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Morning Memo: With jobless benefits expiring, focus on Moral Monday protest

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: How big will Moral Monday get? That's the top question today at the statehouse. Now in the ninth week, the protests are expected to grow because long-term unemployment benefits end Monday for more than 70,000 workers thanks to a bill approved by the Republican legislature and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory. A rainy weather forecast may dampen the demonstration.

With the House not holding full sessions this week, the Senate is moving forward. At 2 p.m., the Senate Finance Committee will meet to look at the chamber's tax plan again. It is expected to send it back to the floor, where it will get a final vote this week and start the conference process on an issue that has stymied Republicans. The full Senate starts at 7 p.m.

UPDATED: McCrory released a public schedule later in the morning saying he would attend the swearing in ceremony for utilities board members.

CHRISTENSEN: Tax debate cherry picks statistics. In his Sunday column, Rob Christensen looks at the motivation for tax reform, picking apart the numbers to conclude: "There may be a legitimate argument for tinkering with the tax code – making sure corporate taxes are not out of line with neighboring states. But the link between lowering taxes and a booming state economy is weak. ...

So what is the value to having one of the lowest business tax rates, if you jeopardize the state’s quality of life? Those business executives don’t just want to move businesses here, but they want to live here as well." Full story.

***Find many more political headlines below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

PAUL KRUGMAN ON NC UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: "Is life too easy for the unemployed? You may not think so, and I certainly don’t think so. But that, remarkably, is what many and perhaps most Republicans believe. And they’re acting on that belief: there’s a nationwide movement under way to punish the unemployed, based on the proposition that we can cure unemployment by making the jobless even more miserable. Consider, for example, the case of North Carolina. ..."Full story.

THROUGH SHOE REVIEWS, N.C. RESIDENTS BEG FOR A WENDY DAVIS: The Texas state legislature reconvenes Monday for a special session to consider the abortion legislation that Wendy Davis helped thwart with her filibuster. One of the more interesting stories in the aftermath: how her pink Mizuno running shoes helped her stand for 13 hours. Read more of the backstory here.

If you skim through the reviews, you'll find a couple from North Carolina. Here's two:

A review posted by Scott D. Denham titled "Available in NC?" reads: "Are these wonderful shoes available in North Carolina? We in NC--especially my wife and two daughters--need these now to fight against misogynist NC GOP legislators. Also, I hope Thom Tillis will buy a pair for his wife."

A review posted by Al Maginnes titled "Bad for Families" gives the shoes five stars: "My wife bought a pair of these to wear around the house and for trips to the store and things like that. I prefer that she remain barefoot, but some unenlightened liberal types insist that the naked foot isn't healthy or clean or some such. If bare feet were good enough for Jesus, they're good enough for my wife, I say. Anyway, letting her get these shoes was a huge mistake. Suddenly she insists that one child is enough for us and now she's reading books instead of cleaning the house and having my dinner ready when I get home. She says she doesn't need to ask me who to vote for anymore and told me to clean my own guns. I had a happy home until these shoes came along. I would write more but I'm coking dinner for myself while my wife is down at the Capitol telling our governor that she should make her own decisions about her body. These shoes are homewreckers plain and simple."

TILLIS TRIES TO BALANCE JOB, CAMPAIGN: Moments before the N.C. House began debating a contentious abortion-related bill last week, Speaker Thom Tillis exited for the campaign trail.
The leading Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate traveled to Charlotte for a campaign fundraiser where donors paid as much as $2,600 to meet him. Tillis entered the race in May, vowing to stay focused on his job. But just weeks later, he finds himself pulled in competing directions and raising money from donors interested in legislation.

FUNDRAISING COHESION: Running parallel to the campaign effort, a super PAC supporting Tillis’ candidacy, Grow NC Strong, is soliciting checks not subject to federal donation limits. The Tillis campaign’s fundraising strategist, Jonathan Brooks of Macon Consulting, is also collecting money for the super PAC. Under federal rules, the two entities aren’t permitted to coordinate messages and strategy, but they can blend the fundraising operations, campaign attorney Roger Knight said.

HAGAN'S CAMPAIGN HITS TILLIS: With Tillis’ focus last week on fundraising, Democrats pounced on what they saw as a contradiction. “North Carolinians don’t want a leader who walks out on their elected responsibilities on the House floor to raise campaign cash, and it is clear Thom Tillis’ priorities are dictated by his special-interest backers rather than middle-class families,” Hagan campaign manager Preston Elliott said in a prepared statement.

TILLIS CAMP SAYS DEMS SCARED: His political consultant, Paul Shumaker, dismissed concerns about Tillis soliciting donors who have interests pending in the legislature. He said it’s no different than Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan raising money from those seeking to influence Congress. He said the focus on Tillis “clearly corresponds to how threatened (Democrats) feel about the speaker.” Full story.

RUCHO TAKES A BACK SEAT: The waiting room outside Bob Rucho’s Senate office is mostly empty these days. All but gone are the lobbyists and staffers craving a moment of his time. Gone, too, is the crunch of meetings that kept him at the heart of some of the session’s most far-reaching issues – tax overhaul, hospital costs and creation of a Charlotte airport authority. Suddenly, he says, “I have a lot more free time.” Triggering the change was an unusually public clash between the passion of one lawmaker and the pragmatism of others.

Rucho suggests 2014 politics lies behind the push to compromise (on the Charlotte airport bill). Tillis, running for the U.S. Senate, needs the support of the state’s largest county. And one recent poll showed only 16 percent of Mecklenburg County voters approve the change to an airport authority. “If someone was thinking of running for office in 2014,” Rucho says, “they’re very cautious about where they go or how they lead.”

One more line: Berger, Rucho says, wanted to support his plan but was “thwarted by McCrory.” Full story.

RUCHO ON CAMERA: StoryofAmerica puts Rucho on camera to discuss why he resigned. He also talks about the unemployment benefits issue and Moral Mondays.

FRACKING REGULATORS TELL LAWMAKERS NOT TO MEDDLE: The emotional debate over fracking spilled over to the N.C. Mining & Energy Commission as the board voted Friday to tell the legislature to stop meddling in its business. Commissioners voted unanimously to protest the state legislature’s move to wrest a controversial fracking rule out of the commission’s hands. The rule – specifying which chemicals pumped underground must be publicly disclosed – is the most contentious issue in every state that allows shale gas drilling.

The commission had vowed to write the nation’s strictest rule for chemical disclosure, one of some 120 rules it will write to safely govern shale gas exploration in the state. But this week a Senate committee intervened, approving a bill with a provision that allows energy companies to deem some chemicals “trade secrets,” and thus not reveal them except in an emergency situation. Full story.

RJA REPEAL LEAVES QUESTIONS: With the repeal of North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act after just four years on the books, it’s uncertain how quickly the state will resume executions or what the legacy will be for the law that proponents say was intended to rid capital punishment of racial bias.

But experts and advocates say the issue of promoting racial equality in the criminal justice system will remain salient, especially in light of a growing number of states taking steps to abolish the death penalty completely – which was always the goal at the heart of the RJA, opponents say. Full story.

THE VOLUNTEERS WHO KEEP THE PROTESTERS FED: For the ninth Monday since late April, dozens of protesters will file into the state Legislative Building Monday in Raleigh to express their discontent with Republican lawmakers’ agenda and be arrested. Behind the scenes, volunteers make sure those protesters are well-fed and cared for before their arrests at about 6 p.m. and several hours’ detention. And those volunteers make sure a hot meal is waiting once the protesters are released, sometimes after midnight. The effort to support the demonstrators, many in their 60s or older, shows the considerable organizational muscle behind the protests. Full story.

SMALL BIZ NOW SUBJECT TO E-VERIFY: Starting Monday, thousands of small businesses in North Carolina will be required to use an Internet-based system to verify that new hires are eligible to work in the U.S. Under the state law, every business with more than 25 full-time employees will have to run new employees’ information through a federal system known as E-Verify. “I thought if E-Verify were in place and employers were required to use E-Verify in their hiring practice, it would stymie some of the ease with which illegally present people could be hired,” said N.C. Rep. Harry Warren, a Salisbury Republican who helped spearhead the legislation. Full story.

FOXX STEPS DOWN: The Charlotte City Council will hold a special meeting Monday where Anthony Foxx will resign as mayor, four days after being confirmed as U.S. secretary of transportation by the Senate in a 100-0 vote. Full story.

MEDICAID SYSTEM DEBUTS: The state’s long-delayed system for paying Medicaid claims will finally have its debut on Monday. Now that the system is built, it’s time to see how it performs. Tens of thousands of health care providers will rely on the new system to pay Medicaid claims swiftly and without hassle. Legislators – who have witnessed years of conflict, cost overruns and contract troubles – are eager for the thing to work.

The medical-bill processing software will handle more than 2 million claims a week, sending about $13 billion in payments each year to more than 70,000 health care providers. “Fingers crossed,” said Sen. Louis Pate, a Mount Olive Republican who observed a successful test run. Full story.

A FRESHMAN'S TAKE: Rep. Ted Davis on lawmaking in in Raleigh. One minute, a legislator may be on your side and the next he's "your total enemy," Davis said. "You just have to learn to work together and make it not personal. You may have a person as your ally next week and as your opponent the next. It just flip-flops back and forth." Read more from the Wilmington Star-News.

FIREWORKS SCRAPPED AT SOME BASES: The Fourth of July won't have a patriotic boom in the sky over some military bases because budget cuts and furloughed workers also mean furloughed fireworks.
Independence Day celebrations have been canceled at the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base and at the Army's Fort Bragg, both in North Carolina. The reason is money - namely the lack of it. Full story.


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