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Coble bucks GOP colleagues on federal debt limit extension vote

Coble bucks Republicans on debt limit

North Carolina’s congressional Republicans were almost unanimous last week in their opposition to extending the federal debt limit.

The one who bucked his colleagues: retiring Rep. Howard Coble of Greensboro.

While some House GOP leaders – including Speaker John Boehner of Ohio – voted to extend the ceiling and keep the government running, most Republicans voted against it.

Coble was one of 28 Republicans voting for the extension; 199 voted against.

North Carolina’s two U.S. senators split. Democrat Kay Hagan voted for the bill while Republican Richard Burr voted against. Jim Morrill

NAACP joins court fight against vouchers

The N.C. NAACP on Friday joined those fighting the state’s Opportunity Scholarship program, also known as the voucher bill, in court.

The N.C. Association of Educators and others have sued to block the program, which is taking applications for $4,200 scholarships to send low-income students to private schools in 2014-15. Plaintiffs contend the program violates the constitutional requirement that students receive a sound basic education by shifting $11 million in public money to private schools.

The NAACP filed a “friend of the court” brief on historical context.

The group is urging opponents of the program to appear at a Monday morning hearing at the old Wake County courthouse. Ann Doss Helms

McCrory urges relief from testing

Student testing took a political twist last week, as Gov. Pat McCrory and Senate Whip Jerry Tillman, R-Archdale, urged the state to scale back on exams. Both spoke at N.C. State University’s Emerging Issues Forum on teachers.

“We must have testing relief,” said McCrory, adding that the current number of state tests “borders on the absolute ridiculous.” Tillman, a former teacher, added that tests are “sapping the creativity of students” and suggested that national exams could take the place of a plethora of state tests.

Republicans tend to be proponents of accountability, which often translates to using tests to rate schools and teachers.

But in this case it fell to former Gov. Jim Hunt, a Democrat who founded the issue forums, to defend testing. He cautioned that testing can clarify where improvements are needed.

“Let’s don’t make some knee-jerk decision,” Hunt said. “We’ve got to make sure students are learning.”

The two-day forum saw a lot of back-and-forth over the use of value-added ratings, which crunch student results to gauge teacher effectiveness. North Carolina is incorporating such ratings into teacher evaluations, which has spawned a large number of new tests to ensure that all teachers have numbers to crunch. Ann Doss Helms

Foxx attends first state dinner at White House

It wasn’t your typical pre-City Council meeting buffet for former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx last week.

Joined by his wife Samara, Foxx, now the U.S. transportation secretary, attended his first state dinner at the White House, one that honored French President Francois Hollande.

At the dinner, a spokesman said, Foxx chatted up actors Bradley Cooper and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. He talked railroads and transportation – sometimes in French – with Guillaume Pepy, president of the French National Railway Co. Jim Morrill

Jones won’t run for commission seat

Former Mecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones said last week that he won’t run for a seat on the county commission so he can spend more time with his family and “beating pancreatic cancer,” according to a statement from Harry Jones Consulting.

Jones had spent months considering a run for a seat on the board that had fired him last May as county manager. He said friends and members of the business community had urged him to run.

In the end, he said he was still committed to making Mecklenburg a “better place” but decided against the run.

“I am committed to beating pancreatic cancer and serving this and other communities as an entrepreneur,” Jones said in the statement. David Perlmutt

Brannon raising money for TV

Republican Greg Brannon hopes to run the first TV ad of his U.S. Senate campaign, one that hits rival Thom Tillis while establishing his own credentials as “a tea party leader.”

The one-minute ad, previewed last week, is part bio of the Cary obstetrician and part tea party manifesto in which he pledges to join Senate conservatives such as Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas.

To pay for the ad, he’s running a “money bomb” through Monday to raise money to place the ad. He outlined his strategy in an email to supporters.

“As I told you,” he wrote, “I can’t compete dollar-for-dollar with my opponent on TV ads. After all, he’s got D.C. insiders bankrolling his campaign. But if I can go ahead and purchase TV airtime right now, I can run my ads on shows like ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ and ‘Hannity’ where I can best reach Republican voters before the May 6 primary. That’s why I hope you’ll make a contribution to my ‘Ad Blitz’ Money Bomb immediately.

“Our goal is to raise $150,000 by midnight on Presidents Day, Feb. 17, to help purchase the airtime.”

That would be more than Brannon’s campaign had in the bank at the end of December and less than either Tillis or Charlotte pastor Mark Harris reported.

Brannon, meanwhile, was off the campaign trail last week and in a Raleigh courtroom. He’s one of two defendants in a civil case in which he’s accused of misleading investors. Jim Morrill

Local legislators travel to India

State Sen. Jeff Tarte of Cornelius and Rep. Rob Bryan of Charlotte, both Republicans, are part of a legislative delegation nearing the end of a 10-day trip to India.

The trip, sponsored by the Center for International Understanding, includes visits to Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi.

GOP Rep. Tom Murry of Wake County, chairman of the House Commerce and Job Development Committee, told the (Raleigh) News & Observer that the trip will help make North Carolina competitive in the global economy. Jim Morrill

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