Under the Dome

Morning Memo: Education, voter ID dominate agenda; McCrory nears 100 days

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: A controversial voter ID measure gets a double billing Wednesday, appearing in a 1 p.m. House Election Committe meeting for discussion only and a 4 p.m. public hearing. A lawyer from the Indiana Secretary of State's Office and the N.C. NAACP's William Barber will present at the earlier meeting. The House will also unveil a major education bill at a 2 p.m. press conference, just hours after a Senate panel considers President Pro Tem Phil Berger's own overhaul plan at a 10 a.m.

Senate committees will also consider bills to increase the speed limit on some highways to 75 mph and provide tax money to the Carolina Panthers for stadium renovations. Gov. Pat McCrory will attend a private reception for the N.C. Homebuilders Association at 5 p.m. The group is advancing two controversial measures this session to limit local control of inspections and design standards for homes that are angering counties and cities. Wonder how Mayor Pat would have reacted to the legislation?

McCRORY'S FIRST 100 DAYS: The governor is nearing the 100-day mark of his term -- a benchmark that means little but will generate a media extravaganza. McCrory is sitting down with various media outlets this week, about 10 minutes at a time, to discuss his accomplishments. WRAL-TV is the first with an interview. Check it out here. 

***Good morning and thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. More North Carolina political news and analysis below.***

WAKE SCHOOL SYSTEM WARNS ABOUT McCRORY BUDGET: The Wake County school system could lose state funding for 400 teacher-assistant positions, a cut that local school leaders say will harm education for elementary school students. The budget submitted by Gov. Pat McCrory would eliminate funding for teacher assistants in second and third grades across North Carolina, a cut of $117 million. Wake school administrators said Tuesday that the proposal would cost the county system about $12 million. “This will be a landscape-changer, because this will be people coming into classrooms and not seeing TAs,” said interim Wake Superintendent Stephen Gainey, who added that losing the positions would be “very detrimental.” Full story.

WHAT IT COULD MEAN: These dire warnings ("landscape-changer") don't bode well for one of the big provisions in McCrory's budget. The districts get discretion but more of these headlines from school districts across the state could neuter the effort as local lawmakers get worried. Random question: What does Tony Tata, former Wake superintendent and now McCrory cabinet member, think about the cuts?

VOTERS PRESS LAWMAKERS: Hundreds of people came to the legislature Tuesday, motivated by what lawmakers have done and what they are planning to do. These citizen-activists papered legislative offices with fliers and brochures, making their views known on everything from voting rights to midwife licenses. There were numerous meetings – impromptu and official. But few meetings of minds.

WHERE'S EDGAR STARNES?: Some people also had trouble connecting with the lawmakers they wanted to see. No one found Rep. Edgar Starnes, the House majority leader. The Caldwell County Republican is the primary sponsor of a bill that would shorten the early-voting period and end Sunday voting. 

And when the Rev. William Barber, president of the N.C. NAACP, tried to find House Speaker Thom Tillis in his office, Tillis slipped out while Barber’s back was turned. Tillis said later that he’d asked Barber make an appointment for “a meeting, not a media event.” Tillis walked into his office before answering questions about the opponents’ arguments.  Full story.

NAACP VIDEO OF TILLIS ENCOUNTER: The N.C. NAACP released a video of Tillis dodging Barber, the group's president. See the video here.

McCRORY MEETS WITH BLACK LAWMAKERS: Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday he “agreed to disagree” with African-American lawmakers on a proposed voter ID bill and other issues. But the Republican governor touted his meeting with the Legislative Black Caucus and an earlier meeting with heads of historically black colleges and universities as evidence that he’s reaching out to groups that might not always agree with him. Full story.

POPE VISITS UNC, QUESTIONS CONSTITUTION'S HIGHER ED GUARANTEE: From The Daily Tar Heel -- "(Pope) said the state constitution requires higher education institutions to be available, but it does not require free admission to universities or unlimited funding from the state.

Pope stressed Article IX of the N.C. Constitution, which in Sections 8 and 9 requires the state to provide a public system of higher education.But Section 9 only requires a university education to be available to state residents “as far as practicable.” Pope used this mandate to argue that North Carolina does not have a duty to supply a free education to students. He said the state is only required to provide what it can.

Douglas MacLean, a UNC philosophy professor in the Parr Center for Ethics who attended the talk, said the moral duty of how much funding is required is dependent on the interpretation of practicable. “I think one interpretation, that (Pope) didn’t seem to want to accept, is that (practicable) might mean the state has a stronger obligation to be funding the university,” he said." Full story.

HAGAN TARGETED BY MORE ADS: The League of Conservation Voters and the National Wildlife Federation are targeting U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a North Carolina Democrat, with web advertising to push her to support Gina McCarthy, President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency. The ads targeting in North Carolina are designed to appeal to mothers.

The ad reads, “Clean Air and Healthy Families, they need a cop on the beat protecting our air, our kids and our communities. That’s why a majority of Americans support the EPA’s work of curbing deadly air pollution. Tell Senator (Hagan) to stand strong for families and support Gina McCarthy for EPA.”

POLITICAL MERGER: The Institute of Political Leadership and the N.C. Center for Women in Public Service recently announced a merger. In a statement, Walt DeVries, the IOPL founder said: “This is a reaffirmation of the original intent of the Institute.  We were founded to provide a pipeline of qualified, ethical, and diverse leadership in North Carolina.  The Center for Women in Public Service was founded with similar objectives and our enhanced training will do just that.”

BILL STOPS SHORT OF ELIMINATING CORPORATE INCOME TAXES: Corporations would see a tax break as soon as next year with more cuts to come under a measure Republican lawmakers are pushing as part of a massive tax overhaul. The measure stops short of completely eliminating the corporate income tax – a major goal for some Republican lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory. Senate GOP leaders proposed abolishing all income taxes earlier this year but the cost of the cuts is tempering the overhaul effort.

PIECEMEAL APPROACH QUESTIONED: Republicans and Democrats pressed Rucho on a timeline for the remaining legislation. Asking for patience, he said the individual parts will come together in one proposal in two weeks. By then the legislature may be in its final weeks, but Rucho said he still expects to get a measure approved this session. “When you have a complicated problem, the way you solve it is you break it into pieces,” he said.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Democratic state Sen. Dan Blue, a veteran Raleigh lawmaker, questioned the Republican strategy of breaking the bill into pieces. Each tax bill, he said, only generates more detractors. “It’s never going to go anywhere, not the way they are developing it,” Blue said. “You can wrestle with a crocodile easier than some of these issues.” Full story.

PUBLIC ENEMY NO. 1: MOPEDS: State law treats mopeds a lot like bicycles. Now, some legislators want to make moped riders get license plates and buy liability insurance. State Rep. Phil Shepard said Tuesday he sympathizes with people who need the slow, low-power two-wheelers to get around. But he thinks they should be subject to more of the same regulations that affect other drivers on the road. ... Sometimes mopeds are targeted by thieves or used in drug crimes, he said. Full story.
Read more here:

WAKE UP DEMOCRATS, STRATEGIST SAYS: Democratic strategist Thomas Mills writes: "Two myths seem to be dominating Democrats’ analysis of their problems. The first is that Art Pope “bought” the elections for Republicans. The second is that focusing on education is the winning message for Democrats. Like many myths, they each have a grain of truth but both are greatly exaggerated. ... If Democrats in North Carolina want to get back in power, they need to stop blaming external factors like Art Pope and quit trying to get back to the past. They need to accept their own responsibility for their electoral failures. They ran the same campaign for 20 years and developed few bold or innovative ideas over the past decade. They tolerated cronyism and failed to develop new leaders. If they want to win again, they need to look ahead and offer voters a vision for the future, not a retooled plan for the past." More here.

CAR INSURANCE BILL ATTRACTS A CROWD: A controversial bill that would overhaul the state’s regulation of auto insurance rates has been modified in response to objections raised by opponents. But the changes, unveiled Tuesday in a legislative committee meeting, failed to win over opponents of the bill, including Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin. The bill drew a swarm of lobbyists Tuesday. Full story.

CHARTER ADVISORY BOARD CREATES APPEAL SYSTEM: More than two dozen rejected charter-school applicants will be able to appeal to a newly formed group to try to open for the 2014-15 school year. The Public Charter School Advisory Council voted Tuesday to form an appeals subcommittee after complaints concerning 27 of 69 applicants being rejected last month by the state Office of Charter Schools. Several applicants argued they were rejected for immaterial reasons and not based on the potential educational quality of the schools. Full story.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE DEATHS UP: Domestic violence resulted in the deaths of 122 people in North Carolina last year, the second highest total since the state began requiring law enforcement agencies to track domestic violence homicides five years ago. Full story.

PERSONNEL FILE: The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources recently announced Ruth Turner Camp as the agency's business development and special projects manager. Camp is the president of her own firm that provides public relations help to companies. She is also a trustee with the Josephine S. Leiser Foundation, a Florida-based organization that supports community organizations, and the past president of the World Trade Center of North Carolina.

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