UPDATED: TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House and Senate convene at 7 p.m. for what some lawmakers hope is the final week of the legislative session. It seems unlikely, even if it wraps by Sunday, because of the bevy of issues remaining on the table: fracking, voter ID, taxes, budget, landfills, abortion, guns, a regulatory overhaul, commerce bill, immigration, etc.
The House will get started Monday, debating the so-called RECLAIM NC Act, an immigration bill that splits the loyalties of immigration advocate groups. A bill about riding ATVs on roads is also on the calendar. The Senate will consider a handful of measures, including a bill to force Durham to clear hurdles for the contentious 751 development. All this takes place amid the backdrop of the 11th "Moral Monday" demonstration, which starts about 5 p.m.
McCRORY'S HOMETOWN PAPER SAYS HE 'BREAKS HIS PROMISE ON ABORTION': The Charlotte Observer issued a scathing editorial in reaction to McCrory saying he would sign the abortion bill: "McCrory should have stood firm and vetoed it. But backed into a corner politically, trying to stay in the good favor of the extreme conservatives he has deferred to since taking office, he caved. Now, he says he will sign the House bill if it reaches his desk.
"Too bad. This was a moment when McCrory could have redeemed himself and showed up as the moderate governor we thought we were getting when he was elected, the person we recognized from his years as Charlotte’s mayor. Instead McCrory broke a promise. And by doing so, he showed us that though he may be governor in name, he’s clearly not in charge." Read more here.
***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. Many more N.C. political headlines below.***
GOP STRUGGLES WITH ITSELF: State Sen. Jeff Tarte, a freshman Republican from Charlotte, posted a question on Twitter last week that succinctly describes the legislative session: “NC GOP control both (legislative) chambers and (governor’s) mansion, yet may not agree on tax reform. Who would (have) thought this possible?” he wrote. This year, the party took control of the entire lawmaking process for the first time in more than a century. A key question at the start was whether its members could work together. As the session enters its final days, an answer is coming into focus. Read more here.
GOV. JIM MARTIN on the GOP and McCrory: The former Republican governor talked to the Charlotte Observer's Taylor Batten. Read excerpts here.
CHRISTENSEN: WHAT HAPPENED TO MAYOR PAT On a Charlotte radio station last week, I was asked what in the world has happened to Mayor Pat since he moved to Raleigh six months ago. My answer is that nothing has happened. Gov. McCrory and Mayor Pat are the same guy – a pragmatic, moderate conservative, who is basically an engaging person who enjoys meeting people, and who sometimes says the darndest things.
What has changed is the political context. In Charlotte, he was mayor of a Democratic-leaning city, working with a Democratic City Council and the most forward-looking business community in the state. Read more here.
WILL TAX BILL = TAX REFORM, OR JUST TAX CUTS? From AP: The distinction is important among economists, advocates of tax modernization and legislators who said North Carolina's tax system is outdated, originating from a 1930s economy of textiles and furniture. Today's economy relies more on the service and technology sectors.
People across the political map disagree on whether any likely outcome of tax negotiations — a compromise probably somewhere in between the last publicly released House and Senate proposals — fits the definition of tax reform. Part of the reason is because "tax reform" appears to be in the eye of the beholder. Read more here.
RALEIGH MAYOR BEMOANS 'MORAL MONDAY' COST: The city’s police department has spent $69,000 assisting with arrests and security and the weekly “Moral Mondays” protests, and some Raleigh leaders and taxpayers don’t want to foot the bill. Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane said she’s recently inquired about getting that money back from the state. “It would be nice if the state reimbursed us, but that’s not going to happen,” she said.
The reason, according to the mayor, is the state legislature cut its in-house law enforcement several years ago, requiring Raleigh to provide extra security whenever requested. McFarlane isn’t a fan of that provision, but legally the city has no recourse now. The legislature, she says, “should have talked to us and negotiated something, rather than giving us an unfunded mandate.” Full story.
UNEMPLOYMENT LAW RUNS AFOUL OF FEDS: A new law reducing unemployment benefits will get some tweaks this week after the U.S. Department of Labor identified several provisions that don’t comply with federal regulations.
Gay Gilbert, administrator of the federal Office of Unemployment Insurance, wrote that North Carolina can’t deny benefits to certain categories of out-of-work applicants. But Gilbert says the state is within its rights to cut maximum unemployment benefits from $535 a week to $350 and to reduce the maximum weeks of benefits from the current 26 – the main effects of the new law.
NCGA REACTION: “We’re taking it seriously, but there’s nothing egregious in (the letter),” Rep. Julia Howard, a Mocksville Republican who helped craft the original bill, said Saturday. “I was pleasantly surprised that there were only five or six glitches.” But Sen. Josh Stein – a Raleigh Democrat who opposed the cuts to unemployment – said the bill wasn’t fully vetted. “It’s a very clear example that when you rush things through you end up creating unintended problems,” he said Saturday, noting that employers will be forced to pay higher unemployment taxes if the law isn’t fixed. Read more here.
TEACHER ASSISTANTS HOLD BREATH AMID BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS: Angela Lewis prepared for a new class of kindergarteners at Barwell Road Elementary this week under a cloud of job insecurity. The summer months often bring worry to teacher assistants as the legislature contemplates budgets that could cost them their jobs. ...
The Senate budget takes a whack out of the funds that go to pay for teacher assistants, cutting more than $142.3 million and leaving money for them only in kindergarten and first grade. With a cut of $24.6 million, the House budget proposes to take a smaller chunk from teacher assistant spending. Teacher assistants are 7.5 percent of the state’s public education budget.
The Senate budget would eliminate 4,580 teacher assistant jobs, according to the state Department of Public Instruction, while the House budget would cost 790 jobs. Last year, 24,400 teacher assistants worked in public schools, with 17,579 paid with state money. The Senate budget would cut about a quarter of the teacher assistant positions. Read more here.
AP POLITICAL STORY FROM ATLANTA: Abortion returns to the front-burner in 2014 elections: With no immediate hope of overturning the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing abortion, Republicans around the country are increasingly pushing legislation to restrict the procedure, and Democrats say they’ll make the GOP pay in coming elections. Read more here.
GOV OFFICE CLARIFIES McCRORY'S MORAL MONDAY COMMENTS: Gov. Pat McCrory has not been in the crowds of protesters gathered at the N.C. Legislative Building for the weekly “Moral Monday” demonstrations, according to his spokeswoman. The crowd he mingles with is in the streets, she said.
On Friday, Kim Genardo, the governor’s communications director, clarified comments that McCrory made to a Wilson Times reporter – remarks that sparked the creation of a “PatWasThere” parody on Twitter and a “Help Find Pat” page on Facebook.
“Gov. Pat McCrory interacts with many people, including protesters,” Genardo said Friday afternoon. “Every day he walks to and from work, to meetings in government buildings, and throughout the city of Raleigh. When possible, the governor will stop and chat with the people of North Carolina.” ...
Since the weekly demonstrations began in the capital in late April, McCrory has yet to meet with the crowds or sit down with organizers to discuss their concerns about the policies, laws and agenda coming out of the General Assembly. Read more here.
FOR N.C. COUPLES, DOMA STILL LOOMS: When Dave Parnell heard the Supreme Court had struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, he felt relieved and affirmed as a married gay man. Then as the full ruling sank in, Parnell realized he didn’t know what impact, if any, it would have on him and his husband, Jeff Evans. “Here we are in a state that has a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and we have a marriage certificate from another state, and DOMA says federally, it’s recognized,” Evans said. “Now what does that mean?”
Although last month’s Supreme Court decision paves the way for married gay couples to receive federal recognition and thus benefits, the provision of DOMA allowing each state to determine whether it will recognize same-sex marriages stands. Read more here.
COOPER TO ALLOW ACLU TO AMEND LAWSUIT: Attorney General Roy Cooper will not oppose a move by the American Civil Liberties Union to amend an existing lawsuit to challenge North Carolina’s ban on gay marriage. Read more here.
TEA PARTY GROUP PLEDGES TO SPEND MORE: All in the name of boosting Republican tax reform -- if it comes. Americans for Prosperity is urging state lawmakers to “continue to work towards bold tax relief and reform,” and promising that if they do AFP is ready to help by encouraging business activity in the state. Dallas Woodhouse, state director for AFP, says the organization has at the ready a national and international marketing strategy aimed at letting businesses know how great the new tax overhaul will be in North Carolina.
Q&A WITH CHRIS AYERS: Christopher Ayers was appointed by Gov. Pat McCrory and began a six-year term on July 1, supervising a staff of about 80 people. He succeeds longtime director Robert Gruber, who retired. Read a brief interview here.
END OF SESSION MEANS SURPRISES: From Jim Morrill: Surprises keep on coming in the waning days of North Carolina's legislative session. Last week it was the N.C. Senate which, in a hastily called committee meeting, inserted controversial new abortion proposals into a bill on Sharia law. Wednesday it was the House. Committee members meeting to debate a bill on motorcycle safety found the bill had picked up a new sidecar: the abortion proposals. They were similar to the Senate's, but revised at the urging of Gov. Pat McCrory's administration. Read more here.