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Governor and lt gov. may run as a ticket

The House agreed Wednesday to study the idea of governors and lieutenant governors running together as a ticket.

The measure would ensure that if a governor died or was removed from office, he or she would be replaced by a lieutenant governor of their own party.

Rep. Bert Jones, a Republican from Reidsville, said that governors and lieutenant governors now run as tickets in 26 states, just as the president and vice president do. He is proposing a legislative study committee to examine the question, and if approved by the legislature, would be submitted to the voters for approval as a constitutional amendment in 2014.

Morning Memo: More Democratic trouble, N.C. vs. S.C. hoops rivalry renewed

UPDATED: DEMOCRATIC PARTY'S PROBLEMS GROW: The head of the North Carolina Democratic Party is facing questions about credit card charges made during a March trip to a Las Vegas casino to watch basketball games with his old college buddies. Records obtained by The Associated Press show state Democratic Chairman Randy Voller made $3,327 in charges to Southwest Airlines and the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel on an American Express Business Gold Card embossed with his name and that of the North Carolina Democratic Party. He said he's paid off the balance in full. Much more to this story -- click here.

N.C. LAWMAKERS TO PLAY "THE OTHER CAROLINA" IN BASKETBALL: North Carolina lawmakers will challenge their South Carolina counterparts to a game of hoops Wednesday evening at Reynolds Coliseum. The game is the first in at least four years between lawmakers from the two Carolinas. Rep. Burt Jones, a Rockingham Republican who will coach the North Carolina squad, helped revive the tradition. “The games in the past were pretty competitive,” he said. (Scouting report below.)

***This is the Dome Morning Memo -- the source for N.C. political news and fun (see below). Send news and tips to ***

Bill proposes $3,000 grant to send disabled students to private schools

Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake County, is behind a bill introduced this week that would give students with special needs taxpayer-funded scholarships to attend private schools or be home-schooled.

Tillis makes key committee chair appointments, emphasizing sophomore representatives

House Speaker Thom Tillis on Wednesday announced his choices to lead several key committees, elevating several second-term representatives to prominent positions.

Bert Jones, one-time independent, to seek No. 2 House post

State Rep. Bert Jones, a Rockingham Republican, announced Thursday he would seek the No. 2 post in the House, making it a three-way race.

Jones, 50, was first elected as an independent in 2010 and chose to caucus with Republicans. He ran for re-election this year as a Republican. He is competing for speaker pro tem against two veterans -- House GOP leader Paul "Skip" Stam and committee chairwoman Julia Howard -- but says his relative inexperience is an asset.

DHHS committee adopts Perdue cuts as its baseline

Legislators working on the details of the state Department of Health and Human Services budget this week adopted most Gov. Bev Perdue's proposed cuts as a baseline, with the intention of finding more reductions.

The Perdue reductions the budget subcommittee adopted totalled $218 million, and did not include the proposed retirement incentives of $10,000 or $20,000 - which Perdue estimated would cut 53 positions -  and her reductions in the children's health insurance program called Health Choice. Perdue assumed the program's costs would drop while enrollment goes up.

This isn't how things usually go in budget committees, and some legislators wondered why they were voting on items the group may well revisit.

The DHHS committee has to find $591 million in cuts.

"Why do we need to vote if we're going to go back and change it?" asked Rep. Beverly Earle, a Charlotte Democrat. "I don't really trust anything around here these days. Why is it necessary to vote one way or another?"

Rep. Verla Insko, a Chapel Hill Democrat, said she didn't like all Perdue's recommendations, while Rep. Bert Jones, an unaffiliated member from Reidsville, said adopting Perdue's cuts may impede legislators' carving deeper.

"We're going to be different from how we see things in the budget," he said.

Subcommittee co-chairman Nelson Dollar, a Cary Republican, said voting did not limit what legislators could do, and described the $218 million as a starting point.

"We have another $373 million in reductions that we have to go," he said.

Unaffiliated winner will caucus with GOP

Bert Jones, the unaffiliated candidate who won a House seat last week, will caucus with Republicans, says Rep. Thom Tillis of Mecklenburg County.

Jones beat eight-term Democrat Nelson Cole of Reidsville to win the seat representing Rockingham County.

The addition of Jones brings the GOP House caucus to 68 members. "He's got very strong conservative credentials," Tillis said of Jones. "He filed unaffiliated because of concerns that Republicans at the national level weren't conservative enough."

House Republicans voted to include Jones in their group at a caucus dinner yesterday in Greensboro.

Tillis said the gathering gave everyone the chance to relax and talk. "It was the most enjoyable caucus meeting I have attended," he said.

House Republicans will meet next Saturday to pick its leaders. Tillis and Rep. Paul Stam of Apex are running for speaker.

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