UPDATED: BLOOMBERG TO TARGET N.C. IN GUN DEBATE: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is preparing to launch a major TV ad campaign aimed at U.S. senators in swing states -- including Democrat Kay Hagan. From the NYT: "Determined to persuade Congress to act in response to that shooting, Mr. Bloomberg on Monday will begin bankrolling a $12 million national advertising campaign that focuses on senators who he believes might be persuaded to support a pending package of federal regulations to curb gun violence. The ads, in 13 states, will blanket those senators’ districts during an Easter Congressional recess that is to be followed by debate over the legislation."
TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The Dix lease to the city of Raleigh hits the chopping block. The Senate convenes at 7 p.m. but won't consider the bill until Tuesday. The House convenes at 4 p.m. but no votes are expected. The Wake County delegation at 4 p.m. in room 643 of the legislative office building. (More on the meeting below.) Gov. Pat McCrory lists no public events on his schedule today.
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A COUNTER AD WAR? More TV ads about the national gun debate may come North Carolina's way soon. The chief executive of the National Rifle Association said Sunday that his organization would lead a national campaign against efforts by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York to persuade Congress to adopt stricter gun controls, according to The New York Times. From the paper: "The mayor and the rifle association executive, Wayne LaPierre, appeared separately on the NBC News program “Meet the Press” on Sunday. Bloomberg, a billionaire and a registered independent, said he was spending $12 million on advertising in support of pending federal legislation to curb gun violence. In reply, LaPierre, said, “He can’t buy America.’’
“He can’t spend enough of his $27 billion to try to impose his will on the American public,” LaPierre said. Referring to Bloomberg’s well-known campaigns against smoking and junk food, he said: “They don’t want him in their restaurants, they don’t want him in their homes, they don’t want him telling them what food to eat. They sure don’t want him telling what self-defense firearms to own."
THE PROSPECTS OF A GUN BILL: Despite a strong push for tighter gun restrictions by the White House and others, common ground continues to elude lawmakers, even in the wake of the December massacre at a Connecticut elementary school that left 20 children dead and a nation horrified. With a ban on assault weapons all but certain to lack the necessary votes, gun control advocates are hoping that Congress will at least consider stronger background checks and a crackdown on gun trafficking. But in spite of polls that show overwhelming support for such measures, those, too, will be a struggle. Full story.
TWO WAKE ISSUES WILL IGNITE DELEGATION MEETING: Opponents of Republican-backed legislation that would revoke Raleigh’s lease on the Dorothea Dix hospital property and weaken the power of the Wake County school board are mobilizing to speak out Monday. The Wake County Democratic Party, WakeUP Wake County and Friends of Dorothea Dix have sent out alerts to their supporters urging them to pack Monday’s public meeting of the Wake County legislative delegation. They charge that the proposed legislation would “erase years of public work. and is “an assault on public education.” Full story here.
SPONSOR OF DIX BILL PUSHED FOR HIS OWN $1 DEAL: In touting his bill to revoke Raleigh’s lease on the Dorothea Dix property, Sen. Ralph Hise argues that the deal was too cheap and the capital city needs to pay fair market value for its park. It’s not the first time Hise, a Republican from Mitchell County, has weighed in on a state property transfer. In 2011, he was the sole sponsor of a bill that sold a shuttered state prison in his western mountains district to Mayland Community College. The total price for the property – valued on Avery County tax rolls at $2.01 million – was $1. The Dix lease calls for Raleigh to pay $500,000 a year, plus 1.5 percent annual increases, in a deal worth $68 million over 75 years. “I wish I had known that I could have my own prison for the cost of a pack of gum,” quipped Raleigh City Councilman Bonner Gaylord, who’s among those blasting Hise for inconsistency.
Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said she’s also concerned that Hise works for the college. He is an instructor and planning officer. “It surprises me that somebody who submitted a bill on behalf of their employer to sell state property for a dollar would ever criticize the governor and the city of Raleigh for coming up with a lease agreement that paid significant money,” she said. “This just smacks of hypocrisy and also conflict of interest.”
Hise said the Dix deal is a far cry from the sale of the old Blue Ridge Correctional Center. Mayland Community College wanted the property for a law-enforcement training center, which Hise considers a state government use and the best use of the site. Full story.
BARRY SAUNDERS WEIGHS IN ON THE DIX BILL: "Danged if they aren’t fixing to dump dirt all over Dumpling’s legacy. A Republican-led Senate committee passed a bill last week to undo what was sure to be the enduring mark of former Gov. Bev “Dumpling” Perdue’s tenure – the lease of the former site of the Dorothea Dix psychiatric hospital to the city of Raleigh for use as a park. The Republicans’ plan? Tear up that contract and sell the rolling hills of green, green grass to the highest bidder. Given their infatuation with digging and drilling, don’t be surprised to hear that they’re fixing to take that beautiful, historic property and start fracking on it." Full column here.
PARTISAN REVENGE IN THE McCRORY'S STATE BUDGET: From columnist Rob Christensen -- "Revenge, they say, is a dish best served cold. And the Republicans may finally be getting a bit of payback against Democratic heroes Charles Brantley Aycock and Zebulon Vance. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory recommended in his budget last week the closing of Aycock’s birthplace in Wayne County and Vance’s birthplace in Buncombe County. They are two of the four state-run historic sites and one museum of history site that his budget proposes closing for a savings of nearly a half million dollars. Twelve jobs would be eliminated.
"To refresh your memory, Aycock and Vance were both Democratic governors who ended a period of Republican rule. Vance was elected governor in 1876 ending the period of Reconstruction. (Vance was also North Carolina’s Civil War general and later was a U.S. Senator.)" Full column here.
SOLAR INDUSTRY ALARMED BY GOP ENERGY BILL:To appreciate the explosive growth of solar power in North Carolina, consider the state of the solar industry six years ago: Solar energy was so unusual that most residents had never seen a photovoltaic panel here. Today, North Carolina ranks fifth in the nation for solar energy production, and the state is projected by the Solar Energy Industries Association to move up to fourth place this year. Giant solar farms are sprouting or planned all over the state, including the biggest proposed to date: a 75-megawatt project in Duplin County.
But the industry’s continued success in North Carolina is now in jeopardy. The state’s 2007 energy law, intended to establish alternatives to building power plants, is one of the Democratic-era policies eyed for elimination by some in the Republican majority in the state legislature. “It’s a power plant and we have to go to the capital markets in order to be able to build these things,” said John Morrison, chief operating officer of Strata Solar, a Chapel Hill developer. “The result will be these investment dollars will go elsewhere to other states.” Full story. Related: “Subsidy” is a dirty word, used to discredit just about every known energy resource. More here.
McCRORY TOOK FROM OTHER POTS TO ADD RESERVES: From AP -- Gov. Pat McCrory's first budget proposal seeks to set aside nearly $1 billion over the next two years to prepare for unexpected economic downturns, Medicaid shortfalls and natural disasters, as well as to improve neglected state buildings and outdated computer systems. "We have not had enough reserves in our budget," McCrory said in releasing his plan last week. "We're no longer going to play budget tricks, which have been played in the past."
While McCrory could locate reserves thanks to improving tax collections and by declining to propose new signature programs, McCrory's team also used some fiscal maneuvers to help free up more funds. His budget proposal would intercept more than $275 million from pots of money - many beginning when Democrats led the legislature - earmarked to help tobacco-dependent communities, build parks, dispose of old tires and other purposes. The plan also proposed reducing funds for several non-state economic development agencies by $69 million. Full story.
ICYMI: GOP CONSIDERS DOWNSIZING UNC SYSTEM:Republican legislative leaders are intent on reviving the discussion, sparking an outcry among Democrats and UNC advocates.
State Sen. Pete Brunstetter, a budget committee co-chairman, said Republican lawmakers envision possibly closing or consolidating one or two UNC system campuses to eliminate overlapping programs, save money and focus limited resources on the colleges and universities that are thriving. “There should be no sacred cows,” the Winston-Salem Republican said in an interview Friday. “The UNC system needs to be subjected to the same scrutiny as everything else.” Brunstetter cautioned that it is too early in the dialogue to identify particular campuses that could close, merge or transfer to the community college system – all ideas lawmakers are considering. Full story.
NFL TEAMS GET BIG MONEY FROM GOVERNMENTS: As the Carolina Panthers scramble for public money to upgrade their stadium, other NFL teams are getting significant help from state and local governments. Of the 20 stadiums built or renovated since 1997, a year after Bank of America Stadium opened, all but one have used public money. Things as diverse as food, property and hotel taxes and lottery proceeds have supplemented private funds. And the list doesn’t include three teams currently planning new stadiums or upgrades, each of which expects significant public investment. Full story.
NAACP PROTESTS ON NEW CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT: More than 50 residents braved the cold and rain Sunday to take a stand against racial inequalities and voter discrimination by remembering a key civil rights moment. On the 48th anniversary of Bloody Sunday – when members of the march on Selma were beaten by Alabama state troopers – residents met Sunday afternoon at Mt. Moriah Primitive Baptist Church in Charlotte to hold a silent march to the federal courthouse, where they prayed and discussed their mission for racial equality.
The event was sponsored by Mecklenburg Ministries, the local NAACP, local church congregations and other groups. It was also part of a larger movement of marches that happened across the state, including Raleigh, Asheboro and Greenville, during the weekend. As part of that larger movement, the North Carolina NAACP called on the N.C. General Assembly to enforce universal compliance with the 14th, 15th and 24th amendments as well as the Voting Rights Act of 1965, stopping racial gerrymandering and redistricting that disenfranchise minorities and making Election Day a state holiday, among other things. “The march goes on until the battle is truly won,” Khalil Akbar of Masjid Ash-Shaheed mosque said during Charlotte’s rally. Full story.
MORE PROTESTS: POSTAL CARRIERS OPPOSE 6-DAY MAIL SERVICE: About 40 people braved inclement weather on Sunday to protest proposed cuts to the U.S. Postal Service that would end Saturday delivery. Yesterday’s event was one of two in North Carolina, and one of many protests at state Capitols across the country. The National Association of Letter Carriers mobilized its local chapters to call attention to proposals to end Saturday deliveries. Schadwald led postal workers and family members in chants of “Six days a week” on a megaphone as they stood on Bicentennial Plaza, near the Capitol, in the rain and the cold. Full story.
LOOKING FOR N.C. GOVERNORS OF PAST: From AP -- North Carolina’s banking industry trade association is on a hunt for missing history. The group is searching for the portraits of four former governors to complete the look at chief executives dating back to 1776. The collection has been done before, but North Carolina Bankers Association President Thad Woodard said a framed poster in the group’s offices ended with Gov. Luther Hodges more than half a century ago. It’s not clear who designed the poster or why, but the group decided it was due for an update. Full story.
CHARLOTTE GOP PICKS NEW CHAIRMAN: Charlotte attorney Brad Overcash is the new chairman of the Mecklenburg County Republican Party. Overcash, 32, was the sole nominee at the party’s annual convention Saturday at West Charlotte High School, which was attended by more than 160 delegates. Overcash – an attorney at Hagwood Adelman Tipton – was nominated by Charlotte Mecklenburg Republican Women President Claire Mahoney. Full story.