Gov. Pat McCrory’s top economic adviser is stepping down, the latest in a series of high-profile departures reshaping the administration. Tony Almeida, 58, leaves his post Friday as the governor’s senior adviser for jobs and the economy, just as the administration looks to advance its so-called “jobs plan” and keep alive a stalled effort to partially privatize the state’s commerce department.
When North Carolina moves its job-recruiting and marketing functions to a new public-private partnership later this year, it will join just 12 other states with similar structures in place. And with many of those states switching to the partnership model within the past several years and with each of them somewhat different, the economic development strategy remains largely unproven. “There is no conclusive study or set of studies that can say definitively that a public-private partnership is a more or less effective way of going about economic development than a public agency,” Patrick McHugh of the General Assembly’s Fiscal Research Division told a legislative committee on Thursday.
News and Observer: NC proposed up to $683 million in incentives for Boeing
State officials considered offering up to $2.5 billion in state and local tax incentives to lure the jet maker, but ultimately made a top bid of $683 million, according to documents obtained by the Observer through a public records request. The records also show apparent confusion over who was running Charlotte’s airport as the state was preparing its bids. Aviation director Jerry Orr had been pushed out earlier in the year after a battle over who should run the airport; Orr ended up helping with site selection anyway. Emails between economic development staffers indicate local officials weren’t immediately comfortable with the size of the proposed package. “I am a bit concerned that they don’t seem too excited about working to land this one,” Jeff Edge, of the Charlotte Chamber, wrote after a December closed-session meeting with Mecklenburg County commissioners to discuss the project.
A little over 48 hours ago, there was giant environmental disaster in the Senator’s hometown of Eden in Rockingham County when a pipe burst and 82,000 tons of coal ash (enough to fill 32 Olympic-size swimming pools) was released into the Dan River. The spill is making national headlines and Catawba Riverkeeper is tweeting pictures here. In most parts of the world, you’d think that such disaster might send local elected officials into some sort of full-time emergency damage-mitigation mode. By all indications, however, that’s not the case in Eden. The only “news” on Senator Berger’s website and Twitter account today is his latest blame-shifting broadside against State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson over the controversy surrounding the senator’s ham-handed new law to retain third graders in public schools who fail high-stakes tests.
Gov. Pat McCrory created a stir eight months ago when he described the protesters who gathered weekly at the state Legislative Building as “outsiders” coming in to North Carolina to “try to change the subject.”Organizers of the Monday demonstrations immediately decried the description and gathered data to show the governor and other GOP leaders that the mass rallies were homegrown. This week, as they tend to last-minute details of a march and mass rally scheduled for Saturday, leaders of the state NAACP are welcoming people from outside North Carolina. They have invited faith leaders from up and down the East Coast and across the country to join in their mass protest of what they describe as the “extremist policies” and “regressive agenda” adopted last year by the Republican-led General Assembly.
But for all of the headline-grabbing speeches by their rising stars, the GOP still isn’t ready to finish this sentence: “And the Republican plan for inequality is …” The Democrats have a script on inequality — the lengthy script that Obama read in his State of the Union stemwinder. Republicans are more like the roomful of scriptwriters who are still writing things down and crossing them out, still debating each other about what the actual plot is going to be. They’ve got some fully developed scenes, thanks to serious speeches by high-profile Republicans like Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio and Lee — but there are also some that really haven’t progressed beyond one-liners yet. (Why did Lee call Obamacare an “inequality Godzilla” in his State of the Union response? We’ll come back to that one.) It’s another example of how the GOP can sometimes stumble around when it needs an answer to Obama’s policies. For years, Republicans have been hard pressed to identify an alternative to Obamacare, and although some Republicans are starting to outline their own plans now, Obama can still score points with the “What’s your plan?” zinger. Now that Obama is talking inequality, Republicans are being put in the same box.
Salon: GOP’s predictable, dramatic nonsense: Here come the empty debt ceiling threats
So here we are again, only one day away from the now very ordinary process of Treasury taking “extraordinary measures” to pay the bills as we near the debt ceiling. There’s something a little different about this one, though. After President Obama finally took a stand by not negotiating over the last short-term raise, there doesn’t seem to be the typical, lingering doubt that Republicans may blow this thing up. Everyone knows it’s going to happen, even the members themselves. And yet the typical motions have to be gone through, as muscle memory at this point. For the first time, we have actual conservative House Republicans — who in previous years demanded amendments to the Constitution, a radical overhaul/elimination of large social insurance programs, the repeal of the president’s signature legislation, and whatever other longtime ideological ideals they could conjure in exchange for even thinking about raising the debt ceiling — saying, this is dumb, let’s pass a “clean” bill and move on. There are the typical “moderate” Boehner allies and Pete Kings who always want to just get it out of the way.
Montana Lt. Gov. John Walsh, a Democrat, will be appointed to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Max Baucus, Gov. Steve Bullock announced Friday. Walsh’s time in Washington could pay dividends in name recognition and fundraising when the general election for the Senate seat rolls around in November. But the appointment could cut both ways, as GOP challengers and outside conservative groups focus their attacks on just one target.
Spokeswoman Sadie Weiner said, “North Carolinians are more interested in common-sense solutions than in the D or the R after someone’s name.” “Kay’s ranking as the most moderate senator reflects her focus on North Carolina first and her constituents’ desire for progress over politics,” she said in a statement. Hagan’s latest finance report shows that she has raised $9.9 million for her re-election campaign. She had $6.8 million on hand at the end of December.
The claim about the CBO report — which has been widely debunked by fact checkers — has now found its way into its first ad against an incumbent Democratic Senator. Here’s the spot hitting Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina, paid for by her opponent, GOP Rep. Thom Tillis. As the narrator talks about workers losing their jobs, the ad flashes a padlocked factory on the screen, with the words: “Congressional Budget Office estimates 2 million lost jobs do to Obamacare.” That’s not what the CBO estimated, of course. Indeed, even CBO director Douglas Elmendorf directly contested the characterization of jobs being “lost” during yesterday’s House hearing, noting that when people decide to ease up on work for good reasons, “we don’t sympathize. We say congratulations.” Elmendorf even added that those impacted this way could include older people who decide to retire earlier than they otherwise might have, or spouses who choose to reduce work hours to stay home with a new baby.
PoliticsNC: Dissing Tillis
Conservative Republicans and their allies are continuing to punish North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis. Tillis has had a spate of headlines indicating he has alienated conservatives in the state. Over the past month or two, the speaker skipped a series of forums and forum organizers have been leaving an empty chair to symbolize his absence. Several party leaders have condemned him for avoiding the public. Also, FreedomWorks, the conservative grassroots organization, endorsed his Tea Party opponent, Greg Brannon.
Dome: Morning Memo: Thom Tillis says he’s not hiding
After speaking to about 150 people at a home healthcare rally in Raleigh, Tillis pointed out he was making a public appearance there, and had participated in recent legislative committee meetings. “I’ve probably been in front of 300 people in the last three weeks,” he said. Tillis said he’ll be debating his fellow primary hopefuls after the candidate filing period ends this month. “After it’s done, we know everybody who’s serious about running, I welcome several forums across the state to point to my track record over the last three years,” he said. “I’m proud of it. It’s going to make us win the election.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell trails his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, by 4 points in a new poll published Thursday night by Kentucky’s largest newspaper. The survey also found President Barack Obama to be slightly more popular than the longtime incumbent senator in the red state. The Louisville Courier-Journal poll, a robo-poll conducted by SurveyUSA, gave McConnell 42 percent to Grimes’ 46 percent, adding to Democrats’ hopes of a competitive race. The poll also found that only 27 percent of registered voters view the Republican incumbent favorably. Fifty percent view him unfavorably.
A warning this election season: If you are searching the Web for information on Democratic congressional candidates, read the fine print. At least 15 websites that appear to be official campaign sites for Democratic candidates, are actually the handiwork of the National Republican Congressional Committee. In an effort to improve their online efforts this election season, the NRCC’s digital team came up with what the group believes is a great idea: get out the Republican message through fake Democrat sites.
New York Times: Democrats Aim for a 2014 More Like 2012 and 2008
The Democrats’ plan to hold on to their narrow Senate majority goes by the name “Bannock Street project.” It runs through 10 states, includes a $60 million investment and requires more than 4,000 paid staff members. And the effort will need all of that — and perhaps more — to achieve its goal, which is nothing short of changing the character of the electorate in a midterm cycle. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is preparing its largest and most data-driven ground game yet, relying on an aggressive combination of voter registration, get-out-the-vote and persuasion efforts. They hope to make the 2014 midterm election more closely resemble a presidential election year, when more traditional Democratic constituencies — single women, minorities and young voters — turn out to vote in higher numbers, said Guy Cecil, the committee’s executive director.
Last week, as reported in the (Raleigh) News & Observer, North Carolinians learned that all of the Republican Senate hopefuls in the Tar Heel state support the misguided personhood amendment. As troubling, all five said they also support a ban on contraceptives. You read that right. They’re against contraceptives. All of them said states should have the right to ban contraceptives, though most said North Carolina should not or would not do so. Unsurprisingly, the candidates also are staunchly against abortion, some even in cases of rape and incest. Across the political spectrum, most people believe that abortion should be rare. But they also believe – like I do – that they should remain legal and safe for those needing and wanting them. And most importantly, the decision – often well-considered and sometimes agonizing – should be left to the woman, not the government.
The Hill: Obama: We sent Putin a message on gay issue
President Obama said he “no doubt” wanted to make clear to Russia that the United States doesn’t accept discrimination by sending gay athletes to the Olympics. Obama sent hockey player Caitlin Kaho and figure skater Brian Boitano to represent the U.S. delegation–both are openly gay. “There is no doubt we wanted to make it very clear that we do not abide by discrimination in anything, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and one of the wonderful things about the Olympics is that you are judged by your merit,” Obama said in an interview with Bob Costas on Thursday.
Canoe guide Brian Williams dipped his paddle downstream from where thousands of tons of coal ash has been spewing for days into the Dan River, turning the wooden blade flat to bring up a lump of gray sludge. On the river bank, hundreds of workers at a Duke Energy power plant in North Carolina scrambled to plug a hole in a pipe at the bottom of a 27-acre pond where the toxic ash was stored. Since the leak was first discovered by a security guard Sunday afternoon, Duke estimates up to 82,000 tons of ash mixed with 27 million gallons of contaminated water has spilled into the river. Officials at the nation’s largest electricity provider say they cannot provide a timetable for when the leak will be fully contained, though the flow has lessened significantly as the pond has emptied.
A massive leak of toxic coal ash from a retired North Carolina power plant into a neighboring river dwindled on Thursday, utility officials said, but hundreds of workers had yet to seal the breach in a drainage pipe where the leak was detected more than four days ago. State regulators promised a detailed inquiry into the accident once the area was stabilized and the Dan River’s water was shown to be safe. But environmental and citizens’ groups criticized the response, saying the leak was the result of decades of lax oversight. From 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal-ash slurry flowed into the Dan after the collapse of a corrugated metal drainpipe only a few feet beneath a 27-acre pond, known as an impoundment. Duke Energy, the utility that owns the impoundment and the Dan River Steam Station in Eden, N.C.,
On Saturday, February 8, North Carolinians will fill downtown Raleigh, surrounding the state capitol. There will be many thousands, very possibly tens of thousands. There will be teachers, doctors and nurses, laborers, farmers, artists, and unemployed people. We won’t be protesting, or demanding, anything in particular — not because there isn’t anything to protest or demand (there’s plenty!), but because the goal is bigger: to keep building a movement based on civic equality and common care. That movement is big enough to include many kinds of North Carolinians, and people across the country, too. If you’re outside North Carolina, you might have heard about last summer’s Moral Monday movement of weekly rallies in Raleigh and, eventually, all over the state. Organized and led by the state’s NAACP, these gatherings started as tiny groups of hard-core activists and drew more than 5,000 people apiece by the end of the summer. More than a thousand of us were peacefully arrested in the capitol building in acts of civil disobedience meant to highlight the stakes of the movement.
Saturday’s eighth annual Historic Thousands on Jones Street march in Raleigh is expected to be one of the largest Southern civil rights demonstrations in decades — and businesses along the path are taking note. Thousands of activists, students and N.C. citizens will gather for the march, which is called the Moral March in reference to the Moral Monday movement. Moral Monday protests last summer were typically confined to Jones Street, the street in front of the State Legislative Building. But the rally on Saturday will begin further south at Shaw University, and participants will march up toward the State Capitol, passing many more businesses than usual.
On Tuesday, the CBO released its update to the budget and economic outlook. Many in the media got it wrong. This isn’t the first time that’s happened. In early 2011, after winning a decisive victory in the House of Representatives, the newly Republican Congress brought H.R.2 — a legislation that would repeal Obamacare — up for a vote. It was called "Repealing the Job-Killing Health-Care Law Act." It was named under the notion that the Affordable Care Act would result in the loss of millions of jobs. The claim was based on a CBO report on the Budget and Economic Outlook published in summer 2010. But the words "job killing" never appeared in the report. What was said (on page 48 for those interested), was that the ACA would reduce the amount of labor used in the economy by about one-half of 1%, mostly "by reducing the amount of labor that workers choose to supply." The fact that there would be a reduction in the supply of labor was because the ACA would provide benefits to people.
There are two ways of interpreting the buck passing itself. The first is that Republicans genuinely believe record deportation levels under the Obama administration, and all of the guff President Obama’s taken from immigration activists for not halting deportations altogether, is an elaborate fake-out and Obama will do a complete about-face once he signs a bill into law. The other is that Republican leaders need a better excuse for not acting than that party activists don’t want them to. Among these two competing hypotheses, which requires making the fewest assumptions? Tellingly, elected Republicans never mention deportations when they make the lawlessness excuse. They actually refuse to acknowledge it altogether. Instead it’s something something employer mandate.
Micah Beasley, Communications Director
North Carolina Democratic Party
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