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Speaker Tillis, 100 House lawmakers sign letter opposing Catawba casino

House Speaker Thom Tillis and more than 100 House lawmakers signed a letter Tuesday to oppose a potential Catawba Nation casino in North Carolina.

The letter is directed to U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in an effort to block the South Carolina tribe's efforts to acquire lands to establish a gaming operation north of the state line. The federal agency must take the lands into a trust for gaming to occur on the land.

The Catawba's are exploring land in Cleveland County along Interstate 85 for a potential gaming facility that could include Las Vegas-styled live dealers and slot machines. Local officials are touting it as an economic development effort and a top official in Gov. Pat McCrory's administration visited the site earlier this year.

State Rep. Paul Stam backing Wake County school bond referendum

One of the top Republican lawmakers in the state is supporting this fall’s $810 million Wake County school bond referendum.

State House Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam, an Apex Republican, said Thursday he supports the bond. His district includes some of the fastest-growing areas in Wake that would get new school seats under the bond issue.

Stam said he wanted to make it clear that not all Republicans in Wake are against the bond referendum.

Morning Memo: National Republicans launch billboards targeting Hagan

REPUBLICANS LAUNCH BILLBOARDS HITTING KAY HAGAN: The National Republican Senatorial Committee is debuting seven billboards across the state targeting U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan's support for the federal health care law. Republicans are trying to make the case that Hagan, a Democrat facing re-election in 2014, accomplished nothing besides supporting Obamacare in the first five years of her term. (See a copy of the billboard here.)

"Kay Hagan promised North Carolinians that she would govern as a centrist, but instead has been a Democratic partisan, supporting the President's signature initiatives lock, stock and barrel," said Brook Hougesen, a NRSC spokeswoman.

The effort is designed to put the one-term incumbent -- who polls show is vulnerable -- on the defensive while the GOP struggles to find a dominant candidate. House Speaker Thom Tillis is the most prominent name in the race but other major Republicans are still considering whether to run. Cary physician Greg Brannon, a tea party candidate, is also making a bid. The billboards are located in Greensboro, Charlotte, Winston-Salem and the Raleigh-Durham area.

***More North Carolina political news -- including U.S. Senate campaign updates -- below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

In surprise vote, House defeats Wake schools bill

Wake County schools’ multi-billion-dollar real estate portfolio will remain under the control of Wake County school board, barring renewed reconsideration of a bill that would have given control to the county commission. It failed to pass the House Wednesday afternoon, on a 54-62 vote.

House committee OK's new version of abortion bill

UPDATED: Hours after Gov. Pat McCrory threatened to veto a controversial abortion bill unless his concerns about it were addressed, a House committee approved on Wednesday a new version of the bill that apparently answers the governor's questions.

Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a Republican from Charlotte, said questions raised by the state Department of Health and Human Services at a committee meeting on Tuesday had been resolved in discussions leading up to Wednesday's meeting.

The main changes were relaxing the proposed standards that abortion clinics would have to meet -- sharing some regulations with ambulatory surgery centers but not making them identical -- and allowing pregnant women to take abortion-inducing medicine at home after taking an initial dose at a clinic under a doctor's supervision.

House panel approves tougher immigration bill

A House panel rejected Democratic attempts to weaken a major immigration bill Wednesday, approving the measure to authorize Arizona-style police powers and give driving permits to those here illegally.

The 9-3 vote in the Judiciary Subcommittee included a few Democrats who favored a revised version, which came after the original bill drew serious opposition. "It's well balanced now," said Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, the speaker pro tem. "It's a law enforcement bill."

The measure -- House Bill 786 -- now heads to the Finance Committee. It allows police to detain those suspected of being in the country illegally for up to 24 hours. Democrats wanted to remove controversial provisions about detainments and appropriate documentation but failed largely along party lines. "I came in here with a bill and I'd like to leave with one," Rep. Harry Warren, a lead sponsor. 

Morning Memo: McCrory to announce DOT plan, votes on drug testing and a Medicaid debate

Gov. Pat McCrory is expected to tell us how he wants to pay for new roads at 9:30 today. The governor's office has been tight-lipped saying only that he'll be making a transportation policy announcement. Looking for clues in the location he's chosen for his announcement — the NC History Museum — Dome will point out that it houses Richard Petty's advertising-ladened stock car. For those playing McCrory bing, key words will be public, private, customer and service.

***Good morning, and with the end of the week in sight, welcome to Dome Morning Memo, a look at the day ahead and a roundup of the news you might have missed Wednesday.

Bill proposes $3,000 grant to send disabled students to private schools

Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake County, is behind a bill introduced this week that would give students with special needs taxpayer-funded scholarships to attend private schools or be home-schooled.

Morning Memo: Redistricting in the courts, education in the legislature

THE MOST IMPORTANT POLITICAL STORY IN N.C.: The legal fight about the new political boundaries drawn by Republicans in the redistricting process is headed to court this week. A three-judge panelwill hear the arguments Monday and Tuesday after Democrats and groups fighting the maps filed suit contending they were unlawful. The new boundaries seal Republican power in the state legislature for the next decade and Democrats need a judicial reversal to regain strength.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House will focus on education this week, with local school superintendents from across the state invited to meet with lawmakers. House Speaker Thom Tillis will hold a 3 p.m. press conference to discuss "education week." The House and Senate convene Monday evening for skeleton sessions. No votes are expected.

***Good Monday morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. Find more political news and a weekend headline wrap below. And find out more information about the N&O's new iPad app, available for download now. (Programming note: Dome is not available on the app at the moment. Look for an upgrade later.)***

Constitutional amendment on property rights headed to House floor

House lawmakers are reviving an effort to put a constitutional amendment before voters that prohibits governments from taking private property for economic development through eminent domain.

The amendment -- approved by a House committee Wednesday and headed to the full House next -- would appear on the November 2014 ballot. Other provisions would make changes to state law effective upon passage. The House passed a similar version in the previous legislative session by a wide margin but the Senate didn't vote on the legislation.

"It will not stop all eminent domain but it would stop the parts of it that violate the property rights," said Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, an Apex Republican.

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