On Aug. 13, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed into law a voter ID bill that was widely denounced by civil rights advocates. Not only did it mandate government-issued photo IDs at the polls, but it reduced the state’s early voting period from 17 to 10 days. According to McCrory, however, he didn’t actually shorten the voting. "First of all, we didn’t shorten early voting, we compacted the calendar," said McCrory in an interview with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd on Wednesday. "But we’re going to have the same hours in which polls are open in early voting, and we’re going to have more polls available. So it’s going to be almost identical. It’s just the schedule has changed. The critics are kind of using that line when in fact, the legislation does not shorten the hours for early voting." Thanks to an amendment from a Democratic state senator, the law specifies that North Carolina must continue to offer the same number of aggregate early voting hours as were available in 2012 for presidential elections and 2010 for midterm elections. But it still took away seven calendar days that were previously available to North Carolina voters to head to the polls.
Appointing political supporters to government positions is a time honored tradition. It happens in virtually every position where an elected official has the power to hire and fire. In the case of Pat McCrory, though, he’s appointing unqualified people to oversee important positions and those appointments directly contradict his campaign promises. The latest flap has to do with Bryan Gossage, a perennial candidate who served several terms on the Apex Town Council. Gossage is taking a $40,000 pay cut and moving into a newly created position at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources after his job at the Commerce Department was eliminated. His wife is already in the administration and Gossage has little background in land and water conservation that his new gig requires. Personally, I’m betting he’s trying to wind his way over to the Department of Health and Human Services where they pay political cronies the big bucks.
At a Joint Program Evaluation Oversight Committee meeting Wednesday, State Auditor Beth Wood again criticized the handling of the failed rollout of a new Medicaid billing system, prompting some lawmakers to ask whether anyone could or would be held accountable. Reviewing an earlier letter to the Joint DHHS Oversight Committee, Wood said Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos and Chief Information Officer Joe Cooper provided "incorrect information" about the billing system, known as NCTracks, at an October hearing. At that meeting, Wos told lawmakers she had not received professional advice that the site would not be ready to launch July 1. Wood said her agency performed an audit of the new system earlier this year and sat down with DHHS leaders in March to warn them about their findings. "The agency had identified more than 800 critical tests," Wood said Wednesday. "One hundred twenty-three were failed, and 285 critical tests had not been done."
Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton haven’t always gotten along — especially when Obama ran against Hillary Clinton in 2008 — but the current president couldn’t have been more effusive about his predecessor on Wednesday. In awarding Clinton the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Obama said he is grateful for "the advice and counsel that you’ve offered me — on and off the golf course. And most importantly, for your lifesaving work around the world, which represents what’s the very best in America."
President Barack Obama had high praise for former North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith on Wednesday, honoring the Tar Heels coach for his courage off the court and his spectacular career with UNC. Obama noted that Smith was the first coach to use multiple defenses in a game and the first to insist that players who scored to acknowledge the teammate who passed the ball. Obama also pointed out that 96 percent of Smith’s players graduated from UNC. Obama had a few quips, too, especially when it came to Smith and former Tar Heels star Michael Jordan. "With his first national title on the line, he did have the good sense to give the ball to a 19-year-old kid named Michael Jordan," said Obama, referring to Jordan’s jump shot as a freshman that won the 1982 national title. "Although they used to joke that the only person who could hold Michael Jordan under 20 was Dean Smith."
President Barack Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, to 16 Americans today, including Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Gloria Steinem, and Loretta Lynn. “This is one of my favorite events every year,” the president said. “This year is just a little more special, because this year marks the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy establishing this award.” Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert F. Kennedy, and President John F. Kennedy’s grandson, Jack Schlossberg, were on hand in the East Room of the White House. They also joined the president and the Clintons in a visit to the Kennedy gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery today, two days before the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination. Obama thanked Clinton for his advice “on and off the golf course.” “I am most grateful for his patience during the endless travels of my secretary of state,” he said, referring to Hillary Clinton, who atttended with daughter Chelsea in the home where they lived for eight years. Hillary Clinton’s former senior adviser, Huma Abedin, was also in the audience. “Lifting up families like his own became the story of Bill Clinton’s life.”
As the nation prepares to mark the fiftieth anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, former president Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey were among the luminaries awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom established by Kennedy less than a year before his death. Other awardees of the nation’s highest civilian honor on Wednesday included country music legend Loretta Lynn, former Indiana senator Dick Lugar, American astronaut Sally Ride, feminist author Gloria Steinem and baseball legend Ernie Banks. A total of 16 honorees received the award – some posthumously – in its fiftieth year. Calling the ceremony “one of my favorite events every year,” President Barack Obama said at the White House that this year “is a just a little more special because this marks the 50th anniversary that President Kennedy established this award.”
PRESIDENT OBAMA: The last point I’ll make is that in terms of expectation setting, there’s no doubt that in an environment in which we had to fight tooth and nail to get this passed, it ended up being passed on a partisan basis — not for lack of trying, because I met with an awful lot of Republicans to try to get them to go along — but because there was just ideological resistance to the idea of dealing with the uninsured and people with preexisting conditions. There was a price to that, and it was that what was already going to be hard was operating within a very difficult political environment. And we should have anticipated that that would create a rockier rollout than if Democrats and Republicans were both invested in success.
At a press conference Wednesday Democrats kicked off the annual holiday tradition of demanding Congress save unemployment benefits or else ruin Christmas for more than a million people. As has been the case for several years in a row, if Congress does nothing, federal unemployment insurance for the long-term jobless will expire around the holidays. As in previous years, Democrats are doing battle using holiday metaphors. "For this country, the richest in the world, to say to people at Christmastime, when you look in your Christmas sock you’re going to find a lump of coal from Congress — that’s wrong," Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) said. "With just a few weeks left to act, [House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)] is really setting himself up to be the Speaker Who Stole Christmas," Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) said. "Please don’t be the Speaker Who Stole Christmas." Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) invoked Thanksgiving.
With a deadline looming, the four top agricultural negotiators in Congress met for nearly two hours late on Wednesday without reaching agreement on a $500 billion U.S. farm bill, and they will try again on Thursday morning, the lawmakers said. The leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives agriculture committees, leaving Capitol Hill, told reporters they made progress during the session and that talks were moving in the right direction. Policy disputes remain centered on a handful of issues including Republican demands for sweeping cuts in food stamps for the poor. The lawmakers have an informal end-of-the-week deadline to agree on the five-year bill. If they reach a framework on Thursday or Friday, they would be in a position to ask for a vote on the bill during the final weeks of work for Congress in 2013.
In the end, one man will control whether the Senate attempts to fix Obamacare after its messy debut: Harry Reid. But the Senate majority leader isn’t ready to act just yet. Reid and his leadership team are assessing how Obama’s proposed administrative fix to allow individuals to keep canceled insurance plans for one year plays in GOP-friendly states like Louisiana, Arkansas and North Carolina — where key Democratic incumbents are up for reelection next year, leadership aides said. The hope is that the fix may blunt a recent nose dive in public approval of Obamacare. And the White House is also promising that the enrollment website — HealthCare.gov — will be largely rid of problems by Nov. 30.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) criticized Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for not supporting her proposal to remove military sexual assault cases from the chain of command, saying this isn’t the first time he’s been wrong. “I respect Sen. McCain and we are friends, but with all due respect to him, he was wrong about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and he was wrong about sexual assault in the military,” Gillibrand said in a Wednesday interview with Fusion’s “AMERICA with Jorge Ramos.” “Our job as members of Congress is to provide that oversight and accountability over the military, over the Department of Defense,” Gillibrand said. “And there is a growing chorus of military leaders who have even more experience than Sen. McCain who are saying, ‘This should be taken out of the chain of command.’" McCain isn’t the only one resisting Gillibrand’s efforts. The AP reports 11 members of the 26-member Armed Services Committee sent a letter to colleagues Monday rejecting Gillibrand’s effort.
U.S. budget talks are aiming for a two-year deal that would end divisive fiscal showdowns that have plagued Congress since 2011, while also easing the severe across-the-board spending cuts that otherwise would be triggered in 2014 and 2015, a Republican negotiator said on Wednesday. In an interview with Reuters, Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma said that the 29-member Senate-House negotiating committee "would like to achieve" a two-year budget. And while he said the talks were "close" to a deal, he emphasized that details were still being debated. A two-year deal, Cole said, would help Congress pass spending bills in a more efficient manner and ease the series of government shutdown threats that have been in play since 2011. The threat turned into reality last month when many federal agencies were shuttered for 16 days after government funding ran out on October 1.
After nearly a year of discussion over the fate of reams of Obama campaign data, officials have decided to transfer some voter information to the Democratic National Committee, but to retain its email list and rent it out to Organizing for Action, party committees and other groups, a source familiar with the matter told POLITICO. A senior Democratic operative said Obama campaign manager Jim Messina, who has retained a level of control over the remnants of that apparatus, began notifying the various party committees on Wednesday and say that Messina and others have “decided to transfer all data to the DNC. We will not put them in a separate corporation.” There had been discussion about housing the data in a new, separate entity, a prospect that has apparently been abandoned. The operative added, “The DNC will then work directly with the [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] and state parties to make sure they have all access they need to Obama 2012 data.”
News & Record: Berger Jr. kicks off congressional campaign
Berger is likely to benefit from his high-profile father’s name recognition. His campaign signs don’t say "Jr." on them, just "Phil Berger Congress." The state Democratic Party has already jumped on the connection, putting out a press release today titled, "It’s a boy! Baby Berger announces run for Congress." Berger said he will finish out his term as district attorney, but will not run for re-election — whether or not he wins the Congressional seat.
North Carolina’s Republican U.S. Senate race heats up Thursday with appearances by every candidate in the Charlotte area, a cameo by a top GOP strategist and a protest that underscores underlying tensions in the party, Jim Morrill reports. Then on Friday, a Republican House panel will hold a rare field hearing in Gastonia that could give all the candidates more ammunition in their fight to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan. The title of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing suggests it won’t help Hagan and other Democrats who supported the Affordable Care Act.
Charlotte Observer: Berger Jr. begins campaign for Congress in NC
The son of North Carolina state Senate leader Phil Berger formally announced his bid for Congress on Wednesday, promising that if elected in 2014, he will follow a path in Washington similar to the one his father and other Republicans have walked in Raleigh. Phil Berger Jr. began a tour of the 6th Congressional District with his kickoff announcement at a charter school in his home of Rockingham County before heading to Alamance County. He said if elected, he would fight "liberal overreach" in Washington and work to repeal President Obama’s health care law.
A new Quinnipiac poll in Florida finds Gov. Rick Scott (R) trailing former Gov. Charlie Crist (I) by seven points in his re-election bid, 47% to 40%. Key finding: Voters says Scott does not deserve to be reelected by 53% to 37%
I’m ready,” Attorney General Roy Cooper said of the 2016 N.C. governor’s race.
Mr. Cooper addressed his potential candidacy during a dinner event Saturday, hosted by the Carteret County Democratic Party at the Sanitary Restaurant on the city’s waterfront. “For the first time since Reconstruction, we have a General Assembly and a governorship controlled not just by the Republican Party, but the extreme factions of the Republican Party,” Mr. Cooper said of the state’s current political climate. He said the state is moving swiftly in the wrong direction under their governance.
Public Schools high school English teacher Tim McNamara just got his first up-close look into the implementation of the new teacher contracts that were passed into law last July. The contracts, which will eventually replace teacher tenure and are slated to begin with the 2014-15 school year, were described by DPS’ Office of Human Resource Services in a draft Power Point presentation forwarded to McNamara via email by another educator. The presentation also proposes a selection process for awarding 4-year contracts that come with a $5,000 pay bump to 25 percent of all eligible teachers. “A couple of colleagues apparently went to a meeting on the new contracts that I wasn’t invited to,” said McNamara. “Then one of them just forwarded along an email about this that said, “if you have any questions, just look over the Power Point.”
McNamara does have a few questions about the selection process for the 4-year contracts, in addition to concerns surrounding the contracts altogether.
The late-night comedian, who died in 2005, was making light of the city’s concentration of senior citizens, a group that dominated the politics just as they were first in line for early-bird dinners. As recently as 2008, the results were reliably Republican — five straight mayors, a Congressman in his 20th consecutive term, a popular hometown governor. Carson wouldn’t recognize the Gulf Coast city. St. Petersburg has been infused with a younger, more racially diverse population that is transforming its politics and serves as a broader emblem of the shift taking hold in Florida, which is considered vital to winning presidential elections, with its 29 out of the 270 electoral college votes needed to prevail. The migration, which includes Hispanic and black voters, is driving a “fundamental political realignment” that threatens Republicans’ viability in areas where they once thrived, said Dustin Cable, a demographer at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service in Charlottesville.
Whenever we reflect on the horror of Nov. 22, 1963, we mourn not only the murder of a graceful and inspiring leader but also a steady ebbing in the years thereafter of our faith in what we could achieve through public life and common endeavor. It tells us a great deal about the meaning of John F. Kennedy in our history that liberals and conservatives alike are so eager to pronounce him as one of their own. The evidence points to a man who began his political career as something of a conservative and ended it as more of a liberal — cautious, skeptical and pragmatic, but a liberal nonetheless. His important speeches late in his presidency about civil rights and nuclear disarmament remain lodestars for American progressives, and the philosophical trajectories of his brothers Robert and Ted no doubt further shape assessments of Kennedy’s legacy.
He Inspired Standing wordlessly before a flickering flame, their faces etched in the sunlight slanting through a canopy of thinning trees, two Democratic presidents came together Wednesday at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the memory of a third. President Obama and former President Bill Clinton walked up a hillside to the grave of John F. Kennedy, where, joined by Michelle Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, they laid a wreath to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death by an assassin’s bullet. A military bugler called out taps, the mournful notes resounding on a crisp, clear autumn day that seemed a softer echo of the stark grandeur of the state funeral on Nov. 25, 1963. It was the emotional highlight of a day laden with symbolism, uniting Democratic presidents past, present and possibly future, to pay tribute to a beloved predecessor, a leader whose legacy and family played a formative role in the lives of Mr. Obama and Mr. Clinton.
A nation mourned.
Wisconsin is the latest state to try to put anti-abortion license plates on the road. Its state assembly approved a “Choose Life” plate on Friday. Funds from sales of the plates would go to an anti-abortion group. That’s the arrangement that North Carolina Republican legislators had in mind when they approved a plate program in 2011. But the plan has been on hold since the ACLU sued, contending the plate unconstitutionally offers a single viewpoint without making the opposing view available.
Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation Wednesday allowing same-sex weddings starting June 1, making Illinois the 16th state to legalize gay marriage. The law was fought hard by some of the state’s well-known religious figures, including Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Rev. James Meeks, a former state senator who runs a politically influential megachurch in Chicago.
Better bring some identification — and not just any identification, official though it may be — if you plan to vote in Republican-controlled states. However, if you contribute tens of millions of dollars to sway an election on Republicans’ behalf, the party will fight to keep your identity a secret. Consider, for instance, what happened to some attempting to participate in this month’s elections in Texas. The New York Times reported that “Judge Sandra Watts was stopped while trying to vote because the name on her photo ID, the same one she had used for voter registration and identification of 52 years, did not exactly match her name in the official voter rolls.” Both Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis and Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott — the front-runners in next year’s gubernatorial contest — encountered the same obstacle. As did Jim Wright, the 90-year-old former speaker of the U.S. House. Wright, who represented his Fort Worth district in Congress for 34 years, told the local paper that he had voted in every election since 1944 and that he had realized shortly before Election Day that his identification — a driver’s license that expired in 2010 and a university faculty ID — would not suffice under the state’s 2011 voter ID law. Indeed, officials required Wright to produce a certified copy of his birth certificate to procure a personal identification card that would allow him to vote. l
Micah Beasley, Press Secretary
North Carolina Democratic Party
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