McCRORY REITERATES CAMPAIGN THEMES: In his first State of the State address, Gov. Pat McCrory, who has been in office six weeks, offered the broad outline of a legislative agenda that includes lower income tax rates, a revamped education system that uses technology in the classroom and a streamlined government that makes customer service its mission. “Achieving these goals will not be easy. ... But we will do it. We must do it,” said McCrory, who entered through the 11-foot golden doors into the House chamber. Republican lawmakers gathered for the joint legislative session frequently interrupted the 45-minute speech – the first by a GOP governor in 20 years – with applause and even hoots and hollers, giving the speech a pep rally feel at moments.
WHO IS McCRORY? WE STILL DON'T KNOW: North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s public image has yet to come into sharp focus during his first weeks in office, even as he presented his program Monday night to a joint session of the legislature, columnist Rob Christensen writes. Is he Charlotte Pat, the centrist mayor of North Carolina’s largest city who campaigned as someone able to work across party lines? Or is he more in line with the deep-seated conservatism that dominates the legislature and much of the Southern GOP? “The public hasn’t formed a really hard impression of Gov. McCrory yet,” said Andrew Taylor, a political science professor at N.C. State University. “He certainly campaigned as a moderate, pragmatic-oriented, problem-solving executive-type who understands the importance of government-business partnerships.
Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- the State of the State edition. More analysis of the governor's speech below and a preview of today in politics.
PREPARED REMARKS OR AD LIB? The governor's office didn't release a text of McCrory's address before OR after the speech, making it seem like McCrory would work unscripted off a few bullet points. But at the lectern, sans teleprompter, he flipped pages in a binder, looking down often as if he was reading much of the text. So in the end, it seemed like there were prepared remarks, or at least a very, very detailed outline. Who wrote it? Who knows. McCrory lost his communications director weeks ago.
PHOTOS: Check out a photo gallery from the speech here.
MEET McCRORY'S TWO GUESTS: Mike and Rebekah Allred.
EMAIL SUBJECT LINE REACTION TO McCRORY SPEECH: N.C. BUDGET & TAX CENTER: "McCrory needs to get specific on tax reform" // Democratic Party: "Still no specifics from Governor McCrory"
McCRORY TO SIGN BILL TODAY: As he said in the speech, McCrory will sign a bill to curtail unemployment benefits for jobless workers, cutting off extended federal benefits at the same time. In explaining his support in Monday's address, he said the state needs to pay off the $2.5 billion borrowed from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits to “ensure the unemployment safety net is secure and financially sound for future generations.” He will sign the bill behind closed doors at 9:15 a.m., his office announced.
TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: Lawmakers convene at 2 p.m. The House considers a measure to let the earned income tax credit for low-income taxpayers expire at the end of the year. Democrats consider it a third strike against poor people, so anticipate a lengthy floor debate. In the Senate, lawmakers will consent to House changes to the bill blocking the Medicaid expansion. McCrory will speak at a N.C. Chamber forum at 2 p.m. in Raleigh and then take tour of Clayton's main street -- a return to a theme from his inaugural address. State lawmakers are expected to address the Chamber event later in the day.
CONGRESSMAN COBLE'S CHIEF OF STAFF IS A FREQUENT FOREIGN TRAVELER: From the Washington Post's extensive investigation of congressional staffer travel --- "Helping to lead the group was Ed McDonald, chief of staff for Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.). He recruited other Hill staffers and served as the point person in meetings with the Chinese.
"McDonald has taken at least six trips to China and disclosed 13 trips abroad from 2006 to 2011, more than all but one other Hill staffer, records show. He said the trips have helped him form relationships with staffers and foreign diplomats. The visits have also helped him track China’s rapid economic growth firsthand, he said, aiding Coble’s role as head of a subcommittee on intellectual property protection.
“We need to be informed,” McDonald said in an interview. “As the congressman’s chief of staff, I’m his top policy adviser, so it’s important to learn about as many issues as I can.” After the 2010 trip was over, most staffers returned to Washington. McDonald flew on to Bangkok to begin a cultural-exchange trip there courtesy of the Thai government.
KAY HAGAN AND IMMIGRATION: Two years ago, Sen. Kay Hagan was among five Democrats who joined Republicans to defeat an immigration reform effort. Now, some of those same Democrats from conservative states could be pivotal to the success of a broader overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws, political analysts say. Supporters for immigration feel they can get enough Democrats to pass the bill that would grant a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants.
GREEN ENERGY INVESTMENT TOPS $1B: Investment in renewable energy and efficiency grew 13-fold in North Carolina between 2007 and 2012, totaling $1.4 billion in that period, says an analysis commissioned by the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association. Overall, it said, the state policies driving that growth contributed $1.7 billion to the gross state product including secondary benefits. That figure includes the costs of construction and state incentives, the impact on utility customers, energy efficiency benefits and the reduced energy generated by traditional technology.
The analysis was done by RTI International, a nonprofit research institute based in Research Triangle Park, and Boston energy consulting firm La Capra Associates. The Sustainable Energy Association advocates for green energy. Its release comes as state legislators consider changes to two key policies that are widely credited with creating new markets for solar, wind and energy efficiency.
TATA CLEANING HOUSE AT DOT: Transportation Secretary Tony Tata is quickly removing top secretaries. And not all are happy about it.
LAWMAKERS TO CONSIDER TANNING RESTRICTIONS: Studies that show strong links between tanning beds and skin cancer have prompted state lawmakers to propose making indoor-tanning salons off limits to anyone under age 18. The bill, slated to go before the House Health and Human Services committee Tuesday, would limit tanning-bed services to adults, doing away with current rules that permit those ages 14 through 17 to tan with parental permission. “The numbers are very convincing that sun exposure carries a cancer risk, and people under 18 seem to be more vulnerable than older folks,” said Republican Jim Fulghum, a co-sponsor of the bill and a Wake County neurosurgeon.