Morning Memo: A frenetic day ahead in Raleigh

Posted by John Frank on June 4, 2014 

As the legislative session reaches the halfway point, the pace is becoming more frantic.

Wednesday’s schedule is a good example. A dozen of the hottest topics this session – from fracking to Medicaid and film incentives to Common Core – are seeing movement in a single day.

At 8:30 a.m., a House committee considers more changes to the state’s unemployment system. At 9 a.m., Gov. Pat McCrory will sign a bill to clear the way for fracking in North Carolina.

At 10 a.m., advocates for extending the state’s film incentives are expected to rally at a press conference. At the same time, a House committee will hear a bill regulating drones. At 10:30 a.m., advocates for expanding Medicaid will press their case with lawmakers in a lobbying day. At 11 a.m., a House panel looks at one of the governor’s top priorities, the creation of a nonprofit to privatize parts of the state Commerce department. At noon, McCrory hosts a Medicaid discussion as he faces more pressure to expand the program under the federal health care law.

In the afternoon, a Senate committee considers a bill to repeal the Common Core education standards at 1 p.m. and another will take a look at a different Commerce privatization bill at 2:30 p.m. The state Department of Public Instruction will brief reporters on the education cuts in the proposed budget at 3 p.m. The House’s Common Core bill, approved in committee a day earlier, comes to the full floor for a vote when it convenes at 4:30 p.m. At the same time, McCrory will attend a meeting of state municipal leaders, who are not so pleased with him signing a bill to eliminate privilege taxes, a main source of revenue in many cities. The Senate gavels into session at 6 p.m.

Phew. It’s enough all at once to think lawmakers are within grasp of their planned end-of-June adjournment but leaves enough left undone to think that’s an unrealistic target.

The big story not on the agenda: the state budget. The House reviewed the plans from the governor and the Senate on Tuesday only to realize the gargantuan task ahead of them for a compromise, so the forecasted roll out of their budget is being delayed a few days.

*** Get briefed on two big stories today – Common Core and Medicaid. Find the $60 million hole in the state budget proposal. And read an intriguing quote – all below in the Dome Morning Memo. ***

TODAY IN POLTICS: If the list above wasn’t enough detail for you, check the full legislative schedule here.

THE BRIEFING: A special rundown on the headlines for today’s busy schedule ---

FEDS RULING LEAVES $60M HOLE IN STATE BUDGET PLAN: Federal regulators have rejected a plan from Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration to tax some managed-care Medicaid providers as a way to draw down more federal money for the state budget.

The result is a $60 million hole in the Medicaid budget that McCrory acknowledged Tuesday – and some angry state senators who included the maneuver in the spending plan they approved last week. Read more here.

MORE: Proposed cuts in the state Senate’s budget to services for older North Carolinians would leave thousands without essential help and others homeless, said advocates who overflowed a Legislative Building meeting room Tuesday. Read more here.

McCRORY TO SIGN FRACKING BILL: Gov. Pat McCrory plans to sign a major piece of energy legislation in a public ceremony Wednesday that will clear the way to legalizing fracking in North Carolina next year.

The bill caps four years of debate and study and will allow energy companies to obtain drilling permits as early as March. Before any permits are issued, the Mining and Energy Commission will have to complete about 120 safety rules. Read more here.

LAWMAKERS BEGIN TO UNRAVEL COMMON CORE: The legislature started its unraveling of Common Core on Tuesday with a proposed law that would have the state adopt new standards for math and language arts.

The bill offers no specific timetable for replacing the controversial standards, but one of its sponsors said he expects them to be gone in about a year. The change will come as the State Board of Education undertakes its regular review of standards next year, said Rep. Bryan Holloway, a Stokes Republican and bill sponsor. Read more here.

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

GIFFORDS GUN-CONTROL PAC TO BUY ADS SUPPORTING HAGAN – AP: A gun-control organization led by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, outlined plans Tuesday to support candidates in at least 11 congressional races this year who have backed efforts in Congress to enact stricter gun control laws.

Americans for Responsible Solutions said it will support a slate of nine Democrats and two Republicans in 2014 – and perhaps more. The group has raised about $14.5 million since it was founded in January 2013 and plans to spend money on television and online advertising and direct mail to help the list of mostly incumbent candidates. Read more here.

WHY DOESN’T HAGAN ATTEND “MORAL MONDAYS”? She says she’s busy. In a WXII report from Greensboro, Democrat Kay Hagan says she supports the movement but isn’t likely to attend herself.

“I have got to head to D.C. in an hour of so. So obviously Monday nights are a hard time for me. But I am a certainly appreciative of what the Moral Mondays protesters are discussing on these issues that are very important to North Carolinians,” she said Monday when asked whether she would attend a future protest.

TILLIS TO ATTEND MOORE COUNTY FUNDRAISER TUESDAY: The Moore County Republican Party is hosting a fundraising reception for House Speaker Thom Tillis’ U.S. Senate bid. The Tuesday event will start with a private VIP reception at 5:30 p.m. at the National Golf Club in Pinehurst. A $2,600 contribution for a couple will get a ticket to the VIP portion and the general reception at 6:30 p.m. The lowest-priced ticket is $250 per couple, according to an invite.

HAGAN TO ATTEND BLOWING ROCK FUNDRAISER: Democrat Kay Hagan will attend a June 21 fundraiser in Blowing Rock at the home of Bo Henderson and Ed Springs. According to the High Country Press, the fundraising hosts include Michael Adler, John Blackburn, Lee Carter and Greg Bradley, Barbara and Bob Collier, Faye and John Cooper, Peggy and Bob Culbertson, Sandy and Steve Forrest, Betty and Tom Gilmore, Marjory Holder and Larry Turnbow, Judy Hunt, Pat Mauldin, Missy and Will Miller, Catherine Morton, Bonnie and Jamie Schaefer, and Dr. Stephen Scheibner and Luther Turner. The hosts are each giving $2,600 and the minimum ticket is $200.

HEADLINE: Democrats, including Hagan, embrace Medicaid spending on campaign trail. Read more here.

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

BULLETIN: Senate aides win annual milk chugging contest against House lawmakers. See it here.

LEAD A1 HEADLINE IN GREENSBORO: Schools face job cuts – From the News & Record: (Guilford) school officials say proposed cuts in state funding for teacher assistants and tutors would make it more difficult to offer that type of small-group instruction.“We work with reading. We work with math. We work with fluency,” (Anthony) Freeman (a teacher’s assistant) said. “We work with so many different things. So if you’re cutting that out, you’re really depriving the students.” Read more here.

MEDICAID POLL: As advocates continue their push to expand Medicaid on Wednesday, and Gov. Pat McCrory highlights it in a meeting at the executive mansion, proponents are citing a new Public Policy Poll they commissioned. It that shows about half of the state’s likely voters support expanding Medicaid and the number goes up when they explain the federal government will foot some of the bill.

The favorable wording in the Progress North Carolina Action poll may skew the results but the message testing aspect is interesting – and something we may see in the U.S. Senate race. Also, the poll horse race question about the Senate race finds Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican Thom Tillis deadlocked. See the poll here.

SBI MOVE LOOKS ALMOST LIKE A DONE DEAL: Support for moving the State Bureau of Investigation under the governor’s control solidified Tuesday, as the proposal picked up support in the House and an administration official assured that the integrity of public corruption cases could be protected.

A key budget-writer said that the House spending plan would reflect the Senate’s budget provision taking the SBI out of Attorney General Roy Cooper’s justice department and putting it in Gov. Pat McCrory’s Department of Public Safety. Read more here.

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

BURR TOUTS BILL TO REDUCE VA CARE DELAYS: North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr and three Republican colleagues on Tuesday announced support for legislation they say would tackle the root causes of treatment delays at veterans medical facilities by giving former service members the option of choosing private health care.

Their measure would allow veterans unable to get an appointment in a timely way or who live more than 40 miles from a Department of Veterans Affairs facility to receive care from any doctor in Medicare or the military’s TRICARE health program. Read more here.

BERGER, WALKER GET TESTY IN FORUM: From the News & Record Phil Berger Jr. wasted no time Tuesday in taking aim at his opponent in the Republican runoff for the 6th Congressional District seat. From the outset at a forum sponsored by the Greensboro Regional Realtors Association, Berger spent his allotted time criticizing Mark Walker’s positions in addition to voicing his own. Read more here.

RIFT IN THE HOUSE OF BERGER? From Berger Jr. attacking Walker for supporting a flat tax: “My Republican friend to my left proposed a plan that included a flat tax in addition to a consumption tax, by definition with the flat tax you cannot preserve the mortgage interest deduction and the consumption tax will increase taxes on millions of Americans. It’s the wrong idea but it’s what he calls “a radical change in our current tax code.”

Walker disputed the notion. But left unsaid: Berger Jr’s father, state Senate leader Phil Berger supported a tax plan that eliminated the mortgage interest deduction and moved even further to a consumption tax in order to put in place a flat income tax.

EARLY PREVIEW – Triad City Beat story by Managing Editor Jordan Green publishing Wednesday at 10 a.m. – BERGER JR. CAMPAIGN AIDE AT CENTER OF LOCAL PARTY’S INQUIRY: The former executive director of the Guilford County Republican Party is under investigation by the party organization to determine how funds raised for a dinner to honor Congressman Howard Coble were spent. Information about the investigation was provided to Triad City Beat by two sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The tribute dinner, held at the High Point Country Club on Feb. 8, was billed by then-High Point Republican Party Chairman Paul Norcross (now a strategic political adviser to Phil Berger Jr.’s congressional campaign) ...

Members of the Guilford County Republican Party were surprised and dismayed to learn that the event did not turn a profit, and became suspicious when they learned that funds had been spent by the High Point Republican Party to rent and refurbish a campaign office in Jamestown that was leased to the Phil Berger Jr. campaign for Congress. ...

The expenditure of $6,077 to the Red Dome Group, including $5,000 earmarked for “event management,” has raised eyebrows among county party leaders. The Red Dome Group was founded by Andy Yates and Todd Poole, who have each worked in various capacities for U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx. Poole recently took a temporary leave from the consulting firm to serve as executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party. ...

PATRICK CANNON PLEADS GUILTY, APOLOGIZES: Former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon pleaded guilty Tuesday morning to a federal public corruption charge, and now faces up to 20 years in prison.

He entered a guilty plea to one count of honest services wire fraud, a charge commonly used in cases where a public official takes kickbacks or bribes. After the hearing, Cannon said he regretted having broken the public trust, and that he would still try to have a positive impact on Charlotte.

“Much has been given to me in the way of the public’s trust. I regret having acted in ways that broke that trust,” said Cannon, speaking outside the courthouse. “I love Charlotte. It is the city of my birth. I regret having hurt the city that I love.”

Cannon will be sentenced at a separate hearing in the coming months. The charge carries up to a 20-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine. Read more here.

JORDAN LAKE PROJECT ON HOLD: The state has paid about $400,000 for construction of 36 SolarBee devices, even though a federal review has temporarily delayed a plan to use them to stir the waters of Jordan Lake into cleanliness.

The state’s environmental agency expected to put the water circulators on Jordan Lake by April 1. They won’t be deployed, however, until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gives final approval for the controversial, $1.44 million “pilot project.” Read more here.

PERSONNEL FILE: Former N.C. Democratic Party Communications Director Micah Beasley has joined U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan’s office as the North Carolina press secretary, replacing Chris Hayden who moved to the campaign side. Beasley resigned his party post amid the turmoil at the state party earlier this year.

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

McCrory says he has tried to meet with protesters. Read more here.

John Hood says to pay more, employ fewer in state government. Read more here.

Paul O’Connor says fracking legislation outpaces caution. Read more here.

Why one Democrat voted for the Senate’s budget. Read more here.

NAACP says it won’t protest GOP convention in Cherokee. Read more here.

Bill would send more cases to NC Business Court. Read more here.

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