Morning Memo: As Senate budget emerges, so do the conflicts

Posted by John Frank on May 27, 2014 

Expect more GOP fault lines to emerge this week as the state budget takes center stage.

After weeks of closed-door meetings, the Senate will unveil its spending plan and two issues already are points of conflict.

The first is film incentives. Gov. Pat McCrory proposed a plan in his budget to remake the film incentives program, but it is drawing criticism from Democratic Rep. Susi Hamilton, who represents Wilmington, where the state’s film industry is largely based.

Republican Sen. Bill Rabon said the Senate will go a different direction in its efforts to revamp how the industry receives state tax breaks, a proposition that some worry may drive film productions to other states.

The filmmakers, meanwhile, are launching a public relations campaign to keep the status quo. It comes as more questions are raised about who gets the incentives. (More on that story below.)

The bigger disagreement is still to come this week: how to pay North Carolina teachers. The Senate is expected to move in a different direction than McCrory on how to boost teacher salaries.

*** After a long weekend, expect a long day at the legislative building with committee meetings scheduled from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Get caught up on the news you missed below in the Dome Morning Memo. ***

TODAY IN POLTICS: Gov. Pat McCrory did not issue a public schedule for today.

At the legislature, it’s a full day. The House Education Committee meets at 10 a.m. in room 643 LOB to consider a handful of bills, including a measure pushing changes at the Democratic-controlled Department of Public Instruction.

The House insurance committee is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. in room 643 LOB and a House judiciary subcommittee will hear the patent abuse bill and others at 3 p.m. in 421 LOB.

House Transportation and Agriculture canceled their midday meetings.

The House will convene at 4 p.m. It is expected to consider the possum bill and two gubernatorial appointments, including Charlton Allen’s nomination to the Industrial Commission, which is drawing protests from Democrats. The Senate starts at 5 p.m.

Much attention was focused on the House energy committee meeting scheduled for 15 minutes after the session – expecting the Senate’s fracking bill to get a hearing – but it was canceled.

The Senate still plans to move on the House’s tax bill, with Senate Finance meeting at 7 p.m. to hear HB1050 in room 544 LOB.

The N.C. NAACP and its “Moral Monday” partners will turn its attention to activism Tuesday, organizing a lobbying day at the statehouse.

Down the street at 6 p.m., U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan will keynote the Green Tie awards dinner hosted by the N.C. League of Conservation Voters. Democratic Sen. Angela Bryant and Democratic House leader Larry Hall are among the honorees.

FIVE MUST-READS FROM THE HOLIDAY WEEKEND –

1. SEN. RICHARD BURR’S MEMORIAL DAY DUST UP: From the New York Times – An “open letter” from a senior Republican senator to the nation’s veterans in which he castigates the leadership of veterans’ organizations prompted a brutal war of words over the Memorial Day weekend, including a promise from the Veterans of Foreign Wars that its “hat in hand” approach to Congress will turn more combative. ...

Mr. Burr, angry that only the American Legion has called for the resignation of the veterans affairs secretary, Eric Shinseki, accused the groups of being “more interested in defending the status quo within V.A., protecting their relationships within the agency, and securing their access to the secretary and his inner circle” than in helping members.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Disabled American Veterans and the Paralyzed Veterans of America hit back hard. “For years, the V.F.W. has come to Congress with hat in hand, and for years we’ve heard the same old story,” the heads of the veterans group wrote to Mr. Burr. “You can be assured, Senator, that you’ve done a superb job in showing us the error in our ways. You can also be assured that in the future, we will spend a substantial percentage of our time seeking to inform our members and our constituents of the repeated failure to act by our elected officials.” Read more here.

2. AMID THE FILM INCENTIVE DEBATE, A QUESTIONABLE PROJECT: Of the dozens of film projects in North Carolina that have sought millions in taxpayer film subsidies since 2005, one stands out for the unusual way the producer says he spent the money: on construction workers, bricks and mortar to transform an old hosiery mill in Hickory from a vacant eyesore into a valuable piece of commercial real estate.

The more than $4 million in construction activity at the mill was part of filming for episodes of a reality TV show that promised to take viewers into the ups and downs of remaking historic buildings. The docudrama TV project, known as “The Preservationist,” was filmed two years ago.

It has not aired and, as of this month, is not lined up for distribution. A website related to the show has been suspended and trailers online are marked “private.”

The film project is seeking $1.1 million in state film incentives, according to reports filed with the state Department of Revenue and an interview with the show’s producer and starring character, Nathan Kirby of Gastonia. Read more here.

3. BOARD OF ELECTIONS TO HIRE HIGH-PROFILE INVESTIGATOR: An FBI agent who was involved in a string of high-profile political corruption cases in North Carolina over the past decade is retiring this month and will soon join the state Board of Elections to investigate possible campaign and elections violations.

Charles W. “Chuck” Stuber Jr. is probably most familiar to the public as the federal agent who worked on the case brought against former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, a Democrat who was charged with multiple federal campaign finance fraud violations but was not convicted by a jury. Read more here.

4. MORAL MONDAYS WORKS AS A DEMOCRATIC CAMPAIGN TOOL, TOO – AP: The weekly protesters at the North Carolina legislature call their charge against Republican policies a moral imperative. But it is a moral imperative replete with a Democratic agenda in an election year.

The “Moral Monday” movement has become a de-facto campaign tool for Democrats to publicize their platform and recruit volunteers to help them win elections. In a year where North Carolina’s heated U.S. Senate race can decide the direction of the upper chamber, results will hinge on the movement’s ability to translate the voices to votes come November. Read more here.

5. LAWMAKERS, McCRORY DEMAND CHANGES TO MEDICAL EXAMINER SYSTEM: Gov. Pat McCrory and lawmakers are promising a review of North Carolina’s troubled medical examiner system following an Observer series showing that examiners conducted thousands of faulty investigations into suspicious deaths.

Several influential legislators said they want to know why medical examiners skipped crucial steps while looking into deaths. They said they may propose legislation to address the problems. ... McCrory agreed. He told the Observer Friday that the medical examiner system has “been ignored for far too long.” Read more here.

#NCSEN --- The headlines from the U.S. Senate campaign trail.

HAGAN EFFORT TRIES TO PREVENT LOCAL MILITARY CUTS: U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan this week got a provision added to a military funding bill that would put the brakes on the inactivation of the 440th Airlift Wing at Fort Bragg.

Hagan is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which spent two days in closed hearings Wednesday and Thursday to prepare the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 for a vote of the full Senate. She announced on Friday that her proposal became part of the bill. Read more here.

SWING RACES: Politico takes a look at the local reporters across the country covering the tight swing races, including in North Carolina. Read more here.

NATIONAL LOOK – SOME SENATE REPUBLICANS WANT A NEW CONTRACT WITH AMERICA: From Politico – A faction of Republicans including Sen. Lindsey Graham is agitating for party leaders to unveil a policy manifesto in the midterm elections, detailing for voters what the GOP would attempt with a Senate majority its members are increasingly confident they’ll achieve. ...

Sen. John Barrasso, the No. 4 Senate Republican who chairs the Republican Policy Committee, has asked all ranking members of Senate committees to send him legislative proposals they would want to pursue if they become chairmen next year. It’s not clear, at this point, whether the exercise will yield more policy papers or be presented as a unified GOP agenda but Barrasso said it would help showcase a slew of GOP economic ideas either way.

That may not be enough for some in the caucus. Read more here.

QUESTION: What does North Carolina’s Thom Tillis think and what proposals would he suggest?

HEADLINE: The GOP establishment’s big spending for a big win in North Carolina. Read more here.

#NCGA --- A roundup of news from the N.C. General Assembly.

ROUNDUP – Legislative showdown looming on Common Core standards. Read more here. N.C. lawmakers consider exception that would allow investment crowdfunding. Read more here. Union County Sen. Tommy Weddington wants moratorium on school board lawsuits against counties. Read more here. Bill would make charter schools disclose salaries. Read more here. N.C. Senate makes regulatory rush early in session. Read more here. N.C. bill aims to rein in patent trolls. Read more here. Bill would target asbestos ‘double-dipping’ claims. Read more here.

#NCPOL --- More political news from North Carolina.

JOHN EDWARDS REFLECTS ON HIS RETURN TO THE COURTROOM: John Edwards, the former U.S. senator and presidential candidate, reflected this week on his first trial as a lawyer since his political collapse. …

“I really loved being back in the courtroom,” he said this week during a phone interview. “It really felt like a gift for me.” …

The trial ended with the Pitt County jury deadlocked on whether to hold an emergency-room doctor responsible for brain damage and physical injuries that a 4-year-old Virginia boy received in December 2009 when he was an infant in the care of Pitt County Memorial Hospital. Read more here.

STORY TO WATCH -- SOME PARENTS PLAN TO REFUSE STANDARDIZED TESTS: As the end-of-the year standardized testing season gets underway in North Carolina’s public schools, some families from across the state are quietly refusing to participate, echoing national protests against the practice.

The families are frustrated with the number of tests students must take, how they measure performance, the impact test preparation has had on how teachers must spend their time in the classroom and the way test results are used to rate students, teachers and schools. Read more here.

BERGER NOMINEE UPSET ABOUT CHARTER SCHOOL REJECTIONS: A state screening board’s recent decision to reject most charter school applications has sparked tension over the role private management companies should play in public education.

The N.C. Charter School Advisory Board approved only 11 of the 71 applications filed to open schools in 2015. That’s fewer than half the number approved for 2014, with a similar number of applications.

The board rejected 15 of the 17 applications from for-profit management companies. Board member Alan Hawkes of Greensboro, appointed by Senate leader Phil Berger, sent an email Monday chastising other members for being “judgmental and punitive” in rejecting plans that would have expanded charter enrollment. Read more here.

WASHINGTON POST ON MANUFACTURING ‘INTEREST GAP’: A couple of weeks ago, Daniel Grigg had two problems with the career fair he hosted at Guilford Technical Community College, where it’s his job to get graduates on company payrolls.

The first problem was theoretically a good one: He did not have enough space to host the number of factories with open positions for machinists, welder and technicians. The second, though, has proved harder to solve: He doesn’t have enough people equipped to fill them.

“It kind of gets frustrating when I see the machinists ones because, I’m like, I only have nine of them graduating,” Grigg says. And the other categories aren’t looking much better. He just hasn’t been able to get students interested in factory jobs, which still exist around Greensboro, despite the area’s vastly diminished manufacturing economy. Read more here.

QUICK LOOK --- More headlines from across the state.

Malcolm Graham open to congressional rematch in 2016. Read more here.

Former Clinton-Whitewater player now living in Charlotte. Read more here.

Reynolds American to create 200 jobs to expand e-cigarette distribution. Read more here.

DOT Secretary Tony Tata on Memorial Day. Read more here.

Madison County elections chairman resigns citing voting irregularities and threats. Read more here.

Eric Cantor joins NC congressional reps in touting Siemens job training effort. Read more here.

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