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Morning Memo: GOP exerts control, Democratic chairman spits flames

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: A House committee will consider a constitutional amendment to stregthen private property rights and restrict eminent domain. A Senate committee will take up the House unemployment overhaul On the floor, the Senate is expected to consider a controversial GOP power grab to sweep clean Democratic appointments to boards and commissions. And the House will vote on its permanent rules for the legislative session.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE STATEHOUSE: The House will honor the 50th anniversary of the legislative building with a resolution Wednesday. Gov. Pat McCrory will attend.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo, the best source for news and analysis about North Carolina politics. Much more below.***

GOP SHOWS WHAT TOTAL CONTROL LOOKS LIKE: The state’s GOP-dominated legislature and Republican governor would have a free hand to sweep out all the members of several key boards and commissions and replace them with their own appointments, under a bill advanced Tuesday. The legislation surfaced unexpectedly in the Senate Rules Committee attached to an innocuous bill eliminating certain boards and commissions for efficiencies. Over objections from Democrats, the committee approved provisions to replace and in some cases downsize the membership on the state Utilities Commission, the Industrial Commission, the Coastal Resources Commission and others.

NEW DEMOCRATIC CHAIR SPITS FLAMES AT McCRORY: The first weapon newly minted Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller used against Gov. Pat McCrory on Tuesday: the flame thrower. Voller issued a statement critical of the GOP effort to take control of boards and commissions by firing all current appointees (read: Democrats). Voller took the Senate bill a step further, suggesting it's a move "ordered" by the governor. He also veers into McCrory's Duke Energy ties and drops the words "unfettered monopolies. Here's a slice of his statement: “Deliberately acting against the best interests of the people of North Carolina, Governor Pat McCrory has ordered the reactionaries in the General Assembly to dissolve a host of oversight boards and commissions that protect the interests of rate payers, consumers and the general public.

"Does Governor McCrory, a 29 year veteran of Duke Energy, think we have forgotten his links to massive corporation that filed for a 10% rate hike on the same day Republicans proposed to fire all the current members of the NC Utilities Commission - a blatant conflict of interest? Now, North Carolinians will be subjected to the excesses of unfettered monopolies and utilities that already put a leave them with a bill that continues to higher.

GOP ADVERTISES PAY-FOR ACCESS TO McCRORY: As reported by the Insider today and floating through the halls of the legislature, the state Republican Party is hosting a "Governor's Business Roundtable" on Wedneday night, charging $2,500 for an invite. A $1,000 contribution is what it takes for two people to get into a reception before the roundtable. McCrory is already under fire from critics for a political nonprofit started by his former campaign manager that is charging even more for access to McCrory at private retreats.

POPE QUITS MORE BOARDS:When Art Pope was named Gov. Pat McCrory's budget director in December, he announced his resignation from the board of Americans for Prosperity and the Civitas Institute, a group he helped found. He's given up more positions than that, Jim Morrill reports. Disclosure reports filed Monday with the State Ethics Commission show Pope no longer sits on the board of other groups he did in 2012: the John Locke Foundation; the Golden L.E.A.F. Foundation; the N.C. Free Enterprise Foundation; the N.C. Institute for Constitutional Law; the N.C. Institute for Political Leadership; Real Jobs N.C.

WIFE OF McCRORY's CHIEF OF STAFF IS LOBBYISTReports also show that Yolanda Stith, wife of McCrory's chief of staff Thomas Stith, lobbies for several clients including the N.C. Association of Community Development Corporations.

DAVIS: RULE #5 -- LOSE THE COURTS, LOSE THE WAR: Political pundit John Davis is seeing a connection between the GOP appointments bill and the 2014 N.C. Supreme Court elections, suggesting the first (if approved) will end up in front of the latter. He writes in his new newsletter: "The Republican majority has a right to initiate radical reforms. Everyone else has a right to sue them. That’s why next year’s Supreme Court races are critical for long-term Republican political dominance. In 2014, four of North Carolina’s seven Supreme Court justices will be elected. There will be a new Chief Justice, as Chief Justice Sarah Parker will reach the mandatory retirement age of 72 on August 23, 2014. The four Supreme Court seats up for election in 2014 are:
--Chief Justice Sarah Parker, Democrat, Mecklenburg (Mandatory retirement)
--Justice Mark Martin, Republican, Wake (Running for Chief Justice)
--Justice Cheri Beasley, Democrat, Cumberland (Appointed to Timmons-Goodson seat)
--Justice Robin Hudson, Democrat, Wake

The NC Supreme Court has a solid conservative majority. However, North Carolina is a purple, battleground state trending blue." David concludes with adding another political rule to his list: "Today, I am adding Rule #5: Lose the courts, lose the war."

MORE BIG HEADLINES:

FEDERAL JUDGE CRITICAL OF WAKE MED SETTLEMENT:U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle adopted a prosecutorial tone on Tuesday as he once again reeled off a long and pointed list of concerns about a settlement agreement hashed out between federal prosecutors and WakeMed over false Medicare billings. ... The judge appeared to make history after refusing twice – once in January and again Tuesday – to rubberstamp the plea deal and $8 million settlement crafted over several years.More here.

N.C. ATTORNEY GENERAL SUES RATING AGENCY: N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper has filed a lawsuit against ratings agency Standard & Poor’s, joining more than a dozen of his peers in alleging that the company inflated the ratings on risky investments. The announcement came a day after the U.S. Department of Justice said it would bring its own suit against S&P, claiming the company caused more than $5 billion in losses by fraudulently giving high ratings to complex bundles of mortgages despite knowing the housing market was in trouble.

More here.

STUDENT OP-ED HITS McCRORY'S HIGHER ED COMMENTS: An opinion piece from a McCrory supporter and Appalachian State student is getting big notice in social media. In the piece, Stephanie Sansoucy writes: "As someone who voted for Governor Pat McCrory in the past election and as journalism major at a liberal arts institution, I have to say I’m very disappointed in the governor’s recent comments. ...There is no value in having a job if you do not know the issues of the world around you or if you cannot think for yourself. I did not vote for the governor so he could spend time determining what knowledge – or education – is valuable."

CHARLOTTE POLITICS SPILLS INTO RALEIGH: Tension between state Republicans and Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx over transit money escalated Tuesday when four lawmakers accused the mayor of “bad faith” and suggested the state might reconsider its funding of light-rail extension.
The four Republicans, who each hold a post overseeing transportation, defended GOP Gov. Pat McCrory’s comments that Foxx’s pursuit of a streetcar was “making my job harder” to keep state money.

TAX AND TAGS:
Paying your vehicle property taxes late will be a thing of the past after the middle of this year -- unless you want to drive with expired license tags. The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles is rolling out a new program in which vehicle taxes will have to be paid at the same time as registration fees.

GUN RALLY PHOTOS: See a photo gallery from the Second Amendment rally at the statehouse here.

PERSONNEL FILE: The state Department of Health and Human Services announced it hired Dianna Lightfoot as director of the Division of Child Development and Early Education. She is the former president of the National Physicians Center and worked as executive vice president of the South Carolina Policy Council, a conservative think tank. She starts Feb. 11 at a salary of $110,000.


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Stith

There's more to Yolanda Stith's McCrory connection than meets the eye. While a lobbyist, she was also treasurer of McCrory's New Leadership PAC until after the primary. She took over from McCrory's sister, Linda Sebastian.

BTW, before the primary, on October 12, 2011 the New Leadership PAC gave $20,000 to the NC GOP. On November 8, 2011 the NC GOP made an in-kind contribution of $17,600 to McCrory's governor campaign committee for "statewide survey research". I suppose this is a new "fair and legal" way to circumvent campaign contribution limits.

Spitting fire

Did the chairman also spit fire because Easley got his law license back?

And it might be wise to issue a warning to other Democrats and children not to try spitting fire at home. It obviously takes expertise to be able to spit fire and low ranking Democrats should be warned not to try this on their own. Hopefully President Obama will include fire spitting in his gun control measures.

Democratic chairman spits flames

Do you have a video or photos of this? I once saw a man spit flames at the local carnival. The new chairman must be a man of many talents.

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