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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.***

Luddy with Jeb Bush this week talking education

Raleigh businessman Robert Luddy was in Florida Thursday talking about efforts to improve education.

He took part in a panel discussion on education reform along with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and with Michael Holthouse, founder of Prepared 4Life in Texas.

Luddy is founder of Franklin Academy Charter Schools.

The conference at Palm Beach Beach Gardens was put on the the Job Creators Alliance, a conservative group founded by Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus and others that deal with economic, manufacturing and education issues.

Bob Luddy to give SOTU reaction

Raleigh businessman Bob Luddy will appear Tuesday on Fox Business News to give what is being billed as the "small business reaction" to the State of the Union.

Luddy is a leader of the Job Creators Alliance, a nonprofit group of business leaders who advocate for free enterprise. He will appear at 11 p.m. following the Republican response to the SOTU on Fox Business News' "Stossel," according to the group.

Small business owners say Washington hostile to job creation

A business group with strong North Carolina ties Monday released a poll that found that small business owners feel that Washington is creating a more hostile environment to growth.

The group, Job Creators Alliance, released a survey that found that 70 percent small business owners believed Washington was becoming more hostile to free enterprise, while only 19 percent thought it was becoming less hostile. The group includes a number of prominent North Carolina businessmen including Robert Luddy of Raleigh, retired banker John Allison, and Fred Eshelman of Wilmington.

Luddy talks overregulation on Fox Business News

Raleigh businessman and school-choice advocate Bob Luddy’s profile has been on the rise in business and political circles this year.

He helped finance a super PAC that helped re-elect state Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby. This  summer he testified before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee that excessive regulations were stunting job creation.

The other day he appeared on John Stossel’s Fox Business News national TV show to deliver the same message.

Air Time for Luddy on Fox

Raleigh businessman Robert Luddy, and conservative donor and education leader, will be interviewed on by John Stossel on Fox Business News Thursday night at 9 p.m. The show will repeat at 9 pm on Saturday and Sunday on FBN.<

Luddy tells Congress that regs hurting job growth

Raleigh businessman Bob Luddy told the House Judiciary Committee Thursday that excessive regulation was hurting job creation.

“Over the last several decades, the number, scope and burden of federal regulation have expanded exponentially,” Luddy told the committee. “Multiple studies have shown that America's regulatory infrastructure costs the U.S. Economy anywhere from hundreds of billions of dollars to over $1 trillion.''

Lisa Heinzerling, a law professor at Georgetown University, disputed Luddy's testimony.

“You have the power to undo any rule you want,” Heinzerling said to Luddy and the committee Republicans.

Luddy replied: “A small-business person doesn't have the resources to talk to the federal government. It's too vast.''

Luddy started CaptiveAire Systems which employs 700 people.

NC Catholics for Romney Committee named

Raleigh businessman Bob Luddy will chair North Carolina Catholics for Romney, the campaign has announced. Luddy, a businessman and civic leader, has founded several private schools including St. Thomas More Academy in Raleigh.

“Religious freedom is a principle this great country was founded on and it is at the heart and soul of America,” Luddy said in a statement. “I am confident Governor Romney will fully protect our traditional and natural right of religious liberty.”

The honorary state chairs are Congress members Renee Ellmers, Virginia Foxx and Patrick McHenry. Other members of the Catholics leadership team include House Speaker Thom Tillis, state Sen. Kathy Harrington, Rep. Ric Killian, and Rep. Pat McElraft.

Luddy urges no new state funds for rural board

Normally members of state boards can be relied upon to lobby the legislature for more money for their state agencies or bodies.

But Raleigh businessman Bob Luddy, a Raleigh businessman and a fiscal conservative, is an exception. As a member of the Rural Economic Development Board, Luddy sent a letter to fellow board members saying he could not support asking for an expanded budget.

“The General Assembly is dealing with the financial realities of 2012,” Luddy wrote. “Our business community is stifled by high taxes, heavy regulation and a struggling economy, which requires incentives to invest, produce and create jobs.''

“The Rural Economic Development Board must understand and adjust to these realities,” Luddy wrote. “Requesting new funds and a continuation of existing funds is not acceptable, which is why I voted no to these proposals.''

NCAE refuses businessman's 'cease and desist' demand

The N.C. Association of Educators is refusing a demand from businessman Bob Luddy to remove a video it posted to the Internet. 

The NCAE video, "Money and Privatization: A Love Story," alleges Luddy, a charter and private school founder, businessman Art Pope, House Majority Leader Paul Stam, and Wake County School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta are linked in an effort to destroy public education. 

The cease and desist letter from a firm representing Luddy and the private school he founded says that the video falsely states that Luddy profits from it.

"The NCAE's implication that the statements upon which it is based (including, again, that Thales Academy, a non-profit entity) are not only blatantly false but also impugn Mr. Luddy's business reputation as well as the reputation of Thales Academy."

A lawyer for the NCAE wrote back, saying the video never says Luddy is profiting from the schools.

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