Under the Dome

Morning Memo: Speciale gets an opponent; McCrory gets a special delivery

State Rep. Michael Speciale, a Republican from New Bern, now has a Democratic opponent: New Bern lawyer Whit Whitley. Whitley called himself “middle of the road” in announcing his candidacy. Speciale is perhaps best known for challenging the puppy mill bill championed by first lady Ann McCrory last session. The bill required access to fresh food and water, daily exercise, appropriate veterinary care, and if needed, humane euthanasia. During the debate, which the first lady watched, Speciale said the bill was too vague.

“Daily exercise. If I kick the dog across the room every day, is that considered daily exercise?” he asked. “Euthanasia performed humanely. Should I choose the ax or the baseball bat?”

*** Good morning and welcome to Dome Morning Memo where we’re counting political blessings and turkeys.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: The NC NAACP wants Gov. Pat McCrory to call a “ ‘Special Redemption Session’ of the NC General Assembly to reverse course on two extremist policies that deny 500,000 poor and working people healthcare and 170,000 North Carolinians federally-funded unemployment benefits.” They are referring to the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid as allowed under the Affordable Care Act and a law that made changes to the state’s unemployment benefits. The group, led by the Rev. William J. Barber, plan a press conference at 10 a.m. today at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh. They plan to deliver a petition to the governor at 10:45 a.m. at the State Capitol. Or we should say, try to deliver. Dome is pretty sure they don’t have an appointment. The group plans to stream video of their attempt here.

POLLING THE TEACHERS: Two professors from the University of Wilmington got an earful of unhappiness when they surveyed teachers on recent legislative changes that affect education. “The survey responses tend to reflect low morale and a desire to move away from teaching as a career. About 75 percent of respondents said they’d be less likely to work as a teacher in North Carolina because of the changes, and more than half said they’d continue to work as a teacher but in another state.” Read more from the Wilmington Star News story here.

McCRORY SPEAKS: The governor’s office didn’t put out a public schedule for McCrory on Monday but apparently he visited Charlotte radio station WFAE. Lucky for us, the Charlotte Observer was listening. Here’s what they heard: “After months on the sidelines of the fight over Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday said he thinks the city should retain control and ownership of the airport. ...McCrory also said he thinks former aviation director Jerry Orr shouldn’t get his old job back. ...

“ ‘Jerry Orr’s 71 (sic) years old,’ said McCrory. ‘He’s been great for the airport, but it’s time to move on. I think Jerry could still add some value, but it’s time to move on. This is not about an individual.’ ”

Read more here.

As for what McCrory is up to today, his office has again said no public events.

VIRTUAL SCHOOLS RECEIVE BAD REPORT CARD: A report from the state auditor’s office finds that “the N.C. Virtual Public School had lax standards when it came to enrolling, tracking and reporting the thousands of students it educated in online classes.” Read more here.

THE SEQUESTER – THE SEQUEL: Congress will have less than a week to work out its differences to avoid more automatic spending cuts when senators and representatives return from their holiday break. A second round could be devastating, says Democratic Rep. David Price of Chapel Hill. Read more here.

ON THIS THEY CAN AGREE: Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers found common ground at a meeting Monday: The health care rollout was a mess. Of course, the fingers of blame pointed in different directions. Read more here.

PERSONNEL FILE: The North Carolina League of Conservation Voters announced five new members to its Board of Directors: Courtney Crowder, a former legislative director and senior advisor to former Gov. Bev Perdue; Mac Montgomery, a former Mayor of Kure Beach whose professional career included healthcare business consulting; Marion Sullivan, director of governmental relations for WellPoint and a former senior advisor to Perdue; Dr. Amy Tiemann, an author, educator and media producer with a PhD in Neurosciences from Stanford; attorney John Wallace whose practice includes commercial litigation and election law. Wallace will serve as legal counsel for the League.