Under the Dome

Morning Memo: Abortion bill stirs opposition, puts McCrory, Tillis in tough spot

A TEXAS SHOW AT THE NC STATEHOUSE? The Senate's blind-sided rush to push a far-reaching measure to limit access to abortions Tuesday evening is stirring opposition groups. NARAL posted an alert on its Facebook page, telling its supporters to come to the Legislative Building on Wednesday morning “to let them know we are watching.” Within a few hours, more than 150 people had posted that they’d be traveling to the legislature Wednesday morning. Action NC also sent emails calling on supporters to pack the Senate gallery this morning. It's not likely to draw the 5,000-some who flooded the Texas legislature earlier this week to support Wendy Davis, but expect vocal opposition.

THE POLITICS OF THE ABORTION BILL: Beyond the policy, the politics of the abortion bill are fascinating. The Senate is doing a better job than Democrats putting House Speaker Thom Tillis and Gov. Pat McCrory in a tight spot on tough issues. McCrory said he doesn't support further limits to abortion. And Tillis is simultaneously attempting to prevent a serious challenge from his right in the GOP primary for U.S. Senate in 2014 while also setting sights on Democratic Kay Hagan. Even more than McCrory, what Tillis does with this legislation when it comes to his chamber is the key to watch. But right now it's like someone is trying to make it difficult on him.

***The House is vacationing but the Senate is making big headlines. Read more N.C. political news and analysis below in today's Dome Morning Memo.***

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: Three bills the N.C. Senate gave preliminary approval Tuesday return to the calendar this morning. The abortion bill will get the most attention, followed by the tax cut measure and sweeping environmental legislation. The session starts at 9 a.m. No other committee meetings are scheduled. The House is not meeting in full this week. Gov. Pat McCrory did not issue a public schedule.

THE SHARIA-LAW, ANTI-ABORTION BILL: A bill restricting abortions that popped up in the state Senate without public notice Tuesday evening and received swift approval would force clinics to meet expensive license requirements and make it more difficult for doctors to perform the procedures.

Under the bill, which was tacked onto another measure dealing with Islamic law, abortion clinics would have to meet license standards similar to those of ambulatory surgical centers. According to legislative staff, only one clinic in the state currently meets that standard. The state’s four Planned Parenthood clinics don’t meet it. The bill would also require doctors to be present when women take drugs that induce abortions.

McCRORY'S NO COMMENT: The Senate approved the measure with a preliminary vote of 27-14. A final vote expected Wednesday would send the bill to the House, which has already passed some of the provisions included in the bill. It also sets up a sticky situation for Republican Gov. Pat McCrory who said during his campaign that he would not sign laws that further restrict abortions. If it passes, the bill could become law without his signature. McCrory’s office said Tuesday night that it had no comment on the bill.

NO PUBLIC NOTICE GIVEN: The proposed abortion restrictions were brought up in a Senate committee meeting at 5:30 p.m. The committee was scheduled to discuss a bill disallowing the use of Islamic law in family matters such as divorce, child custody and alimony. The abortion legislation was attached to that bill. A few hours later, Senate Republicans voted to waive their rules to allow a floor vote. Lobbyists that supported the bill, including representatives from N.C. Values Coalition, the N.C. Family Policy Council and N.C. Right to Life, were at the committee meeting. Lobbyists opposed to the bill were not told it was being debated. Democrats were outraged that the abortion provisions came up without public notice, in the late afternoon, and close to a holiday weekend. Full story.

KAY HAGAN SPEAKS OUT: The activity drew the attention of U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan. The Democratic senator tweeted, “As a former state sen. I am appalled at #ncga actions. North Carolinians expect transparency, not procedural tricks.”

And it didn't take long to get national attention: From the Atlantic, More here.

SPEAKING OF NATIONAL ATTENTION, EXPECT MORE: The Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Fox News and MSNBC have all featured North Carolina's movement protesting the Republican legislative agenda. And now NBC's must-read First Read political newsletter, keying off an Atlantic magazine article about the hullabaloo, suggests that North Carolina is "the best -- and most important -- political story that no one has probably heard about."

GOP TAX FIGHT CONTINUES; TILLIS EXPRESSES CONCERNS: Once again, the state Senate approved a measure Tuesday to trim income taxes and limit government spending. And once again, it may not matter. Gov. Pat McCrory and House Speaker Thom Tillis remain hesitant about the legislation crafted by their Republican brethren, with neither willing to endorse what the Senate calls its final offer in the months-long tax negotiations on a key legislative issue.

McCrory has yet to comment on the latest Senate bill. Even though it moves closer to the House position, Tillis said differences remain. “The House Republican Caucus will review the bill when it comes to our chamber, and we will continue to work with the Senate and the governor to address concerns that remain,” he said.

Mixed messages: Not all in the House are hesitant. But Rep. Mike Hager, a top Tillis lieutenant, said he is hearing from other caucus members that the plan “looks pretty good" and many of them would vote for it. Full story.

WAKE DA SAYS POLITICAL PRESSURES MAY BE PUSHING ARRESTS: Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said Tuesday that he worried General Assembly police might be responding to political pressures and not public safety concerns when arresting protesters at the Moral Monday demonstrations. His response came after the chairwoman of the Wake County GOP questioned whether it was politics that motivated Willoughby to encourage General Assembly police chief Jeff Weaver to consider issuing citations to the demonstrators instead of the weekly arrests.

Donna Williams, chairwoman of the Wake County GOP, issued a statement on Tuesday criticizing Willoughby. “Willoughby, a Democrat, says there is no politics in how he wants to handle the protesters who are predominantly registered Democrats and specifically protesting the actions of Republicans legislators,” Williams said in a statement. “He says his approach will reduce costs and ease the court’s case load. Perhaps, but at what cost to justice?“We all look to the district attorney for equal justice under the law for every citizen. We find it troubling we have to call this to people’s attention. The right to assemble is undeniable. But, break the law and suffer the consequences. The arrested want their day in court. After all, they are wearing arm bands for easy identification by the police,” her statement reads.

Willoughby said on Tuesday that he had encouraged the General Assembly police to issue citations for trespassing as most agencies did in such situations. “It doesn’t lessen the charge or the court’s ability to try the cases,” Willoughby said, “and it would probably save the Wake County taxpayers over $100,000 in police, sheriff and processing costs, and salaries.”

Since April 29, the General Assembly police have arrested nearly 700 demonstrators. “That is more arrests than they have made in the last six years,” Willoughby said. Full story.

ROUNDUP: Find other legislative news from Jones Street here.

McCRORY PLEASED WITH MEDICAID SYSTEM: From AP: Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday it's a positive sign that North Carolina's new Medicaid billing system is processing claims and other paperwork from doctors and hospitals - albeit with a few setbacks. Speaking at the monthly Council of State meeting, McCrory told other statewide elected officials he's pleased the system is operating. "The worst-case scenario which we had planned for of it not working at all has not come to fruition, which is great news," McCrory told other statewide elected officials. "Right now, there are 'not major' problems, and they're resolving those at this point in time." Full story.

RAISES IRK HAGAN: U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan has written a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel complaining that while 19,000 civilian defense workers in North Carolina are furloughed, German civilian workers at U.S. bases in Germany are getting a raise. Hagan, a Democrat from Greensboro, urged the Defense Department to suspend the pay increases in Germany. Full story.

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION DELAYS KEY HEALTH CARE PROVISION: President Barack Obama's health care law, hailed as his most significant legislative achievement, seems to be losing much of its sweep. On Tuesday, the administration unexpectedly announced a one-year delay, until after the 2014 elections, in a central requirement of the law that medium and large companies provide coverage for their workers or face fines. Separately, opposition in the states from Republican governors and legislators has steadily undermined a Medicaid expansion that had been expected to provide coverage to some 15 million low-income people.

Tuesday's move - which caught administration allies and adversaries by surprise - sacrificed timely implementation of Obama's signature legislation but might help Democrats politically by blunting an election-year line of attack Republicans were planning to use. The employer requirements are among the most complex parts of the health care law, designed to expand coverage for uninsured Americans. Full story.

RENEE ELLMERS SOLVES FEDERAL BUDGET PROBLEM: From her Twitter account Tuesday: @RepReneeEllmers: 4th of July fireworks canceled at Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg, but not the president's $100 million trip to Africa.

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