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Bill granting scholarships to children with disabilities goes to governor

Some families can’t afford to put their children with disabilities into private schools that better suit their needs. Sponsors of a bill the House concurred on on Monday aim to fix that.

“This is an opportunity for children with special needs to get some educational help where they’re not receiving it,” said Rep. Paul Stam of Apex, a Republican. “The big change is that it makes parents who are too poor to pay income taxes eligible for the same program that those who do pay income tax are eligible for.”

House Bill 269 amends a relatively new law that offers tax credits to parents who want to place their children with disabilities in private schools. The new bill offers a $6,000 per year scholarship, instead of a tax credit so low-income families who don't pay taxes can use it. Critics of the law say it takes away from public schools.

Bill would have teenagers tried in adult court for the most serious crimes

Children 13 and older would have to be tried in adult court for the most serious crimes, under a bill pending in the state House.

Currently, only teenagers accused of first-degree murder automatically must have their cases heard in superior court, where proceedings are confidential and the punishment is generally less severe.

Judges already can transfer the most serious felonies to adult court if they find there is probable cause that the juvenile committed the crime. This bill would require them to transfer the cases if the prosecutor requests it.

Morning Memo: McCrory in spotlight in MetLife deal

BIG JOBS DEAL PUTS McCRORY IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Charlotte law firm Moore & Van Allen, where Gov. Pat McCrory was employed until just days before taking office, helped the New York-based insurance company negotiate with state and local governments to receive more than $94 million in taxpayer-funded incentives in return for the promise to add more than 2,600 jobs in the next three years. The connection raises questions in the minds of Democrats about McCrory’s role in the deal and again shines light on his employment at the law firm, which also runs a lobbying practice in Raleigh. Republicans used similar concerns to reject a major economic development project under Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue, citing how the company hired a Raleigh law firm that employed her son.

TODAY IN POLITICS: McCrory will tout the MetLife deal at another event in Charlotte Friday. The U.S. Labor Department reports the national unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, a four year low. The full N.C. Mining and Energy Commission meets Friday as the debate about what to do with fracking waste remains unresolved and lawmakers are getting involved.

Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. Much more on the MetLife deal and the political implications below. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com. Have a good weekend and Go Heels!

State lottery debate hits big question: Are people dumb?

The debate on a bill to neuter the state lottery hinged on one question Wednesday as a House panel considered the measure. "Do you really think the people of North Carolina are dumb?" state Rep. Mickey Michaux asked. "What you are trying to do here is regulate people's actions."

Michaux, a Durham Democrat, meant it as a serious question and Republican Paul "Skip" Stam said he considered it a good one. "It's variable," said Stam, a lead sponsor. "Even the smartest person given false information will act in a different way."

The measure -- dubbed "The Honest Lottery Act", or HB156 -- is aimed at limiting the N.C. Education Lottery's advertising and games, which the bill sponsors consider misleading. Stam agreed to remove a provision to change the lottery's name to the N.C. State Lottery because it would cost $6 million to rebrand.

Wake lawmakers split on interstate loop bill

Moving to erase a law that has stopped progress on the next leg of the 540 Outer Loop, two Wake County House members filed a bill Wednesday to allow study of the Red Route option – which would bulldoze parks and neighborhoods in Garner.

But Garner’s new senator said he would oppose the legislation. “I can’t support a bill that will approve study of a route that we don’t intend to fund – and will go straight through the middle of one of the towns that I represent,” said Sen. Chad Barefoot, a Wake Forest Republican elected in November, whose district includes Garner. The bill was filed Wednesday by Reps. Paul Stam of Apex and Nelson Dollar of Cary, both Republicans. Barefoot is Stam's former legislative aide.

Wake County leaders and state Department of Transportation officials favor the Orange Route, south of Garner, as the path for extending the six-lane 540 Outer Loop expressway across southern Wake. A 2011 law forbids DOT to build or even study the Red Route. Read more here.

Morning Roundup: Sen. Hartsell accused of 'pilfering' estate, Stam: more abortion bills coming

State Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, already under scrutiny for campaign finance questions, also embroiled in a legal case over how he handled an elderly couple's estate. Read about it here.

Another legislator making news: state Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam at a pro-life rally on Saturday predicted new abortion bills this coming session.

1358782433 Morning Roundup: Sen. Hartsell accused of 'pilfering' estate, Stam: more abortion bills coming The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

As bill banning red light camera returns, Rep. Stam is excused

Because he is an attorney for two Wake County drivers in a lawsuit over Cary's red-light camera program, Rep. Paul Stam of Apex says he will not take part when the House takes up a Senate proposal to get rid of red-light cameras in Cary and the other three cities that use them. Read more at the Road Worrier blog.

House GOP leader counters political group's attacks

Rep. Paul "Skip Stam is taking issue with gun rights advocates who called him a weasel for opposing gun rights. Or more specifically in Stam's case, a bill to allow guns on private property.

Grass Roots North Carolina is upset with Stam's position on HB650, a bill that expanded the rights of gun owners on private property. Stam defended his conservative credentials, saying he was a strong supporter of property rights. And he questioned the bonafides of those who didn't agree. He passed along an edited transcript of his remarks during the floor debate. Here's an excerpt: "But there is something that actually goes back farther than the right to keep and bear arms. That of course is in the United States Constitution in 1791, and in our North Carolina Declaration of Rights in 1868. It was recognized that people had the right to keep and bear arms for hundreds of years before that. Long before people even had firearms, they had property."

Republicans labeled by gun rights supporters as 'weasels'

It's not often you see House GOP leader Paul "Skip" Stam being lampooned by conservatives.

But Grass Roots North Carolina, a political advocacy group that favors looser gun laws, is labeling Stam, Republican state Rep. Chuck McGrady and former GOP state lawmaker David Guice as "the three weasels of the North Carolina House."

The group charges that the "anti-gun" lawmakers didn't do enough to ensure gun rights in North Carolina -- and organizers are promising retribution in the 2012 election.

Democrats decry Republicans' broken deal, GOP questions Democratic maneuvering

UPDATED: The House overrode the veto of the teachers dues checkoff bill, accomplishing their long-sought payback to the N.C. Association of Educators for its lobbying efforts.

And then they went home, adjourning until February without taking up voter ID or offshore/onshore drilling.

Gov. Perdue issued a statement calling the session unconstitutional because legislators took up an issue that was not the reason they had convened.

“The Republicans in the General Assembly didn’t have the votes to get what they wanted legally," Perdue's statement said. "So, in the dark of night, they engaged in an unprecedented, unconstitutional power grab. I am saddened for the people of North Carolina that the Republicans abused their power and chose this destructive path.” 

In pursuing a midnight session, House Democratic Leader Joe Hackney said Republicans broke a pledge not to consider any legislation other than one bill involving the Racial Justice Act.

The deal: Democrats would request the governor go ahead with appointment of Trudi Walend, a crucial Republican vote, to replace Rep. David Guice, if Republicans wouldn't consider other legislation. If the appointment was finalized by 6:30 p.m., the deal was set, Hackney said.

Republicans see this as trading a seat for a vote (or no votes, in this case). But Hackney rejected such an accusation as "ridiculous."

He said Democrats pushed Perdue to make the appointment faster -- she has seven days to finalize the Republicans' appointment. "The governor was asked to act abnormally in that matter," he said. Read more below.

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