Under the Dome

Morning Memo: Will Bill Clinton boost Kay Hagan’s campaign?

Former President Bill Clinton was on the campaign trail for Democrats last week, raising the question of whether one of the country’s most popular leaders will bring his political skills to North Carolina on behalf of embattled U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan.

With his Arkansas twang, Clinton has always had appeal in the South. He’s also firmly rooted – like Hagan – in his party’s centrist tradition, has enjoyed support from independents and has long been extremely popular among African-Americans, who accounted for nearly a quarter of the North Carolina vote in the 2012 presidential race, according to exit polls.

“I would think North Carolina would be prime turf for him,” said Marc Farinella, a Democratic strategist who managed President Barack Obama’s successful 2008 campaign in the Tar Heel state. “I’m not running Kay Hagan’s campaign, but if I were, I would certainly want him to be there.”

Hagan’s campaign says that there’s nothing scheduled for Clinton now. Aides to the former president expect him to have a busy campaign schedule in 2014 but would not discuss his future political travels. Read more here.

*** Below in the Dome Morning Memo, North Carolina’s coal ash spill gets major national attention and McCrory tries to clarify his Duke Energy ties.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory will attend a noon session of the governor’s conference on tourism in Charlotte. No other events are listed on his schedule.

Three legislative committees are schedule to meeting Monday to look at property rights, mechanics liens and public enterprise systems, respectively.

BIG EXPOSURE: NEW YORK TIMES -- A1 -- SPILL REVEALS DEFANGED ENVIRONMENTAL AGENCY: Last June, state employees in charge of stopping water pollution were given updated marching orders on behalf of North Carolina’s new Republican governor and conservative lawmakers.

“The General Assembly doesn’t like you,” an official in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources told supervisors called to a drab meeting room here. “They cut your budget, but you didn’t get the message. And they cut your budget again, and you still didn’t get the message.”

From now on, regulators were told, they must focus on customer service, meaning issuing environmental permits for businesses as quickly as possible. Big changes are coming, the official said, according to three people in the meeting, two of whom took notes. “If you don’t like change, you’ll be gone.” Read more here.

McCRORY TRIES TO DISPUTE ‘ FAT CAT’ IMAGE: From the News & Record -- McCrory said he couldn’t be easy on Duke Energy because he knows too much about how management works there — and how it has failed to prevent one of the state’s worst environmental disasters.

“My expertise is not in coal. I never worked in that area,” McCrory said. “But I know infrastructure and I know management and I know engineering. Somewhere along the way there has been a breakdown in ensuring that site was properly maintained.”

On Friday, McCrory gave the News & Record his first in-depth interview about his career — and how it shaped his philosophy — since the spill. Read more here.

RELATED: State expects to fine Duke Energy. Read more here.

MORE TROUBLE: Two environmental groups are calling on Gov. Pat McCrory to declare a state of emergency over a fast-spreading viral outbreak that has hit nearly a third of the state’s 3,000 major hog farms. Read more here.

PROBLEMS PLAGUE DMV: For the last year, some North Carolina drivers have faced one more headache in the inspection-and-fee ritual: The state’s computer systems have been losing or delaying up to 30,000 vehicle inspections per month.

Problems with the system have multiplied tenfold since the beginning of last year, when a contractor installed a new software system meant to bridge the DMV’s computers with the thousands of certified inspectors. When the online system doesn’t work, drivers have to get a receipt from their inspection to the DMV for a “manual override.” About 35,000 people requested overrides this February, compared to a baseline of about 3,000 during the same month two years ago. Those 35,000 people represented about 6 percent of the inspections sent to the state. Read more here.

BIG MONEY AT DHHS, BUT LITTLE TO SHOW: A government contractor credited with saving North Carolina taxpayers millions left behind little documentary evidence of that work.

Joe Hauck was paid $310,000 in less than 11 months as a consultant to state Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos before returning in December to his job as an executive at a private company run by Wos' husband.

In response to public records requests filed in September by The Associated Press seeking all plans, proposals, documents, e-mails and any other work product authored by Hauck, the state agency has handed over a pair of memos totaling little more than three double-spaced pages. Read more here.

2014 PRIMER -- A LOOK AT THE BALLOT: Nearly one-third of state lawmakers will face no challengers to their election bids this fall. When the filing period ended at noon on Friday, 12 members of N.C. Senate learned they had effectively been re-elected. On the other side, 43 members of the N.C. House of Representatives will run unopposed, a split pool of 22 Republicans and 21 Democrats.

But at the top of the ballot, the crowded race for the U.S. Senate is now overflowing with candidates. Two new candidates – a Democrat and a Republican – joined the race in the last hours before Friday’s noon deadline, pushing the final tally of contenders to 13, including incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan. Eight Republicans, three Democrats and two Libertarians will compete in the May 6 primary.

The glaring number of uncontested races is higher than it was in 2012, indicating more politicians are choosing not to run in areas where winning seems impossible, said David McLennan, a political analyst and professor at William Peace University in Raleigh. Read more here.

RELATED: North Carolina Republicans appear poised to keep their solid majorities in the General Assembly, while Democrats face an uphill battle to even chip away at them. Read more here.

OBX VOICE ON OFFSHORE ENERGY EXPLORATION: Gov. Pat McCrory welcomed a new federal environmental review that sets broad standards for companies to use seismic testing and other methods to look for oil and natural gas under the ocean floor.

… But one environmental group warns that damage to marine life from seismic air guns probing for pockets of oil and gas would mean bigger losses for commercial and recreational fisheries, tourism and coastal recreation. Read more here.


Odd couple: Republican Richard Burr and Democrat Barbara Mikulski have the only bill on the agenda with a chance of passage. Read more here.

Durham’s political groups have new leaders. Read more here.

Catawba Indian to open bingo parlor with company pushing casino project. Read more here.

WSJ: North Carolina a case study in unemployment insurance. Read more here.

N.C. worries about military cuts. Read more here.

Trial by judge amendment to constitution prepared for 14 ballot. Read more here.

Christensen: A look at Zeno Ponder’s former political machine. Read more here.