Morning Memo: McCrory jobs message obscured by DHHS mess

Posted by John Frank on January 7, 2014 

Gov. Pat McCrory and Secretary Sharon Decker will name the new CEO to run the private arm of the newly reorganized Commerce Department this morning.

The selection sets in motion the privatization of some of the state’s job recruiting functions at a nonprofit entity outside state government, a major move that has critics concerned about conflicts of interest and spending.

Decker is calling the position to run the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina an “interim” appointment. She will announce the pick later this morning and hold a call with reporters at 9:30 a.m.

*** Read the story distracting McCrory from his jobs agenda below in the D ome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory and the Council of State will meet at 9 a.m. The governor is later scheduled to attend a celebration for the inaugural class of the Digital Learning Leadership program at noon in Raleigh.

State lawmakers return to Raleigh for two committee meetings Tuesday. The Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee meets at 10 a.m. in room 643 and the Joint Legislative Commission on Energy Policy meets at 1 p.m. in room 544 of the legislative office building.

McCRORY MAKES BOLD DECLARATION -- 2 point drop in unemployment dubbed “comeback”: From AP -- Gov. Pat McCrory touted what he termed as the “Great Carolina Comeback” on Monday as evidence the state’s Republican-authored economic and tax reforms are working.

McCrory cited the 2 percent drop in the state’s unemployment rate since he took office last January as evidence of the success of his administration’s agenda.

THE CATCH -- The state’s 7.4 percent unemployment rate is still higher than the national average, which has also declined in the past year. The size of the state’s total labor force has also declined as economists have said many unemployed people gave up looking for jobs, while the number of people actually employed has grown very modestly by about 6,100 workers. Read more here.

THE GREAT McCRORY DISTRACTION -- Top story: Not economy but DHHS mess: Democrats renewed their call for the leader of the state health agency to be replaced after the department violated federal privacy rules by sending nearly 50,000 children’s insurance cards to incorrect addresses last week.

But Republicans, led by the governor, said the mistake is yet another example of how dysfunctional the Department of Health and Human Services had become under previous Democratic administrations.

“There’s been 10 years of operational neglect – not only in that department, but others,” Gov. Pat McCrory said Monday. “You can’t fix that in one year.” Read more here.

PAC ENDORSES MARK HARRIS IN SENATE RACE: The Concerned Women Political Action Committee announced its support for Rev. Mark Harris in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

The Concerned Women PAC considers itself the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization. “Mark Harris possesses valuable experience and the leadership needed in Congress,” said Penny Nance, the organization’s chief executive, in a statement. “Dr. Harris is a pro-life, pro-family conservative who will lead on critical issues from the moment he arrives in Washington.”

SARAH CRAWFORD TO CHALLENGE FRESHMAN SENATOR: Raleigh’s Sarah Crawford announced Monday she would challenge first-term Republican state Sen. Chad Barefoot for the District 18 seat. The Democrat emphasized education as her top issue.

“As the mother of two young children and a graduate of Wake County Public Schools, I am concerned about education,” she said in a statement. “During the past year, the legislature has done serious damage. Teachers are underpaid and under appreciated. Class sizes are becoming too large. We cannot afford simply adequate public education. As a mother, my children are my most important investment. As a state, we must invest in each child so they have a chance to succeed. We need a new direction.”

HUNT OP-ED DRIVES TEACHER PAY CONVERSATION: Former Gov. Jim Hunt laid out a vision for higher teacher pay in an opinion piece published in the News & Observer. It starts: “As North Carolina enters 2014, I have a New Year’s resolution for our state. In the next four years, let’s raise the pay of our public school teachers to the national average. Not talk about it, or vaguely promise it, but do it.”

Hunt laid out four steps that needed to happen to make the pay hike possible -- politically and practically -- and described how his administration tackled the problem in the 90s. Read more here.

HOLDING CALLS FOR INQUIRY: Congressman George Holding announced Monday that he’s requested a federal audit of the Raleigh Housing Authority following reports that the agency’s director earns up to $280,000 and takes off nearly 11 weeks a year.

Citing a recent series of articles in The News & Observer, Holding, a Raleigh Republican, said in a news release that Steve Beam’s high pay and time off “raises the question as to whether our tax dollars are being spent wisely.”

“Our economy has stalled over the last few years, and North Carolinians are struggling to find jobs and provide for their families,” Holding said in the statement. “Now imagine how frustrating it is for them to find out that housing officials are pulling down … $280,000 in compensation while also taking off up to 11 weeks a year. Read more here.

CANDIDATES NOT HAPPY WITH DELAYED PRIMARY TO FILL WATT SEAT: “The constituents of the 12th District deserve a quick and fair election,” state Rep. Alma Adams, D-Greensboro, said in a statement. “Instead, they are being silenced. Over 600,000 constituents will not have a voice or a vote in Congress until after November, and that is a shame.” Read more here.

WALTER JONES HAS SURGERY: Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., underwent a procedure to remove kidney stones on Monday and would remain in the hospital at least until Tuesday, and possibly longer, depending on how his recovery progresses, said his spokeswoman, Sarah Howard.

“I am grateful to the physicians and nurses at Vidant Medical Center for their outstanding care,” Jones said in a statement. “I look forward to quickly recovering, returning to the ongoing campaign to advance liberty, and continuing to serve the residents of Eastern North Carolina in the months and years to come.”

KEITH CRISCO ANNOUNCES CONGRESSIONAL BID IN 2nd DISTRICT: “We need Representatives in Washington who will focus on the important issues facing the country. Leadership is the ability to bring people together, to work to find consensus and forge government policies that make life better for the people across the Second Congressional District,” Crisco said in a statement. “I am a Main Street businessman. That’s the type of Congressman I will be if elected to serve the people of this district.”

DEMOCRATIC RIVAL HOUSTON BARNES RESPONDS: “The residents of District 2 are ready for a leader with a fresh voice one who has not been a part of the old political establishment, especially during the worst economic time in North Carolina’s history,” he said in a statement about Crisco, a former commerce secretary under Gov. Bev Perdue.

IS NORTH CAROLINA OFF THE LIST FOR 2016 GOP CONVENTION? According to a report, published by a Kansas City TV station, Charlotte is not one of the cities that received an invite to bid on the Republican National Convention in 2016. But a GOP official tells the Charlotte Observer that just because Charlotte isn’t one of the 24, it’s not out of the running. See the list here.

QUICK HITS ---

CNBC says N.C. is Exhibit A in unemployment benefits debate. See it here.

Thom Tillis is a no-show at GOP Senate forum. Read more here.

DOT lays out NC-12 options. Read more here.

Few clues on justices’ stance from redistricting hearing. Read more here.

State treasurer looking for huge office space. Read more here.

“Moral Mondays” becomes “Truthful Tuesdays” in South Carolina. Read more here.

The PAC supporting Kay Hagan received a $2.5 million boost from Michael Bloomberg. Read more here.

Slate headline: “North Carolina is pushing its best educators out. We have to do something.” Read more here.

Washington correspondent Renee Schoof contributed to this report.

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