended to be a funny video on the Internet.
He was accused of defaming the UAE's image abroad, according to The National, the country's main English-language newspaper.
The video in question is a 19-minute short that pokes fun at a clique of Dubai teens who are influenced by hip-hop culture. In the 1990s, the label "Satwa G" was coined for a group of suburban teens who were known to talk tougher than they really were.
The video depicts a look at a "combat school" in the suburb of Satwa, where these "gangsters" are trained. The training includes how to throw sandals at targets, using clothing accessories as whips, and how to call on the phone for backup.Cassim's family says the 29-year-old has been charged with endangering national security.The charges were not read out in court. UAE officials would only say "Mr. Cassim was charged under the UAE's penal code. Anyone charged with a crime under the laws of the UAE is entitled to the fair trial protections contained in the UAE's constitution."
Cassim, from Woodbury, Minnesota, moved to Dubai in 2006 after graduating from college to work for PricewaterhouseCoopers.
He and some friends made and posted the video online in 2012. He was arrested in April. He was interrogated and arrested in Dubai before being transferred to a maximum security prison in Abu Dhabi. His family says it was five months before he was notified of the charges against him.

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