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Morning Memo: Manufacturing in the spotlight; what will Obama tell NC

TODAY IN POLITICS: The role of manufacturing in the state and how to revive the state's old economy takes center stage Monday and Tuesday at the Emerging Issues forum in Raleigh. The conference is hosted by former Gov. Jim Hunt. U.S. Sens. Kay Hagan and Richard Burr will brief the audience Monday morning. And Gov. Pat McCrory will attend a lunch and award ceremony Tuesday. Other top N.C. officials will take part throughout the event.

In the legislature, the House and Senate convene at 6 p.m. for skeleton sessions. The real action starts Tuesday when budget committees begin to meet in public. A House committee will consider the controversial Medicaid bill Tuesday, as the full Senate considers a measure to curtail unemployment benefits. McCrory has no public events Monday, but he speaks to N.C. Department of Natural Resources employees Monday morning.

***Welcome to the Dome Morning Memo, the source for political news in North Carolina. Much more below. ***

HOUSE MAY SLOW GOP BOARDS BILL:A plan by Senate Republicans to take control of several key state commissions – criticized by Democrats as an audacious power grab – is likely to meet a more skeptical audience once it hits the House. The reason is that some House Republicans might have a problem with a provision in the bill to eliminate 12 special superior court judges, which some have warned would add to an already overburdened caseload and be an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. “I think we’re going to be very slow and deliberate before we start tinkering with the judicial system,” House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes, a Republican from Hickory, said Friday. “It’s not on a fast track, by any means.

WHAT WILL OBAMA TELL NORTH CAROLINA: From the Asheville Citizen-Times -- "Ways to boost the economy, tighter restrictions to prevent gun violence and reform of immigration laws are topics President Barack Obama is likely to cover during his visit to the area Wednesday, political observers said. The stop in the Western North Carolina mountains will come on the heels of his State of the Union address, and presidents typically travel after the speech to garner public support for their initiatives. “Immigration, gun control, and obviously the economy — those are at the top of my expectations list,” said Chris Cooper, a political science professor at Western Carolina University."

WHAT A HEADLINE: Lawmakers 'just don't seem to care,' jobless woman says That's the online headline for Sunday's Winston-Salem Journal story (part two of a series) on the jobless benefit bill. From the story: "Connie Reynolds, 53, of Mocksville has been searching for work for more than two months after her general clerk job at Parks Mazda in High Point was eliminated after nearly 10 years. She said she made $13.25 an hour, or about $530 a week. “I had a decent paying job with a company I liked working for, and now I’m down to nothing,” Reynolds said. “I had no warning I was being replaced, no write ups or anything. They just wanted to bring in someone part time that they could pay less.”

"To lower her expenses, Reynolds has moved in with her parents, both of whom have health issues. She said she expects to get her first unemployment benefit check this week after some miscommunications between the company and the N.C. Division of Employment Security delayed the filing process. “I used my last paycheck to pay up my bills, but that was two months ago, and now I am getting creditors calling for their money,” Reynolds said. “This already has been leaving a real sour taste in my mouth, so to hear my benefits may be cut after July 1 in this economy is just unfair for somebody who wants desperately to work even with a herniated disk. I don’t want to live off disability. I want to earn my living as I have my whole life. “These legislators are playing with people’s lives, and they just don’t seem to care. I don’t think they ever will unless losing their job happens to them or somebody close to them,” Reynolds said."

LOCAL GOP WANTS OFFICIALS TO FIGHT GUN EDICTS: From Monday's front page of the Greensboro News & Record -- "Local Republican Party leaders are calling on county commissioners and the state government to stand against President Barack Obama’s attempt to “bypass our God-given rights of self-defense.” The party’s 6th Congressional District executive committee approved a resolution earlier this month asking elected officials to fight any federal edicts that violate the Second Amendment. The resolution references “23 anti-gun initiatives” Obama announced in the wake of the December school shooting in Newtown, Conn. But neither the 6th District GOP chairman, the Guilford County chairman nor the Rockingham County chairman who wrote the resolution could point Friday to specific initiatives they believe violate the Second Amendment."

MORE HEADLINES TO NOTE:

ON THE DHHS DRESS CODE: From N&O columnist Barry Saunders -- "Sure, Kathy Gruer came off sounding like a school-marmish micro-manager when she sent out a memo telling grown people how to dress, but goshdarnit, somebody had to do it. Gruer, director of Human Resources for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, also had to follow up her clothing memo to DHHS employees with one saying “Nevermind.” Why? Because the new DHHS head hadn’t approved it. It’s unlikely, though, that Secretary Aldona Wos is going to rescind the guidelines laid out by the over-eager Gruer, since the new Republican administration has shown no disinclination to get involved in people’s lives.

SENATORS LEGAL FIGHT ENDS: From AP -- "A legal dispute between former Sen. Margaret Dickson of Fayetteville and her successor, Wesley Meredith, over campaign ads in 2010 has ended.
Dickson, a Democrat, filed a lawsuit in Cumberland County against Meredith, a Republican, after he defeated her in a hard-fought election heavy with negative advertising. Also named as a defendant was the N.C. Republican Executive Committee, an arm of the state GOP. Dickson’s lawsuit claimed Meredith and the state GOP were deceptive to voters about who paid for their television advertising. Some thought one of Meredith’s ads portrayed Dickson as a prostitute. Last week, Dickson’s lawyer voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit without prejudice, which means her claims could be refiled."

WHY CAN'T THEY JUST GET ALONG: From The Charlotte Observer over the weekend -- "It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Charlotte’s former mayor is in the governor’s office. A neighboring lawmaker runs the state House. Big cities generally wield more legislative clout than ever. But barely two weeks into a new legislative session, Charlotte officials find themselves scrambling to fend off unexpected threats from Raleigh."


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