NCDP Clips for December 27, 2013

MCCRORY/FOREST/NCGA

Dome: The things they said – quotes from the past political season
“I think for the most part, what I see from the folks who are opposing our agenda is whining coming from losers.” – House Speaker Thom Tillis. The Republican from Cornelius was talking to a reporter from Politico about the U.S. Senate race, and making it clear that he was embracing the legislature’s record in 2013. “I was proud to vote for Thom Tillis to be the speaker again, when we got back up there this year. Because last session, he was great. … But, now he’s running for U.S. Senate, or planning to, things have changed.” – Rep. Larry Pittman, Concord Republican. Pittman’s unscripted speech before a tea party group in April shed light on how Tillis’ bid for higher office might be coloring the legislative session. Tillis rejected the premise.

Dome: Hagan criticizes NC General Assembly over jobless benefits
Sen. Kay Hagan gave a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate Thursday evening to criticize the North Carolina General Assembly’s action last summer that ended federal unemployment insurance benefits and call on the Senate to let the state become eligible for them once again. Hagan said the legislature “slashed unemployment benefits, making North Carolina the only state in the nation to actually stop receiving federal emergency unemployment insurance. The only state! “This irresponsible and cold-hearted action by the General Assembly has been devastating to the thousands of individuals and families across my state who were already struggling to make ends meet,” said Hagan, a Democrat who faces a tough re-election race in 2014.

WRAL: Sales tax expansion part of overhaul of NC tax system (VIDEO)
While many North Carolinians might take home a little more of their paycheck next year, they will likely be spending more of it as well.

News & Observer: NC Lt. Gov. Dan Forest working on plan to raise teacher pay
Democratic critics suggest Forest is a leader of the state’s tea party movement. “Dan Forest is so out of the mainstream that his views aren’t in the same room as most North Carolinians,” said Micah Beasley, a Democratic Party spokesman who worked for Forest’s rival in the 2012 election. “He’s also easily the most extreme ideologue we’ve elected in a long time.” Beasley suggests the Common Core questions are “a distraction away from the real issues on education,” such as classroom funding and teacher salaries. “He has been exactly what we said he was going to be in 2012 – a rubber stamp for a far-right Republican agenda,” he said.

News & Observer: Atkinson defends data-dump response to Lt. Gov. Forest’s questions
She noted that there really hadn’t been just 67 questions, but rather 237 of them, counting sub-questions, that took Forest 20 pages to list. For example, she said, he asked where the Department of Public Instruction had held meetings dealing with the Common Core, then also sought the minutes, agendas and comments from those who attended. There were hundreds of such meetings, she said. "It was my intent to answers his questions thoroughly, to ensure that he had the information he needed, and unfortunately in order to do that I needed to send him those pieces of paper," she said. "But I think that it was my intent to provide him all the information that he requested … He’s a member of the council of state, I am too, and I showed him the same respect that I would want him to show me had I sent him a 20-page letter."

WRAL: Legal fight to rally at Capitol precursor to 2014 battle
Hundreds of protesters marched on the State Capitol Monday evening in a sign that the demonstrations that marked the 2013 legislative session will continue into next year. The march came hours after a Superior Court judge ruled that state officials improperly denied a permit for the protest. The NAACP organized the rally to protest policies of the Republican-led General Assembly. Several left-leaning groups are trying to pressure Gov. Pat McCrory to convene a special legislative session on expanding Medicaid and reversing cuts to unemployment benefits.

Dome: Berger, Tillis bring in outside counsel in same-sex marriage lawsuit
The leaders of the state Senate and House have retained outside legal counsel to look over the attorney general’s shoulder as he defends the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in a lawsuit. The attorney, Byron Babione, is with the Arizona-based Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian law firm that takes on cases of “religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family,” according to its website. Babione will give legal advice free of charge, according to the announcement Friday by the offices of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Thom Tillis.

Dome: New DHHS webmaster will make $90,000
DHHS spokesman Ricky Diaz described Lotz as an "experienced project manager and web developer with technical skills," but would not elaborate on his work background. Lotz will work with the state chief information officer’s office and make the DHHS site more "consumer friendly,” Diaz said. Diaz described the DHHS website as a collection of 80 sites that are all managed differently. "He has a great challenge in front of him," Diaz said. "We’re confident he’s up to the task." A $90,000 annual salary is in the top 3 percent in state government.

WHITE HOUSE

Reuters: Obama signs bipartisan budget deal, annual defense bill
The two-year U.S. budget agreement, negotiated by Congress earlier this month, and the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2104 were among seven pieces of legislation signed by Obama, who is vacationing with his family in Hawaii. The U.S. Senate passed the budget deal on December 18 to ease automatic spending cuts and reduce the risk of a government shutdown. It was negotiated by Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington state and Paul Ryan, Republican from Wisconsin, who is chairman of the House Budget Committee.

ThinkProgress: Justice Department Calls In The Big Guns To Stop Voter Suppression
Karlan will take over as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Rights Division’s voting rights section. In this role, she will oversee the Justice Department’s most important challenges to voter suppression laws — including its efforts to restore federal oversight of Texas’ election law and its challenge to the nation’s worst voter suppression law in North Carolina.

Dome: Two Triangle scientists honored by White House
President Barack Obama on Monday named Sallie Permar of the Duke University School of Medicine and Tamlin Pavelsky of the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill as recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers in recognition of innovative research.

U.S. CONGRESS

Washington Post: Unemployment benefits for 1.3 million expire Saturday. Here’s why.
On Dec. 28, roughly 1.3 million out-of-work Americans will lose their unemployment insurance. That’s because Congress declined to renew an emergency aid program for the jobless that’s set to expire that day. This could still change: Senate Democrats have said they’ll come back in early January and try to renew the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program for another year, which would cost roughly $25.2 billion. But if that effort fails, the nation’s safety net for the unemployed will shrink significantly in 2014.

The Hill: Pelosi: End of jobless aid ‘simply immoral’
The looming expiration of federal unemployment benefits for more than 1 million Americans is “simply immoral,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday. In a statement, the Democratic leader said it’s inexcusable that the benefits will lapse on Saturday, and blamed Republicans for allowing it to happen. “Starting tomorrow, too many American families will face the New Year with uncertainty, insecurity, and instability as a result of congressional Republicans’ refusal to extend critical unemployment insurance,” she said. “The first item on Congress’ agenda in the New Year must be an extension of unemployment insurance. That must be our priority on day one.”

Dome: Hagan, Pryor introduce bill to restore cut to veterans cost of living allowance
Hagan voted in favor of the budget agreement, but said she was opposed to the part of it that reduced the military pensions. On Tuesday night, before the Senate passed the budget deal on Wednesday, Hagan voted to allow additional amendments and create an opportunity to strike the military pensions provision. She was the only Senate Democrat who voted with Republicans, but the measure failed. “We must keep the promises we’ve made to our veterans, who have put their lives on the line to protect us, and I will be working with in the Senate to ensure they receive the benefits they have earned,” the Democratic Senator from Greensboro said in a statement on Thursday.

HEALTHCARE

Washington Post: Obamacare had lots of sign-ups on deadline day
The evidence we have so far — albeit limited — suggests that lots of Obamacare shoppers made it in just under the wire. California estimates that 27,000 people picked insurance plans this past Monday and 29,000 the Friday prior. Just last week, the state was averaging 15,000 sign-ups per day. Washington state had 10,000 people enroll Monday, and a total of 20,000 from Dec. 20-23. That accounts for one in 10 Washingtonians picking private health insurance plans. And New York had about 20,000 sign-ups come in that same day. Of course, these are only the three states we know about. The 36 states on HealthCare.gov do not release data on their own schedule but rather rely on the federal government’s monthly data sets. We won’t know December enrollment numbers until sometime in the middle of January.

2014

WRAL: Former NC Commerce chief seeks Ellmers’ House seat
A former Asheboro textile executive, Crisco headed the state Department of Commerce under former Gov. Beverly Perdue. The Democrat told WRAL News in October that he was considering a run for the U.S. House to improve bipartisanship in Congress. "My style was to work across the aisle," he said at the time. "I think people are ready for someone who’s willing to talk and find solutions – someone more centrist. I think that’s a better working approach."

The Rocky Mount Telegram: Pastor, doctor take on N.C. speaker in U.S. Senate bid
May’s GOP primary is shaping up as a race between state House Speaker Thom Tillis and at least four candidates with little or no experience in government. Tillis has led the money chase so far with help from Republican kingmaker Karl Rove. Tillis himself already has been the target of a TV ad by national Democrats — a sign they view him as Hagan’s most worrisome threat. But North Carolina’s recent political history suggests the nomination is not a sure thing for Tillis. Two leading challengers, the Rev. Mark Harris and Dr. Greg Brannon, have support among tea party and Christian conservative voters. Those blocs have proven their ability to win elections in North Carolina, where government has shifted to the right politically since 2010. “The Republican primary certainly looks like a mess right now,” state Democratic Party spokesman Ben Ray said.

National Journal: Ranking the Top 5 Senators Vulnerable in 2014 Primaries
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is very unpopular in Kentucky. And unlike the other senators on our list, he has to position himself on two fronts: a primary challenge from businessman Matt Bevin, and a real general-election challenge from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. McConnell has a huge war chest built up—he finished the third quarter with nearly $10 million in the bank—as well as a vaunted political organization, and shouldn’t be underestimated. While Bevin has the support of the Senate Conservatives Fund and some ability to self-fund, it’s far from clear that he has what it takes to oust the minority leader.

Politico: Who will survive? 2014’s top primaries
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is one of the country’s most visible politicians, and he has one of the lowest home-state approval ratings of his GOP Senate colleagues. With the trend of conservative activist-types challenging incumbent GOPers, then, it’s no surprise that McConnell is facing a primary challenge. Businessman Matt Bevin announced he’d enter the GOP primary against McConnell earlier this year and has already been aided financially and on the television airwaves by conservative outside groups.

2016

The Daily Beast: The GOP’s History of Sexist Hillary-Bashing
While Hillary Clinton has made clear that she won’t decide whether she wants to pursue the presidency in 2016 until next year, Republicans have decided they already are going to make her a top target. Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee Chairman, has promised this month to go after the “rough stuff” about Clinton in an ad campaign that will be “very aggressive.” The Republicans are promising a shotgun approach; just shoot out things like the “a botched health care roll out in the ’90s and Benghazi,” and hope something hits. This isn’t the first time that Republicans have tried to nasty attacks against Hillary. That tradition stretches back to 1992, when Republicans decided to go after her with a series of sexist attacks that continued into her husband’s administration. As Republicans start to open up attacks against Hillary once again, it’s worth remembering the sexist overtones in the earliest Republican attacks on Hillary, and how these attacks can backfire on Republicans.

GAY MARRIAGE

CNN: Utah to appeal same-sex marriage ruling to U.S. Supreme Court
The Utah announcement comes two days after state officials lost their case in a federal appeals court, which said the state’s request for a stay wasn’t warranted and ordered the appeal process be expedited. The appeals court’s ruling allows same-sex marriages to continue in Utah while appeals continue. Last week, U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage, saying the law "conflicts with the United States Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process under the law."

The New York Times: Same-Sex-Marriage Supporters Applaud Ohio and Utah Rulings
In Ohio, Judge Timothy S. Black of Federal District Court ruled in the case of two couples who had married in states where same-sex unions are legal before the death of one of the spouses. Their survivors sought to be recognized as widowers on the Ohio death certificates. In ordering that death certificates reflect their marital status, the judge cited the June decision by the Supreme Court that a federal law denying recognition of valid same-sex marriages was a denial of the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. The Ohio judge noted that besides the dignity of the surviving spouse, his ruling gave a same-sex widow or widower rights under state law to favorable treatment in life insurance payouts, survivors’ benefits and real estate transfers. A spokeswoman for Ohio’s attorney general, Mike DeWine, said he would appeal the ruling to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Boston Herald: Ohio gay marriage ruling may just be beginning
In a broadly written ruling Monday, Judge Timothy Black said Ohio’s ban is unconstitutional and that states cannot discriminate against same-sex couples simply because some voters don’t like homosexuality. Although the ruling applies only to death certificates, his statements about the ban were sweeping and unequivocal, and are expected to incite further litigation challenging the law. Ohio’s attorney general said the state will appeal. Black cited the Supreme Court’s June decision striking down part of a federal anti-gay marriage law, saying the lower courts are now tasked with applying that ruling. "And the question presented is whether a state can do what the federal government cannot — i.e., discriminate against same-sex couples … simply because the majority of the voters don’t like homosexuality (or at least didn’t in 2004)," Black said in reference to the year Ohio’s gay marriage ban passed. "Under the Constitution of the United States, the answer is no."

OPINION/COMMENTARY

BuzzFeed Community: A Year In Review: The 2013 GOP Rebrand
At the beginning of 2013, the GOP said it wanted to rebrand and do outreach to women and minorities. How did that go for them?

Time: Pope Francis, The People’s Pope
In a matter of months, Francis has elevated the healing mission of the church—the church as servant and comforter of hurting people in an often harsh world—above the doctrinal police work so important to his recent predecessors. John Paul II and Benedict XVI were professors of theology. Francis is a former janitor, nightclub bouncer, chemical technician and literature teacher. And behind his self-effacing facade, he is a very canny operator. He makes masterly use of 21st century tools to perform his 1st century office. He is photographed washing the feet of female convicts, posing for selfies with young visitors to the Vatican, embracing a man with a deformed face. He is quoted saying of women who consider abortion because of poverty or rape, “Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?” Of gay people: “If a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge.” To divorced and remarried Catholics who are, by rule, forbidden from taking Communion, he says that this crucial rite “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

Fayetteville Observer: Letter: Retirees lose with state GOP
Retirees will discover in the 2014 tax year that the tax exemptions (ranging from $2,000 to $4,000, depending on tax status) enjoyed for many years will be gone. As a native from Whistle-Britches, N.C., I am appalled because Republicans foreknew in eliminating the exemption that it would translate to a loss of many dollars in tax refunds to the retirees. They knew their actions would hurt fixed-income folk more than any other living group.

CATS

Washington Post: Jonathan Franzen’s graph of the year
What’s striking about the pie chart is how big a slice of it consists of predation by free-roaming cats. A large new peer-reviewed study published in 2013 estimates the number of North American birds killed by cats at well over one billion per year. Bells on collars don’t help. Neutering feral cats doesn’t work. Keeping cats indoors helps.

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Micah Beasley, Communications Director
North Carolina Democratic Party
MBeasley
@Micah4NC

Paid for by North Carolina Democratic Party. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee.