Lawmakers return to Raleigh on Tuesday to consider overriding vetoes of two immigration and drug-testing-for-welfare-recipients bills. House Republican leaders may think they have enough votes, but Republican Gov. Pat McCrory has been fighting to the end to sway them, using new media to get his points across and relying on old-fashioned endorsements.
The governor isn't the only one using the veto-session to highlight legislative issues. ***Get more on it all below in today's Dome Morning Memo, along with a holiday weekend news roundup.***
McCRORY'S LAST PUSH TO SAVE FACE: On Friday, the governor’s office released statements from six county sheriffs supporting the veto of the immigration bill, H.B. 786. The sheriffs, like the governor, oppose a provision in the bill that would expand the exemption from the E-Verify immigration-status system for seasonal workers from 90 days to up to nine months.
McCrory has said that creates a loophole that could open the door for other industries besides agriculture to hire seasonal workers and take jobs away from legal residents. Some of the sheriffs echo those sentiments, and add other concerns. Permitting more seasonal workers will lead to additional illegal immigration and affect schools, hospitals, roads and social programs, as well as increase the number of unlicensed drivers, Guilford Sheriff B.J. Barnes said.
The agricultural industry has been pushing for an override, saying it needs seasonal workers for a longer period to handle crops. More than a dozen industry associations have written to the General Assembly asking for the override, and state Agricultural Commissioner Steve Troxler has sided with them. Other sheriffs expressing support for the veto are Sam Page of Rockingham County, Chipp Bailey of Mecklenburg County, Chris Batten of Columbus County, Alan Cloninger of Gaston County and Bill Schatzman of Forsyth County.
LEGISLATIVE CRITICS USE SESSION TO HIGHLIGHT ISSUES: A cadre of critics will hold a press conference at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday to demand action by Gov. Pat McCrory on the raises received by two inexperienced Department of Health and Human Services aides. The N.C. Association of Educators will call for lawmakers to investigate the pay hikes and high salaries in the McCrory administration. Later in the day, the N.C. NAACP and affiliated groups will deliver legislative report cards (don't expect high grades for Republicans).
Later at 12:30 p.m., critics will shift focus to the N.C. State Board of Elections, which will consider three voting appeals at a 1 p.m. meeting.
PREVIEW OF ELECTIONS BOARD MEETING: As college students across the country settle into new routines that the start of a semester typically bring, many in North Carolina are complaining of feeling unsettled about their voting rights. Since mid-August, when Gov. Pat McCrory signed broad revisions to North Carolina’s elections law, local elections boards in several counties – including Pasquotank and Watauga – have initiated changes that college students are fighting as attempts to suppress their votes.
Three cases are scheduled to be heard by the state Board of Elections on Tuesday afternoon.
Students and civic groups including NCPIRG, Common Cause, Ignite NC, NCSU Student Power Union, Democracy NC and Rock the Vote will gather outside the meeting to urge the board to reverse local county board decisions that protest organizers describe as ones “that make it harder for young people to vote and participate in our democracy.” Read more here.
McCRORY GETS APPLAUSE, BOOS AT PARADE: From the Hendersonville newspaper: "Perched in a yellow '68 Cutlass convertible, Gov. Pat McCrory rode down Main Street waving at a crowd of thousands Monday to cap off the 67th annual N.C. Apple Festival. It was the first time in 21 years a sitting governor participated in the King Apple Parade.
"...McCrory got his share of applause and smiles along the parade route, although it was hard to discern whether it was all directed at him and not the popular grand marshal just ahead of him, county Cooperative Extension Director Marvin Owings Jr.
"But scattered boos, catcalls and protest signs followed the governor along his route, too. Billy and Neela Munoz organized a group of 20 protesters at the corner of Second Avenue and Main, holding up signs that said “First in flight, last in education” and “Let's move forward, not back.”
McCRORY DEFENDS VETOES WHILE VISITING AG COMMUNITY THAT WANTS AN OVERRIDE: More from the story: "McCrory took a slight political risk in riding in the parade. His Aug. 15 veto of a bill that would relax background checks for migrant laborers got a negative reaction from local apple farmers and others in the agricultural community.
"McCrory said the bill doesn't even reference the word “farming,” and was broadened to allow industries such as manufacturing, retail and hotels to take advantage of a loophole and hire seasonal help without carefully documenting their residency status. “And that will have serious ramifications on job creation for North Carolinians and for tracking down fraud, which we use E-verify to do,” McCrory said in an interview before Monday's parade. “Only E-verify designates the real identification of people applying for jobs.”
"The governor said he'd like to adapt the bill “where it's for farmers only or make the seasons a reasonable season (in) which a loophole couldn't be created for other areas. They didn't do that, and they didn't do that because other industries hopped on what was supposed to be a farming bill. And they did it at the last moment. I mean, this bill was passed very late in the night … with little debate.” Read the full article here.
SESSION PREVIEW: WUNC's "The State of Things" took a look at Republicans feuding ahead of the session in an interesting discussion with conservatives. Also: the McCrory pay raises. Take a listen here.
MOONEYHAM ON THE SESSION: From his recent column: "Legislators will return to the capital next week to figure out what to do about Gov. Pat McCrory’s two vetoes. Then, the 2013 legislative session should be put to bed for good. ...Going forward, though, North Carolina Republicans will be haunted by three key problems resulting from the 2013 legislative session. Read about them here.
GOV. PAT McCRORY'S TERM IN TWO PARAGRAPHS: After nearly eight months in office, McCrory has the look of an embattled governor. He has seen the legislature drive the agenda, a role traditionally held by the chief executive. Elected as a pragmatic business conservative, he has been part of what outside observers have said was one of the sharpest ideological shifts in the country. And his promise to improve North Carolina’s brand has been called into question by a raft of negative national publicity.
Having taken office riding a wave of popularity, McCrory has seen his polling numbers drop, and he is now shadowed by protesters. “He has a much deeper hole to dig himself out of to become an effective policy and public leader,” said Jack Fleer, a political science professor emeritus at Wake Forest University whose 2007 book, “Governors Speak,” studied five modern North Carolina governors. “The perception out there is that the General Assembly and maybe even other people in his administration have had a major role in defining him, defining his administration, and maybe even defining the state. He has a tougher road ahead.” Read the entire McCrory interview story here.
N&O EDITOR: Gov. McCrory says journalists are dumb From John Drescher's column: "Journalism is similar in that most of us are generalists. We don’t consider ourselves to be experts. But we know enough to talk with smart people and ask them to explain things to us so we can explain them to readers.
"Our beat reporters don’t have Ph.D.s, but they are knowledgeable. Take Lynn Bonner, who has reported at The News & Observer for nearly 20 years. Bonner has a degree from Swarthmore in biology and previously worked as a microbiologist. She knows scientific methods and how to analyze data. She took college-level economics. But her knowledge about public finance comes mostly from having reported hundreds of budget stories over the years.
"Bonner’s stories typically are edited by Mary Cornatzer, a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill with a journalism degree. She was The N&O’s business editor for 13 years, including four years in a row when our business section was honored as one of the nation’s best by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Bonner’s story could also be edited by Dan Barkin, senior editor for news and a business news junkie. Barkin has a degree in business from Old Dominion University. He’s been a newspaper publisher, overseeing a $15 million operation with a commercial-printing business.
"Amid this business and economic knowledge, I’m the weak link. My public policy degree included coursework in economics, statistics, public finance and business. I oversee a newsroom budget of about $12 million. We don’t pretend to be economics experts. But we know people who are. We interview them frequently and tell you what they said. Read more here.
POLITICS AT PLAY IN MORE STATE GOV'T JOBS: Hundreds of state workers received notice this summer that they are in patronage jobs and no longer have the right to protest being fired. It’s not only Cabinet leaders, their deputies and division leaders who are exempt from civil service protections. Gov. Pat McCrory expanded the employees who work without protections to local transportation managers who pave roads and build bridges, and regional environmental regulators who approve permits and fine polluters.
Months after former Gov. Bev Perdue left office, at-will government jobs nearly tripled under McCrory, and he’s allowed to add hundreds more before the year ends. In two waves, the Republican-controlled legislature opened up state law to give McCrory 1,500 positions exempt from civil service protections. McCrory has assigned 974 jobs to at-will status so far. Read more here.
McCRORY'S TAKE -- From Rob Christensen's column: The buzz in Republican circles is that McCrory has been pretty miserly when it comes to rewarding his political backers. Read more here.
ID CARDS BIG AT DMV: North Carolina’s strict new voting law, which takes effect starting with elections in 2016, will make the state Division of Motor Vehicles a prime source of photo identification cards for non-drivers who want to vote. It turns out that photo IDs already are a big business for DMV. More than 1.1 million North Carolinians have valid DMV-issued photo IDs (which expire after 5 years), compared to 6.7 million with state driver’s licenses. Last year more than 270,000 people provided the necessary stack of documents, posed for the camera and, in most cases, paid a $10 fee. Read more here.
LAWMAKERS EXTEND THE LIFE OF SCHOOL BUSES: The North Carolina legislature hit the road this year to find another way to tighten the public school budget by seeking to extend the life of the statewide fleet of more than 13,000 yellow school buses.
Now school transportation leaders hope the change won't mean more broken-down buses, requiring costly repairs and time off the road when their fleets already are being stretched. A provision in the state budget law passed this summer created a new formula to calculate when aging school buses can be replaced. Read more here.
WALL STREET JOURNAL HEADLINE -- NC's Film tax credits head for cutting-room floor: LAKE LURE, N.C.—North Carolina is close to dropping one of the most extensive programs for awarding tax breaks to film companies, in what would be a high-profile retreat from an arms race among states to lure Hollywood productions. Read more here.
CHARLOTTE OBSERVER EDITORIAL HEADLINE: "Does the governor have a truth problem?" Expect to see this argument again in 2016. Read the editorial here.
THE MAYOR OF LANDIS SUPPORTS ONE VETO: James Furr writes: "It was with much interest that I observed Gov. Pat McCrory’s recent veto of House Bill 786, which addresses the catastrophe of illegal immigration within our state. Without careful examination of the legislation, I normally would be concerned by the veto of what — at first glance — appears to be some excellent first steps toward trying to correct the problem of this illegal invasion. However — as with all too many legislative efforts — this bill is flawed through one provision which does earn it the veto our governor issued." Read more here.
CIVITAS URGES U.S. SENATE CANDIDATES TO SIGN PETITION: The Civitas Institute is praising Heather Grant of Wilkesboro, an unknown Republican seeking to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in the 2014 elections, for signing a petition to block Common Core education standards. Civitas opposes the standardized education standards. "I applaud Ms. Grant's decision to sign the Stop Common Core petition,” Civitas Senior Policy Analyst Bob Luebke said in a news release. “It shows her commitment to ensuring parents and North Carolinians decide what is taught in North Carolina classrooms. We call on other Senate candidates, including House Speaker Thom Tillis, to publicly oppose Common Core by signing the petition. And we urge all those seeking office in 2014 to sign the petition and join the fight against Common Core.”
LAWMAKERS QUESTION JORDAN LAKE SPENDING: Gov. Pat McCrory signed a controversial delay of the Jordan Lake clean-up effort last month, but the legislative debate’s not over yet. Two members of the N.C. House of Representatives say a $1.65 million plan to buy anti-algae technology may be designed to benefit a single company, circumventing the public bidding process. Read more here.
THE CRUX OF THE UNEMPLOYMENT LAW DEBATE IN ONE ANECDOTE: Paul Moore’s back was against the wall when he accepted a new job as security guard in June after more than six months of looking for work. The Raleigh resident was among the 70,000 unemployed workers statewide who faced the end of their federally funded extended unemployment benefits – which kicked in after they exhausted their state-funded benefits – as the result of a state law that went into effect July 1.
While Moore’s new job is a welcome change from the months of rejection that preceded it, his paycheck hasn’t improved his financial situation. The take-home pay from his $10.50-an-hour a job is less than the unemployment checks he received. After taxes and other deductions, including child support for his 11-year-old daughter who lives with her mom, his $840 gross earnings every two weeks is whittled down to $407.03. “I’m trying to budget,” said Moore, 53, who especially worries about keeping up on the mortgage payments for his three-bedroom house in Southeast Raleigh. “I’m a strong man, but this is nothing I have ever been through before.” Read more here.
GROUPS USE LABOR DAY TO HIGHLIGHT THE UNEMPLOYED: The struggles of unemployed people and those in low-wage jobs scraping to get by were featured at AFL-CIO headquarters on Labor Day, where labor and civil rights leaders said new laws championed by state Republicans are making life harder for many people. They criticized Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and the GOP-led legislature for letting the Earned Income Tax Credit end and for cutting unemployment benefits. Read more here.
RESERVOIR DECISION POLITICAL, GROUP SAYS: An environmental group claims undue political influence was applied in a state decision on whether to approve a $180 million reservoir project in Cleveland County. The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources took the unusual step in July of granting a waiver for construction of a proposed Cleveland County reservoir, a controversial project that has been discussed since at least 2000. The project still has to be approved by the Army Corps of Engineers before it can be built. Read more here.
GOP MOVEMENT ON MASTER'S PAY: Two Mecklenburg lawmakers say there’s a move afoot to give teachers more time to finish master’s degrees and get the 10 percent pay hike they expected when they enrolled in graduate school. Read more here.