Under the Dome

Dome: McCrory administration distributes talking points about expiring jobless benefits

From Staff ReportsJune 5, 2013 

Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration held a meeting with aides to state lawmakers this week to distribute talking points about the expiration of federal unemployment benefits at the end of the month.

Democratic state lawmakers are crying foul, saying they didn’t know about the meeting and objected to the McCrory administration distributing “political talking points” to spin a situation it created.

“It’s clear that high-level officials in the McCrory administration recognized the harm of their policies to struggling families and sought to minimize political damage by influencing legislative staff without the knowledge of their employers,” Senate Democratic leader Martin Nesbitt said in a statement. “This is about open-government and accountability. If you supported a bill that’s unpopular, you should admit it, not hide from it.”

Democrats say Assistant Secretary of Commerce Dale Folwell was asked to meet with legislative assistants Monday and called it “highly inappropriate.”

The memo, reviewed by Dome, is designed to guide legislative assistants through questions asked by callers, particularly the roughly 70,000 people who are losing benefits. “Losing benefits will greatly impact those who are unemployed,” it reads. “The best thing we can all do is show care and compassion, give accurate information and ... then connect them to a local workforce office to find work.”

McCrory signed a law earlier this year to curtail jobless benefits, ending the federal extension and decreasing the weekly benefit amount. GOP lawmakers said the bill was necessary to pay down the state’s unemployment benefit loan from the federal government more quickly. A spokesman for the Commerce department, which oversees Folwell’s division, said the meeting was voluntary and several legislative assistants had requested the information.

Edwards poised to practice law

Former Sen. John Edwards is looking to open a new law firm in Raleigh in September, CNN is reporting.

Quoting an unnamed source, CNN said Edwards wants to resume a practice specializing in plaintiff’s attorney. Edwards was a highly successful trial lawyer before he began his political career, winning a Senate seat in 1998.

The former Democratic vice presidential nominee has begun to show signs of becoming more active since he was acquitted a year ago on a charge of illegally using $1 million in campaign contributions to cover up his affair and child with Rielle Hunter, a campaign videographer.

He has recently re-activated his law license, and he is scheduled to speak at a retreat Thursday in Orlando for the legal marketing firm PMP.

School board ‘safe districts’

Two incumbent Wake County school board members would get some protection in a compromise being made to a state bill changing elections in the state’s largest school districts.

Senate Bill 325 redraws the Wake school board election districts and moves when the elections are held and how the winners are elected. The bill has been opposed by Democrats.

House Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam has proposed an amendment that would change the boundary lines to move Democratic board Vice Chairwoman Christine Kushner and Republican board member Deborah Prickett into safe districts.

Stam said he doesn’t expect Democrats to back the bill when it’s up for a vote Thursday. But the Apex Republican said the Democrats are OK with the amendment.

Staff writers John Frank, Rob Christensen and Keung Hui

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