Under the Dome

May 28, 2014

Morning Memo: Kay Hagan adds name to push to delay EPA rules

Even though she declined to sign a letter with 45 of her Senate colleagues, North Carolina’s Kay Hagan said she has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to delay new regulations designed to limit carbon emissions for power plants.

Even though she declined to sign a letter with 45 of her Senate colleagues, North Carolina’s Kay Hagan said she has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to delay new regulations designed to limit carbon emissions for power plans.

In a separate letter, the Democrat wrote to EPA Secretary Gina McCarthy to extend the public commend period to four months from two months. (See attached.)

“While the science on the reality of global warming is clear, any effort to reduce carbon emissions will benefit from collaboration and dialogue between diverse stakeholders and interested parties,” she wrote in a letter dated May 21.

Her comments were the first indication that she agreed with other Republican and Democratic senators who sent a letter a day later requesting the 60 days window for review be extended to 120 days. Her absence from the collective push drew headlines.

“As I understand it, the rules are very long and very complicated and that’s why we need to double (the length) of public comment,” she said in a interview Tuesday night.

Republican Thom Tillis’ campaign criticized Hagan earlier in the day for not doing so. “Instead of joining a bipartisan group of Senators to demand a delay of a costly new government regulation that will kill jobs and cause electricity prices to soar, Kay Hagan instead sided with the fringe, left-wing environmental group that just endorsed her campaign,” said campaign manage Jordan Shaw in a statement.

Hagan’s office acknowledged her letter was not publicly released.

Hagan’s disclosure came after she rallied the state’s environmental community and drew a sharp contrast between her accomplishments and the record of her Republican rival. ( More on that here.)

The first-term senator declined to comment on President Barack Obama’s move to limit greenhouse gas emissions ahead of an announcement next week as part of the effort to fight climate change.

“I need to see what the EPA is proposing,” she said.

When it comes to the issue and energy exploration, Hagan straddles the fence, telling the League of Conservation Voters in her speech that she supports the EPA even as she cautions that the regulations must “minimize the economic burdens on middle class families.”

“We must work together to fight climate change and I will continue to stand up to obstructionist efforts to undermine that work,” Hagan said in her speech.

*** Senate Republicans are set to make a major education announcement and The N&O has an exclusive look at their teacher pay plan in the budget proposal. Find it below in the Dome Morning Memo. ***

TODAY IN POLTICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will attend a hurricane preparedness event at 9 a.m. Wednesday at East Carolina University in Greenville. He has declared this week Hurricane Preparedness Week ahead of the June 1st start to the season, which forecasters expect to be mild.

In the evening, McCrory will attend a legislative reception for BEST NC, a group of business executives who are pushing for education changes. The 6:30 p.m. event is at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences.

At the legislature, seven committees are scheduled to meet. ( Full schedule here.) The ones to watch: Senate Education meets at 9 a.m. in room 643 LOB; House Regulatory Reform has a full agenda at 10 a.m. in the same room; and the House State Personnel Committee will meet at noon in 544 LOB to look at a bill to give State Treasurer Janet Cowell more staff to monitor the state’s investments.

Expect bigger news from the Senate Republican press conference scheduled for 10 a.m. in the legislative building. A “major education announcement” is planned. Democrats will hold a press conference at 11 a.m. in the same room to push for Medicaid expansion.

The Senate convenes at 11 a.m. and will consider a major tax overhaul that would prevent local governments from charging businesses privilege taxes. It will also take a final vote on the regulatory reform bill. ( More on that here.)

The House meets at 3 p.m. and is expected to give final approval to Gov. Pat McCrory’s nominee for the Industrial Commission.

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

ROBO CALLS HIT HAGAN ON VA CONTROVERSY: The Republican National Committee is launching robocalls in North Carolina aimed at pressuring Democrat Kay Hagan on the Veteran Affairs controversy.

The 40-second message asks listeners to call Hagan’s office and demand she ask President Obama for an independent investigation. “... We are learning that this administration’s Department of Veteran’s Affairs is failing our veterans. They are being denied the care they deserve and the department is covering it up,” it says. “So why won’t the President launch an independent investigation to get to the bottom of this?”

Hagan is one of 10 Democrats being targeted nationwide in the effort. She supports the administration’s ongoing investigation into the delays in care for veterans.

Republican Thom Tillis has called for the VA secretary to resign; Hagan has not.

HEADLINES: The North Carolina Senate race moved up a notch to No. 5 on the Washington Post’s list. Read more here. The Senate will consider Hagan’s sportsmen bill. Read more here.

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

THE BIG STORY -- SENATE PROPOSES $468M FOR TEAHER PAY, BUT IT COMES WITH A CATCH: Republicans in the state Senate are set to propose a major overhaul of how classroom teachers are paid in North Carolina, including a pathway to substantial pay raises for teachers who choose to give up tenure. Teachers who want to keep job protections that come with tenure would stay on the current plan – and face stagnant pay.

Draft budget documents obtained by The News & Observer indicate that Senate leaders are planning to spend as much as $468 million more on teacher pay in the next budget year – a significant amount that would provide an average raise of 11 percent for teachers who move to the new pay plan.

With Republicans pledging to avoid tax increases, it is not clear where the money to fund that scale of raises would come from, or what areas of the public education system or elsewhere in state government would face cuts to direct more money to lagging teacher pay.

--MORE: The Senate’s plan would:

• Create a new pay schedule that has substantial increases built in. Some teachers would see 16 percent to 20 percent increases in pay. In exchange, those teachers who choose the new plan, which is called “professional status” in the documents, would relinquish longevity pay and tenure, which is officially called “career status.”
• Keep pay flat for teachers who keep their tenure.
• Continue to pay teachers an additional 10 percent for having a master’s degree or having started work on one and an additional 12 percent for holding national board certification.
• Jump North Carolina teachers from among the lowest nationally in teacher pay to somewhere in the middle of the pack, depending on which measure is used. North Carolina teachers would be among the highest paid in the Southeast under the Senate plan. Rankings of teacher pay in the state has become a potent political issue, and the movement to address that is reflected in the new plan. Read more here.

14 PROTESTERS ARRESTED AT 1:45 A.M. AFTER 10-HOUR SIT-IN: General Assembly police early Wednesday arrested 14 demonstrators who had ratcheted up the volume at the N.C. Legislative Building on Tuesday, singing, raising their voices and staging a sit-in at the office of House Speaker Thom Tillis.

The arrests came about 1:45 a.m., about 10 hours after 15 demonstrators entered the office. One woman left before the arrests because she is a single mother and needed to be able to get her son to school in the morning, the state NAACP, which has organized the “Moral Monday” campaign, said in a statement.

The people arrested were charged with second-degree trespassing, a misdemeanor. It was unclear Wednesday morning if they had posted bonds or had been released from the Wake County Detention Center, where Raleigh police took them for processing by magistrates. Read more here.

A1 in GREENSBORO -- Dems outline coal ash plan – From the News & Record: State Democratic legislators, including local Rep. Pricey Harrison, want to see North Carolina’s most dangerous coal ash ponds cleaned up by 2019. House Bill 1226, filed Tuesday, proposes a slate of coal ash regulations, including rules that would require all storage ponds to stop taking new ash by this summer and prohibit public utilities from passing on the cost of pollution cleanup to customers. Read more here.

ATR CLARIFIES POSITION ON TAX BILL: Americans for Tax Reform had sent a letter to N.C. lawmakers critical of the tax bill approved by a Senate committee Tuesday.

But the group now says it supports the bill – HB1050 – even as it objects to the provision charging a new tax on e-cigarettes, according to a new letter.

“We sought to clarify this today before the committee vote because while our blog post did make clear that the entire bill did not violate the pledge, the letter was less clear,” wrote Paul Blair, a state affairs manager for the Washington-based advocacy organization.

It says offsetting tax cuts balance the new e-cig tax and make the entire bill “revenue neutral.”

O’CONNOR COLUMN: No one expects Republicans and Democrats to agree on things, but the gulf in their assessments of the state’s finances must be baffling North Carolina taxpayers.

Republicans say there’s a budget surplus while Democrats say we’re headed into a structural deficit. Budget talk is tailor-made for politicians. Read more here.

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

GREAT HEADLINE: Houston thinks NC has a problem with teacher salaries -- From WRAL: The largest school district is Texas is looking to poach some teachers from North Carolina, where low teacher pay has become a growing concern among educators and state leaders.

The Houston Independent School District plans to hold a job fair Saturday at the Doubletree Brownstone Hotel on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. A newspaper classified ad promoting the event notes the district pays a $46,805 starting salary, which is about 20 percent higher than the starting salary for a Wake County teacher. Read more here.

GOING VIRAL: Democratic Rep. Graig Meyer of Chapel Hill posted the ad to his Facebook page Sunday after seeing the classified in the News & Observer. It was quickly shared more than 3,000 times and viewed by more than 200,000 Facebook users, he reports. “While I’d like to feel good about one of my posts going viral, I know that the massive response to this is just a sign of how angry people are about our legislature neglecting public education,” he said in a statement.

FIRST LADY: Ann McCrory hosted the graduating class from the Durham Rescue Mission’s recovery program at the Executive Mansion on Tuesday. The first lady is making it a point to highlight the organization’s work as part of her official role.

“It takes tremendous humility and courage to ask for help from others, and to follow that request with the level of perseverance seen here today deserves notice,” she said in a statement released by the governor’s office. “We are all defined by how we handle hardships, and these women have transformed theirs.”

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest also spoke at the event.

PHIL KIRK ON REDISTRICTING: “While I still favor a nonpartisan commission, I understand and support the Republicans doing the redistricting for the next 150 years. Then we will be “even” and can implement a nonpartisan commission.” Read more here.

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

Horse racing’s tough rough in North Carolina. Read more here.

Army ousted commander after hospital deaths. Read more here.

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