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Morning Memo: Abortion bill puts McCrory in spotlight, Monday protests grow

ABORTION BILL PUTS McCRORY IN A TOUGH SPOT: A controversial measure based on disputed science will get most the attention Tuesday at the statehouse. The legislation -- an amended version of which already passed the Senate -- requires teachers tell seventh graders that abortion is a risk factor in subsequent premature births. It gets a hearing in the House health committee at 10 a.m.

If approved, it could put Gov. Pat McCrory in the spotlight. In a gubernatorial debate, McCrory said he wouldn't support any new abortion restrictions -- a point critics plan to hold him to. “Governor McCrory made a promise to all of us back in October when he said he would not support any new restrictions to abortion access in our state. We’ve been collecting signatures all year from North Carolinians who have vowed to hold the Governor to his word,” said Suzanne Buckley, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, in a statement. “I want to be very clear here,” Buckley continued, “We will consider anything less than a veto of legislation aimed at limiting access to abortion care as a breach of that promise.”

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: With Republicans unable to craft a state budget before the July 1 deadline, the Senate Appropriations Committee will consider a continuing resolution to keep government running at its current level for another 30 days. It could also get to the Senate floor later in the day. In the House, an education committee will debate a bill to create an independent board to govern charter schools -- a measure that the Republican chairman of the state board of education opposes. The House is expecting a light calendar when it convenes at 2 p.m.

***Read about the big crowd and growing number of arrests at the Moral Monday protests below in today's Dome Morning Memo. Sends news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com.***

PROTESTS SWELL, ARRESTS REACH NEAR 600: The Moral Monday protest drew what appeared to be its largest crowd yet Monday at the Legislative Building. Though organizers estimated that more than 5,000 were in the crowd, police put the count at between 2,500 and 3,000. Nearly 120 people were arrested and charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct and failure to disperse on command. That brings the total number of arrests to almost 600 on the same day that the first wave of protesters made their first appearance in Wake County District Court.

Irving Joyner, the N.C. Central University law professor representing the protesters, said he entered not guilty pleas on behalf of the 17 arrested on April 29. He also asked that their cases be dismissed, challenging the arrests as unconstitutional. “The North Carolina Constitution says that every citizen has the right to go to the General Assembly and address their legislators and to issue any complaints that they have about the work that they’re doing,” Joyner told District Court Judge Dan Nagle, who was presiding over the hearing. The protesters, Joyner added, “were protesting against actions that we deem to be improper, untimely, spiteful and mean-spirited toward the poor.” Full story. And see a Photo Gallery here.

NOT A YOUTH MOVEMENT: Though young people have been credited with helping to kick off the weekly protest at the legislature, most of the protesters arrested have been middle-aged or older. Of the 382 protesters arrested through June 10, more than half were in the 55-64 or 65-74 age groups, according to data compiled by the Civitas Institute, a conservative think tank.

ATTENTION GROWING: In addition to National Public Radio, the Atlantic Magazine is the latest with a look at the North Carolina legislative protests under the headline “How to Get Arrested on Moral Monday.” A national Fox News satellite truck also parked outside the legislative buildings Monday. And the Asheville Citizen-Times lead headline today in bold: "Locals Arrested in Raleigh Protest.”

For young people, getting arrested can carry too many repercussions, said 19-year-old Charles Gray of Winston-Salem, who chose to stay out of the area where arrests were happening on June 17. “It has a really good chance of negatively affecting their futures,” Gray said. “It’s already hard enough to get a job.” Full story.

BARRY SAUNDERS INTRODUCES BEN CARSON, ahead of his speech at a Raleigh school fundraiser Thursday: From the column -- Dr. Benjamin Carson, the much-sought-after, world famous neurosurgeon who is retiring this week from medicine for a possible life in politics, said the same thing when asked why he was kicking off his post-medicine career as the featured speaker at a scholarship fundraiser for (Upper Room's) school Thursday. “For one thing, they asked me,” Carson responded. "For another thing, it’s a place that is advocating values in a nation where we’re trying to get rid of values.” Full story.

VOTING RIGHTS RULING WOULD AFFECT NORTH CAROLINA: The U.S. Supreme Court could rule as early as today on a voting rights case that could have far-reaching effects in North Carolina and other states, particularly in the South. The court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder could decide the fate of a key provision in the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Section 5 of the law requires federal approval for virtually all voting changes in the state.

Under the 1965 law, the Justice Department has to approve, or “pre-clear,” North Carolina’s redistricting plans as well as changes such as the proposed voter ID law. The department approved the state’s current voting district plans in 2011. Those plans, which helped Republicans gain seats in the General Assembly and in the state’s congressional delegation, are being challenged in state court. Full story.

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION STANDS: Affirmative action in college admissions survived Supreme Court review Monday in a consensus decision that avoided the difficult constitutional issues surrounding a challenge to the University of Texas admission plan. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the court's 7-1 ruling that said a court should approve the use of race as a factor in admissions only after it concludes "that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity." But the decision did not question the underpinnings of affirmative action, which the high court last reaffirmed in 2003. Full story.

LANDFILLS BILL PASSES SENATE: New landfills can be placed closer to state parks, wildlife refuges and gamelands under a bill that passed the Senate Monday night in a 29-16 vote. Senate Bill 328, which now goes to the state House, weakens the existing state law that governs landfills. Full story.

MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT KEY REDUCING JAIL POPULATION: Providing medication and counseling for psychiatric patients after they are released from hospital stays could significantly reduce the number of mentally ill inmates in jail, a new study shows.Researchers followed 4,056 people for seven years after hospital treatment and found that those who received government-subsidized medications or outpatient mental health services as a follow up were much less likely to get into legal trouble than those who did not. Full story.

WHAT THE NEW TRANSPORTATION MONEY FORMULA MEANS: Triangle leaders fretted for years about inequities in the “equity formula” created in a 1989 state law to guide the division of road-building dollars between urban and rural areas, because it ignored the costly problem of urban traffic jams. Now the equity formula is gone, replaced by Gov. Pat McCrory’s Strategic Mobility Formula. Cutting highway congestion is one of the state’s new priorities in sweeping legislation ratified last week and awaiting McCrory’s signature. But what difference will the new approach make? Local planners and elected officials say that will depend on how the Department of Transportation works out the detailed new criteria that will determine how the state spends its road, ferry, airport, rail and transit construction money. Full story.

McCRORY DONS THE RED HAT: The governor at the opening of the company's new Raleigh headquarters: “They’re creating jobs. They’re an innovative company. They have talent that’s second to none. ... That’s the best of North Carolina.” Full story.

GOP LAWMAKER RECOMMENDS $50 VEHICLE FEE HIKE: A state legislator is proposing a $50 hike in North Carolina’s annual vehicle registration fee, which he said would generate $437 million a year to improve and expand roads and prevent tolls on Interstates 77 and 95. “That $50 a year is money I’d rather see people keep,” State Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Mooresville said in a June 21 statement announcing his plan. “However, compared to the options of not doing this, $50 a year will be a lot less than increased gas taxes or HOT (high-occupancy toll) lanes that cost the public and truckers thousands of dollars a year.” In a phone interview from Raleigh on Monday, Brawley said he’d like to introduce the registration fee increase during state budget deliberations this week. But he said he recognizes that 2013-14 budget talks might be too far along to include his proposal. Full story.


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