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Morning Memo: Szlosberg-Landis resigns, House tends to budget and an attack on the Wright Brothers

STEPPING DOWN: The state's Democratic Party took another blow Monday night, as vice-chair and major fundraiser Nina Szlosberg-Landis resigned. She cited her concerns over chairman Randy Voller's leadership as her reason. See Under the Dome.

PROFITABLE RELATIONSHIP: Politico takes a look at what it calls a "fresh innovation in the world of outside spending" for political candidates: "nonprofits organized around broad issues of public interest that actually function to advance the ambitions of a single candidate." Their poster children for the piece? Our own House Speaker Thom Tillis and the NC House Legislative Partners, and Mark Jacobs, a former energy executive, who is considering a run for Iowa's open Senate seat. Full story.

Good morning and welcome to Dome's Morning Memo this fine Tuesday.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House will convenes at 10 a.m. but it will be a no-vote session. Instead members will be focused on their budget proposal. It will in the Appropriations Committee at 8:30 this morning. From there it goes to Finance on Wednesday and then to the full House. The goal is to get it done by Thursday, and that could mean a third reading after midnight Wednesday.

1370953422 Morning Memo: Szlosberg-Landis resigns, House tends to budget and an attack on the Wright Brothers The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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 Thanks for reading.***

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest gets a new gavel

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest will gavel the N.C. Senate to session Monday with new oomph.

House Speaker Thom Tillis surprised Forest and presented him with a new gavel (at right) made from heart pine during Saturday's Mecklenburg Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner. It is made from the same wood as Tillis' gavel.

On Tillis' Facebook page, he writes that the wood comes from the state tree, the Long Leaf Pine. "The tree was a sapling around the time of the founding of our nation. It was felled around 1825 and used to build a house near Speed, North Carolina. The house was "visited" by Sherman's troops during the Civil War but the house was not destroyed. 150 years later it was used to turn historic gavels now in the hands of the leaders of the NC Senate and NC House. I am proud to share that history with my friend and my Lt. Governor," Tillis wrote. Find more on the wood's origin here.

Morning Memo: Tillis to face questions, Carolina Panthers want state money

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: House Speaker Thom Tillis will offer a preview of the legislative session this morning in a closely watched press conference. His Republican counterpart in the Senate, President Pro Tem Phil Berger, did the same earlier this month and how the two visions dovetail -- or don't -- may set the tone for this year's term.

Three questions for Tillis: 1. Where does the Republican speaker stand on taxes? Like Gov. Pat McCrory, Tillis has been careful not to stake a specific position in recent days but with the session upon us, his direction is important to the anticipated legislation and its progress. 2. Does he support the Carolina Panther's request for state money for upgrades to the private Bank of America Stadium and the city of Charlotte's efforts to raise the food tax to fund renovations? 3. His GOP lieutenants in the House appear willing to push ahead with unemployment benefit cuts despite a federal prohibition -- meaning 85,000 jobless people in North Carolina will lose their federal benefits. How does the GOP avoid looking callous in a time of great need?

***This is the Dome Morning Memo, good morning. One day until the legislative session starts in earnest. Read below for more N.C. political intelligence and big headlines. ***

Tillis floats virtual interim committee meetings idea

House Speaker Thom Tillis said Wednesday he wants to allow legislators to participate in committee meetings that are held when the General Assembly is not in session without being present. Plans are being worked up to allow members to join meetings, and even cast votes, from secure remote sites, he said.

That will require a change in the rules, which Tillis said he wants to see adopted as soon as possible, sometime after the session begins in January. He said it would be beneficial for some oversight committee meetings that are held when the legislature is  not in session.


GOP House candidate links fundraising to committee assignments

A Republican candidate for the N.C. House told a crowd that how much money she funnels to House Speaker Thom Tillis and the GOP caucus will determine which committee assignments she receives if elected.

"Unfortunately, the more money you raise and give to the speaker, the better committee assignment you get," candidate Debra Conrad told a group in Winston-Salem. "I don’t like that situation."

Yes! Weekly first reported the remarks. Tillis' office denied the fundraising-to-committee-assignment connection. But Conrad told reporter Jordan Green that she and fellow GOP candidates are feeling the pressure.

Morning Roundup: Perdue administration fights back against state auditor

A clash between State Auditor Beth Wood and the Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement over the auditor’s scathing report that top ALE officials misused state cars escalated Wednesday. As she arrived in the Legislative Office Building, Wood was served with a letter demanding she “cease and desist” from further disseminating the document. Read more here.

More political headlines:

--A day after a Republican runoff set the field in the 9th Congressional District, Democrat Jennifer Roberts Wednesday sought to draw distinctions with her new rival. Meanwhile, a new report shows she quietly raised more than $250,000 through June, most of it from Charlotte supporters.

Democrats try to crown new nickname on Thom Tillis

Democrats are looking to coin a new nickname for the House Speaker: King Thom Tillis. The state party launched a website and Twitter handle under the monicker with the slogan, "looking out for the King's interests, not yours."

Like other political hit sites mocking politicians, the page about Tillis is a collection of unflattering headlines rehashing  romantic relationships his aides had with two lobbyists, the pending state ethics probe and his costly statewide town hall tour, among others. 

Tillis spokesman Jordan Shaw fired back: "Have you ever heard of a king who term limits himself?" he said referring to the speaker's pledge to serve only one more term.

Weekend roundup: GOP leader says 'this is our economy'

In the closing days of the legislative session, House Speaker Thom Tillis staked a claim on the state’s sputtering economy, even though his party blames Democrats for the current situation.

“This is our economy,” Tillis said. “I am fully confident. I want to own this economy. It is our responsibility. We did a good job of starting, and we’ve got a lot of unraveling to do of bad policies that have hamstrung us that cannot be undone overnight.” 

But the GOP record on the economy remains debatable, especially in a rural county that needs jobs. Read more here.

More political headlines:

--Get a scorecard from the Republican-controlled two-year legislative session here.

Video sweepstakes bill unlikely to make much progress

House Speaker Thom Tillis essentially put an end to Rep. Bill Owens effort to push for a tax on video sweepstakes games, as proposed by Gov. Bev Perdue.

The measure -- House bill 1180 -- has received multiple hearings in the House Finance Committee but has yet to make it to the floor. And Tillis is skeptical it ever will this session, saying there is are serious questions being raisedabout it and "not sufficient time to take it up."

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