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AARP asks McCrory to veto consumer loan bill

The AARP is asking Gov. Pat McCrory to veto a bill that raises rates on most consumer finance loans.

The legislation passed by wide margins in the House and Senate.

The bill calls for a 30 percent interest rate on loans of up to $4,000. For larger loans, the 30 percent interest applies to the first $4,000, drops to 24 percent for the next $4,000 and to 18 percent for the next $2,000.

"This legislation is going to hurt seniors and other consumers that use these loans by increasing interest rates and adding new fees," AARP Nc Director Doug Dickerson said in a statement.

AARP goes public with opposition to Senate tax plan

UPDATED: The North Carolina chapter of the AARP is running a full-page advertisement in tomorrow's News & Observer as it ramps up opposition to the Republican tax overhaul plans in the House and Senate.

The ad calls the Senate plan to increase taxes on groceries, prescription drugs and some Social Security income harmful to seniors, the group said. It also challenges Republican lawmakers assertions that it will spur economic growth and asks readers to call legislators to demand "tax reforms that are fair for all North Carolinians."


Morning Memo: Questions for Thom Tillis, McCrory wades into tax fight

THREE QUESTIONS FOR THOM TILLIS: House Speaker Thom Tillis' decision to formally enter the Senate race and challenge Democrat U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan is not a surprise. But the timing, coming before the end of the legislative session, when Tillis said in January he would make a decision, is noteworthy. Here are three more questions about the race:

1. How long will he remain speaker? Running for the U.S. Senate is no state legislative race. It's all consuming. Does Tillis think he can manage an unruly House that is to his ideological right while campaigning? The case for staying in office: it helps to control the purse strings when you are asking for money. His allied super PAC, by coincidence or not, debuted when the House received the budget from the Senate. The case for resigning: Why have everything the Rep. Brawley's of the world propose drag you into issue fights you don't want?

2. Who will challenge him from the right? Tillis' debuted his run with an AP interview in which he emphasized his ability to work across the aisle -- a common message, but rarely heard in the primary stage of a campaign when you are appealing the fieriest partisans of your party. But it underscores Tillis' moderate tendencies and how Tillis could easily face a big-name challenger who is considered more conservative. The field could get crowded -- and Tillis isn't polling well in GOP primary surveys because he's largely unknown, despite his powerful post.

3. What will Phil Berger do? The possibility that Senate leader Phil Berger could enter the race -- and move to Tillis' right -- would add a whole new dynamic to the Republican primary field as two legislative leaders govern the state by their future ambition. It sounds less likely that he will run but even if he doesn't run, Berger can exert considerable influence if Tillis remains in the legislature by steering legislation that forces him to take positions on issues he may rather avoid.

***Read more on Tillis' Senate bid and Gov. Pat McCrory's step into the tax debate for the first time -- all below in the Dome Morning Memo, the source for North Carolina political news and analysis. ***

AARP opposes NC payday lending bill

AARP of North Carolina has lined up as an opponent of a bill introduced in the state Senate that would revive payday lending.

Doug Dickerson, AARP's state director, recently wrote a letter to the sponsors of Senate Bill 89 urging them to reconsider their stance.

"AARP is concerned about the effect that payday loans have on the lives of indigent senior citizens, struggling families and the cash-strapped unemployed and under-employed," Dickerson wrote. "This legislation would legalize high-interest payday loans that by design keep borrowers in debt."

Dickerson also argues that payday lending is counter-productive from a macroeconomic point of view.

AARP uses poll to leverage opposition to Medicaid bill

An issue-advocacy poll from the AARP shows that more than half of North Carolina voters want the state to accept the new money from the federal government to cover an expansion of Medicaid to low-income residents.

AARP commissioned the survey for obvious reasons: it's one of the leading groups fighting a Senate bill that would prevent the state from expanding Medicaid coverage to as many as 648,000 residents and block the health insurance exchanges under the federal health care law.

But the poll -- conducted by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm -- is a signal as to how far the group is willing to push the issue and arms critics with message-tested lines.

In any issue advocacy poll it's important to look at the questions -- which can often be slanted toward one side or the other. The automated phone survey was conducted Feb. 1-3 and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

See the questions from the poll and the results below.

Trying to stop Medicaid bill, AARP focuses on Gov. McCrory

The Senate considers a bill to block the expansion of Medicaid to roughly 500,000 uninsured North Carolinians but AARP of North Carolina is focusing its attention on Gov. Pat McCrory.

The group ran full-page advertisements in the Raleigh, Charlotte and Winston-Salem newspapers Monday (see link below) to urge its members and supporters to call the Republican governor and tell him: "Don't turn your back on hard working North Carolinians. Support Medicaid expansion."

Mary Bethel, a lobbyist for the AARP, said called the bill in the Senate a freight train moving fast down the tracks. But she hopes the governor will feel pressured to influence the action in the N.C. House and possibly quash the bill. McCrory has yet to take a position on the bill but he recently said expansion is not a possibility until existing problems with the system are corrected.


Groups: McCrory's Duke Energy ties cloud judgment on Utilities Commission

UPDATED:A pair of advocacy groups that have long challenged power companies are urging Gov.-elect Pat McCrory to cede his constitutional powers to appoint regulators to the N.C. Utilities Commission.

N.C. WARN and the state branch of the AARP are concerned that McCrory, a former Duke Energy employee and ex-mayor of Charlotte, will stack the commission with utility-friendly appointees who will side with the Charlotte power company on rates and other key issues.

Their concern is that McCrory has vowed to name regulators who view their job as providing a customer service to the companies they regulate. That concern is exacerbated by the fact that the commission recently concluded a contentious 5-month investigation of Duke, which ended with a settlement that will restructure the company's executive ranks.

Sam Donaldson to moderate seniors' elections forum

An elections forum focused on topics important to senior citizens will be held Monday evening in Raleigh.

Sam Donaldson of Retirement Living TV (and formerly of ABC News) will moderate the forum to be held at 7 p.m. at Peace College Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

The forum will be in three segments: important issues, policies that matter, and the state of the races. Political consultants, policy analysts and journalists, including the N&O's Rob Christensen, will participate.

Social Security, Medicare benefits, retirement age, education, the environment, immigration and the national deficit will be addressed.

Retirement Living TV, Time Warner Cable, AARP N.C., and the N.C. Center for Voter Education are working to put on the event.

A recording of the forum, along with additional elections coverage, will be available on Time Warner Cable's Carolina On Demand Channel 1047.

ABC pay good, regardless of sales

LIQUOR MONEY: Officials in charge of liquor stores in cities and counties across North Carolina received raises and, in many cases, bonuses last year regardless of their profit margin. In a few cases, raises were doled out even when the operations lost money.

Salaries, bonuses, personnel guidelines, ethics rules and other policies vary from one local Alcoholic Beverage Control board to the next, a further example of North Carolina's unique and oft-criticized patchwork system for liquor sales. State officials are taking their first look at what ABC stores pay managers. (N&O)

PAPAL MESSAGE: An e-mail message to a Wake County school board member suggests that Republican power broker Art Pope engineered Republican majorities on the Wake County school board and board of commissioners. Democrats also pushed an agenda in the elections. (N&O)

AARP LEADER: The chairwoman of the national board of AARP, an important voice in the health care debate, is a retired state employee from Raleigh who lives with many of the issues facing older Americans. (N&O)

Tighter driving rules favored for elderly

A poll conducted last month by the Raleigh-based Civitas Institute found that about four of five respondents supported stricter licensing requirements for older drivers.

The question, included in a multi-topic survey by the conservative-leaning think tank on July 14-17, asked: "Would you support or oppose a law requiring drivers to renew their license every three years beginning at age 75, and be required to take a new driver's test beginning at 85?"

The question reflected the provisions of a bill sponsored last session by Rep. Ric Killian, a Charlotte Republican, Thomas Goldsmith reports. The bill fell by the wayside in committee hearings following strong opposition from AARP and others.

And older respondents were almost as likely to support the changes, according to the poll. Seventy-three percent supported stricter regulations, compared to 79 percent among all those who answered.

The debate over older drivers has resurfaced after an 83-year-old driver killed a six-year-old girl this week.

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