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Another closed prison goes for $1

With the state’s prison population declining and some of its prisons closing, the state occasionally sells the land for a nominal buck.

The Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday gave the green light to selling the closed Gates Correctional Center in the northeast part of the state to Gates County for $1. The county wants to use it for emergency services functions.

Sen. Josh Stein, a Democrat from Raleigh, didn’t let the issue pass without commenting about recent opposition to the deal selling the Dorothea Dix property in Raleigh for less than market value. Sen. Ralph Hise, a Republican from Spruce Pine, had complained about the Dix deal even while sponsoring a bill in 2011 selling a closed prison in his mountains district to a community college for $1.

Hise, a member of the Rules Committee, also voted for the Gates deal, which was placed on the Senate calendar for later Wednesday.

Morning Memo: House begins budget writing

WILL THE STATE BUDGET FINISH IN TIME? As the House begins crafting its own state budget this week, the phrase "continuing resolution" is being heard more frequently in the hallways at the statehouse. The idea is this: with the Senate's budget delay, will the House finish writing its own in time to get it approved before the end of the fiscal year June 30? And if it gets close, and House and Senate budget writers are still deadlocked in conference, will they need to find an escape plan to keep government running? House budget writer Nelson Dollar dismissed the talk in an interview last week, but House Democrats are openly discussing the possibility. "I don't see how it's going to be avoided," said Rep. Mickey Michaux, a veteran Democrat. The state budget negotiations this year are complicated by House and Senate Republican leaders' attempts to imbed a tax overhaul that cuts government spending into the state budget, especially because the two chambers are so widely split on the issue.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: With money on the table, a strong lobbying presence is expected this week. A group of physicians will make the rounds Tuesday asking the House to put money in the state budget to pay for youth tobacco use prevention. House budget committees begin meeting at 8:30 a.m. Another House panel will consider the new school vouchers bill at 10 a.m. and a transportation committee will hear a ferry toll bill at noon. The House convenes at 1 p.m. but there are no bills on the calendar. The Senate convenes at 4 p.m. but will also hold a skeletal session with no action expected. Gov. Pat McCrory plays Mayor Pat again Tuesday morning in Charlotte, speaking to the local rotary club. Elsewhere, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan will honor military spouses at an even in Fayetteville.

***Read more Dome Morning Memo below to get a roundup of North Carolina political news from the holiday weekend. ***

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. ***

Poll: Most Wake residents support Dix park

An opinion poll released Tuesday found that Wake County residents support plans for a park on the Dorothea Dix property by a 2-to-1 margin.

Public Policy Polling surveyed about 600 voters last week in the wake of Republican-sponsored legislation that would revoke Raleigh's lease on the 325-acre state property.

The bill passed the Senate last week and now heads to the House. About 52 percent of those surveyed said they support the park, while 27 percent were against the idea.

Morning Memo: Another gambling bust with N.C. ties; Hagan remains against gay marriage

ANOTHER GAMBLING BUST WITH N.C. TIES: On the same day Florida prosecutors busted a gambling operation that snared a company with major North Carolina political ties, an Ohio prosecutor leveled a new indictment against another sweepstakes company with Tar Heel ties.

The March 13 superseding indictment updated charges filed in May against VS2 Worldwide Communications, a company that operated illegal Internet sweepstakes gaming software, according to local news reports. The company's owners, Phillip Cornick of New Jersey and Richard Upchurch of Ramseur, face charges in Ohio of money laundering and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.

The two men and their wives contributed more than $45,000 to North Carolina political candidates -- including Gov. Pat McCrory -- with more than half coming after their initial May indictments.

HAGAN ONE OF 11 SENATE DEMOCRATS NOT TO ENDORSE GAY MARRIAGE: North Carolina's Kay Hagan remains opposed to gay marriage, even though three prominent Democrats colleagues recently shifted their stances. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday (California's Proposition 8) and Wednesday (the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA) about same-sex marriage.

**More on the VS2's campaign contributions and Hagan's stance on gay marriage below in today's Dome Morning Memo. Sends news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com. Thanks for reading.***

NC Senate seeks to wipe out Dix lease

A state Senate bill seeks to change the lease between the state and the City of Raleigh for Dorothea Dix property.SB 334 directs the state and the city to enter into a new lease that is at fair market value and upholds the property’s commitment to serving the mentally ill.

The current contract calls for the city to pay $500,000 a year with a 1.5 percent annual increase to lease a portion of the property for fair market value. Raleigh intends to build a park on the property.

The bill would put an end to plans to move state Department of Health and Human Services employees. Any revenues from the property lease would go into a special fund for mental health.

In memo, Berger says Dix deal is undervalued

UPDATED: A day before the vote on the Dix property, Senate leader Phil Berger sent a letter to the Council of State that suggest the state isn't getting enough money under the terms of the lease deal.

Berger, an Eden Republican, asked legislative staff to analyze the deal to lease the Dorothea Dix property to the city of Raleigh for $500,000 a year with annual increases -- worth $68.5 million. 

A memo from Fiscal Research staffers suggests the actual value of the lease is $22.6 million after factoring in inflation. Berger says the state could get more money if it sold the land, but Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue is proposing leasing the land -- not selling it.



Document(s):
Letter to Council of State_12.3.12.pdf
DixCampus_Senator Berger_vFinal_December _2012.pdf

AFP calls on supporters to oppose sale of Dorothea Dix campus to Raleigh

Updated: The conservative Americans for Prosperity is pushing its members to send emails letters calling for the state to drop plans to sell the 325-acre Dorothea Dix campus to the City of Raleigh.

Under Gov. Bev Perdue, the state has inched closer to a deal with the city to sell the downtown property that previously served as a state mental hospital.

The land would be turned into a park managed by North Carolina State University, but AFP wants the land sold on the open market.

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