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Ann McCrory urges parents to spend more time with kids

First Lady Ann McCrory made a rare public appearance Monday, when she celebrated Family Day with more than 70 students and parents for lunch at Elm City Elementary in Wilson.

Family Day is an initiative to promote parental involvement as a prevent substance abuse in children and teens.

"I am honored to join 28 other First Spouses from across the country by serving as an Honorary Chair of Family Day,'' McCrory said. "I encourage families across North Carolina to make a commitment to spend more time together. Every day activities, such as eating dinner, hosting a game night or tucking your children into bed can make a huge impact and help prevent substance abuse.''

McCrory corrects letter, Pork Council neutral on puppy mill bill

Gov. Pat McCrory has sent a new letter to Senate leader Phil Berger pointing out an inaccuracy in an earlier letter he wrote urging the Senate to pass House Bill 930, which would impose new standards of care for large, commercial dog breeders, the Insider reports. In a letter earlier this week, McCrory wrote that the N.C. Pork Council opposed the legislation. In the new letter, the governor said the council has remained neutral on the measure. "It's our mistake," said McCrory spokeswoman Kim Genardo. "They have remained neutral." The Pork Council confirmed that position.

Governor urges Senate to act on first lady's legislative priority

Gov. Pat McCrory is backing up his wife, First Lady Ann McCrory, in calling for a Senate hearing and vote on House Bill 930, the puppy mill legislation, before the end of the legislative session, the Insider reports.

"For those who say there isn't enough time to take up this important issue, I guarantee the people of North Carolina would deem legislation that ensures our state is home to responsible dog breeders is worthy of the Senate's time," the governor wrote in a letter to Senate leader Phil Berger on Monday. "I urge the Senate to move forward quickly."

Ann McCrory has made passing the legislation her first public project as first lady and held a news conference recently to urge the Senate to pass the legislation. But senators said they weren't likely to budge.

Morning Memo: McCrory quietly signs RJA, Social Security is landmine for GOP

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The growing consensus at the legislative building: state lawmakers may stay in session through mid-July. And the not-in-a-hurry pace is evident in today's calendar. Only a handful of committees will meet and most of the work is being done behind the scenes among select lawmakers negotiating the tax bill and state budget. A bill allowing coastal jetties will draw a crowd in the 10 a.m. House Environment Committee. And on the floor, the House will consider a measure to up the speed limit to 75 mph in some places. The Senate will debate a bill that could allow mega-dumps for out-of-state trash, a political hot potato the McCrory administration now supports.

Gov. Pat McCrory will meet with legislators in the morning before attending a ribbon cutting in Greenville for a children's hospital at Vidant Medical Center and meeting with N.C. League of Municipality officials later in the day at the mansion.

McCRORY SIGNS RACIAL JUSTICE ACT: Talk about burying the lead -- Just before 6 p.m., the governor's office announced that he signed 56 bills Wednesday. Among them: the Racial Justice Act. It was tucked into the long list at the bottom, noted only by its bill number. From AP -- Gov. Pat McCrory’s signature Wednesday repealed a landmark law that had allowed convicted murderers to have their sentences reduced to life in prison if they could prove racial bias influenced the outcome of their cases. McCrory signed a repeal of the 2009 Racial Justice Act, which both proponents and critics say will restart the death penalty in a state that hasn’t executed an inmate since 2006.

***More on the Racial Justice Act, the GOPs latest political problem and McCrory's agenda below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Rural Center questions continue, First Lady steps out

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: In committees, a number of contentious measures are being considered for discussion only. The House Finance Committee will review a taxpayer bill of rights, known as TABOR, that would constitutionally limit state spending. The Senate Education Committee will look at a House-approved bill to give students with disabilities vouchers to attend private schools. Senate lawmakers will also hear a bill in the Finance Committee that critics argue would allow mega-dumps and attract out-of-state trash. Also, the House Commerce Committee will roll out a major bill on Gov. Pat McCrory's agenda to reorganize the state commerce department.

In a rare appearance, First Lady Ann McCrory will step into the spotlight and hold her first news conference to ask the Senate to pass a watered down measure to regulate so-called puppy mills. The House approved the bill but the Senate has sat on it for a month without action. Her event is at 3:30 p.m. at the mansion. Gov. McCrory will have breakfast with lawmakers and then host his education cabinet at 1 p.m.

RURAL CENTER UNDER FIRE: Several board members of the taxpayer-funded N.C. Rural Economic Development Center said this week they are concerned about practices brought to light in a recent News & Observer series and welcome additional oversight.Rural Center leaders, however, said the newspaper reports do not properly reflect the organization’s work.

***More on the Rural Center controversy -- and the N.C. Democratic Party troubles, as well as a headline only Asheville could do best -- below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Is the Senate's tax plan a tax hike for many?

TAX PLAN COULD MEAN TAX HIKE IN LONG TERM: The majority of taxpayers likely would see a tax increase after the plan is fully implemented, according to early long-term projections from legislative fiscal researchers who analyzed the potential legislation – not a tax break as Senate Republican leaders suggested when announcing the plan this week.

A taxpayer with a federal adjusted gross income below $51,000 could pay an average $100 to $200 more in the 2017 tax year. Based on current tax brackets, 2.3 million taxpayers would fit that category, according to the analysis, while 1.8 million taxpayers could expect an average $300 to $3,000 tax cut that year. In announcing the plan Tuesday, Senate leader Phil Berger, an Eden Republican, emphasized that the legislation was not yet finalized, but said the “vast majority,” or roughly two-thirds of taxpayers, would initially get a tax cut as a result of the legislation. (More below.)

***This is the Dome Morning Memo -- the source for North Carolina political news and analysis. Send tips to dome@newsobserver.com. And read more new details about the tax plan below.***

Morning Memo: First Lady ventues into policy, TABOR bill gets a hearing

FIRST LADY BACKS BILL TO REGULATE PUPPY MILLS: Venturing into public policy for the first time as First Lady, Ann McCrory issued an open letter to lawmakers supporting House Bill 930 to establish standards for dog breeders. The bill is a weakened version of the original legislation which sought to crack down on puppy mills. "| am writing to thank you for your unanimous support of l-louse Bill 930. Passing legislation to establish basic standards of care for large commercial dog breeding facilities is a very important issue to me, and to people across our state," Ann McCrory wrote in the letter. "| especially wish to Representatives Saine, McGrady and Brown for their leadership on this issue. l hope you and other members of the General Assembly will continue to advocate for this bill, and other legislation establishing higher standards for Commercial breeders. These policies increase our quality of life in North Carolina and ensure better care for dogs across the state. You have my full support."

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: A House committee will consider a Taxpayer Bill of Rights measure, known as TABOR, that would restrict state spending. Its hugely controversial and produced varied results. Other legislative committees will consider trimming environmental regulations and altering rules governing midwifery. On the Senate floor, lawmakers will hear a bill to prevent undercover whistleblower operations at farms and processing plants. And in the House, a bill about cancer drugs that split Republicans faces another vote, as does the LEED certification bill. Gov. Pat McCrory lists no public events.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- more North Carolina political news below. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com.***

Executive Mansion to turn blue Thursday night

The Executive Mansion will be illuminated in the color blue tonight to symbolize First Lady Ann McCrory's support of Down syndrome cognitive research.

McCrory is joining New Jersey's Pat Christie and other First Ladies around the country to bring attention to World Down Syndrome Day. The blue coloring is part of what is called “Light the Way” event.

“I am inspired by the advancement in research that will empower individuals with Down syndrome to reach their full potential,” the First Lady said in a statement.

Morning Memo: Medical marijuana, topless rallies, possums on today's legislative agenda

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: Bring the Doritos and the duct tape for the House Rules Committee meeting Wednesday. The powerful panel will consider a bill to legalize marijuana for medicinal use and another aimed at topless rallies in Asheville by women seeking gender equity. (The committe chairman recently suggested women could use duct tape to get around the law.) On the more serious side, a House committee will consider a measure to repeal the estate tax, even though top Senate Republicans are not interested in the issue as part of their tax proposal. The Senate Rules Committee considers the possum bill. Both chambers convene at 2 p.m.

ANN McCRORY'S INAUGURAL GOWN GOES TO MUSEUM: From AP -- North Carolina first lady Ann McCrory is turning over her inaugural gown to the N.C. Museum of History, which will include it in an exhibition about governors and their spouses. Ann McCrory's gown will be on display Wednesday evening during an event for History Museum associates. After that, it will be featured in the exhibit "Leading the State: North Carolina's Governors," which ends April 28. During the event Wednesday, Gov. Pat McCrory will speak briefly with the N.C. Museum of History Benefactors Circle and the Gold Quill Society.

Good morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo, a daily political tipsheet for North Carolina. Read much more below.

In radio interview, McCrory defends wife's privacy

Gov. Pat McCrory defended his wife's privacy Thursday, saying "she has no interest in the spotlight."

In an interview with a Raleigh radio station, the Republican talked about his wife's private role as First Lady for the first time. Earlier this month, he declined to talk about his wife for a profile on Ann McCrory. "She refuses to talk to (the press)," McCrory said, touting that she's never been interviewed. "She says, 'That's your gig, I'll do my own thing.'"

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