GOV. McCRORY SAID WHAT? The Wilson Times reported this week that Gov. Pat McCrory said he has often entered the crowds that gather in the capital city to protest the Republican agenda and policies. He said he even got a good cussing by protesters. But in the age of mobile phone cameras and instant posting to social media, the governor seems to have moved in and out of the throngs without anyone capturing his interaction on video or film.
DID HE MISSPEAK?: Repeated efforts Thursday to reach McCrory’s spokeswoman, Kim Genardo, were unsuccessful. More here.
UPDATED: WITH TILLIS WATCHING, COMMERCE COMMITTEE REJECTS LATE CHANGE TO WORKERS COMP BILL: Late Thursday, after seven hours of legislative debate, the House commerce committee held an impromptu meeting to hear a measure that attracted the attention of House Speaker Thom Tillis, who attended the meeting. (No reporters were in the room, so this first report comes from lobbyists who were there.) Republican leaders apparently wanted to amend a worker's compensation bill (SB 614) to prohibit professional athletes from filing injury claims. But the attempt to add the language failed by a 10-27 vote in the Republican-dominated committee. Harold Brubaker, a former House speaker and now lobbyist who represents the NFL Players Association, helped defeat the effort. Tillis represents the Charlotte area and the Carolina Panthers supposedly wanted this bill. But a Tillis spokesman said Friday the speaker wasn't pushing the bill.
ALSO LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: The contentious House RECLAIM NC Act -- an immigration bill that gives driving permits to those in the country illegally but also subjects some immigrants to temporary detention -- is now on the House calendar for Monday.
***This is the Dome Morning Memo -- the source for N.C. political news. The New York Times is taking another deep look at North Carolina. Read more about it below.***
TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: No legislative action but get ready for a full week starting Monday. Gov. Pat McCrory lists one public event on his schedule: a main street tour at noon in New Bern.
AT NEW YORK TIMES WEBSITE, EXPERTS DISCUSS NC'S FISCAL POLICY: The New York Times showered North Carolina with attention in a recent editorial. Now it's looking deeper at what's happening here. From the "Room for Debate" page: "North Carolina’s Republican governor and Legislature are pushing a series of controversial steps, including reducing unemployment benefits, cutting income taxes for high earners and raising sales taxes. It is the kind of sweeping change that conservatives have championed nationwide. Is North Carolina taking a responsible approach to its budget? Does another state offer a better model for fiscal management?" Full debate here. Read excerpts below.
Teresa Ghilarducci, the Bernard L. and Irene Schwartz chair of economic policy analysis at the New School for Social Research, is the author of "When I'm Sixty-Four: The Plot Against Pensions and the Plan to Save Them." She writes: "What state makes the best fiscal decisions? In order to rate the states you need criteria. Let’s try this one: Any state that sparks protests called “Moral Mondays” is probably going to rank pretty low. Six months ago, I visited North Carolina's state treasurer, Janet Cowell – the only Democrat in the administration now – and met with citizen advocates to discuss our research finding that North Carolina faces a serious retirement crisis. Middle-class workers in that state – like most others – will face serious deprivation at retirement age.
"Our trip had impact, on us at least. On the plane coming home my colleague turned to me shell shocked, "How can it be legal to have so much poverty in such a wealthy state?" What is a good state? Full piece.
Michael J. Boskin, a former chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, is the Tully M. Friedman professor of economics and a Hoover Institution senior fellow at Stanford University. He writes: "The North Carolina governor and Legislature, after going through several iterations of tax reform bills, are now considering lowering personal and corporate income tax rates. I strongly support such a move. … I am disappointed that major tax structure reform – broadening the tax bases, including of the sales tax – has so far not garnered enough political support. That should be on the agenda for a subsequent round of tax reform, whenever feasible." Full piece.
Eileen Norcross is a senior research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. She writes: "North Carolina’s pension system is considered one of the best funded in the country, but lawmakers shouldn’t get too comfortable. By the state’s math, the pension system is facing a shortfall of $3.72 billion – seemingly manageable, compared with many other states. However, independent economists estimate the funding gap is several times that. The longer this disconnect continues, the greater the risk of acute gaps in pension funding down the road – a dangerous prospect for employees and taxpayers." Full piece.
Jeanne Milliken Bonds is a public relations consultant, political analyst and host of “Plain Talk Politics.” She writes: Observers of the legislative process will not be shocked when the budget emerges with cuts to public education, along with new private school vouchers and the expansion of a separate system of charter schools. They will not be shocked by cuts to higher education. Earlier skirmishes focused on proposals to close some universities in the state system." Full piece.
ALSO FROM THE NYT: A link to today's story on the abortion legislation that appeared on A11.
REVAMPED ABORTION BILL NOW GOES TO SENATE: A strategy that has been used to close abortion clinics in other states by imposing new regulations on them was approved in a contentious bill in the state House on Wednesday. The bill – which would require stricter standards, more contact between abortion clinic doctors and their clients, and limit insurance coverage for the procedure – passed along party lines by a vote of 74 to 41.
Rep. Charles Jeter of Huntersville was the only Republican to vote against the measure. Jeter had said earlier he was elected to work on jobs, not social issues. House Speaker Thom Tillis, a Republican from Mecklenburg County who is a candidate for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, wasn’t required to vote but did, siding with the majority. Read more here.
ALLEY DIES AT 84: Zeb Alley, who rose from a story-telling mountain populist to become a legendary lobbyist, died Thursday. His reputation was such that people said he not only knew where the bodies were buried, but probably supplied the shovel.
Alley, who was 84, died at Rex Hospital after several months of failing health. He was such a Raleigh institution that House Speaker Thom Tillis announced his death from the podium, and the Senate adjourned in his honor. These were Republicans, and Alley was a Yellow Dog Democrat.
Perhaps no man knew North Carolina’s legislature like Alley, who served as a state senator, worked as legislative liaison for Democratic Gov. Jim Hunt, and was a lobbyist for many of North Carolina’s big corporations. There are tentative plans for a celebration of his life in Raleigh on Tuesday with internment in Waynesville on July 20. Read more here.
SEN. GOOLSBY'S FIRM SUED: From the Star News in Wilmington: "Ten people have sued Sen. Thom Goolsby's Empowered Investor firm, alleging they lost substantial amounts of money when the firm placed their funds into unsuitable investments. The suit, filed Wednesday in New Hanover County Superior Court by the Wilmington law firm Baker & Slaughter, also names Goolsby as president and James Upham, vice president. Empowered Investor is a portfolio management firm that promotes itself through seminars and a radio program that Goolsby hosts." Read more here.
EFFORT TO CUT REGULATIONS ADVANCES: Sweeping regulatory reform – billed by sponsors as job creation – drew criticism Thursday for a provision that would lessen municipalities’ independence when it comes to billboard regulation. During a lengthy House debate over the omnibus bill, Senate Bill 112, several amendments were aimed at softening or deleting the billboard section of the bill, but most failed. The bill passed with few changes in an 83-29 vote. It will be sent back to the Senate. Sponsors said the bill, which covers agriculture, natural resources and the environment, aims to make regulation less burdensome and costly. Read more here.
JORDAN LAKE DELAY COULD RUN AFOUL OF FEDS: Jordan Lake was placed on the federal government’s impaired waters list in 2002. After years of meetings and discussions, a lake cleanup plan was signed by Gov. Bev Perdue in 2009. The state legislature passed delays in 2011 and 2012 and then finally considered repealing the cleanup rules this year.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wrote to Rep. Rick Glazier, a Democrat from Fayetteville, that bypassing pollution reductions “is generally inconsistent with the Clean Water Act” because such a strategy could increase the lake’s total maximum daily allowance of pollutants. The EPA letter, from A. Stanley Meiburg, the agency’s acting regional manager in Atlanta, said delaying the lake’s cleanup could make it necessary for the EPA to get involved and tighten runoff limits. Read more here.
WAKE SCHOOLS BILL ALIVE: House Republicans turned to their parliamentary rulebook Thursday to keep alive a bill that would allow county commissioners in Wake and several other counties to take over school construction. On Thursday morning, the House Government Committee voted first to remove Wake from the bill, then to reject the legislation in its entirety. But on Thursday evening, the House voted to refer the bill, with Wake still included, to the House Rules Committee to keep it alive this year.
The evening vote was the culmination of efforts by the bill’s backers to preserve it and avoid having to wait until next year to bring it back up again. After the Government Committee vote, several Republican Wake commissioners huddled with House Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam, other lawmakers and lobbyists to talk about what to do next. “All our options are still open,” said Stam, an Apex Republican, after the evening vote. Read more here.
HOUSE RULES CHAIRMAN PUSHES BILL TO ALLOW ATVs ON ROADS: Safety advocates are criticizing a House committee proposal to let North Carolinians drive all-terrain vehicles on some public roads. People who make and sell ATVs say it’s a dangerous idea, too. “ATVs aren’t designed for the highway,” Chris Brewer, who owns an Oxford ATV and motorcycle dealership, said Thursday. “They don’t have turn signals. A few have brake lights. They don’t have horns or mirrors.”
The new proposal emerged Wednesday as the House was about to consider a Senate bill making minor changes in the legal definition of an all-terrain vehicle. Rep. Tim Moore, a Republican from King’s Mountain, announced that the bill would be withdrawn from the floor for reconsideration by the Rules Committee, which he chairs. Read more here.
McCRORY MAKES CALL UPON FORMER CHARLOTTE PREP STAR:Former Charlotte Christian and Appalachian State player Omar Carter is improving but remains in the intensive care unit at Carolinas Medical Center after suffering what was described as a heart attack while playing basketball this week, his mother told The Observer on Thursday.
Friday, Tyson said she also expects Gov. Pat McCrory will visit her son. As mayor of Charlotte, McCrory took a special interest in Carter and his twin brother Lamar after meeting them at a city council meeting. He became a virtual surrogate father to the boys. McCrory spoke with Tyson several times Thursday. “Omar has a heart of gold; now he will rebuild that heart,” McCrory said. Read more here.
DOT BOARD GETS LOOK AT NEW TRANSPORTATION FORMULA: When the General Assembly and Gov. Pat McCrory approved the Strategic Mobility Formula, a sweeping new change in state guidelines for distributing transportation construction dollars, they left it up to the state Department of Transportation to work out a lot of important details. The big plan is to make this a largely "data-driven" process, and to link transportation infrastructure projects with jobs and economic development.
The state Board of Transportation, most of its members McCrory appointees, got its first formal look Thursday at DOT recommendations for criteria and weighting that will be used to score new road projects -- and capital projects for transit, aviation, ferry and rail improvements. Read more here.
CHARLOTTE AIRPORT TRANSFER CLEARS HURDLE: Transferring control of one of the nation's busiest airports from the city of Charlotte to a regional authority has cleared a significant hurdle. The North Carolina House gave tentative approval Thursday to create a Charlotte Douglas International Airport Authority that would take over operations in January. The 72-42 vote comes after Republican legislators decided to move on the idea after Charlotte city officials wouldn't agree to participate in a legislative study on the idea. Read more here.
STUDENT LOAN RATES BACK ON AGENDA: U.S. Senators are back to the starting line in their search for a compromise that would reduce interest rates on student loans after being spooked by the $22 billion price tag that accompanied a potential deal. Lawmakers from both parties had agreed on a tentative proposal that offered Democrats the promise that interest rates would not reach 10 percent and gave Republicans a link between borrowing terms and the financial markets that they sought. But that deal's red ink proved disqualifying and sent them back to square one. Read more here.
FARM BILL MINUS FOOD STAMPS: The U.S. House passed Thursday a scaled-down version of a massive farm bill, putting off a fight over food stamp spending and giving Republican leaders a victory after a decisive defeat on the larger bill last month. The GOP leaders scrambled to get the bill to the floor and gather enough votes after deciding to drop a politically sensitive food stamp section of the bill and pass legislation that contained only farm programs. Read more here.