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Morning Memo: Is the Senate's tax plan a tax hike for many?

TAX PLAN COULD MEAN TAX HIKE IN LONG TERM: The majority of taxpayers likely would see a tax increase after the plan is fully implemented, according to early long-term projections from legislative fiscal researchers who analyzed the potential legislation – not a tax break as Senate Republican leaders suggested when announcing the plan this week.

A taxpayer with a federal adjusted gross income below $51,000 could pay an average $100 to $200 more in the 2017 tax year. Based on current tax brackets, 2.3 million taxpayers would fit that category, according to the analysis, while 1.8 million taxpayers could expect an average $300 to $3,000 tax cut that year. In announcing the plan Tuesday, Senate leader Phil Berger, an Eden Republican, emphasized that the legislation was not yet finalized, but said the “vast majority,” or roughly two-thirds of taxpayers, would initially get a tax cut as a result of the legislation. (More below.)

***This is the Dome Morning Memo -- the source for North Carolina political news and analysis. Send tips to dome@newsobserver.com. And read more new details about the tax plan below.***

Legislative Black Caucus members invite themselves to McCrory's office

Members of the Legislative Black Caucus are going to Gov. Pat McCrory's office Thursday morning to talk about their opposition to bills moving through the legislature.

Rep. Garland Pierce, a Scotland County Democrat and caucus chairman, said members invited themselves over and aren't sure McCrory will be there. He won't be.

McCrory's office said he can't meet Thursday morning, but he's trying to find another time.

McCrory has met with the Black Caucus a few times this year, including a meeting where he came over to the Legislative Building. Those who attended didn't point to any points of agreement arising from that confab, other than legislators and McCrory agreeing that it's a good idea to talk.

Caucus members have also been at the breakfasts McCrory has hosted at the mansion for legislators, his office said.

Pierce painted the meeting as something of an emergency. He described current legislation as a speeding train heading for a washed out bridge. McCrory needs to slow or stop the train, Pierce said.

"We just think it rises to this level at this time," Pierce said. "We don't want to be voiceless in this General Assembly and this state."

Legislative Black Caucus members say they're prepared for tough debate on voter ID

Members of the Legislative Black Caucus said Wednesday that they planned a spirited fight opposing the voter ID bill that's scheduled for debate on House floor this afternoon, even though they know it will pass.

Republicans want to "wipe out the 20th century and go back to the 19th century," said state Rep. Mickey Michaux, a Durham Democrat. "White folks take things that we had to fight for for granted," he said.

Rep. Rodney Moore, Charlotte Democrat, recalled how African-Americans fought for voting rights in the 1960s.

Republicans' push for voting restrictions is an attempt to wipe out that progress, Michaux said.

"We know that they've got the votes" to pass the bill, Michaux said. "We want to make it so miserable for them to cast those votes they're going to hate to do it."

Morning Memo: Education, voter ID dominate agenda; McCrory nears 100 days

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: A controversial voter ID measure gets a double billing Wednesday, appearing in a 1 p.m. House Election Committe meeting for discussion only and a 4 p.m. public hearing. A lawyer from the Indiana Secretary of State's Office and the N.C. NAACP's William Barber will present at the earlier meeting. The House will also unveil a major education bill at a 2 p.m. press conference, just hours after a Senate panel considers President Pro Tem Phil Berger's own overhaul plan at a 10 a.m.

Senate committees will also consider bills to increase the speed limit on some highways to 75 mph and provide tax money to the Carolina Panthers for stadium renovations. Gov. Pat McCrory will attend a private reception for the N.C. Homebuilders Association at 5 p.m. The group is advancing two controversial measures this session to limit local control of inspections and design standards for homes that are angering counties and cities. Wonder how Mayor Pat would have reacted to the legislation?

McCRORY'S FIRST 100 DAYS: The governor is nearing the 100-day mark of his term -- a benchmark that means little but will generate a media extravaganza. McCrory is sitting down with various media outlets this week, about 10 minutes at a time, to discuss his accomplishments. WRAL-TV is the first with an interview. Check it out here. 

***Good morning and thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. More North Carolina political news and analysis below.***

Black caucus pledges to stay vocal this session

The Legislative Black Caucus laid out it's legislative agenda, using a quote from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: "There comes a time when silence is betrayal."

"Some say, 'This is a bad time for the Black Caucus. What are you really going to do?' We are going to do a lot because we are going to be vocal," said Rep. Garland Pierce, the caucus chairman and a Wagram Democrat. Black lawmakers make up the majority of the House and Senate Democratic caucuses.

He pounded the Republican agenda, as Democrats have for the past several weeks, as "truly taking form the needy and giving to the greedy." Pierce, a Baptist minister, combined legislation to allow the expiration of the earned-income tax credit, unemployment benefit cuts and blocking the expansion of Medicaid with voter ID, raising his voice to say "these things are fundamentally wrong at the core and plainly ungodly."

Pierce stopped short of suggesting the Republican cuts are racially tinged. "It's not so much about black, white and party, it's a class struggle," he said.

Morning Memo: McCrory to sign Medicaid bill, three others

McCRORY TO SIGN MEDICAID BILL, THREE OTHERS: Much like the bill to cut unemployment benefits, Gov. Pat McCrory will hold a private signing at the Capitol for a bill to block the expansion of Medicaid health care coverage to roughly 500,000, the majority of which are uninsured. The measure also blocks a state-based health insurance exchange and generated a heated debate in the N.C. General Assembly, where it passed largely along party lines. McCrory said the state is not ready for either part of the federal health care law at this point. The Republican governor will also sign the possum drop bill (HB66), a funding fix for group homes (SB4) and a measure to impose great penalties for protests that disturb military funerals (HB19) at 4:30 p.m.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: A House Judiciary subcommittee looks at a bill (HB156) to limit the N.C. Education Lottery's ability to advertise and offer new types of games, as well as take the word "education" from its official name. The issue is likely to split Republicans and Democrats, much as the original lottery vote did. Another House subcommittee will consider a measure to open campus police records held by private colleges to public inspection. The Senate Education Committee will take up two bills related to digital learning. Both chambers convene at 2 p.m. McCrory and state officials are participating in a hurricane drill Wednesday morning.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- a must-read to start any day in the North Carolina political world.***

Legislative Black Caucus slams Regions Bank over payday-style loans

The state Legislative Black Caucus announced today that it is among the North Carolina groups concerned about Regions Bank's revival of payday-style loans.

Sen. Floyd McKissick Jr., chairman of the caucus, sent a letter to recently sent a letter to the Alabama-based bank's CEO, O.B. Grayson Hall.

"We are deeply concerned about recent reports of Regions Bank offering its 'Ready Advance' payday loans in North Carolina," McKissick said. "High-cost, short-term balloon loans like these sharply increase the financial distress of families under economic strain."

NAACP urges compensation for eugenics victims

The state NAACP sent a letter to state leaders today urging them to compensate victims of the state eugenics program by the end of this year.

From the 1920s to the 1970s, the N.C. Board of Eugenics oversaw the sterilization of nearly 7,600 people. Most are no longer alive.

Former Gov. Mike Easley apologized to eugenics victims in 2002, but no compensation has been approved.

A task force recommended in a preliminary report to Gov. Bev Perdue this summer that the state compensate those sterilized under the program, but did not recommend an amount. The final report is due in February.

A range of compensation amounts have been recommended, from $20,000 to $50,000, in the years the state has been talking about eugenics victims. The task force reported that it needs more time to get feedback and work on a number, which will be in its final report.

House Speaker Thom Tillis told the Charlotte Observer in August that he wants the legislature to vote next year on a compensation plan.

The NAACP letter, which asked that "victims be compensated at the highest amount or moral conscience and justice demands" went to Tillis, Gov. Bev  Perdue, and Sen. Floyd McKissick of Durham, head of the Legislative Black Caucus.

"The time has come for the state to right this horrible wrong and fulfill its promise to these citizens who have suffered long enough," the letter said.

Proposed revision to death penalty law called racist

The N.C. Legislative Black Caucus denounced what they said was an attempt to repeal a law devised to ensure fairness in death penalty cases.

The law, called the Racial Justice Act, allows defendants and death row prisoners to challenge prosecutions on the grounds of racial bias. The law passed in 2009 largely along party lines.

Four Republican legislators filed a bill this week that would change the law so that people seeking relief would have to show that prosecutors intentionally used race as a discriminatory factor in seeking the death penalty or selecting a jury.

"Passing this repeal would be a giant step backwards for justice in North Carolina," said Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Durham Democrat.

Rep. Earline Parmon, a Winston-Salem Democrat who worked on the bias bill, called efforts to change it "a racist attack, an ungodly attack on the poor people of this state."

Not surprisingly, one of the bill sponsors strongly disagreed with that assessment. "Wow," said Rep. Justin Burr, an Albemarle Republican who proposed changes. "I think that's an outrageous comment, first of all."

Nearly all of the states death row prisoners have filed petitions for review under the law. Burr called the accusation of racism "absurd" because white defendants charged with killing white victims are using the law.

The changes are an attempt to make sure the burden of proof is put on the defendant and is not financial burden on the state, he said. The existing law is essentially is a death penalty moratorium, he said.
 

McKissick heads black caucus

Sen. Floyd McKissick, a Durham Democrat, has been named chairman of the 25-member state Legislative Black Caucus.

McKissick said in a statement that he would work with caucus members to champion issues such as job recruitment and the promotion of small and minority-owned businesses.

McKissick has been a senator since 2007. He was a member of the Durham City Council for eight years.

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