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Morning Memo: GOP moves to limit early voting as budget debate begins

REPUBLICANS MOVE TO CURTAIL EARLY VOTING: Republicans are moving in the final days of the legislative session to cut early voting by a week, limit Sunday voting and curtail some voter registration efforts in a sweeping bill that is expected to debut Tuesday. The measure also may advance the state's presidential primary to a week after South Carolina's first-in-the-South contest. The last-minute election measures will appear in a Senate bill requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. (Check Dome for more on the bill later today.)

EDUCATION FOCUS OF BUDGET DEBATE: The N.C. Association of Educators is threatening to sue over the tenure provisions in the state budget. State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said for the first time in her 30-year career, she fears for the future of public education. “I am truly worried about the ongoing starvation of our public schools,” she said. “I see other states making a commitment to public education. In our state I see in this budget we’re cutting teachers, we’re cutting teacher assistants, we’re cutting instructional support.”

With education as the focus, the House and Senate will take budget votes Tuesday and Wednesday as they race toward the end of session.

***More on the state budget and other North Carolina political news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Arrest top 300, legislative work heats up

ARRESTS NOW TOP 300: The 151 protesters arrested Monday brings the grand total this session to more than 300. But even the roughly 1,000 people who attended the rally outside the Legislative Building pale in comparison to tens of thousands who attended the Wisconsin recall protests. (Read more on the demonstrations in the memo below.)

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House Finance Committee is expected to vote Tuesday on its plan to tweak the state's tax system when it meets at 8:30 a.m. It is a partial overhaul compared to the Senate, but would still cut $1 billion in tax money over five years for future government services. A House transportation panel will revive a controversial bill to transfer control of the Charlotte airport to a regional authority. The Senate Commerce Committee will consider two beer bills while the judiciary committees have packed agendas. The House convenes at 2 p.m. and is scheduled to vote on Senate Bill 325, which would change the election boundaries, election dates and composition of Wake school board seats. Expect some heated debate from Democrats before the bill is ultimately passed by Republicans and sent back to the Senate. In the Senate, lawmakers will consider adding making it unlawful (apparently it wasn't) to drink in EMS and police vehicles.

Gov. Pat McCrory and the Council of State will meet at 9 a.m. and then the governor will take a tour of Strata's solar energy farm in Willow Spring. The visit sends a statement the legislature considers a bill to end state mandates on renewable energy.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- the ultimate source for North Carolina political news. Click below for a can't miss photo from the protests Monday. ***

Morning Memo: Commerce pushes overhaul, dueling tax campaigns emerge

SECRETARY TO PITCH COMMERCE PRIVATIZATION PLAN: Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker will appear before a House panel Wednesday to pitch Gov. Pat McCrory's plan to privatize elements of the state's economic recruitment effort. Decker sent a memo to lawmakers with the talking points about the N.C. Economic Development Corporation a day earlier. She highlighted the efficiencies that McCrory's administration believes will be realized by consolidating various existing entities, including the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center, some of the N.C. Biotechnology Center and the tourism and film offices, among others, in a private nonprofit entity led by political appointees. She will describe a phase-in approach in her testimony. McCrory's team drafted the outline for the private-public partnership -- funded mostly by taxpayer dollars -- before he ever took office. Tony Almeida, the governor's top economic adviser who will lead the effort, wrote a white paper, finalized in December, as a member of McCrory's transition team that laid out the vision. (More below.)

DUELING TAX CAMPAIGNS: Americans for Prosperity began airing a TV ad on cable and broadcast that touts Republican leaders commitment to a tax overhaul. Meanwhile, the Young Democrats will debut an effort Wednesday to criticize the Senate plan with a web ad highlighting the hike in grocery taxes and and a new website nctaxhike.com, which is designed to counter Senate Republicans nctaxcut.com. Check Dome later today to see both.

***More North Carolina political news below in the Dome Morning Memo -- including a rundown on the day's top stories.

Morning Memo: N.C. Realtors launch new effort against tax plan

REALTORS TO LAUNCH NEW TV CAMPAIGN AGAINST TAX PLAN: The N.C. Realtors Association is preparing to launch a second, big-dollar campaign to challenge the N.C. Senate's tax overhaul efforts in coming days. The new TV ad campaign says the Senate tax plan to repeal the state deduction for mortgage interest will hurt middle class families. The group's strategist Chris Sinclair said the TV buy is in the "hundreds of thousands" and will run for three weeks. The realtors began the campaign a month ago with TV and online ads and the total cost is likely to approach $1million, he said. "The realtors believe this is a watershed moment for homeowners," Sinclair said.

McCRORY TO FETE BIG CAMPAIGN DONOR: Gov. Pat McCrory lists one public event on his schedule Friday: a retirement party for William "Bill" Shumaker, the CEO at Kewaunee Scientific. Shumaker and his wife donated $11,000 to McCrory's campaign in the 2012 cycle and another $2,000 in his losing 2008 bid, according to campaign finance reports. McCrory resigned from Kewaunee's board of directors on Jan. 5, the day he was sworn in as governor. The company paid him $53,168 in total compensation in the year that ended April 2012, federal corporate records show.

***Happy Friday and thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- a North Carolina political news tipsheet. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com.***

McCrory endorses House plan on Dix

Gov. Pat McCrory announced his support Thursday for the compromise version of a bill to renegotiate Raleigh’s lease on the Dorothea Dix property.

McCrory said he wants to work with Raleigh to help create a destination park while ensuring that the state’s needs – such as an office complex on the Dix land – are still met. “We’re trying to work out our differences through dialogue and consensus,” McCrory said in a news conference with Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane.

McCrory is throwing his weight behind a substitute measure that passed the House judiciary committee bill Wednesday.

Morning Memo: A new Dix deal, fallout from Brawley letter

A NEW DIX DEAL: Gov. Pat McCrory and Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane will hold a joint news conference this morning to discuss the Dorothea Dix lease. A state House committee approved a new version of a bill Wednesday that would revoke Raleigh’s disputed lease on the Dorothea Dix property near downtown. The compromise bill comes with a sweetener that has the support of city leaders and the governor’s office.

But the question is whether the Senate will go along. Sen. Ralph Hise, a Spruce Pine Republican, said the Senate remains committed to its version of the bill. "As we've clearly seen, the lease was entered into by the state illegally, it is substantially different than what even the Council of State had approved, and it's in the bad interest of the state," he said. "If they need to start, we'll start from scratch. But you can't begin on a foundation that's that weak."

GOP LAWMAKERS REACT TO BRAWLEY LETTER: “If you have a disagreement, that's not how one handles it and I'm saddened," said Rep. Craig Horn, a Weddington Republican. "We don't need distractions." Other Republican lawmakers refused to talk about it. "I don't have anything to say," said House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes. Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a Charlotte Republican and top GOP leader, said she was surprised by the letter read on the floor. "I thought it was an inappropriate use of the floor by Rep. Brawley." If anything, Samuelson said, "I think it will help bring us together more because it doesn't represent the majority of the caucus."

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- congrats to the NCGA team on the big win against South Carolina last night. More North Carolina political news below. ***

Morning Memo: Obama to name Watt to housing post, taxes split Republicans

OBAMA TO NAME MEL WATT AS HOUSING CHIEF: President Barack Obama intends to nominate Rep. Melvin Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the government regulator that oversees lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a White House official told the Associated Press.  The president was expected to name Watt, a 20-year veteran of the House, on Wednesday, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement.

HOUSE, SENATE STILL APART ON TAX PLAN: Senate Republicans are expected to debut a comprehensive tax plan in coming days -- but don't expect the House to stand at their side. Rep. David Lewis, the lead House tax negotiator, said Tuesday they still haven't found complete agreement. "The two chambers are not yet on one accord," he said. Lewis said he's optimistic the two sides will still unify around a single plan. He wouldn't identify the sticking point but it is likely how to pay for the plan -- with the Senate wanting to tax dozens of new services and the House wanting a more modest approach.

***Click below to keep reading the Dome Morning Memo for more details on Watt's new post -- and what it means in North Carolina -- as well as more political news and analysis.***

Morning Memo: McCrory to shuffle commerce; a mid-session recap

McCRORY TO ANNOUNCE COMMERCE SHUFFLE: From AP -- Gov. Pat McCrory is using the backdrop of a textile manufacturer for a big announcement about how North Carolina government is seeking to increase business in the state. McCrory is speaking Monday at Copland Fabrics in Burlington about what his office called a major commerce and economic development policy announcement. The Republican governor has been telling audiences his administration is assembling a state Commerce Department reorganization proposal.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House and Senate convene at 7 p.m. But expect a crowd earlier in the day at the Wake County legislative delegation meeting. Hundreds attended the prior delegation meeting to voice concerns and support for a number of major changes local lawmakers are looking to make. Monday's meeting is at 4-6 p.m. in room 643 of the legislative office building. Also, expect a state audit on the town of Princeville, where state officials seized financial control in July 2012. (More on that story here.)

***Good Monday morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. A roundup of North Carolina political news and analysis below.***

Morning Memo: Another big day at the statehouse, gambling money purge continues

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: Another big day at the legislature as the legislative session nears the half-way mark and the bill filing deadline. 10 a.m.: The Senate Education Committee considers a bill to take charter school oversight authority away from the state's Department of Public Instruction and loosen requirements on the schools. Noon: House Public Utilities considers bill to stifle the state's consumer advocacy group. 1 p.m.: House Elections Committee will discuss repeal of campaign finance matching money for candidates, a measure included in the governor's budget. The committee sent a notice that the voter ID measure is on hold temporarily so it can consider other legislation, a reversal from what lawmakers planned. At the same time, the Senate Finance Committee will begin talk about taxes with discussion of a bill to reduce the burden on businesses but no votes are expected. 2 p.m.: The Carolina Panthers bill is on the House calendar. The Senate convenes simultaneously with no major bills on the desk.

Today, Gov. Pat McCrory sticks to his comfort zone for another address to another business group, this one is the N.C. Chamber's annual conference in Greensboro. Later in the day, he'll meet privately with the N.C. Sheriff's Association.

GAMBING MONEY PURGE CONTINUES: As the Morning Memo reported Tuesday, McCrory forfeited campaign contributions from a second sweepstakes company executive charged in an gambling ring. And as AP found, the purge is likely to continue: McCrory received another $8,000 in October from John Patrick Fannin and his wife, who live in Little River, South Carolina, according to records reviewed by The Associated Press. Fannin is also among the sweepstakes operators indicted by Florida prosecutors in the Allied Veteran's case. (A McCrory spokeswoman) said McCrory's campaign will review those donations, too.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. Send tips and news to dome@newsobserver.com. Much more N.C. political news and analysis below.***

Senate passes bill to nix Dix lease

The state Senate voted to revoke Raleigh’s lease on the Dorothea Dix property Tuesday by a 29-21 vote, with Wake County’s Republicans voting with Democrats against the measure.

The bill now moves to the House, where several Republicans have sponsored an identical bill.

Sen. Neal Hunt, a Raleigh Republican, voted against the bill, as did the two other Wake County senators, Republican Chad Barefoot and Democrat Dan Blue. "It really was a difficult decision but I have been a proponent of the 300-acre Dix park for years," Hunt said. "I just think for wake county it's such a valuable resource, despite that it's way below market value, I still decided to vote" against the measure. Full story.

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