Under the Dome

Morning Memo: Gift ban repeal dead, Hahn investigation seeks motive

TILLIS SAYS LOBBYIST GIFT BAN WILL REMAIN INTACT: House Speaker Thom Tillis took to Twitter this week to declare Republican Robert Brawley's bill to lift the ban on lobbyists giving lawmakers gifts is dead. "Benny, does the fact that the bill is dead give you any idea?" @thomtillis wrote. The speaker's office confirmed the 10:10 p.m. Tuesday tweet was legit. Tillis addressed the response to Benjamin Ray, an operative at the N.C. Democratic Party pushing Tillis on the issue and tying it to his office's controversial past with lobbyists and the fact the bill came from one of his committee chairman.

MOTIVE FOR JAMIE HAHN'S STABBING TURNS TO CAMPAIGN MONEY: As the Triangle mourned slain political strategist Jamie Hahn on Wednesday, attention turned to whether the man who police say stabbed her had made questionable campaign finance reports while working for Hahn’s firm. More on the story below.

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MORE ON HAHN INVESTIGATION: Hahn, 29, died early Wednesday from wounds sustained Monday evening, when police say Jonathan Broyhill, 31, stabbed Hahn and her husband, Nation, in their North Raleigh home. Broyhill worked for Sky Blue Strategies, Jamie Hahn’s political consulting firm.

Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Brad Miller, who decided not to seek re-election in 2012, said he hired Sky Blue for fundraising help around 2010. Broyhill was the main person with access to fundraising software, Miller said. “Some of the things that Jon said about the campaign finances were inconsistent with other information,” Miller said Wednesday. “It’s probably the case that Jamie was asking questions on behalf of the campaign about campaign finances. I think it’s bound to be part of the investigation of Jon’s motive.”

In October, the Federal Elections Commission sent Miller campaign treasurer John Wallace a letter requesting more information about documents that appeared to show donors receiving refunds from the campaign in excess of what they paid. Those five donors gave a combined $8,250 in the 2012 quarterly report cited by the FEC, but the document shows the five receiving a combined $15,900 in refunds. It’s not clear whether the donors actually received refunds. Full story.

Wallace told Dome: "Jamie was a fine and lovely person with whom I enjoyed working. ... (I) want to say only that given the pending criminal prosecution it would be inappropriate for me to offer comment."

PERDUE DONOR CASES ENDS IN LOW-LEVEL PLEA DEALS:Three supporters of former Gov. Bev Perdue pleaded guilty Wednesday in Wake County Superior Court to misdemeanor obstruction of justice charges related to Perdue’s 2008 campaign finances. Sentenced to unsupervised probation for 18 months were Trawick “Buzzy” Stubbs Jr., 70, a New Bern resident and longtime family friend of the former governor; Charles Michael Fulenwider, 65, a fast food restaurant owner from Morganton; and Robert Lee Caldwell, 74, a former state magistrate from Morganton. Also, Caldwell, who was described as having a minor role, was ordered to pay $500. Stubbs and Fulenwider each were fined $5,000. Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby says the pleas wrap up a long-running probe into undisclosed Perdue plane flights and a scheme to supplement a campaign fundraiser’s salary with private funds. Full story.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: Senate Bill 10 resurfaced on the House calendar for Thursday. The bill emerged from secret conference committee negotiations tries to strike middle ground one sweeping out special superior court judges. The House will also consider it's much-heralded school safety bill. In the Senate, the Commerce committee will consider a major bill to ease regulations on environmental permitting. Gov. Pat McCrory is scheduled to make an announcement at 9 a.m. about information technology -- days after an audit showed that state government consistently overspends on such projects.

ART POPE WON'T ATTEND KOCH RETREAT: Billionaire political donor Charles Koch is holding a retreat April 28-29 in Palm Springs, Calif., for donors to conservative causes, the first since the 2012 election. Koch, along with his brother, is the money behind groups like Americans for Prosperity. McCrory's budget director Art Pope is too -- and Pope went to one of the retreats two years ago. But Pope told Dome on Wednesday that he does not plan to attend this one. So call off the private investigators.

RENEWABLE ENERGY BILL DIES: The push to terminate North Carolina’s renewables program is over for the foreseeable future after a House committee in the state legislature defeated the measure with the help of key Republicans. The vote in Raleigh was closely watched by national conservative organizations that had targeted North Carolina as the first domino in a national strategy of toppling green-energy policies in more than two dozen states." Full story.

HAGER GETS IT HANDED TO HIM: One of the biggest political stories -- amid a day with Perdue, Hahn, immigration and voter ID in the headlines -- is the death of Rep. Mike Hager's renewable energy bill in Hager's own committee Public Utilities Committee. Three prominent GOP lawmakers voted against the measure: Tim Moore, Nelson Dollar and Ruth Samuelson. Samuelson said she had expected the vote to go either way by a single vote. “It’s a very complicated issue,” she said, “and we were only getting one side of it.”

After the vote, Dallas Woodhouse, North Carolina director for the Arlington, Va.-based Americans for Prosperity, could barely contain his anger. “This was a horrible vote by Republicans, and they need to be held accountable,” Woodhouse said. “And that’s all I’m going to say.”

THE QUESTION FOR HAGER NOW: Does it kill his chances at House speaker? The race to replace Tillis is well underway behind the scenes. Hager and Samuelson are two front-runners. This bill may play a role. The spin against Hager: If you can't get your own bill through committee, how can you be speaker. The spin for Hager: Getting shot down by a more moderate leadership only emboldens the young conservative lawmakers who support him.

VOTER ID MOVES TO SENATE: The state House passed a bill Wednesday requiring voters to show a photo ID when they go to the polls in 2016, after an emotionally charged debate that underscored North Carolina’s political polarization. House Republicans pushed through the measure saying that the public demanded more stringent ballot security at polling places, that voter fraud was more prevalent than is understood, and that in a modern, mobile society fewer election officials personally knew voters. “Our system of government depends upon open and honest elections,” said Rep. David Lewis, a farm equipment dealer from Dunn and a Republican. “Having people prove who they say they are as a condition of voting makes sense and guarantees that each vote is weighted equally and cumulatively determines the outcome of elections.”

But the move was strongly opposed by Democrats who said a photo ID would create longer lines at the polls, make it harder for the elderly, African-Americans and some students to vote, and would unconstitutionally create different categories of voters. “This bill would attempt to turn back the strong voting we’ve had in North Carolina,” said Rep. Garland Pierce, a Baptist minister from Laurinburg, noting that the Tar Heel state had the 12th highest turnout in the country last November. Full story.

TWO VIEWS OF POLITICS AND JOBS: The governor took his job-building message to the NFIB on Wednesday and talked about how companies have open jobs despite the state's high unemployment.

Those in the crowd offered two different views: Jeanette Cornett, owner of Temperature Control Solutions, knows first-hand about the difficultly of finding skilled workers. Her company has locations in four counties, including Wake, and can’t fill mobile service technician positions that pay $80,000 to $100,000. “It is hard work,” in which employees have to work in the sun and the cold, and get their hands dirty, Cornett said. “But it is good money.”

Charlotte and Patrick DiLeonardo said they support McCrory’s fiscal objectives. But they said they’ve had trouble recruiting highly skilled workers, partly due to the state’s handling of high-profile social issues, such as the ban on gay marriage that voters approved last spring. The couple owns Zebra Print Solutions in Morrisville and is working on a startup, Flip Your Training, that provides an online collaborative learning platform. Full story.

MANDATORY CURSIVE?:A bill requiring North Carolina elementary school students to learn cursive handwriting and to memorize multiplication table continued to steamroll its way through the General Assembly on Wednesday with no opposition. (Story here.)

But columnist Barry Saunders says requiring cursive goes too far: "Don’t be surprised if state legislators start handing out rulers with which teachers can smack satanic spawn – meaning left-handed pupils – to cure them of that vile condition. Don’t look at me like that. There was indeed a time when left-handedness was viewed as evil and was actively, violently combated. Since it appears that no segment of our lives is too obscure for our current legislature to interfere, can outlawing southpawing be far behind? Column here.

QUESTIONS POKE HOLES IN IMMIGRATION BILL: Members of a House subcommittee agreed Wednesday that a package of immigration measures was too harsh in its proposal to deny bail in minor traffic and misdemeanor cases involving immigrants who are in the United States illegally. Full story.

SENATE DELAYS HOUSING DESIGN BILL:The state Senate on Wednesday unexpectedly delayed discussion on a bill stripping local governments of the power to regulate residential housing based on design or appearance. Before debate could begin, Sen. Tom Apodaca motioned to remove the bill from the calendar and send it back to the Rules Committee. Supporters of the bill were caught off guard by the Henderson Republican’s move.

Cady Thomas, director of government affairs for the N.C. Association of Realtors, which supports the bill, said she thought her organization had “worked the floor enough” to help the bill pass easily. “I don’t know what happened,” Thomas said. Full story.

LAWMAKERS CONTINUE TO TARGET HOSPITALS: A proposal to make hospital bills more transparent and easy to understand sprinted through a Senate committee Wednesday with bipartisan support. The Republicans pushing the bill added several suggestions from Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat. The bill prohibits the most extreme forms of bill collecting: Public hospitals could no longer garnish a patient’s wages, and no hospital or ambulatory surgical center could put a lien on a delinquent patient’s home. Full story.

FILM CREDITS ON THE LINE, LAWMAKERS GET BLACK-TIE INVITE: From the Wilmington Star-News: "Marvel has invited "Iron Man 3" crew members, state and local lawmakers, including Gov. Pat McCrory, and film industry leaders to special screenings of the state's largest production in Wilmington on Sunday." Full story.

CHARLOTTE METLIFE JOBS WILL PAY LESS: MetLife on Wednesday laid out the average salaries it will pay at its new hubs in Charlotte and Cary – and the average Charlotte salary will be about half that of the Cary hub. Full story.

McCRORY SIGNS KILAH'S LAW: With 4-year-old Kilah Davenport sitting silently alongside, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory Wednesday signed into law a bill designed to protect children like her from abuse. “This is no doubt probably the most emotional bill I’ll sign as governor,” McCrory said. Full story.

REALITY SHOW FAMILY TO APPEAR AT N.C. GOP CONVENTION: The state Republican Party announced that Jim Bob Duggar and his wife Michelle, of the reality show Nineteen Kids and Counting, will keynote the party’s 2nd annual Faith and Freedom Coalition Prayer Breakfast at state convention in June.   Members of his family will also be making an appearance.  Duggar is a former Arkansas state representative and he took his family around the country last year for Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign.

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