Under the Dome

Morning Memo: McCrory to shuffle commerce; a mid-session recap

McCRORY TO ANNOUNCE COMMERCE SHUFFLE: From AP -- Gov. Pat McCrory is using the backdrop of a textile manufacturer for a big announcement about how North Carolina government is seeking to increase business in the state. McCrory is speaking Monday at Copland Fabrics in Burlington about what his office called a major commerce and economic development policy announcement. The Republican governor has been telling audiences his administration is assembling a state Commerce Department reorganization proposal.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House and Senate convene at 7 p.m. But expect a crowd earlier in the day at the Wake County legislative delegation meeting. Hundreds attended the prior delegation meeting to voice concerns and support for a number of major changes local lawmakers are looking to make. Monday's meeting is at 4-6 p.m. in room 643 of the legislative office building. Also, expect a state audit on the town of Princeville, where state officials seized financial control in July 2012. (More on that story here.)

***Good Monday morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. A roundup of North Carolina political news and analysis below.***

A MID-SESSION WRAP -- Change is coming: Lawmakers are altering the fabric of North Carolina and drawing sometimes unfavorable attention to the state with a flood of proposals, ranging from bills that would overhaul voting laws to a resolution that would allow for an official state religion. After national ridicule, the “Defense of Religion Act” was tabled last week in the N.C. General Assembly. But other far-reaching proposals are proceeding. Love it or hate it, change is coming. Get a look at all the legislation moving here.

COLUMNIST: BACKGROUND FOOD STAMPS, NOT GUNS? From the N&O's Barry Saunders -- "You know how you wake up in the morning after a hard night of Scrabble, all jowly and bleary-eyed? If you’re anything like me, your first thought upon squinting into the mirror is “That can’t be right.” That’s the same thing a lot of us are saying after some North Carolina lawmakers introduced a bill to require criminal background checks on people applying for food stamps.

Wait a minute. The same legislature that opposes any form of criminal background checks before you can buy a gun from a private seller – something about “right to privacy” and Second Amendment rights – now wants to force you to submit to the government equivalent of a rectal probe in order to put food on the table? Nah. That can’t be right. Full column.

DELEGATION MEETING FODDER: DIX LEASE DEBATE: A single line of faded cursive from the mid-19th century has taken center stage as state legislators consider revoking Raleigh’s lease on the Dorothea Dix property. “In trust for the use and benefit of the North Carolina State Hospital for the Insane” appears in the first two deeds that transfer property for North Carolina’s first psychiatric hospital. The language is quoted in the Republican-sponsored bill that calls for renegotiating Raleigh’s park lease at “fair market value” and dedicating the money to mental health, while keeping land for Department of Health and Human Services offices. Full story.

CHARTER SCHOOLS WANT A SECOND CHANCE: More than two dozen rejected charter-school applicants want a second chance, prompting a fight over how state education leaders should handle growth of these non-traditional public schools. Last month, the state Office of Charter Schools rejected 27 of 69 applications to open charter schools for the 2014-15 school year. State educators said they were following the guidelines given to them when they rejected the schools. But charter school advocates say too many applications were rejected because of minor paperwork that was missing or for other reasons unrelated to the schools’ potential quality.

TODAY:The Public Charter School Advisory Council, the group which suggested the guidelines, will discuss Monday whether to consider any of the rejected applicants. The council recommends to the State Board of Education which charter schools should be approved. Full story.

AS TAX DEBATE BEGINS, TROUBLES AWAIT: A Senate panel will discuss a corporate income tax rate cut on Tuesday. AP's Gary Robertson sets the scene --Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Pat McCrory brimmed with optimism early this year about prospects for passing a North Carolina tax code overhaul that most agree has been needed for decades. Still, they didn't predict smooth sailing.

General Assembly members had seen previous Democratic governors and lawmakers fall short on reform. They couldn't work out hundreds of details or overcome opposition from interest groups that didn't want to get taxed more or lose their prized loopholes. "The biggest challenge is whether political leaders have the will to adopt tax reform," said tax expert Sabra Faires, a former longtime legislative and state government staff attorney. "Past administrations haven't had that will, despite repeated studies on the need for it."

As the first detailed proposals get scrutinized in the Senate, similar obstacles with past efforts are surfacing. Fiscal advocacy groups say proposals either hurt the poor or don't go far enough for job growth. Trade and government associations are criticizing the fine print. Full story.

CHRISTENSEN: GOP CALMS THE RED-HOTS: There were signs that the Republican legislative leadership last week was moving to rein in the red-hots. The popular narrative in recent days is the legislature had gone off the deep end. That is based on a spate of legislation declaring that North Carolina has a right to declare a state religion; require divorcing couples to wait two years; place new regulations on campus coed dorms; and take away tax deductions for parents whose kids vote at college, among other things. But here is a different view. I think things are beginning to settle down. Full column.

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