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Morning Memo: 'Moral Mondays' grow; McCrory defends pay hikes

’MORAL MONDAY’ PROTESTS EXPAND: Moral Monday, the North Carolina protest movement that comes to Charlotte on Monday afternoon, was organized to counter the policies of the Republican-controlled General Assembly.The protests, which have received national attention, are not only grounded in religion but expanding their reach into churches. Organizers say they seek to reclaim the language of political morality.

Protesters from the Charlotte area are to gather in Marshall Park at 5 p.m. Elsewhere in the state, similar protests are scheduled Monday in the Yancey County town of Burnsville and in coastal Manteo. Read more here.

GOV. HUNT TELLS DEMOCRATS TO DO MORE: Former Gov. Jim Hunt delivered a pep talk to grassroots leaders of the state’s beleaguered Democratic Party on Saturday night, where he emphasized the basics of winning elections. Hunt told the crowd at a reception named partly in his honor to appeal to independent voters, run good candidates and raise money. "We’re not exactly the party of money," Hunt said, "but we can do more than we’ve done."

***Hear more from the Democratic Party meeting and get the latest N.C. political news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: McCrory to sign Medicaid bill, three others

McCRORY TO SIGN MEDICAID BILL, THREE OTHERS: Much like the bill to cut unemployment benefits, Gov. Pat McCrory will hold a private signing at the Capitol for a bill to block the expansion of Medicaid health care coverage to roughly 500,000, the majority of which are uninsured. The measure also blocks a state-based health insurance exchange and generated a heated debate in the N.C. General Assembly, where it passed largely along party lines. McCrory said the state is not ready for either part of the federal health care law at this point. The Republican governor will also sign the possum drop bill (HB66), a funding fix for group homes (SB4) and a measure to impose great penalties for protests that disturb military funerals (HB19) at 4:30 p.m.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: A House Judiciary subcommittee looks at a bill (HB156) to limit the N.C. Education Lottery's ability to advertise and offer new types of games, as well as take the word "education" from its official name. The issue is likely to split Republicans and Democrats, much as the original lottery vote did. Another House subcommittee will consider a measure to open campus police records held by private colleges to public inspection. The Senate Education Committee will take up two bills related to digital learning. Both chambers convene at 2 p.m. McCrory and state officials are participating in a hurricane drill Wednesday morning.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- a must-read to start any day in the North Carolina political world.***

Troxler's TV ads in agriculture race surely will make you hungry

Republican Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler is airing a pair of TV ads that tout his work on food safety and his agency's efforts to put N.C.-grown foods in schools. The farmer's market shots are sure to make you hungry. (See them below.)

Morning Roundup: Congressman Kissell refuses to debate GOP rival Hudson

Citing scheduling conflicts, U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell, D-N.C., has declined to commit to a locally televised debate with Republican challenger Richard Hudson.

Hudson, in a statement released by his campaign, called on the Democratic congressman “to come out of hiding.” Full story here.

More political headlines:

--Get a rundown on the feisty second presidential debate and see a fact check on the candidates' statements. Students at Queens College gave the win to the president.

--Emulating President Barack Obama, Walter Dalton also took an aggressive stance while Pat McCrory bobbed and weaved in the governor's race debate. And see an excerpt from a key exchange.

Wake GOP takes legal action against Republican ag commissioner candidate

The Wake County Republican Party has taken legal action seeking to recover $1,000 from Bill McManus, a Republican candidate for agriculture commissioner.

Chairwoman Susan Bryant told her members that McManus bought a full page advertisement on the back cover on the program for the recent convention. But his check $1,000 check didn't go through. So she filed a legal claim in Mecklenburg County.

Agriculture Commissioner, State Auditor dispute audit

The state Department of Agriculture is focused on finishing a new system for tracking safety violations at propane companies after a state audit released last week faulted the agency for failing to penalize rule-breakers.

In an interview Tuesday, state Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said the full system of tracking violations and penalties will be finished within four months. The deadline is new. The department started using the first phase of the tracking system in September, but there had been no certain date for completing the rest of it.

An investigative report from state Auditor Beth Wood's office was critical of the department for collecting only $4,100 in fines from Oct. 1, 2009, to Sept. 30, 2010, when investigators had found 7,466 violations at propane plants, trucks, dispensing stations and homes, some of them public safety hazards.

Wood said she was disappointed that Troxler appeared to be downplaying the audit findings but appreciated that he was pushing the violation tracking program to completion."They want to reason with these companies to get them into compliance," she said. "When you walk into a plant and it has more than 340 violations, that shows you their system isn't working." Read more here.

Agriculture commissioner announces re-election bid

Steve Troxler, the Republican agriculture commissioner, announced Monday he would seek re-election. 

Troxler, a farmer from Browns Summit, made his plans clear at the N.C. Farm Bureau convention in Greensboro.

"Even during the recession, agriculture and agribusiness have remained a bright spot in North Carolina’s economy, and I want to continue to work hard to strengthen our number one industry," Troxler said in a statement.

"I believe we need a steady hand at the helm of the Department of Agriculture to deal with not only the economy but the tremendous damage our farms suffer during hurricanes and other natural disasters," he added.

Earlier this year, a few politicos mentioned Troxler's name as a potential GOP gubernatorial candidate but early polling gave Pat McCrory a clear advantage and today's announcement indicates that Troxler is staying put for now.

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