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Morning Memo: As House votes on abortion bill, what will McCrory do?

ABORTION DEBATE DOMINATES AGENDA: N.C. House lawmakers will focus on social issues Thursday, scheduling a three-hour debate on an abortion bill that critics say will restrict access but supporters argue is aimed at safety standards. Republicans will get one hour to push the measure while Democrats will get two hours to rebutt the controversial bill that is putting North Carolina in the national spotlight along with Texas. The House convenes at 11 a.m.

VETO THREAT: Pandering or real? Republican Gov. Pat McCrory publicly warned on Wednesday morning that he would reject the Senate’s bill unless his public health agency’s concerns about it were resolved. The threat came even as his administration and key House members were signing off on a rewrite of the bill, which was unveiled less than two hours later in a legislative committee. His statement came at 8:30 a.m. A House committee took up the new bill two hours later. The move allowed McCrory to appear like a hero to womens rights groups who had pushed him to uphold his campaign pledge not to sign new abortion restrictions into law. But his legislative team likewise worked with House members to craft the new measure those groups oppose. The question now: Will he sign or allow the newest bill to become law?

***Read a scene-setter on the abortion legislation and more North Carolina political news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Clodfelter considering run for Charlotte mayor

A few weeks ago longtime Democratic Sen. Dan Clodfelter raised eyebrows when he said he might run for the Charlotte City Council. Now he might run for mayor.

"I'm very seriously considering it," he said Tuesday. "I've been getting a great deal of encouragement."

Clodfelter isn't the only one -- or only legislator -- looking at the race since incumbent Democrat Anthony Foxx said this month he won't run for a third term. Democratic Reps. Becky Carney and state Sen. Malcolm Graham have said they're considering it.

Clodfelter said he could make a decision by the end of the month.

"When people reach out to you," he said, "you want to think seriously about what they're asking you to do."

-- Jim Morrill, Charlotte Observer

D’oh-me: The not-so top 5 moments from Dome in 2012

The political year included its share of odd stories and not-so-flattering headlines. Here's a look at the top 5:

1. @GovBevPerdue makes a splash: A Twitter parody account for Gov. Bev Perdue (real handle: @ncgovoffice) caught a number of national media outlets looking silly. MSNBC and Huffington Post were among those fooled by the account that has steadily mocked all things Perdue. The account is labeled as the “first female governor of North Carolina, and probably the last.” The background image, and often point of discussion, is Bojangles’ Bo-Berry Biscuits. Nonetheless, HuffPo in May quoted the faux Perdue as apologizing to Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant for a quip the real governor made after the state approved an amendment banning marriage between same-sex couples. During the Democratic National Convention, MSNBC was caught sleeping when they aired some of the fake Tweets on live TV.

Is Mackey taking his football and going home?

Rep. Nick Mackey is not going out quietly.

Mackey, who lost the Democratic primary and his law license earlier this month, is blocking legislation requested by Mecklenburg officials and supported by every other legislator from the county, both Republican and Democrat, Mark Johnson reports.

On the House floor Tuesday, he objected to the final vote on an education bill that Democrats, including Gov. Bev Perdue and House Speaker Joe Hackney, had made a priority because it is intended to boost a state application for federal funds. The vote was delayed until Wednesday because of Mackey's move.

"My sense is he's not trying to make (Mecklenburg legislators' work) any easier," said Rep. Becky Carney, a Charlotte Democrat, "but I'm not sure why."

Asked if he was venting anger over his primary defeat, Mackey said he has specific objections on the bills he has halted or slowed.

"I've given the exact reasons," he said Wednesday. "If those aren't good enough for some people, I can't help that."

The Black Caucus vs. the Counter Caucus

When voters go to the polls in Mecklenburg's predominantly African American precincts tomorrow, they'll meet volunteers handing out some of the 28,000 flyers with the endorsements of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Black Political Caucus.

And they'll also get a flyer endorsing other candidates, most of whom were not endorsed by the caucus, reports Jim Morrill of The Charlotte Observer.

Helping lead what might be called the counter-caucus is state Rep. Beverly Earle. Though she was endorsed by the caucus, she's not happy that some friends and colleagues were not. So she'll be promoting a slate urging the election of fellow Democrats, state Rep. Becky Carney, Sen. Malcolm Graham, Sheriff Chipp Bailey and House challenger Rodney Moore.

"I support my colleagues," Earle said.

So why support Moore, who's running against another one of Earle's colleagues, Rep. Nick Mackey?

"I support most of my colleagues," she said. "Why should I support him if he's putting somebody out there to run against me?"

Earle believe Mackey is behind the candidacy of Rocky Bailey, who's challenging her in the primary. Mackey has denied it.

Caucus chair Gloria Rembert said she'd heard of the counter-slate. She acknowledged that there has been more blowback over this year's endorsements than ever before.

Said Rembert: "You and I will both know tomorrow what the voters say.”

Charlotteans take worst attendance honors

Two Charlotte area legislators gained the unfortunate distinction of worst attendance record during last year's legislative session.

And the whole issue of absences has deteriorated into a dispute between Rep. Nick Mackey and Rep. Beverly Earle, both Charlotte Democrats.

Sen. Malcolm Graham, a Charlotte Democrat, and Rep. Jeff Barnhart, a Concord Republican, accumulated the worst attendance records in their respective chambers, with the exception of fellow lawmakers who were ill or had surgery during session. The records were tallied by the non-partisan N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.

Graham attended 91 of 112 legislative days for an 81 percent attendance rate. The only lower record was that of Sen. Richard Stevens, a Cary Republican, who was sidelined with a broken kneecap.

"Not only am I a state senator, but I work for a living as well," Graham said, adding that the supposed part-time job is full time. "I try to balance the responsibilities of serving as well as making a living at the same time."

Legislators receive less than $14,000 a year in salary, plus $559 per month for expenses. 

Barnhart made it to 95 of 114 days, or 83 percent. Earle, who underwent two back surgeries last year, and Rep. Becky Carney, who was out for two months after suffering cardiac arrest, had lower attendance figures.

Democrats see Mackey behind challengers

Three Democratic legislators from Mecklenburg County are gearing up for primary challenges — and some suspect that fellow Democratic lawmaker Nick Mackey may be behind them.

State Sen. Malcolm Graham and Reps. Beverly Earle and Becky Carney all expect May primaries after candidate filing opens Feb. 8, Jim Morrill of The Charlotte Observer reports.

Mackey denies having anything to do with recruiting the challengers, though one is his former legislative aide and another is a former associate from his years at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

Colleagues aren't necessarily buying it.

"It's not very kind, it's kind of weird," Graham said Tuesday.

Earle, who has never faced a primary over her eight terms, said, "A lot of other folks are wondering ... why he would do this especially at this particular time."

"It's just such a coincidence" that they're Mackey's associates, she said.

Mackey acknowledges that he knows the challengers and even said he would support them. But he said he did not recruit them.

"It's offensive to me for someone to say 'Nick Mackey did this,'" he said. "They don't have any basis to say it."

Carney's scare offers lessons

State Rep. Becky Carney's push to get people to think more carefully about their health has already won over a few converts: her grandchildren.

They've picked up on her routine of reading nutrition labels more carefully. It's a small step, Carney admits. But she thinks it could be a steppingstone toward encouraging more people to make healthy choices, The Charlotte Observer's April Bethea reports.

And she hopes sharing her own story can be a guide.

It's been more than three months since Carney, 64, a Democrat, collapsed in her legislative office and went into cardiac arrest. The former Mecklenburg County commissioner said she is gradually rebuilding her stamina, including three-day-a-week rehab sessions.

Meanwhile, Carney also said she's become a "sponge" – learning all she can about health care, including the need to balance your physical, mental and nutritional parts of life.

"I'm so blessed that so many people have reached out to me across the state and I feel like I have a responsibility to be an example of healthy living and the holistic approach to healthy living,” she said.

Carney returns, thanks lifesavers

Rep. Becky Carney returned to the House Tuesday and thanked the lifesavers who helped resuscitate her after a cardiac arrest on April 2.

"I want to thank these men behind me," Carney told a news conference, "from the bottom of my still-beating heart."

Carney, a Charlotte Democrat, helped Mira Batchelor, of the American Red Cross, award a certificate of recognition to:

-- Mark Fleming, a lobbyist for Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, who moved Carney from her desk where she was slumped over and laid her on the floor, which allowed shallow breathing.

-- Rep. Bob England, an Ellenboro Democrat and retired physician, who diagnosed a cardiac arrest and helped perform CPR

-- General Assembly police officers Will Smith, Willie Morris and Sgt. Forrest Johnson, who assisted with CPR and an automated defibrilator

"Their actions," Batchelor said, "exemplify the highest degree of concern of one human being for another who is in distress."

Carney thanked them again from the House floor and received a standing ovation to welcome her back.

Carney's lifesavers to be honored

The American Red Cross plans to honor a legislator and two legislative police officers who helped save Rep. Becky Carney when she suffered a cardiac arrest in April.

Red Cross officials, along with Carney and her family, are scheduled on Tuesday to present the Red Cross' Certificate of Recognition for Extraordinary Personal Action to Rep. Bob England, a retired physician and Democrat from Ellenboro, and legislative police officers Forrest Johnson and Will Smith.

Carney collapsed on April 2 near her office in the Legislative Building after going into cardiac arrest. England and the two officers administered CPR and used a portable defibrilator to revive her. She has been recovering since and is expected back at work next week.

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