Sen. Ellie Kinnaird reigns from #NCGA to fight GOP war on voting, Rep. Moffitt tries to walk back on Asheville retaliation remark, N.C. unemployment now 3rd worst in the nation, film industry eyes tax credit debate, the ‘Supreme Error’ that led to N.C.’s voter suppression, #NCGOP eyes shutting down Winston-Salem State polling place next, top Hagan staffer tapped to lead Equality NC, Dems ‘ace in the hole’ in coming budget battle, Berger ‘not sounding’ like he’s likely to challenge Hagan, Sen. Alexander (R-TN) vulnerable to challenge from right and Pat McCrory’s ‘Major League Blunder’
MSNBC: NC senator quits to work against GOP war on voting
North Carolina State Senator Ellie Kinnaird talks with Rachel Maddow about why she’s quitting her job as a state legislator to help grassroots activists prevent the disenfranchising effects of new Republican voter suppression laws.
WRAL: Sen. Kinnaird resigns from legislature
Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, a nine-term Democrat who represents Orange and Chatham counties in the legislature, resigned her post Monday. Kinnaird, 81, is one of only 17 Democrats in the 50-member state Senate. With the House and governor’s mansion also controlled by Republicans, any Democrat’s ability to stop or influence legislation, particularly controversial measures, is limited. One of the state’s most liberal lawmakers, the Chapel Hill attorney thanked her constituents for the honor of representing them in Raleigh, but described the last three years under Republican leadership as a "great disappointment."
Citizen-Times: Moffitt slips up, tells truth
Why can’t politicians just own their gaffes? In the latest round of “too absurd to believe” Tim Moffitt shenanigans, the state representative from Buncombe County claims he just badly delivered a “joke” about punishing Asheville with legislation. The exchange with Asheville City Councilman Chris Pelly took place Aug. 5 at a gathering of local Realtors, including Pelly. The councilman asked a question about whether Asheville could join the Culture and Recreation Authority, which was set up allegedly to save Buncombe and Asheville money, some $2.5 million for Asheville in the first year alone.
WRAL: The 2013 General Assembly session by the numbers
One of the most basic duties a lawmaker carries out during session is mashing the red or green button during recorded votes on the House or Senate floor. While plenty of hard bargains and hard luck lurk behind the numbers, vote totals can tell part of the story behind the 2013 legislative session.
Dome: Morning Memo: NC unemployment now nation’s 3rd worst
The unemployment rate in North Carolina inched higher in July, the first uptick in the closely watched economic indicator since January. The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 8.9 percent last month, according to data released Monday by the state Department of Commerce’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division. Although the jobless rate was seven-tenths of a percentage point lower than it was a year ago, North Carolina’s unemployment rate is tied with Rhode Island for the third-worst in the nation. Only Illinois, at 9.2 percent, and Nevada, where the unemployment rate is 9.5 percent, have higher unemployment rates. It represents a fall from fifth worst just a month ago.
News & Observer: NC jobless rate rises in July to 8.9 percent
The unemployment rate in North Carolina inched higher in July, the first uptick in the closely watched economic indicator since January. The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 8.9 percent last month, according to data released Monday by the state Department of Commerce’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division. “It was a disappointing month,” said Mekael Teshome, a PNC Financial Services Group economist.
Dome: DENR head John Skvarla riffs on fracking, agency layoffs, job creation
John Skvarla, North Carolina’s top environmental regulator, said Monday he is overseeing 15 reorganizations simultaneously at the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources in an effort to streamline the agency he has been running since January. Skvarla said he doesn’t know how many people will be laid off from the 4,000-employee agency, but noted that the purpose of the reorg is not to maximize body counts. Rather, Skvarla said, his goal is to make DENR more responsive in its dual mission of protecting the environment and growing the economy. "Historically, the philosophy has been that corporate America is the enemy," Skvarla told a lunchtime crowd of several dozen at the conservative John Locke Foundation in Raleigh.
WRAL: Film industry watching NC tax credit debate
But those who work in the entertainment industry say North Carolina will watch productions go elsewhere if lawmakers do not extend a key tax break for production companies that is due to expire Jan. 1, 2015. Already, some insiders say, television producers are taking a pass on North Carolina locations in favor of states with tax credits that are not due to expire soon. "If the film incentives were to sunset tomorrow, the trucks would be loaded tomorrow and go back to California or somewhere else. The finances drive the industry right now," said Dale Williams, a unit production manager for the CBS drama "Under the Dome."
Slate: Supreme Error
But the North Carolina legislature with a new united Republican legislature and governor, went further and passed the mother of all voter suppression bills. Aside from enacting a strict voter ID law like Texas’, the bill also cut a week off early voting in the state (used by up to 70 percent of African-American voters in 2012) and barred local election boards from keeping the polls open on the final Saturday before the election after 1 pm. It eliminated same-day voter registration. It opened up the precincts to “challengers” who can gum up the works at polling places and dissuade voters from showing up in the first place. It banned paying voter registration card circulators by the piece. It eliminated pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds in the high schools. And it said that a voter who votes in the wrong precinct (perhaps because of a poll worker’s error) will have her whole ballot thrown out—earlier law had allowed such ballots to count for those races in which the voter was eligible to vote.
Dome: Winston-Salem St. polling place next on GOP hit list
The newly appointed Republican chairman of the Forsyth County Board of Elections says he plans to eliminate an early voting site at Winston-Salem State University, the Winston-Salem Journal reports. Chairman Ken Raymond said he will move Tuesday to shut down the voting site at the historically black campus after hearing talk that a professor had offered students extra credit for going to the polls, which he said was a violation of the law. He offered no proof.
The Thicket: Examining the Legal Challenge to North Carolina’s New Photo Voter ID Requirement
Is North Carolina’s new photo voter ID requirement an unlawful additional qualification on the right to vote? That’s the central question in the lead argument of a state lawsuit filed against the requirement last Tuesday. The answer could turn on whether North Carolina courts accept the plaintiffs’ framing of the ID requirement. North Carolina’s constitution sets out an explicit list of qualifications for voting. According to the plaintiffs, the photo ID law adds a new qualification to this list–which the state’s legislature doesn’t actually have the authority to do. So, the ID law is an impermissible legislative overreach.
Greensboro News & Record: N.C. treasurer touts pension fund investment vehicle
The official responsible for overseeing $80 billion in pension funds for North Carolina employees and teachers is touting a plan that invests in companies with state ties. State Treasurer Janet Cowell on Tuesday visits a Raleigh company that develops mobile applications. It received an investment originating with the $230 million Innovation Fund.
Mountain Xpress: Keever tapped to help lead NC Democrats
Longtime local leader Patsy Keever is stepping down from her post as the chair of the Buncombe County Democrats in favor of joining the state party’s leadership team. A former public school teacher, state representative, county commissioner and congressional candidate, Keever was elected Aug. 17 to serve as first vice chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party. In order to accept the position, party rules required her to step down as chair of the county party, a job she was elected to do in April. "I loved being chair of Buncombe County, but I was asked to step up and I did," she tells Xpress. In her new job, Keever reports that she’ll focus on candidate recruitment and fundraising.
The Daily Beast: Poll: Women Say They Are Leaning In
Yet one of the results that the magazine highlights is that 53 percent of women have never asked for a raise. That seems like a lot, but put in perspective, the survey found 40 percent of men haven’t stepped up to that challenge either. The weak economy might be a factor. One finding with potential political implications is widespread support for paid maternity leave, even among Republicans. The numbers are off the charts: Republicans (83 percent), Democrats (89 percent), men (80 percent), and women (87 percent). The Family Leave Act, vetoed twice by President George H.W. Bush before President Clinton signed it into law, requires that businesses with more than 50 employees offer maternity leave—but doesn’t stipulate that it be paid.
Dome: Hagan staffer to take helm at Equality N.C.
Chris Sgro, a senior staffer for U.S. Senator Kay Hagan, will serve as the next executive director of Equality N.C., an advocacy group for the state’s LGBT community. “As an LGBT advocate living and working in North Carolina, he has seen first-hand the challenges facing LGBT populations in the South,” Elaine Martin, Equality N.C.’s board chair, said in a statement. North Carolina has been a “beacon of equality” in the South for many years, and he is ready to advocate for LGBT rights and equality in the future, Sgro said in the statement.
Politico: More students than ever rely on federal college aid
For the first time, a majority of undergraduates are receiving some kind of federal financial aid — 57 percent. A higher proportion than ever are taking out loans. But while the federal government gave out more grants for low-income students, colleges continued using their own money on grants for students from wealthier families. That’s a trend that concerns some who argue that colleges should do more to help students of limited means.
The New Republic: Maybe the Sequester Wasn’t So Overstated After All
Not long ago, the emerging Beltway consensus was that the impact of the budget sequestration that went into effect last spring had been wildly overstated. The economic recovery was still ticking along, albeit too slowly for anyone’s taste, and there were no reports of orphans being cast into the streets. The budget deficit was shrinking, thanks in part to the sequester cuts. There were even suggestions that President Obama had exaggerated the fallout from sequestration in order to force a deal to head it off. Well, just in the past few days there’ve been several dings in that happy complacency as more and more people—including at least one esteemed conservative—become aware of sequestration’s real and unexaggerated consequences.
Washington Post: Dems have an ace in the hole in coming battle
This hidden leverage, Van Hollen says, flows from a little noticed wrinkle in the design of the sequester that is only being focused on by Capitol Hill aides right now. Because of that wrinkle, defense programs are set to absorb a much bigger spending cut next year, compared to this year, than non-defense programs are. If the sequester is not replaced, defense will be cut an additional $20 billion in 2014 below current levels. Since the defense cuts are already prompting some Republicans to say the sequester needs replacing, these additional cuts should increase pressure on GOP lawmakers to agree to replace it partly on Democratic terms, i.e., with a combination of spending cuts and tax hikes via the closing of loopholes.
Dome: Berger not sounding like he’s poised to challenge Hagan
Senate leader Phil Berger was not sounding like a many ready to jump into the race with Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan next year when he showed up on an Eastern North Carolina radio station last week. "I didn’t think it was something that I was prepared to make a decision on until I was able to get away from the legislative session," Berger told Eastern Carolina News and Views with Tom Lamprecht and Sadie Claus on Friday. "We’ve been a away for a few weeks; I have had several conversations with my family, my wife about it.” Berger said. "I have talked to supporters around the state, folks who have encouraged me to do it, and talked to some who have suggested that perhaps this is not the right thing for me to do at this time, because of of things that need to be done at the state level.”
Breitbart: GOP Poll: Sen. Alexander Trails Generic ‘Conservative’ by 5 Points
A new poll of Republican voters in Tennessee shows Sen. Lamar Alexander trailing a generic "conservative" challenger by 5 points. The poll, obtained exclusively by Breitbart News, shows a "credible conservative candidate" leading Alexander 49.5-44.9%. While a serious opponent hasn’t yet emerged to challenge Alexander, the poll shows how vulnerable he is in next year’s August primary.
Politico: Lone Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor hangs on
Sen. Mark Pryor might be the most vulnerable Democrat running for reelection in 2014, but he doesn’t think the “D” by his name stands for “death knell.” Now that’s being bullish. Since Pryor skated to reelection to his second term in 2008, he’s watched the political landscape here rapidly slide to the right: His Democratic colleague, Blanche Lincoln, was trounced in the 2010 midterms; Republicans in 2012 took over the state Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction; and he’s now, suddenly, the lone Democrat in Arkansas’ increasingly conservative congressional delegation.
Wall Street Journal: Confident Biden Team Sows Seeds For 2016
Political allies of Vice President Joe Biden have concluded that he can win the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination—even if Hillary Clinton enters the contest—and are considering steps he could take to prepare for a potential candidacy. While Mr. Biden has made no decision about his future, people familiar with his thinking say, he hasn’t ruled out a bid for the White House. If he runs, that could set up a titanic battle between two of the party’s most prominent figures.
Politico: Scott Brown on 2016 run: ‘I am curious’
Former Sen. Scott Brown is considering a run for president in 2016, he told a Massachusetts paper Sunday while at the Iowa State Fair. “I want to get an indication of whether there’s even an interest, in Massachusetts and throughout the country, if there’s room for a bipartisan problem solver,” Brown told the Boston Herald from the early-caucus state. “It’s 2013, I think it’s premature, but I am curious. There’s a lot of good name recognition in the Dakotas and here — that’s pretty good.”
Talking About Politics: A Major League Blunder
Governor McCrory increasingly looks like a modest Triple-A ballplayer who is befuddled by big league pitching. His latest whiff is defending the DHHS salary debacle. McCrory should have put as much distance as possible between himself and the decision to give 24-year-olds who worked in his campaign senior jobs paying $85,000 and $87,500 in DHHS. Instead, he jumped to their defense: "They got promotions. They were actually moved over to areas that frankly a lot of older people applied for, too. But frankly, these two young people are very well qualified and they are being paid for jobs at which that’s the pay rate for that job." McCrory should have said: “Frankly, I didn’t know about that. I need to know more about whether that’s appropriate.”
NYT: A Sharp Turn to the Right in North Carolina
North Carolina is channeling Alabama and South Carolina when it comes to the best economic, social and political model for a Southern state. For more than half a century, North Carolina has been progressive on education and public investments, and pro-business — witness the celebrated Research Triangle between Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill and the financial center in Charlotte — with less racial strife than other Southern states. As Republicans took full control of the state government in Raleigh, there has been a shift to the right. Taxes for the wealthy have been slashed, and spending for education and programs that benefit the poor has been cut. Abortion has been restricted, and guns rights expanded.
Micah Beasley, Press Secretary
North Carolina Democratic Party
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