A survey released by Public Policy Polling Jan. 16 found that 79 percent of North Carolina voters support a plan to raise teacher pay to the national average during the next four years. But the state’s Democrats accused the governor of "hoping to save face" in an election year, despite significant cuts to public education funding in the state. "North Carolina teachers and concerned parents will see right through the governor’s attempt to use teacher pay as a political football in the lead up to an election," said N.C. Democratic Party First Vice Chairwoman Patsy Keever in a statement.
The House passed the bill last May with the support of Gov. Pat McCrory and first lady Ann McCrory, but it hasn’t yet been acted upon by the Senate. The governor last week listed passage of the legislation among his 2014 priorities. Rabon, however, told constituents during a profanity-laced, 90-minute meeting that the bill was dead on arrival last year. He said the Senate had already decided not to act on the bill in the General Assembly’s upcoming short session. “That bill is not going to pass,” Rabon told the group. “Angels in heaven cannot make that bill pass." WRAL News obtained a recording of meeting, and its authenticity was verified by two people who attended the meeting.
North Carolina legislative leaders who led the crafting of the state’s new voter ID law have been very open about their support of the measure and other elections changes. But voters and organizations challenging the wide-ranging amendments contend that those same lawmakers are being far too private about email and other correspondence they exchanged while transforming the state’s voting process. In federal court filings this month, the NAACP, the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, the American Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. Justice Department and others who are suing the governor, state legislators and N.C. election board members sought a court order for email and other correspondence.
Winston Salem Journal: Gov, lawmakers vary on ultrasound-abortion fight
GOP legislative leaders and fellow Republican Gov. Pat McCrory are taking opposing sides on whether to maintain a court fight over a law requiring abortion providers to describe an ultrasound to women seeking the procedure. McCrory’s office issued a statement Saturday saying he doesn’t think the fight to keep that part of a 2011 state law is worth the cost. McCrory’s statement noted that the Jan. 17 ruling by U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles did not bar other parts of the law requiring that women receive information about the likely stage of fetal development and the availability of abortion alternatives.
More than 1.6 million Americans lost their long-term unemployment insurance when Congress failed to renew the benefits at the end of December. In North Carolina, Republicans say the state legislature’s decision to cut unemployment insurance has given the jobless more incentive, but Democrats say many have given up looking for work.
Dome: House committee gets lesson in food deserts
A house committee studying “food deserts” met for the first time Monday afternoon in Raleigh to get educated about the issue. Food deserts are urban and rural areas where residents have limited access to healthy, affordable foods. Researchers see a connection between the lack of access to those foods and the rate of obesity and chronic diseases among people who live in such areas. “I had no idea what a food desert was until Rep. Holley brought it to my attention,” said Rep. Edgar Starnes, a Republican from Caldwell County and a committee co-chair, at the start of the meeting. Rep. Yvonne Lewis Holley, a Wake Democrat, introduced a bill last year to provide tax incentives to businesses that sell healthy foods in designated food desert zones. “This all started when I lost two grocery stores in my community,” Holley explained.
STATE OF THE UNION
Democrats consider President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday a launching point for a year of sustained assault on Republicans over a populist economic agenda, part of an effort to focus more on bread-and-butter issues and less on ¬income inequality. Party officials say they hope Obama’s speech will set the stage for Senate and House candidates to confront Republicans on issues such as the minimum wage, unemployment benefits and access to college education. Their minimum goal is to preserve Democratic control of the Senate, because not doing so could cripple what remains of the president’s legislative agenda.
President Barack Obama will announce during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address that he’s raising the minimum wage for workers under federal contracts to $10.10 per hour, an administration official told The Huffington Post. The new policy, to be instituted via executive order, may affect hundreds of thousands of workers whose jobs are supported by federal dollars. The move is designed in part to ratchet up pressure on Congress to pass legislation raising the minimum wage for all workers.
Sen. Kay Hagan’s guest at the president’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday night will be the North Carolina’s current Teacher of the Year, Karyn Dickerson from Guilford County. “I look forward to hearing directly from one of our state’s best teachers about what steps Washington can take to improve educational opportunities for all of our students to help ensure bright futures for each of them,” Hagan said in a statement on Monday. Dickerson has been teaching English at Grimsley High School since 2006. She’s a graduate of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, with a major in English, and she earned a master of philosophy degree from the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Dickerson then took education courses to become a teacher at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and Appalachian State University.
There’s nothing supernatural about it. It’s a tough gig. “The biggest problem with giving the State of the Union response is stark contrast,” the columnist Mark Shields told me. He’s been watching responders since the tradition began in 1966 with GOP congressional leaders Sen. Everett Dirksen and Rep. Gerald Ford offering a retort to Lyndon B. Johnson. “You’re following a ceremonial event—Joint Chiefs, Supremes, ambassadors, plus, since the Gipper [Ronald Reagan], everyday heroes in the balcony. And you, the responder, are sitting in an empty room staring into a camera [and] teleprompter.”
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand on Sunday is renewing a call for legislation that would allow student borrowers to refinance their federal student loans at lower interest rates, urging President Barack Obama to push the effort in his State of the Union speech Tuesday. The New York Democrat said there’s currently about $1.2 trillion in student loan debt nationwide — and the average New York graduate owes more than $27,000. “We must strengthen our middle class families instead of forcing New Yorkers deeper into debt,” she said in a statement. “Keeping a high-quality education in New York affordable is the right thing to do.” Last May, Gillibrand introduced the Federal Student Loan Refinancing Act, legislation she said could affect nearly nine in 10 federal student loans by allowing borrowers who have a higher interest rate to refinance at a fixed rate of 4 percent. Most rates for federal student debt are higher than 6 percent, she said. There are 40 million borrowers nationwide, and 2.7 million in New York, Gillibrand said.
House and Senate negotiators agreed today on a much-delayed agriculture bill that averts deeper cuts to U.S. food-stamp spending sought by House Republicans. The proposed farm legislation, billed as saving $24 billion through food-stamp cuts and the end of a direct-payment program for farmers, will get a vote in the House by Jan. 29, a leadership aide said, before Republicans leave town for strategy meetings. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow said the chamber may vote next week.“This bill proves that by working across party lines we can reform programs to save taxpayer money while strengthening efforts to grow our economy,” Stabe now said in a statement today on the agreement. “It’s time for Congress to finish this farm bill.”
Associated Press: Farm Bill Deal Would Cut Food Stamps By 1 Percent
A House plan to make major cuts to food stamps would be scaled back under a bipartisan agreement on a massive farm bill, a near end to a more than two-year fight that has threatened to hurt rural lawmakers in an election year. The measure announced Monday by the House and Senate Agriculture committees preserves food stamp benefits for most Americans who receive them and continues generous subsidies for farmers. The House was expected to vote on the bill Wednesday, with the Senate following shortly after. The compromise was expected to cut food stamps by about $800 million a year, or around 1 percent. The House in September passed legislation cutting 5 percent from the $80 billion-a-year program. The House bill also would have allowed states to implement broad new work requirements for food stamp recipients. That has been scaled back to a test program in 10 states. The Democratic-led Senate had twice passed a bill with only $400 million in annual food stamp cuts, and the White House had threatened to veto the House bill. The final food stamp savings are generated by making it more difficult for states to give recipients a minimal amount of heating assistance in order to trigger higher food stamp benefits.
Thom Tillis is not moderate. Last year, he personally facilitated every extreme bill. Just to drive home the message, he called a session to override two “centrist” vetoes. Now, his website commits to a radical Constitutional-Conservative ideology manifested by opposition to Choice and support for Jim Demint’s infamous “Cut, Cap and Balance” amendment. Only his ads present a moderate face, and McCrory showed how trustworthy those are. Although more extreme, Brannon and Harris ultimately serve to accentuate the Speaker’s conservatism. Brannon, for instance, supports a “Personhood Amendment,” but Tillis would also obliterate the Right to Choose. And, as Speaker, Tillis directly did Harris’s bidding on gay rights. Overall, the main difference between them is that Tillis keeps his tri-corner hat at home. Yes, Tea Partiers think Tillis is a RINO. They’re wrong, like they always are. The tax-cutting, voter-suppressing, environment-despoiling Speaker is now a thoroughly radical Senate candidate. Observers shouldn’t follow the lead of the Tea Party in misperceiving his views.
Having watched several promising campaigns collapse in 2012 after candidates made catastrophic mistakes, national Republican leaders are leaving nothing to chance as they prepare for this year’s midterm elections. They’re summoning contenders- especially those who seem inexperienced, unpredictable or inclined to provocative opinions – to first-of-a-kind training at the GOP’s Senate campaign headquarters to learn, in part, what not to say and how not to say it. It’s a delicate intervention, but one deemed essential by officials smarting from campaign debacles that cost the GOP winnable races, including Senate seats in Missouri and Indiana, last time.
Gary Pearce, a Democratic state political consultant, said he has spoken to Aiken several times during the last month. “(Politics) is obviously a whole new field to him, and he understands that it’s something you don’t just jump into without doing your homework,” Pearce said. “But I think he’s going about it the right way.” Pearce said Aiken is motivated by his belief that the current political system is broken. “I think he wants to give back,” he said. “He doesn’t need it for the glory.” Aiken has until Feb. 28 to file the official paperwork to declare his candidacy. Micah Beasley, a spokesperson for the North Carolina Democratic Party said the party will support whichever candidate wins the primary in May.
Retired Republican Sen. John Warner endorsed his Democratic successor and onetime rival Mark Warner on Monday in his race against Ed Gillespie. The 86-year-old told POLITICO that the state benefits from the seniority in the Senate that the 59-year-old Warner (the two are not related) is accumulating. The former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee also praised the younger Warner – with whom he has developed a friendship since the two squared off in a race nearly two decades ago – for effectively advocating on behalf of the state’s large military presence.
Lewis said he would consult with North Carolina Democrats to ensure any tweak in the law wouldn’t result in delegate losses or other penalties for them. The Democratic National Committee is still working out the 2016 primary schedule. The state Democratic Party criticized Republicans last summer for the presidential primary change, saying jumping toward the front of the line could decrease the state’s voice on the national stage. Party officials will work to ensure the primary plans comply with their party rules, too, so as to avoid penalties, spokesman Micah Beasley said Monday.
Republicans are meeting this week to make changes to their 2016 nomination process. The goal? To compress the calendar of primaries and caucuses, based on the conclusion that a long, drawn-out process was bad for Mitt Romney in 2012. At least, a compressed calendar seems to be what they’ll wind up with if the changes work as intended. Compression is actually coming from two different impulses. One is a long-standing effort by both parties to bring order to the front end of the nomination process by postponing action until February; the other is a finance-driven decision Republicans have made to move up their convention. If all goes according to plan, the result will be votes in the first four (“carve-out”) states — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina — in February, followed by votes in rapid succession in March and April, with the primary season finishing up in May. That’s a lot more compressed than the January-to-June schedule of the past few cycles.
Tiffany Hickox-Young is the public face of a growing club in North Carolina. The Fayetteville resident who was profiled in last Sunday’s Observer can’t afford health insurance because she doesn’t qualify for a subsidy through Obamacare. She’s one of the people who should be covered by expanded Medicaid instead. But it can’t happen here, because this state refuses to participate in the expansion, despite 100 percent federal subsidy for the first three years and no less than 90 percent thereafter. So she does without insurance and hopes to stay healthy. Fortunately, her 9-year-old daughter does qualify for Medicaid. With an estimated 319,000 North Carolinians in the same jam, it’s time for the governor and legislature to rethink their decision. The state last year refused to participate in the expanded Medicaid program after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled participation can’t be mandatory. About half the states have refused to participate, which has left about 4.6 million people unable to afford health insurance.
CBS: McCain Censure Example of What Ails the GOP
John McCain will likely brush this censure off and ignore the gesture altogether. It shouldn’t affect his re-election campaign because as a sitting U.S. senator for the last 28 years, he should have the built-in support to thwart the opinion of 1,600 Republicans. However, what this censure will likely affect are other Arizona Republicans hoping to eventually make a name for themselves. This tells them directly that today’s Arizona Republican Party sees no value in working with Democrats on any issue. Republicans in any state have the right to demand conservative purity and that GOP elected leaders should not work with any Democrats. However, in return for that demand they must also accept that they will lose more and more general elections and hold less and less power.
Washington Post: Rand Paul’s shaky weekend sheds light on weaknesses
This weekend certainly demonstrated that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has his work cut out for him if he decides to run for president. In a large sense he has not only the same burdens as his father did, but also many of the unsavory traits and views President Obama displays. As for his father, there is no secret he comes with intellectual baggage. In what will be the first of many biographical inquiries the New York Times, surveyed the ideas and people whom he and his father surrounded themselves.
Here we go again: sexist tropes being used against a high-profile female political candidate. A recent article in the Dallas Morning News by the paper’s senior political writer Wayne Slater purported to correct the biography of Wendy Davis, the democratic candidate for Texas governor. Davis made headlines last summer for her pink-tennis-shoe wearing filibuster against a severely restrictive anti-abortion bill. In his piece, Slater charged that he was telling a fuller version of Davis’ life story because "some facts have been blurred" in the version she and her campaign have been telling. Davis has portrayed herself as a tough single mother who made it through Harvard Law School and went from living in a trailer park to working her way up to a Texas state senate seat. Since Slater’s article was published last weekend, conservative media has jumped on it as evidence that Davis is not the (American) dream candidate. Most of the attacks against Davis are sexist.
Micah Beasley, Communications Director
North Carolina Democratic Party
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