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Bill Maher on North Carolina: So much for a comedian to work with

Bill Maher used North Carolina as his comedic spittoon a week ago, generating a good bit of attention.

Maher will undoubtedly offer a few more barbs when he performs his standup routine Saturday in Durham. Previewing his visit, staff writer David Menconi talked to Maher about the state's politics. From today's N&O: When told he’s being interviewed from North Carolina, Bill Maher guffaws for a good long while. “Ah, North Carolina,” he says with relish. “So much there for a comedy show to work with!”

So what does he think of North Carolina politics right now? Read below.

National media beats up on NC, and that's just fine with GOP

Judging by all the national media attention on North Carolina’s swing to the right – particularly the comedy TV show variety – you’d think the GOP was sunk.

But, funny as they may be, the national political jokesters might not be the best source of insight into the state’s future. At least that’s how the Republicans see it – to the contrary.

North Carolina will be leading a red-state resurgence, North Carolina GOP media strategist Marc Rotterman tells NPR blogger Alan Greenblatt. “I think McCrory is going to end up being one of the most popular governors in the country,” Rotterman is quoted saying in the It’s All Politics blog last week.

Greenblatt writes that Rotterman’s rosy outlook might be surprising, since the national view is that the controversial Republican legislature and McCrory would seem to make North Carolina “more ripe for Democrats, not less.”

Check it out here. .

Morning Memo: Daily Show says North Carolina trumps South Carolina in crazy

VOTING BILL TARGET OF LAUGHS: Another day, another national television show puts North Carolina at the butt of the jokes. The Daily Show on Comedy Central took aim at the recently approved elections bill that puts restrictions on voting. Host John Oliver joked that the state election bill would place “all voting booths on buoys that are only accessible by yacht." The segment lumped North Carolina together with Texas and Florida but the Tar Heel state (starting at 2:30) received particular attention and Senate leader Phil Berger make an appearance from a TV clip. Oliver says the voting bill is just the “tip of the true $h*!-berg of a legislative session" and concludes: “Your move South Carolina. Oh, you thought you had crazy Carolina all sown up, didn’t you?”

***The state's system to deliver food assistance is troubled and ALEC is targeted ahead of this week's meeting. Read more North Carolina political news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Bill Maher's screed rips North Carolina GOP

BILL MAHER RIPS NORTH CAROLINA A NEW ONE: Comedian and liberal commenter Bill Maher spent five minutes recapping North Carolina's rightward political shift concluding: "North Carolina is going ape $*!# in a way no other state has."

Maher introduces the clip comparing the state to a third world country "where Democracy itself hangs in the balance." He later blames Art Pope for the circumstances and suggested his guest Jay-Z ought to buy the state. See the clip above.

McCRORY WATCH: Gov. Pat McCrory hasn’t signed any bills in a week and there are 38 of them on his desk. Deadline to sign them is a minute before midnight on Sunday, Aug. 25. He signed a spate of legislation July 29.

***The biggest bill on his desk -- read about it below. Along with more North Carolina political news in the Dome Morning Memo.***

NC has become the new Wisconsin battleground, national magazine says

"How North Carolina Became the Wisconsin of 2013'' is the headline in a story The Atlantic by David A. Graham.

"Nowhere is the battle between liberal and conservative visions of government fiercer than North Carolina,'' says the article. "From the environment to guns, abortion to campaign finance, religion to taxes, Raleigh has become a battleground that resembles Madison, Wisconsin, in 2011.

The article cites fight over unemployment benefits, tax overhaul, fracking, Racial Justice Act Repeal, Medicaid Expansion, voting laws, gun laws, education, state religion, and judicial public financing.

The article can be read here.

McCrory's national radio address underlines themes of economy, education and efficiency

Gov. Pat McCrory gave the GOP’s weekly radio address on Saturday morning, giving the newly elected North Carolina governor a bit of a national profile.

McCrory repeated the gist of his campaign themes and remarks he has made since taking office in January, saying North Carolina is working on reforms in the economy, education and efficiency.

N.C. revenues $126 million ahead of targets

North Carolina’s revenue and tax collections so far this fiscal year show an improving state economy that is still struggling to build up considerable momentum.

Through the first three quarters of the fiscal year, North Carolina’s general fund revenues have exceeded the state’s $14.3 billion revenue target by $110 million, according to a new report by the state’s Fiscal Research Division. Tax revenues are $126 million ahead of a $13.5 billion target.

But sales tax collections have been below projections, with the state taking in $90 million less than the $4 billion targeted through the first three quarters of the fiscal year. Non-tax revenues, which includes investment income and judicial fees, are also $16.3 million less than the state’s $513 million target.

More trouble for the internet sweeps industry

The AP’s Michael Biesecker has dug up an interesting follow to the internet sweepstakes case out of Florida that involves a major campaign contributor in North Carolina. This week the sweeps café industry vowed to continue to push for legalization in this state.

Here’s how it starts:

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- Fresh off a nearly $300 million racketeering case involving a veterans' charity that benefited from simulated gambling at Internet cafes, Florida regulators will investigate a children's cancer group connected to a similar operation that is four times bigger.

The new probe comes in response to Associated Press inquiries about Children's Cancer Cooperative, a group that operates out of a South Carolina bingo parlor, shares a lawyer with Allied Veterans of the World and has collected cash from more than 200 of the sweepstakes cafes in Florida.

In exchange for the money that has flowed into the Children's Cancer Cooperative from the cafes, the charity's name is listed as sponsoring sweepstakes prizes offered at the cafes, giving players the impression money lost on the fast-moving games mimicking Vegas-style slots goes to help sick kids. ...

Records found by the AP show the Children's Cancer Cooperative was registered in Florida in 2009. It is also registered in at least six other states where sweepstakes games are popular — Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia and Iowa.

North Carolina ranks No. 48 in per student spending, average teacher salaries

Only three states are expected to spend less per student than North Carolina in the current school year, according to the latest rankings from the National Education Association.

North Carolina's per pupil spending for the 2012-13 school year is estimated at $8,433 with only Texas, Utah and Arizona spending less per student. The U.S. average is $11,068.

The state also ranks No. 48 in teacher salary among the 50 states and District of Columbia in the current school year, paying an average $45,947. Only Oklahoma, Mississippi and South Dakota pay less. The U.S. average is $56,383.

Both rankings in per pupil spending and average teacher salary represent a decline in the NEA rankings from the previous year. North Carolina spent $8,492 per student in the 2011-2012 school year and paid an average teacher salary of $46,605.

State receives $74 million federal grant for health insurance exchange

The state has received a $74 million federal grant to set up an online marketplace for health insurance, a key component of the new federal health care law.

The internet insurance mall would be for small businesses or individuals not insured through their jobs. The money would be used for getting guts of the system ready.

According to the grant application the state Department of Insurance submitted last year, more than half the money would be used by the state Department of Health and Human Services to link the software that creates the website to an existing software program called NC FAST, which is used by DHHS and county social services departments.

Gov. Pat McCrory has not said how he wants the state to approach the health care law - whether he wants the state to run its own exchange, whether the state will run it with the federal government, or if North Carolina will tell the U.S. government to do all the work.

Senate leader Phil Berger said Wednesday he did not want a state or state-federal exchange.

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