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Morning Memo: Florida GOP governor takes N.C. Democrats approach

FLORIDA GOP GOV -- AN OBAMACARE HATER -- TAKES THE REP. INSKO APPROACH: That's right. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who first entered politics to fight the federal health care law, is proposing to take the money for Medicaid expansion for the first three years when Washington will pay the full cost. State Rep. Verla Insko, a Chapel Hill Democrat, proposed the same thing in North Carolina, but Republican lawmakers shot it down repeatedly. "That's just completely nonsensical and doesn't work," Republican Rep. Nelson Dollar said of Inkso's idea.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House is taking it easy today. A skeletal session with no recorded votes -- none until Tuesday, in fact. The Senate will convene for action at noon. But most the action will take place in the Commerce Committee where the bill to speed up and incentivize fracking with get a hearing. Gov. Pat McCrory lists no public events on his schedule. He leaves this evening for Washington to attend the National Governors Association and Republican Governors Association winter meetings. Wonder if McCrory will talk to Scott and Ohio Gov. John Kasich about how their recent decisions to expand Medicaid?

***Good morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- more N.C. political news below.***

Morning Roundup: N.C. lawmakers plan speedy start to session

Legislators get back to making laws Wednesday with a running start on some of the state’s most controversial issues.

House budget writers are preparing to present their spending plans to the public after weeks of behind-the-scenes work. Onshore drilling for natural gas will move quickly off the blocks and will face votes over the first few weeks. A plan to close a Medicaid budget shortfall also will see early action. A Senate committee on Wednesday will debate a bill allowing live poker, blackjack and other table games at the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ casino. Get a legislative preview here.

More political headlines:

--The end of the John Edwards trial came into view Tuesday as his defense team told the judge that only three potential defense witnesses remain — the defendant, his daughter, Cate, and his former mistress, Rielle Hunter. Defense Attorney Abbe Lowell announced the list while informing Judge Catherine Eagles at the end of Tuesday’s proceedings that the defense may rest on Wednesday or Thursday.

--Republicans launched the first television commercial Tuesday in the November governor’s race, an attack ad that tries to link Democratic nominee Walter Dalton to the unpopular Gov. Bev Perdue. But the 30-second spot’s major points don’t fully meet the truth test. Here’s a claim-by-claim fact check.

N.C. ranks 45th in cigarette tax

North Carolina has the sixth-lowest cigarette tax.

According to research by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, an anti-smoking advocacy group, only five states have lower cigarette taxes: Florida, Virginia, Mississippi, Missouri and South Carolina.

North Carolina's 35-cents per-pack tax is far below the $1.15 median rate of Arkansas and Delaware. The lowest is 7-cents in South Carolina; the highest, $2.75 in New York.

Gov. Beverly Perdue has proposed raising the tax by $1 per pack. The new rate of $1.35 would tie Pennsylvania for 20th highest rate. 

It would also be the highest among neighboring states of Georgia (37 cents), Virginia (30 cents), South Carolina and Tennessee (62 cents).

The tax rates are as of April 1 of this year. The federal cigarette tax will increase to $1.01 on April 31. In addition, a few cities and counties charge local cigarette taxes.

Professor: Southeast is a concept

John Shelton Reed says the Southeast is a concept, not a region.

The retired UNC-Chapel Hill sociology professor said that the Southeastern United States is a loosely defined "post-historical region" centered around Atlanta.

"It's an economy; it's not a culture," he said. "You talk about Southern music and Southern cooking and Southern women. You don't talk about Southeastern music and cooking and women."

As a general rule, Reed said the boundaries do not necessarily follow state borders, but he would use the Mississippi River as the dividing line between the Southeast and the Southwest and the usual borders between the North and South.

That would include: Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

It would leave out Arkansas and Louisiana. He said West Virginia would be a borderline case.

"These boundaries are kind of indistinct," he said. "You don't cross a border, you sort of move into it gradually."

Hat Tip: awbeal 

Another definition of Southeastern

Who needs the federal government? We've got football.

Though the U.S. Census Bureau does not define the Southeastern region in its reports, another major — more important? — agency does: The Southeastern Conference.

The college athletic conference headquartered in Alabama has its own roster of states it considers to be in the Southeast:

Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee.

It does not include North Carolina or Virginia, which are part of the Atlantic Coast Conference but are undoubtedly in the Southeast. It also skips West Virginia, a borderline case.

The definition is important because a recent political ad compares tax rates in the Southeast, which obviously differ depending on which states you include.

The definition of Southeast

How do you define the Southeast?

We here at Dome headquarters have been poring over some tax data this morning as part of a fact-check, and we came across this interesting epistemological problem.

The general consensus of our group of reporters was that it includes the following states:

Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

We did not include West Virginia, but the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis does in its regional breakdowns. That means a number of other groups, such as the Tax Foundation, also use it.

The U.S. Census Bureau does not define the Southeast.  

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