Under the Dome

Morning Memo: McCrory adminstration reverses Confederate flag stance

FLAG FLAP PROMPTS McCRORY ABOUT-FACE: A Confederate battle flag hung inside the old North Carolina State Capitol last week to mark the sesquicentennial of the Civil War is being taken down after civil rights leaders raised concerns.
The decision was announced Friday evening, hours after the Associated Press published a story about the flag, which officials said was part of an historical display intended to replicate how the antebellum building appeared in 1863. The flag had been planned to hang in the House chamber until April 2015, the 150th anniversary of the arrival of federal troops in Raleigh.

"This is a temporary exhibit in an historic site, but I've learned the governor's administration is going to use the old House chamber as working space," Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz said Friday night. "Given that information, this display will end this weekend rather than April of 2015." The decision was a quick about-face for the McCrory administration, which initially defended the display. More from AP here.

***Good morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. Much more N.C. political news and analysis below. ***

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House and Senate will convene for no-vote, skeleton sessions today. Gov. Pat McCrory lists no public events on his calendar. Progress NC will hold a press conference at 10:30 a.m. to push back against legislation that proposes to curtail early voting.

HUFF POST PIECE HITS McCRORY NOMINEE ON LGBT ISSUES: From a Huffington Post piece -- "One of North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory's (R) nominees for the State Board of Education has a long history of opposing anti-bullying measures aimed at protecting LGBT students, and gay rights advocates are worried about the implications if he is confirmed. A. L. "Buddy" Collins is an attorney and a longtime member of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board of Education. He has clashed with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) over the years surrounding the group's efforts to stop bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. "Buddy Collins has always been a retrograde voice, inimical to the interests of youth, on the school board," said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard. "He has directly tried to block efforts to fully understand [students'] experiences in the service of making things better in schools in his district." Full story here.

SUNDAY FRONT-PAGE ROUNDUP: The top Sunday headlines from state's newspapers -- The News & Observer led with a story featuring a teacher concerned about losing tenure of Senate leader Phil Berger's bill (see story below) and another about how the state's mental health system isn't working. The Charlotte Observer stripped a story across the top about lawmakers power-grab against cities (read below). Greensboro's News-Record took at look at Chase Burns, the Oklahoma gambling executive who donated big money to N.C. politicians. Inside was an interview with Berger. The Daily Advance centerpiece looked at a bill to lift Sunday hunting limits, finding limited support from hunters, and another story looking at Medicaid and the problem of the uninsured. Hendersonville's Times-News looked at beer brewer's lobbying Congress. While in Asheville, the Citizen-Times took a new look at the midwife legislation in the light of the recent criminal case against a woman claiming to be one. The Fayetteville Observer led with a story about women soldiers breaking ground. Wilmington's Star-News featured a local baseball player with a mental health disorder.

BERGER'S EDUCATION EFFORTS CONCERN TEACHERS: Rich Nixon has tenure, like other North Carolina teachers who made it past a probationary period of four years. That doesn’t mean he has a guaranteed job for life – the common definition of tenure for university professors. It does mean that he would be entitled to a hearing if his superiors tried to fire him. But that protection would be gone under proposed legislation that would end tenure, also known as career status. The bill would instead allow school districts to offer teachers contracts for one, two, three or four years.

The bill was proposed by Republican Sen. Phil Berger, the state Senate leader. Berger said the majority of teachers work hard and do a good job in difficult circumstances. “But there are some that don’t fit into that category,” Berger said in an interview. “I think it’s a very small percentage. I also think the current law is an impediment to removing those bad teachers from the classrooms.” Full story.

FROM BERGER INTERVIEW, RE: UNC SYSTEM: Q: The idea of merging (university) campuses or programs — is that something that’s been blown out of proportion a little bit or is it that we may have legitimately fewer campuses? Berger: I think it’d be very easy to say that it’s been blown out of proportion. Q. So you don’t think campuses — a campus — will close? A. I don’t see that. I don’t know that anyone has proposed closing any particular campus or any campus at all at this point. I don’t see that as part of what we’ll be doing in the budget. But I do think people talk about things. And people write about things.Read more from Travis Fain's interview with Berger here.

LAWMAKERS TAKE AIM AT CITIES: Even in a state that has grown increasingly urban, North Carolina cities are on the defensive, fighting to keep prized assets and local control against a legislature that appears intent on taking them. Three cities – Charlotte, Asheville and Raleigh – face the loss of signature assets. Small towns, like bigger cities, fear significant revenue drains. It’s not just municipalities that have felt the sting. Senate bills would redraw school board districts in Wake and Guilford counties and change the way members in each are elected. a“It has been an amazing array of bills that add up to more restrictions on cities and on urban counties to govern themselves,” says Ferrel Guillory, a political analyst at UNC Chapel Hill. Full story.

RELATED -- LOCAL TAXES TARGETED: As part of a movement to reform North Carolina’s tax codes, a pair of Senate bills aim to eliminate two business taxes that local governments say they depend on. Full story here.

ROB CHRISTENSEN ON THE DISPUTE: Do Republican lawmakers really hate Raleigh? If so, they have a funny way of showing it, spending millions of dollars of campaign money to get here. But Sen. Josh Stein of Raleigh is partly right. This does have the smell of power politics, not to mention an old-fashioned executive-legislative feud. Full column.

MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM STRUGGLES: More than a decade after the state drastically changed its mental health system, fewer patients are treated in state psychiatric hospitals, but more are crowding local hospital emergency rooms. More money is going to pay for community treatment, most of it coming from Medicaid. But finding the proper treatment can be a time-consuming and confusing puzzle for the patients who are most difficult to serve, those on the fence between intensive in-home help and a state-run institution. The move to more community care for the mentally ill was supposed to improve treatment, but despite various initiatives and money, those who need help are still struggling to get the care and medicine they need. Full story in an occasional series.

SOUTH IS MOSTLY UNITED AGAINST OBAMACARE: As more Republicans give in to President Barack Obama's health-care overhaul, an opposition bloc remains across the South, including from governors who lead some of the nation's poorest and unhealthiest states. Widening Medicaid insurance rolls, a joint federal-state program for low-income Americans, is an anchor of the law Obama signed in 2010. But states get to decide whether to take the deal, and from Virginia to Texas - a region encompassing the old Confederacy and Civil War border states - Florida's Rick Scott is the only Republican governor to endorse expansion, and he faces opposition from his GOP colleagues in the legislature. Tennessee's Bill Haslam, the Deep South's last governor to take a side, added his name to the opposition on Wednesday. < a href="">Full AP story.

CHARLOTTE POLITICAL FAMILY GROWING AGAIN: From the Observer's Jim Morrill -- Rep. Tricia Cotham will have a new agenda after the legislative session ends this summer. Cotham is pregnant with her second child. The baby is due this fall. It will be the second time the Matthews Democrat will have given birth since joining the legislature in 2007. Her son Elliot was born in 2010. Now, like then, she plans to continue her legislative career. "I do think it's really important mothers and young women to have a voice in the General Assembly," she says. "I bring lots of different experiences to this body." Cotham is married to Jerry Meek, a former chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party. Her mother Pat chairs the Mecklenburg County board of commissioners.

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