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Morning Memo: Abortion bill back on agenda; McCrory's misfire at Obama

ABORTION BILL IS 'CHRISTMAS IN JULY': The abortion bill resurfaces for discussion in the House on Tuesday after a vocal protest against it a day earlier. (More on Monday's demonstrations below.) So we know what critics say about the abortion bill, but what about supporters? Christian Action League's Rev. Mark Creech is asking proponents to "pray for Christmas in July." On the group's website, he writes: "In all my days, I have never seen a bill so full of good content. I have shared with my friends that the legislation is a veritable Christmas tree of beautiful lights and ornaments representing life, justice and other righteous principles. The only thing missing is the crowning star of final passage and the governor’s signature. For those of us who believe in faith, family, and freedom, this bill is Christmas in July."

McCRORY'S MISFIRE AT OBAMA: Gov. Pat McCrory sought to deflect blame for North Carolina's decision to curtail jobless benefits by pointing the finger Monday at President Barack Obama's administration. The problem is he pointed in the wrong direction. (Read more below.)

***Click below for details about the controversial abortion bill and more North Carolina political news and analysis in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Two beer bills flowing in the Senate

With little discussion and no opposition, a Senate committee approved two beer bills Tuesday.

The legislation will allow in-stand beer sales at professional sporting events in North Carolina and permit more retailers to sell and fill growlers, which are 64-ounce glass jugs. The move sends the bills to the full Senate for a vote, and if approved, could go to Gov. Pat McCrory soon.

The Senate Commerce Committee moved so quickly Tuesday, it didn't let the House sponsors of the bills finish their explanation. The voice votes appeared unanimous.

Christian Action League opposes gender-neutral university housing

The N.C. Christian Action League objects to the UNC-Chapel Hill trustees' decision last week to allow male and female students to share dorm suites and canpus apartments, saying it would be a special privelidge for gay, lesbian and transgender students.

The policy was adopted after students said they were made to feel uncomforable in their suites or dorm rooms because of their sexual orientation.

An article in the Christian Action League newsletter quotes the Rev. Mark Creech, the group's executive director,  saying that gender neutral housing amounted to special protections for people who choose alternative lifestyles, and was costly to the larger society.

Tami Fitzgerald, director of the N.C. Values Coalition, said readers should urge trustees to change their minds.

"The UNC Board of Trustees is bending over backward to please the homosexual lobby - a group that represents only about 3 percent of the population - without regard for the consequences..." she told the Christian Action League. "To make matters worse, our tax dollars subsidize the University of North Carolina system."

House expected to take contentious vote on gambling expansion

The big legislative showdown on a bill to expand gambling in North Carolina pits the Christian Action League against the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Each side took a turn arguing its case in front of the House Republican Caucus on Thursday morning. And each emerged suggesting the vote on the House floor this afternoon will be close.

Rev. Mark Creech, the league's executive director, called the vote count "mushy" with a number of undecided lawmakers still remaining. Unlike many controversial votes that break along partisan lines, the bill to enable a new 30-year tribal gaming compact needs an odd mix of Republicans and Democrats to pass. 

Jones wants video poker on the table

Rep. Earl Jones is trying his luck at video poker.

A House committee began discussing but took no action on a bill sponsored by Jones that would legalize video poker in North Carolina, while giving the state 20 percent of the gaming profits. The state banned the machines in 2006.

The legislature is being pushed by recent court decisions falling on the side of video poker, saying the state cannot ban the games while allowing them on Native American reservations. The case is being reviewed by higher courts.

Proponents argue that such games could bring the state an extra $480 million in revenue and support about 35,000 jobs in the state at a time when money is needed. But others say the practice is deplorable and more addictive than other forms of gambling such as the lottery.

"Economic times have changed, and that's probably the primary reason for the consideration of legislation like this," said Mark Creech of the Christian Action League. "But we can make compromises that are all together too costly."

Jones, a Greensboro Democrat, disagreed, saying that the state already supports one form of gambling, the lottery, and that video poker is not substantially different. "The political liability for the state supporting gaming has already been tested," he said.

A practical and a religious argument

Cullie TarletonRep. Cullie Tarleton said restaurant owners are in favor of the ban.

Speaking on the House floor, the Watauga County Democrat said that he has a friend who owns a restaurant and bar in Blowing Rock who calls once or twice a week asking about the proposed smoking ban.

He said that, statistically speaking, four North Carolinians died today because of second-hand smoke.

He also quoted a letter from Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina. 

Bill would allow Sunday sales

The liquor industry is pushing for Sunday sales.

Legislation filed Tuesday would let cities and counties open their local Alcoholic Beverage Control stores and allow restaurants and bars to serve liquor on Sundays.

The longstanding resistance to selling liquor on Sunday may have weakened as the state looks for ways to fill a budget shortfall. Industry analysts project the state would get at least an additional $5.5 million.

"For those areas that want it, it provides an additional service to their citizens," said Sen. Tony Rand, a Fayetteville Democrat and the bill's chief sponsor, "and the revenue will be higher."

Beer and wine are sold at grocery stores, restaurants and bars after noon on Sundays. The Carolina Panthers got special permission two years ago to start selling at 11 a.m. for Sunday games.

Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the evangelical Christian Action League said the measure will lead to more alcohol-related problems. (N&O)

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