Under the Dome

Morning Memo: More protests, arrests expected for 2014 session

Tuesday’s primary election is overshadowing the start of the legislative session but it won’t for long. The protests and arrests at the statehouse that defined the 2013 legislative session will return this year.

The Rev. William Barber II, the architect of the Monday demonstrations that helped cast a national spotlight on North Carolina politics last year, plans to use a similar strategy during the coming General Assembly session.

Legislators return to Raleigh on May 14 to open a short session to tackle budgetary decisions for the coming year and other issues lingering from last year.

On May 19, the first Monday in the session, Barber, head of the North Carolina NAACP chapter, plans to lead protesters of the N.C. Republican agenda back to the Legislative Building.

“We will be back just as we were last year,” Barber told a group of reporters on a conference call Wednesday. “Whether or not we will be arrested for civil disobedience does not depend on us.”

April 29 marked the anniversary of the first 17 arrests in a series of weekly demonstrations that became known as the “Moral Monday movement.” The trials are ongoing. Read more here.

*** The politics are flying in plenty of races as the Tuesday vote nears. Get the latest below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY IN POLITICS: Gov. Pat McCrory is scheduled to attend an 8 a.m. National Day of Prayer event at a YMCA in Concord and then announce a Motorsports Month proclamation at Charlotte Motor Speedway at 9 a.m. Later in the day, at 1:45 p.m. McCrory will attend a DMV opening in Huntersville and discuss reforms to an agency he deemed one of his top priorities in the 2012 campaign.

No legislative committee meetings are scheduled for Thursday.

On the Senate campaign trail, Thom Tillis will cast his vote at noon at South Regional Library in Charlotte. Greg Brannon will appear on the Glenn Beck radio show at 10 a.m.

#NCSEN---

THE STATE OF THE RACE: Like many Republican voters, Wayne and Lynn Dahnke are torn when it comes to the U.S. Senate primary.

They align with Greg Brannon’s strong conservative politics. But they consider Thom Tillis the stronger candidate against Democrat Kay Hagan.

“Thom Tillis is a moderate, in my opinion. Brannon is more conservative,” said Wayne Dahnke, a 68-year-old real estate appraiser. Next to him at a GOP event in Sanford near their home, his wife nodded in agreement. But he added, “I’m leaning toward Tillis because he’s more likely to beat Hagan.”

TILLIS MAKES RIGHTWARD SHIFT: How voters like the Dahnkes weigh the candidates ahead of Tuesday’s vote speaks to a key dynamic in the election – and most notably, the tension at the center of Tillis’ candidacy. Even as he touts himself on the campaign trail as the “leader of the conservative revolution” in Raleigh, as he did last week at the 2nd Congressional District convention in Sanford, Tillis faces skepticism from his own party about his ideological convictions.

With his campaign’s recent emphasis on social conservative issues, Republican strategist Carter Wrenn said Tillis is just shifting the emphasis. “If you look at his record, there are conservative things and things not so conservative,” he said. “I think he has put a spotlight on what’s conservative.”

Tillis disputes any evolution in his political moorings. He tries to strike a balance, highlighting his efforts to cut billions in taxes and dozens of regulations and his support for the constitutional ban on gay marriage and tougher abortion restrictions.

“It’s disingenuous to say I’m changing my position because these are positions I have taken formally in votes over the last three years,” he said in an interview after the Sanford event Saturday. Read more here.

WHERE MIDTERM VOTERS VANISH – COLLEGE CAMPUSES: From the Wall Street Journal – Orange County, home to the University of North Carolina, saw its vote total drop from about 75,000 in 2008 to roughly 46,000 in 2010. That’s a difference of almost 29,000 votes, or more than 38%. Next door in Durham County, home of Duke University, the drop was even larger at more than 55,000 or 40%. Read more here.

LIBERALS SPENDING BIG IN N.C.: All the outside spending in the North Carolina Senate race isn’t limited to conservatives. Check out this Pro Publica analysis.

SPEAKING OF ... Democrat Kay Hagan’s campaign is backing up its dubious TV ad attacking Thom Tillis with mailers that repeat his claims about “Obamacare” by saying he called it “a great idea.”

HEADLINE: The red state Democrat’s guide to Obamacare. Read it here.

FREEDOMWORKS COUNTERS CHAMBER: Thom Tillis received the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this week. But FreedomWorks, a tea party group backing Greg Brannon in the U.S. Senate race, dismissed it. Matt Kibbe, the group’s president, said in a statement: “The Chamber of Commerce is backing Tillis because they know that Dr. Greg Brannon will end the collusion between big businesses and big government. While the Chamber continues running ads that dictate what North Carolinians should believe, FreedomWorks for America will be empowering local activists from the ground up, with tools and materials to speak with neighbors about why Greg Brannon is the strongest conservative choice for the Senate.”

UPDATE: Rand Paul will appear at a Greg Brannon campaign rally noon Monday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.

#NCPOL ---

THE 3rd DISTRICT RACE: ABSENT CANDIDATE VS. PARTY BOY? U.S. Rep. Walter Jones is the absent candidate, according to reports from the 3rd District, where he is seeking re-election to his 11th term. He attended the Chowan County Republican Party convention but didn’t stay long and he’s missed other GOP events in the district.

In a new email to supporters, he labels himself a “work horse” and attacks his upstart rival Taylor Griffin as a “party animal.” The tag line: “Who do you want representing you?” It links to a Politico article naming Griffin to a list of DC’s “top 50 Party Animals.”

The attack is misplaced, Griffin’s campaign says. It shows a picture of Griffin, a former Washington politico, with the late-author Christopher Hitchens. The campaign says it was from a charity event for a writing mentoring program. And the link to the Top 50 list, the Griffin campaign says, more reflects who’s invited to “events,” pointing to Andrea Mitchell’s presence on the list. “It's not exactly a list of the lamp shade crowd,” campaign manager Doug Raymond responded.

RENEE ELLMERS COMES TO CLAY AIKEN’S DEFENSE – WHAT?!: U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers is trying to milk campaign cash from her supports with one of the strangest fundraising emails.

This week, the Dunn Republican writes: “Bev Perdue’s friend Keith Crisco is running an ad on television right now that personally attacks Clay Aiken for not being supportive enough of children with disabilities.

“Now, clearly I disagree with Clay Aiken on practically every issue, his support of President Obama and Nancy Pelosi at the top of the list of course. But can you believe Crisco would stoop this low in an attack ad? Believe it.

“So if a Democrat is willing to fight this dirty against one of his own imagine what the liberal machine will try to do to our conservative cause?”

Ellmers goes on to ask for money and while the logic (though twisted) is apparent, coming to Aiken’s defense by calling the ad “a new low” is amusing.

Among her many recent hits on the Democrat, it was Ellmers’ campaign that drew controversy for saying Aiken had “San Francisco” values, a shot that many perceived as one on Aiken’s sexual orientation.

GENEROUS FILM INCENTIVE HELPED SPUR ACTIVITY, COST TO TAXPAYER: Three years ago, lawmakers and Gov. Bev Perdue sweetened incentives to help lure TV shows, movies, commercials and other film projects to the state. The results have been dramatic, both for film activity and claims for tax breaks.

About $236 million a year has been spent on projects in the state since the change, according to new and revised reports released Wednesday by the state Department of Revenue. In the three years prior to the increased incentives, about $57 million had been spent per year on filming in North Carolina, which has long enjoyed interest from productions and is home to a major studio in Wilmington.

The reports also show a similar jump in the cost to taxpayers. Claims for incentives by film companies averaged $59 million a year since 2011. In the three prior years, the claims averaged $9.5 million per year. Read more here.

COAL ASH POLITICS – COWELL WILL URGE OUSTER OF A DUKE DIRECTOR: Duke Energy shareholders will gather Thursday for an annual meeting framed by investors critical of Duke’s response to a Feb. 2 coal ash spill into the Dan River.

State Treasurer Janet Cowell’s office said Wednesday it will vote to oust one director, and urged Duke’s board to seek an outside probe of the “corporate decisions that led to the Dan River spill.”

Cowell, who oversees the $80 billion pension plan for state and local government employees, became at least the third of Duke’s institutional investors to urge new blood on its 15-member board. Read more here.

POLICY CORNER – ALEC-RELATED BILL WOULD LET STUDENTS ATTEND ANY SCHOOL, REGARDLESS OF DISTRICT: A state legislative subcommittee wants North Carolina students to be able to attend any public school in the state, allowing them to cross district lines without having to pay tuition or receive permission from the school system they’re leaving.

A subcommittee of the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee sent a draft “open enrollment” bill Wednesday to the full committee.

The proposed legislation would require school districts to set up plans allowing families to request a seat in any school in their home district or in any of the state’s other districts. School districts could deny the request for only a few reasons, with lack of space the principal one.

The bill would allow students who want to transfer to another traditional public school the same right as those who want to attend charter schools. Students may attend any charter school in the state at no cost. For example, if a Wake County student wishes to attend a charter in Durham, Wake County cannot object and must provide its share of the student’s funding to the receiving school in Durham.

Also as with charter schools, the bill would not require districts to provide transportation for families who took advantage of the open enrollment option. Read more here.

LAWMAKERS MAY TAKE OTHER SHOT AT LOCAL GOVERNMENTS: From the Herald-Sun – State legislators may act this summer to bar cities, towns and counties from imposing tree-protection rules on private property owners, if a study committee gets its way.

The proposal surfaced Wednesday morning and got an endorsement from the Agriculture and Forestry Awareness Study Commission, a panel that includes a mix of legislative and gubernatorial appointees. ...

A trade group for cities and towns, the N.C. League of Municipalities, immediately alerted its member governments and asked them to oppose the measure. “It cuts to the core of what cities and towns do in trying to determine how the course of economic development happens in their communities, as well as development generally,” said Erin Wynia, a league lobbyist. Read more here.

RELATED: Charlotte leaders concerned about state move to change local business tax. Read more here.

#NCGOV ---

NO CALENDAR – HE WAS GOLFING: Gov. Pat McCrory didn’t issue a public calendar for Wednesday but it turns out he was golfing. (Apparently he found enough good weather, despite tornado warnings across parts of the state.)

From the Wells Fargo Championship: Johnson Wagner didn’t bother with a formal title for Gov. Pat McCrory. Before the end of the first hole at Wednesday’s Wells Fargo Championship pro-am at Quail Hollow Club, Wagner was already calling his playing partner “Pat.”

“It’s kind of ironic,” said McCrory, the former 14-year mayor of Charlotte. “I’m still called Mayor Pat here.

“We had a lot of fun. People are very nice to me. It’s good to be back home.”

Quail Hollow’s course wasn’t particularly kind to McCrory, who said he’s going to stick to his day job. But he played in the pro-am to help promote an economic plan in the state. Read more here.

ADDENDUM: On Monday, Gov. Pat McCrory explained his travels related to last week’s tornadoes, saying he didn’t want to visit the hard hit areas immediately and get in the way. A day later, he seemed to take the opposite approach. From WRAL: Gov. Pat McCrory cut short a pre-scheduled stop in Fayetteville Tuesday afternoon to survey storm damage in the small Cumberland County town of Stedman after a tornado touched down in the area of John Nunnery Road and Ken Hancock Street. Read more here.

BUDGET TALK: McCrory again pushes change to higher education funding. Read more here.

QUICK HEADLINES ---

Questionable billing for NCDOT winter storm contractors. Read more here.

N.C. report tackles prescription drug abuse. Read more here.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer

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