Under the Dome

Morning Memo: Hagan and Ellmers together in Raleigh; Harris gets endorsement

There will be a rare political sighting in Raleigh today: Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, two politicians who agree on little, are both attending a luncheon in downtown Raleigh. The event is to talk about global leadership and North Carolina’s economy and security. The two men responsible for the coup: former state Govs. Jim Hunt, a Democrat, and Jim Martin, a Republican.

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander for Europe Admiral James Stavridis also will be on hand to give his perspective and possibly keep the peace. The event is at noon at the Marriott in downtown Raleigh.

*** Welcome to Dome Morning Memo and the start of a holiday week where we’ll feast on political goings on. ***

RALLY ’ROUND TODAY. The NC NAACP is leading a rally today to save Vidant Pungo hospital in Greenville. The hospital is closing in a few months to be replaced with a 24-hour clinic. Advocates for the poor say expanding Medicaid would help the hospital stay afloat. ... Meanwhile the Caldwell County Association of Educators is hosting a “Rally ’Round Educators and Voters” event between 5 and 7 p.m. on the square in downtown Lenoir.

POLITICAL BLESSING: Mark Harris, who wants to be the next U.S. senator from North Carolina, has been endorsed by State Sen. Pete Brunstetter, the state’s chief budget writer who last week announced he was leaving the state Senate to work for Novant Health. Brunstetter had flirted with the idea of running for the U.S. Senate.

The two have known each other since Harris was a pastor in Forsyth County. In making the endorsement, Brunstetter said: “I’ve known Mark for years, and I’ve always found him to be a man of integrity. He’s exactly the kind of individual we need to fix the disaster that is Washington politics. In the coming weeks, I’ll encourage my colleagues in the General Assembly to join the campaign.”

Dome imagines Brunsetter’s colleague in the other state chamber, Speaker Thom Tillis, who faces Harris in the GOP primary, is less than pleased by that last statement. Though Dome also notes that Tillis has his fair share of legislative endorsements, including: Sens. Harry Brown, Jim Davis, Fletcher Hartsell and Bob Rucho.

PAY TO PLAY: Starting Jan. 1, if you go to a movie, play, museum or game you could see an increase in ticket prices as the state’s new sales tax goes into effect. One theater owner plans to hand out leaflets to movie goers explaining who’s to blame for the ticket hike. Read more here.

HOME SCHOOLING OVERSIGHT LACKING: As home schooling booms across the state, some worry what can happen to children who don’t have the benefit of outside scrutiny. The story of the 11-year-old Union County boy found handcuffed to his front porch with a dead chicken tied to his neck is raising those fears afresh. From the Charlotte Observer: “In North Carolina, like most states, those children can disappear from outside scrutiny. Home schools are never inspected; federal courts have ruled that sending government workers into homes violates the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.” Read more here.

ADVOCATES FOR EDUCATION: With the NC Chamber no longer making an educated workforce its focus, a new group of business people have stepped into that role.

Business for Education Success and Transformation North Carolina, or BEST NC, so far it counts 54 business executives as its members, and that number is expected to grow to 75. Board members include Ann Goodnight of SAS; Jim Goodmon, CEO of Capitol Broadcasting; Venessa Harrison, president of AT&T North Carolina; Robert Niblock, CEO of Lowe’s; and Brad Wilson, CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. The group plans to meet with Gov. Pat McCrory next month. Read more here.

HOMELESS STUDENTS ON THE RISE: A new report from the National Center for Homeless Education based at UNC-Greensboro finds that the number of homeless students in North Carolina schools has jumped 53 percent just from the 2010-11 to 2011-12 school year. The Sanford Herald looks at the situation in Lee County. Read their report here.

WATT WAITING ALMOST OVER?: Democratic Rep. Mel Watt tells the Charlotte Observer he’s confident that his confirmation to head the Federal Housing Agency will move forward now that Senate Democrats changed the filibuster rule. Read more here.

HEALTH LAW ON TRIAL: From AP – Opponents of the federal health care overhaul testified in Gastonia on Friday before congressional Republicans, a hearing that the law’s supporters called a political stunt.

About 200 people attended the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee meeting, which is headed by Obama administration critic U.S. Rep Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

“I brought Congress to North Carolina to understand the real impact of Obamacare on real Americans,” said North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry, a committee member. ... The Rev. Carolyn Reed-Smith, who came from Spartanburg, S.C., to protest, called it a “staged performance that's advantageous to the Republican view.” Read more here.

CANOPY MEG EXPLAINS IT ALL: Meg Lowman, one of the most visible faces of the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, whose departure from the museum was announced Nov. 17, says that her changing role at the museum played a part in her decision to leave. Museum administrators have not decided when or even whether to replace Lowman. If they do, Lowman said, they may face some difficulty because Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration reclassified the job to “at-will” status, meaning they no longer have the right to protest being fired.

The change meant that “a loyalty to the governor or other elected department head in their respective offices is reasonably necessary” for the position, a requirement that could turn off scientists, Lowman said. She was contesting the change in her job classification. Read more here.

NOT FROM AROUND HERE: Years ago people used to worry that all those folks moving to North Carolina from other places would make the state more liberal, were worrying for naught. Rob Christensen tells us Senate leader Phil Berger was born in New York, Rep. Renee Ellmers is from Michigan and House Speaker Thom Tillis from Florida. Read more here.

N&O SERIES LEADS TO CALLS FOR PENSION REFORMS: “State officials want to review pension laws after salary maneuvers by some community college presidents and their boards created the potential for significantly increasing the presidents’ retirement pay at public expense.” Read more here.