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Morning Memo: State to probe gambling money; contentious day in N.C. House

STATE ELECTION OFFICIALS TO INVESTIGATE GAMBLING DONATIONS: State elections officials are calling for an investigation of $235,000 in political donations to dozens of North Carolina candidates from an Oklahoma sweepstakes operator, contributions that they say may have violated state campaign finance laws, AP reported. Gov. Pat McCrory, state House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger are among those who received the checks, many of them mailed from a Charlotte lobbying firm where McCrory worked until just before he took office.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House will consider three highly contentious measures Tuesday: first, a sweeping immigration bill at 10 a.m. in House Judiciary Subcommittee B and a gun bill at the same time in House Judiciary Subcommittee A, and then, at 2 p.m., the full House convenes to hear a voter ID measure. Immigration advocates are expected to appear in full force at the legislative building today to lobby. Also today: a House panel will also consider a bill to adopt a state marsupial, among other state symbols, and a Senate committee will hear a bill to make hospitals more transparent in their billing.

Gov. Pat McCrory -- and legislative leaders -- will attend the NFIB meeting in Raleigh at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. Later in the day, the governor will sign Kilah's Law (HB75) at a 4:30 p.m. ceremony at the Capitol.

Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- our thoughts are with Jamie and Nation Hahn's family and friends today. More North Carolina political news and analysis below.

Group solicits $8 donations to give lawmakers pee cups

A political group is seeking $8 donations to send state senators "pee cups" after the Senate approved a bill to drug test welfare recipients.

"We will tell NC General Assembly that if they are going to require drug tests for North Carolina residents, then they should pee first," says a fundraising pitch from Action NC, a group opposing the Republican legislative agenda.

Republicans managed to dodge an amendment Monday to require drug testing for lawmakers, the governor and the Council of State. But the bill's sponsor, Sen. Jim Davis, said he would take a drug test.

Action NC seemed to acknowledge the light-hearted nature of the fundraiser, writing "one good political stunt deserves another."

The pitch: "Send a pee cup and a message to your elected officials: $8 sends a cup to your state senator; $16 sends a cup to your state representative and state senator; $32 sends a cup to Gov. McCrory, the Lt. Governor and both of your representatives; and $160 sends a cup to the General Assembly and statewide officials."

Community group pushes against payday lending bill

Action NC is fighting a proposal to bring payday lending back to the state, asking its supporters to call and write state senators in opposition to a new bill.

The Action NC email uses the example of a Raleigh man who ended up paying $5,000 interest over five years on a $300 loan as a reason the loans should not be legalized.

Payday loans are short-term, high-interest loans that borrowers secure with post-dated checks. The loans get their name because borrowers are supposedly using the money to tide them over until their next payday. Critics say the loans trap borrowers in debt they can't escape as borrowers repeatedly roll them over. The payday industry says the loans can be a vital source of emergency cash.

The state outlawed payday lending about a decade ago, but a new bill backed by a powerful senator, Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca, and influential lobbyists aims to make it legal again.

McCrory getting a lot of help with veto advice

Gov. Pat McCrory is getting all kinds of feedback on unemployment and Medicaid expansion.

On Friday, he received a petition from Action NC with nearly 9,000 signatures asking him to expand Medicaid as allowed under the Affordable Care Act. Expanding Medicaid would give about 500,000 more people health insurance. McCrory has said the Medicaid system is "broken" and needs to be fixed before lots more people are allowed to use it.

Group challenges McCrory to live on $350 a week

The advocacy group Action NC is challenging Gov. Pat McCrory to live for a week on $350, the new maximum unemployment benefit legislators are set to propose.

A bill cutting the maximum weekly benefit by a third, to $350 a week, and reducing the weeks on unemployment from 26 to between 12 and 20, depending on the state's unemployment rate, is expected to move quickly through the legislature.

The GOP proposal is aimed at dealing with the state's $2.5 billion debt to the federal government. The state borrowed the money to pay unemployment benefits.

If McCrory thinks this is a good idea, it's obvious he has no idea what it's like to live on so little money," said Kevin Rogers, Action NC's policy director.

Labor, other activists plan noisy greeting for General Assembly

You know the Republican-dominated state legislature is back in town when the first protest blossoms like springtime foliage. Greeting the General Assembly when it returns next week will be a noisy protest by labor and other groups, scheduled for Wednesday morning on Bicentennial Mall.

The clamorous "Pots & Spoons" demonstration is meant to raise a racket in the tradition of “cacerolazo” – a form of protest in some Spanish-speaking countries. They plan to bang their pots for 15 minutes straight to drown out the “corporate lobbyists and the right-wing ‘crazy train’” inside the state house.

Organizing the event are the N.C. State AFL-CIO, MoveOn.Org, Action NC, Triangle Jobs with Justice and others.

Liberal group organizes rally against GOP legislature

Action NC, a liberal advocacy group, is organizing a rally on the front lawn of the legislative building to greet lawmakers when they return Thursday.

The rally is timed for the first day lawmakers return after Republicans held a midnight special session in January to override Gov. Bev Perdue's veto of a teacher dues bill.

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