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Morning Memo: Redistricting in the courts, education in the legislature

THE MOST IMPORTANT POLITICAL STORY IN N.C.: The legal fight about the new political boundaries drawn by Republicans in the redistricting process is headed to court this week. A three-judge panelwill hear the arguments Monday and Tuesday after Democrats and groups fighting the maps filed suit contending they were unlawful. The new boundaries seal Republican power in the state legislature for the next decade and Democrats need a judicial reversal to regain strength.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House will focus on education this week, with local school superintendents from across the state invited to meet with lawmakers. House Speaker Thom Tillis will hold a 3 p.m. press conference to discuss "education week."
The House and Senate convene Monday evening for skeleton sessions. No votes are expected.

***Good Monday morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. Find more political news and a weekend headline wrap below. And find out more information about the N&O's new iPad app, available for download now. (Programming note: Dome is not available on the app at the moment. Look for an upgrade later.)***

NORTH CAROLINA'S IMPACT FROM SEQUESTRATION: The White House released a report late Sunday showing how federal budget tightening would affect the state. Click here to find the report.

DRUDGE ALERT: The Blueprint North Carolina legislative strategy memo that called for hiring private investigators to help weaken the state's Republican leadership appeared Saturday as a link on the Drudge Report, giving it national attention.

GENARDO 'EXCITED' FOR STATE'S NEW GOP DIRECTION: NBC 17 reporter Kim Genardo is Gov. Pat McCrory's new communications director after having covered his campaign and his first six weeks in office. From N&O story: "Genardo said she has had job offers from politicians from both parties in the past, but wasn’t ready to leave journalism until now. “This is a new and exciting direction for North Carolina. It’s historic,” she said. “So I think that this new team will do a lot of good things for North Carolina.”"

McCRORY ON VIDEO: While in Washington for National Governors Association meetings, McCrory talked to Politico's Jonathan Martin. Watch the interview here.

HOMETOWN PAPER ON NEW GOVERNOR: In Charlotte, the city that knows McCrory best is perplexed by this path since becoming governor. An opinion piece titled "Whatever happened to pragmatic Pat?" appeared Sunday. From opinion writer Peter St. Onge on his first six weeks: "This is not Pragmatic Pat. It’s winner-take-all Pat."

FORMER LOTTERY AD WRITER TAKES SHOT AT McCRORY: McCrory is getting it from all sides now. In his State of the State address, the governor called for more state lottery money to go to education instead of the games' advertising. He called the advertising "annoying." A former lottery ad writer responded in a letter to the editor in which he said McCrory's campaign ad featuring controversial sheriff Wayne Gay was even worse. "I used to write commercials for the lottery, and this is my response to the governor’s comments about the “bloated and frankly annoying advertising” in his State of the State address. He is misguided on a few things.

ICYMI: The son of Senate leader Phil Berger is exploring a run for Congress, the News & Record reported recently. Next question: Will there be two Bergers on the ballot for Washington in 2014?

ON THE 2014 U.S. SENATE RACE: The Washington Post's political analysts keep the North Carolina U.S. Senate race in 2014 ranked as the No. 4 most competitive seat: "This is an example of a race where Republicans can instantly make things interesting by putting up a credible challenger. Recent polling shows voters are split in their opinion of the job Sen. Kay Hagan (D) is doing, in a state where the GOP has built momentum in recent years. A crowded and nasty Republican primary would be just what the doctor ordered for Democrats in this race. (Previous ranking: 4)"

BLUEPRINT DISTANCING ITSELF FROM STRATEGY MEMO: Reversing course, Executive Director Sean Kosofsky said Blueprint did not pass on the controversial three-page draft. He suggested it was appended to the other documents by someone hoping to tarnish his organization. “I misunderstood,” he said Friday. “This is just a bunch of confusion. I think someone has an agenda to deceive people about the connection between these things. … There are things said in there that I might even agree with, but it’s just not us.” He said the three-page draft was circulated in December at a meeting of more than 50 progressive groups. He’s not sure who drafted it. His comments came after the head of one of his group’s major financial backers said Blueprint had exercised “bad judgment” that could jeopardize its funding.

MORE HEADLINES:

McCRORY OK'D PINK LICENSES: Gov. Pat McCrory says he signed off on the controversial “pink licenses” that will be issued to some young illegal immigrants who were granted protection from deportation for two years. The new North Carolina governor said he thought it was important that the driver’s licenses for immigrants clearly distinguish “between legal presence versus legal status.” Critics have decried them as a modern-day scarlet letter. The licenses will have a bright pink stripe and bold words “NO LAWFUL STATUS,” written in red capital letters across the front, according to mock-ups.

McCrory said he wanted to make sure the licenses were granted but also ensure that they clearly differed in appearance from other licenses issued by the state to prevent misuse. “I thought it was a very sound resolution based upon on federal and attorney general’s ruling,” McCrory said.

ON THE OPEN JOBS McCRORY TALKS ABOUT: From the News & Record's Travis Fain -- "Gov. Pat McCrory — and gubernatorial candidate Pat McCrory before him — said repeatedly that there are empty jobs across the state sitting open for a lack of trained workers.
It’s the linchpin of his pitch to overhaul high school education in this state. The state started down that path this month when McCrory signed legislation to expand vocational training in high schools and add career or college-ready designations to diplomas.

"But is it true? Are there really tons of open manufacturing jobs — with 9 percent-plus unemployment in the state for nearly four years? Could there be 8,000 to 9,000 open technical jobs — from carpentry to bioengineering? … Possibly. Maybe. Maybe even probably. “I think there are many more than that,” said Rick Powell, president of PEMMCO Manufacturing, which makes large machine parts at its factory in Randolph County.

"...But surely McCrory, in calling for a major shift in state education policy, had hard data to point to, right? After repeated requests, one dating to before his landslide election, the governor’s press staff produced a 2007 state study that predicted a “talent shortage” in the state through 2017. It predicts an annual shortage of 5,133 “production, installation, maintenance and repair” workers. The study didn’t account for migration or for private school graduates or for on-the-job training. It predicts a far larger shortage — more than 10,000 jobs — for high-end “management, business, financial and administrative” jobs."

CONGRESSMAN JONES WANTS TO BLOCK REFUGE EXPANSION: The managers of a 110,000-acre federal wildlife refuge in eastern North Carolina hope to expand the refuge, but they’re facing opposition from surrounding communities and Republican Congressman Walter Jones. More from the N&O.

WAKE COUNTY FIGHT SPILLS INTO LEGISLATURE: A push by the Wake County Board of Commissioners to take over school ownership and construction from the county school board will make its way to the state Capitol on Monday when county representatives meet with potential sponsors, including state Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam. Stam said Sunday his staff is drafting a bill giving the commissioners control over land purchases, building projects and upkeep of school facilities, which are now among the explicit duties of the school board. More from the N&O story.


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