MORAL MONDAY PROTESTERS GO TO COURT, RALLY AGAIN: The 8th Moral Monday protest starts about 5 p.m. today and Democratic Congressman David Price will attend and boost its profile. Earlier in the day, about 17 protesters are expected to appear in court -- the first hearing for any of the nearly 500 people arrested at the N.C. General Assembly during protests against the state's Republican leaders. They are likely to plead not guilty to three charges stemming from their arrest at the first demonstration in April. N.C. NAACP President Rev. William Barber will be one of those in court. More from AP here.
TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House and Senate convene at 7 p.m. The House has a handful of routine legislative matters on the calendar but the Senate is scheduled to take a final vote on the landfill bill, which critics say would create mega-dumps for out-of-state trash in North Carolina. Earlier in the day, the House Finance Committee will hold a much-debated public hearing on Senate Bill 315, a measure regarding water and sewer lines to a controversial development in Durham County. Gov. Pat McCrory will attend the Red Hat headquarters opening in downtown Raleigh at 10:30 a.m.
***Good Monday morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. Read about the Democrats' "Daddy Warbucks fantasy" and business experts reaction to the tax proposal below. ***
COWELL SEEKS BIRTHDAY CHECKS: State Treasurer Janet Cowell, one of the few Democrats in a position of power, is using her birthday next month to raise money for her campaign coffers. The top sponsorship level is $1,000 -- making it likely special interests and serious donors will be the ones hosting her birthday party. Individual tickets for the July 16 event at Sitti restaurant in Raleigh cost $50.
CHRISTENSEN: North Carolina's political paranoia -- "The politics of polarization is now in danger of becoming the politics of paranoia. First Art Pope and the Koch brothers. Now BluePrint NC. And “eviscerate.’’
"The Democratic narrative is they lost because several free-spending plutocrats – Pope, who heads a Raleigh-based chain of discount stores, and Charles and David Koch (pronounced like the soft drink), two billionaire industrialists originally from Kansas – financed a takeover of the state.Pope and his array of conservative organizations were active in the 2010 elections, as was the Koch-financed advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity. … But the tale of Daddy Warbucks buying the state is a liberal fantasy.
"… Which brings me to the conservative fantasy – being flogged by Pope, Gov. Pat McCrory and other Republicans: that there is a vast Democratic conspiracy to take them down. Never have the Democrats had less clout in North Carolina." Read his full column here.
BIZ EXPERTS PAN TAX REFORM PROPOSALS: Christopher Gergen and Stephen Martin write: "To stay competitive, we need world-class schools and health-care systems. We need great teachers and good roads. We need all of our citizens playing from a level playing field, with a real opportunity to create better lives for themselves and their children. This requires investing in our future, the way we have at key points in North Carolina’s past – not betting on a set of proposals that have not proven effective in other states.
"As an entrepreneur recently shared during a forum on tax reform, “this doesn’t look good for my business or the kind of state I want to raise my kids in.” We’re inclined to agree. Full story.
MEDICAL EXAMINER PROBLEMS LONG IGNORED IN RALEIGH: Long before three deaths at a Boone hotel this spring, experts warned North Carolina officials that failings in the state medical examiner system posed a threat to the public. A 2001 legislative study group questioned whether medical examiners had the training to properly investigate suspicious and violent deaths.
The study was triggered by an Observer investigation that uncovered a litany of problems in the state medical examiner system. But instead of hiring professional death investigators and making other reforms, state officials largely ignored the recommendations. Full story.
ATTENTION FOCUSED ON SCOTUS: The Supreme Court has 11 cases, including the term's highest profile matters, to resolve before the justices take off for summer vacations, teaching assignments and international travel. Full story.
SCALIA BEMOANS 'MORAL ARBITER' IN ASHEVILLE SPEECH: With a potentially ground-breaking decision on gay marriage expected next week, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said Friday morning that he and other judges should stop setting moral standards concerning homosexuality and other issues. Why? We aren’t qualified, Scalia said. Full story.
TURNING THE POLITICAL MAP INTO A PARTISAN WEAPON: From a Boston Globe series comes this ASHEVILLE dateline about tea party Republican Mark Meadow's election to Congress and how N.C. lawmakers redrew the boundaries to help their party. "Redrawing congressional districts bore fruit for Republicans in other regions of North Carolina, as well as across the rest of the country. It was part of a concerted nationwide strategy engineered by GOP leaders in Washington that has had a profound impact, securing Republican House victories and rolling back Democratic inroads in red states, while increasing polarization and gridlock inside the beltway." Full story.
NATIONAL GUN FIGHT FOCUSES ON N.C." Heart-rending stories of lives cut short by guns fueled an impassioned rally in support of “common-sense” firearms laws Saturday in downtown’s Moore Square. Passions ran equally high across the street, where supporters of the Second Amendment exercised their First Amendment rights by chanting slogans such as “Guns Save Lives!”
The rally was part of a 25-city national tour sponsored by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group co-founded by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. That explains why one of the protesters across the street from the rally held a sign that proclaimed: “Slow down/Let’s fix our soda problem first.” Bloomberg famously has tried to ban large sodas in New York.
Raleigh is the sixth stop on the tour, which the group has dubbed “No More Names: National Drive to Reduce Gun Violence.” The “names” refers to the more than 6,000 people nationwide who have been killed by guns since the Sandy Hook tragedy. Both the rally and the protest attracted about 50 people each.
Democratic U.S. Rep David Price of Chapel Hill decried the fact that Congress has been unable to pass meaningful gun legislation in the wake of the violence at Sandy Hook. “You know, the gun lobby has a saying that guns don’t kill people, people do,” Price said. “I would like to suggest an amendment to that bumper (sticker): Guns sure do make it real easy.”
Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer, a Charlotte Republican and a primary sponsor of the House version of the bill, said in a phone interview Saturday afternoon that the gun legislation remains a work in progress after the Senate added several provisions – including the amendment governing pistol permits – that weren’t in the House version. Full story.
CRITICS CONCERNED WITH McCRORY DONOR RETREAT: A private nonprofit formed to promote Gov. Pat McCrory’s agenda is hosting a $5,000-per-person retreat that features exclusive policy briefings with the governor just as the legislative session enters a crucial phase.
But critics see a problem with the timing and the high-dollar event. “North Carolina’s budget and tax code are being negotiated behind closed doors, simultaneously Gov. McCrory is going to a ($10,000) getaway weekend with his secretly funded front group,” said Micah Beasley, a state Democratic Party spokesman. “North Carolina needs leadership that’s focused on jobs and the economy, not piling up special-interest cash.”
Bob Phillips at Common Cause in North Carolina, a government watchdog group, questioned the pay-for-access aspect of the event. “The perception problem is that a limited group of people with deep pockets get access … and people likely with business before the state,” he said. “Not everyone has that access.” Full story.
HOLSHOUSER LAID TO REST: State dignitaries, friends and family gathered in Brownson Memorial Presbyterian Church Friday afternoon to honor the life of former Gov. Jim Holshouser Jr.
Ginny Holshouser Mills, daughter of the former governor, described her father as a humble man who answered to many names. He was “daddy,” “granddaddy” and “Uncle Jim” to his family, she said. He was “governor” to many in the state who’d come to know him since his election in 1972.
But to many, the man noted for his integrity and passion for working with others from many walks of life and political stances, was just “Jim,” his daughter said. “Whether you called him Jimmy, or governor, or granddaddy or Uncle Jim, he was the same guy,” Mills told more than 500 people in the open and airy sanctuary. “He’s the guy who loved North Carolina and all. …He never wanted to live anywhere else and he wanted to make it the best place in the world to live.”
Holshouser, a Boone native who lived his last 30 years in Moore County, broke decades of Democratic rule when he was elected governor in 1972 during a GOP sweep that helped make North Carolina a two-party state. Full story.
SWEEPSTAKES KEEP CHALLENGING THE LAW: For years, North Carolina has tried to outlaw sweepstakes cafes - places where people play fast-moving computer games that mimic Las Vegas-style slots. After the state Supreme Court last year upheld a North Carolina law banning the games, law enforcement agencies started cracking down, closing dozens of sweepstakes parlors. Instead of folding, some sweepstakes operators are using new tactics to stay open: They're filing lawsuits against the very communities trying to close their doors. The owners say new software puts their businesses in compliance with the law. Full story.
PERSONNEL FILE: Gov. Pat McCrory recently made a few appointments. To the N.C. Appraisal Board: Cory Gore, president of Gore Properties in New Hanover County; David Reitzel, president of Community Bank Real Estate Solutions in Franklin County; and Dwight Vinson, an appraiser from Catawba County. To the N.C. Board of Architecture: John Monteith, who runs his own construction company in New Hanover County; Steven McClure, president of Spectrum Properties in Mecklenburg County; and John Tabor, a managing partner at Tabor Architecture in Charlotte. To the Ggovernor's Advisory Council on Aging: Patricia Polley of Alleghany County; Donna Creech of Oriental; James Scott of Halifax County; Martha Vaughan of Dare County; and Bill Griffin, CEO of Home Health Care in Mecklenburg County.
DMV TO ISSUE DUAL BILLS: Beginning in July, North Carolina drivers will start seeing combined bills for their vehicle’s property taxes and registration renewals, which have previously been dealt with separately. The change may be a source of confusion for taxpayers – property taxes have gone to the county and registration fees to the state. But the combined collection is designed to streamline the payment process and yield increased revenue for the counties. In Wake County, for example, property-tax revenue on vehicles could increase by more than $3 million annually. Full story.
WATT CONFIRMATION HERE POSSIBLE WIN-WIN FOR WHITE HOUSE: From Reuters -- President Barack Obama's pick to oversee mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will face stiff resistance in the Senate confirmation process but the White House could still win if he is rejected by labeling Republican senators as obstructionists.
Obama nominated Democratic Representative Mel Watt of North Carolina to replace Edward DeMarco as head the Federal Housing Finance Agency on May 1, and many Republicans were quick to make clear they did not like the nomination.
They say the 20-year veteran of the House of Representatives lacks the technical skill to oversee the housing finance market. And in an era of bitter partisan battles over nominations, they are unhappy that Obama picked a career Democratic politician for the high-profile regulatory job. Democratic aides concede that because of Republican procedural hurdles Watt likely will need 60 votes - rather than a simple majority in the 100-seat Senate - to be confirmed. They also concede that with 41 Republicans in the Senate, Watt could fall short of 60 votes. Full story.
ICYMI: Elizabeth Dole on Hillary Clinton -- "“I have to say as far as Hillary is concerned, you know... we can recognize that we’re past the point of a woman being accepted as president because she almost made it last time, and also just to think she could be a front-runner, a few years ago that wouldn’t have been something that would have been conceivable,” Dole told CBS This Morning. “But she is the front-runner. Of course, it’s a very personal decision, having been through that myself [for the 2000 election]. It’s something that she will have to decide.” Full story.
CAN DEMOCRATS WIN BACK THE SOUTH: A local elections in Mississippi that went Democrats direction are raising the question again. From The Atlantic comes this look.