The General Assembly returns to lawmaking this week, a year after a tumultuous legislative session cast a national spotlight on North Carolina’s rightward shift.
The protests and arrests will return this year and House Speaker Thom Tillis’ bid for the U.S. Senate will color the short session.
But one more story line may prove just as important: What does Gov. Pat McCrory do?
Republican lawmakers steamrolled the governor in his first legislative session, political observers say, pushing him off his brand of politics and his message. But this year, McCrory is looking for a new start.
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“We will probably be more assertive than in our first year, which I frankly thought was extremely assertive,” McCrory says. “We had a heck of a good first year, but now I think we can take even more initiatives.”
Former Gov. Jim Martin said he offers McCrory support and counsel, sometimes over a round of golf. “I think he’s learning, and learning how to work with his legislative majority,” Martin says. “I cautioned him not to take them for granted. And I think he’s learned that.” ...
Republican lawmakers so far aren’t enamored. Absent from McCrory’s recent teacher pay plan announcement were leading legislators, including Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis.
“It was somewhat telling that you didn’t see Berger or Tillis there,” says Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Hendersonville Republican who chairs the influential Rules Committee. “Hopefully (McCrory) has learned that we have to work together to get things done. I don’t know if he’s there yet. Hopefully this session will tell us that.” Read more here on McCrory’s approach this session.
***Get a breakdown of the key players and key issues for the upcoming legislative session – and more North Carolina politics – below in the Dome Morning Memo. ***
TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory met privately with staffers of the N.C. congressional delegation at 8 a.m. at the executive mansion. At 2 p.m. in Raleigh, he is schedule to hold a press conference to discuss a variety of subjects involving the Division of Employment Security. He later will get an update on the RTP strategic plan in a 4 p.m. meeting at the capitol.
Democracy North Carolina will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. at the State Board of Elections to discuss the recent report about potential voter fraud, saying documents show lawmakers with duplicate registrations in different states. The group – which is critical of Republican lawmakers’ agenda – is trying to poke holes in the report, which remains under review.
UPDATED -- THE RACE STARTS AS A DEAD HEAT: Republican Thom Tillis and Democrat Kay Hagan start the U.S. Senate campaign essentially even. A survey released Friday from the Republican Rasmussen Reports gave Tillis a 45 percent edge to 44 percent for Hagan among likely voters.
The 4 percent margin of error makes it a statistical tie -- which is where most other polls have put a hypothetical matchup between the two candidates for months.
The poll -- conducted by Pulse Opinion Research in the two days after the Republican primary election Tuesday -- found 5 percent prefer another candidate and 7 percent were undecided -- making the race fairly set even with six months to go.
Despite the modest lead, Tillis’ numbers actually slipped from January when Rasmussen found him with a 7 percent lead in a test matchup against Hagan.
A key number, the pollsters reported: The two candidates run nearly even among unaffiliated voters. See more results here.
RICHARD BURR, RICHARD HUDSON TO LEAD EFFORT: From the Washington Examiner -- With the Republicans’ preferred candidate emerging victorious in Tuesday’s North Carolina Senate primary, two members of the Tar Heel State congressional delegation have signed on to co-chair the party’s 2014 voter turnout operation: Sen. Richard Burr and Rep. Richard Hudson. Read more here.
MOVEON: The Democratic activist group is standing by Sen. Kay Hagan’s stance on the federal health care law. And trying to raise money off it to support here. See here.
HEADLINES: How North Carolina Republicans may be helping Kay Hagan. Read more here. Rove crashes the tea party in North Carolina. Read more here. The GOP establishment strikes back. Read more here. John McCain: N.C. primary results good news for GOP, migrant reform. Read more here. Rand Paul’s visit to Charlotte more about 2016. Read more here. Senate Democrats prospects brighten in the South. Read more here.
ROB CHRISTENSEN’S 7 LESSONS: What the primary elections meant in North Carolina. Read more here.
TWO BIG PLAYERS TO WATCH --
Rev. William Barber: The Rev. William J. Barber II got a call recently from a cruise organizer for The Nation, the 149-year-old weekly magazine with a deep left-leaning fan base.
The caller wanted to know whether Barber, the leader of North Carolina’s NAACP chapter, could spend a week in December cruising the eastern Caribbean as a part of a panel that included Nation publishers, writers and editors, big thinkers and celebrities such as film director Oliver Stone.
It’s a measure of how Barber’s name, and fame, are spreading. Adamant in his opposition to state Republicans’ legislative action and policy changes, the hulking Goldsboro preacher has emerged as the voice and face of the “Moral Monday” movement at a time when state Democrats lack a strong figurehead. Read more here.
Senate leader Phil Berger: He became that through meticulous, long-range planning to craft a majority, a laserlike focus on major goals, a blue-collar work ethic that he honed with actual manual labor, and a natural geniality that he has used as a glue to bind his caucus. That caucus now holds a veto-proof 33-17 majority, thanks in part to his savvy candidate recruiting and ceaseless fundraising.
Since his elevation in 2011 to Senate president pro tem, Berger has been cast as villain and hero. Liberals believe changes like the tax cuts, changes to the education system and the voter ID law have placed the state on a path to ruin.
Many conservatives, meanwhile, praise him for his role in those same things, which have collectively given North Carolina one of the most dramatic policy shifts of any state in recent history.
Berger is average in height, wears a beard that is mostly stubble and business suits that always seem new. He may be a polarizing figure, but in an era when politics often seems synonymous with personal attacks, Berger is all business, and that business is policy. Read more here.
The short legislative session agenda. Read more here.
Legislation now caught in lawsuits. Read more here.
... AS FOR THAT McCRORY-GOP LAWMAKER RELATIONSHIP COMES THIS: The state Board of Review, an otherwise obscure board that handles appeals of unemployment board decisions, has once again become a point of contention between top Republican lawmakers and Gov. Pat McCrory.
A legislative oversight committee has endorsed a bill that would wrest from the governor the sole authority to appoint the board’s three members. Instead, the bill calls for the leaders of the Senate and House and the governor to each appoint one member. Read more here.
CLAY AIKEN FINDS HIMSELF IN A FAMILIAR SPOT: Clay Aiken on Friday compared his current situation – waiting for votes to be counted to see whether he’s the 2nd Congressional District’s Democratic candidate – to his days as a contestant on “American Idol.”
“I’ve put myself in several situations on national TV where I had to wait for some results,” Aiken told a group of students in Raleigh. “Worrying about how that could turn out never changes it, amazingly. So I don’t stress out too much.”
Aiken made the analogy during a noncampaign stop at Saint Mary’s School in Raleigh, where about 100 students peppered him with questions at the event, which was sponsored by the campus Young Democrats and Young Republicans. Read more here.
THE SLEEPER STORY -- Fracking bill includes property tax limit. From the Winston-Salem Journal: A state legislative panel this week approved a draft bill that would impose unprecedented restrictions on the property-tax revenues that cities and counties in North Carolina may collect, according to local-government advocates.
Under a section of the draft Energy Modernization Act, cities and counties could collect property tax revenues at levels “no more than 8 percent from the city property-tax revenues for the prior fiscal year.” Similar wording was used for counties.
The cap would also affect all 100 counties, according to Johanna Reese, the director of government relations at the N.C. Association of County Commissioners. It is “strange” that such a significant policy change has been inserted, without much discussion, in a bill that is supposed to deal mostly with fracking, she said. The revenue cap and fracking are not related. Read more here.
FRACKING RECOMMENDATIONS CAME AFTER PRIVATE TALKS WITH LOBBYISTS -- AP: Some members of North Carolina’s Mining and Energy Commission held private talks with energy industry executives and lobbyists before recommending that the state let drillers keep secret the chemicals they use in the hunt for natural gas.
At least three members of the 14-member board met privately with representatives of energy giant Halliburton and other companies that sell the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, according to interviews conducted by The Associated Press.
There is no law barring state appointees from talking with lobbyists, but commission members who didn’t participate in the private discussions suggested the industry representatives should have addressed the full board.
“It creates a transparency problem because Halliburton wasn’t putting their viewpoint forward through all of the channels available to it,” said commissioner Amy Pickle, who also is state policy director at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. “It was only utilizing that one-on-one lobbying, which creates an appearance of collusion,” she said. Read more here.
COMMERCE NONPROFIT LEADER WANTS RECRUITMENT EFFORTS SHIELDED: “Why would a CEO ever let us know where they are looking if they are subject to public records,”said Richard Lindenmuth, the head of the state’s new public-private partnership for economic development, according to the Triangle Business Journal. “Texas knew, but we didn’t. We can’t even have an open, frank discussion about everything.”
The remark drew a recent rebuke from Senate leader Phil Berger: “I think that’s an unfortunate comment. I don’t necessarily agree with that,” he said, when asked about it at a press conference.
So how does Lindenmuth’s assertion meet the truth test? WRAL’s Mark Binker gave it a “red light.” Read more here.
QUICK HEADLINES ---
Injunction on teacher contracts applies only to Durham, Guilford counties. Read more here.
Judge hears appeals of N.C. lawmakers fighting subpoenas. Read more here.
Charlotte Douglas doesn’t want coal ash under proposed runway. Read more here.
Bill calls for solution to NC job agency’s legal quandary. Read more here.
FEMA denies McCrory’s request for aid. Read more here.
Dan Forest, Jerry Tillman rally against Common Core. Read more here.