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Morning Memo: As storm approaches, House set for major tax vote

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: As a tropical storm hits Raleigh, the House will meet in its first full Friday session this year to debate a tax bill that represents one of the most expansive policy changes in decades. At the same time, appropriation subcommittees will meet to roll out the House budget, meeting before and after session. The Senate adjourned until Monday. The House action precedes what is expected to be a busy time next week in Raleigh with budget and taxes, among dozens of other bills, moving quickly as the legislature nears adjournment toward the end of the month. Top GOP lawmakers will rush from the statehouse to Charlotte for the state Republican Party convention. Gov. Pat McCrory will hold a reception at the convention this evening.

NEW NUMBERS SHOW TAX BILLS AFFECTS: The median North Carolina family would get a modest tax break while wealthy taxpayers may see a significant cut under a sweeping bill primed for a landmark House vote Friday. (Read more below.)

***Special Friday Dome Morning Memo edition. Read more about the tax plan on the House floor below and a recap from President Barack Obama's visit.***

Morning Memo: Questions for Thom Tillis, McCrory wades into tax fight

THREE QUESTIONS FOR THOM TILLIS: House Speaker Thom Tillis' decision to formally enter the Senate race and challenge Democrat U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan is not a surprise. But the timing, coming before the end of the legislative session, when Tillis said in January he would make a decision, is noteworthy. Here are three more questions about the race:

1. How long will he remain speaker? Running for the U.S. Senate is no state legislative race. It's all consuming. Does Tillis think he can manage an unruly House that is to his ideological right while campaigning? The case for staying in office: it helps to control the purse strings when you are asking for money. His allied super PAC, by coincidence or not, debuted when the House received the budget from the Senate. The case for resigning: Why have everything the Rep. Brawley's of the world propose drag you into issue fights you don't want?

2. Who will challenge him from the right? Tillis' debuted his run with an AP interview in which he emphasized his ability to work across the aisle -- a common message, but rarely heard in the primary stage of a campaign when you are appealing the fieriest partisans of your party. But it underscores Tillis' moderate tendencies and how Tillis could easily face a big-name challenger who is considered more conservative. The field could get crowded -- and Tillis isn't polling well in GOP primary surveys because he's largely unknown, despite his powerful post.

3. What will Phil Berger do? The possibility that Senate leader Phil Berger could enter the race -- and move to Tillis' right -- would add a whole new dynamic to the Republican primary field as two legislative leaders govern the state by their future ambition. It sounds less likely that he will run but even if he doesn't run, Berger can exert considerable influence if Tillis remains in the legislature by steering legislation that forces him to take positions on issues he may rather avoid.

***Read more on Tillis' Senate bid and Gov. Pat McCrory's step into the tax debate for the first time -- all below in the Dome Morning Memo, the source for North Carolina political news and analysis. ***

Morning Memo: N.C. Realtors launch new effort against tax plan

REALTORS TO LAUNCH NEW TV CAMPAIGN AGAINST TAX PLAN: The N.C. Realtors Association is preparing to launch a second, big-dollar campaign to challenge the N.C. Senate's tax overhaul efforts in coming days. The new TV ad campaign says the Senate tax plan to repeal the state deduction for mortgage interest will hurt middle class families. The group's strategist Chris Sinclair said the TV buy is in the "hundreds of thousands" and will run for three weeks. The realtors began the campaign a month ago with TV and online ads and the total cost is likely to approach $1million, he said. "The realtors believe this is a watershed moment for homeowners," Sinclair said.

McCRORY TO FETE BIG CAMPAIGN DONOR: Gov. Pat McCrory lists one public event on his schedule Friday: a retirement party for William "Bill" Shumaker, the CEO at Kewaunee Scientific. Shumaker and his wife donated $11,000 to McCrory's campaign in the 2012 cycle and another $2,000 in his losing 2008 bid, according to campaign finance reports. McCrory resigned from Kewaunee's board of directors on Jan. 5, the day he was sworn in as governor. The company paid him $53,168 in total compensation in the year that ended April 2012, federal corporate records show.

***Happy Friday and thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- a North Carolina political news tipsheet. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com.***

House GOP lawmaker says he wanted to settle dispute with Tillis quietly

The fallout from Rep. Robert Brawley's searing letter challenging House Speaker Thom Tillis continued Thursday. Brawley, who resigned his post as Finance Committee chairman under pressure, told his House colleagues in an email this morning that he wanted to settle his dispute with Tillis quietly but the speaker asked the letter to be read aloud to the full House.

He said he wrote the email to dispel suggestions that went too far by airing his grievances so vocally, as top GOP lawmakers contend. "I'm available for discussion and I do appreciate the good we have and will continue to accomplish but we need some fresh air also," he wrote in the email. (Read full email below.)

Morning Memo: A new Dix deal, fallout from Brawley letter

A NEW DIX DEAL: Gov. Pat McCrory and Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane will hold a joint news conference this morning to discuss the Dorothea Dix lease. A state House committee approved a new version of a bill Wednesday that would revoke Raleigh’s disputed lease on the Dorothea Dix property near downtown. The compromise bill comes with a sweetener that has the support of city leaders and the governor’s office.

But the question is whether the Senate will go along. Sen. Ralph Hise, a Spruce Pine Republican, said the Senate remains committed to its version of the bill. "As we've clearly seen, the lease was entered into by the state illegally, it is substantially different than what even the Council of State had approved, and it's in the bad interest of the state," he said. "If they need to start, we'll start from scratch. But you can't begin on a foundation that's that weak."

GOP LAWMAKERS REACT TO BRAWLEY LETTER: “If you have a disagreement, that's not how one handles it and I'm saddened," said Rep. Craig Horn, a Weddington Republican. "We don't need distractions." Other Republican lawmakers refused to talk about it. "I don't have anything to say," said House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes. Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a Charlotte Republican and top GOP leader, said she was surprised by the letter read on the floor. "I thought it was an inappropriate use of the floor by Rep. Brawley." If anything, Samuelson said, "I think it will help bring us together more because it doesn't represent the majority of the caucus."

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- congrats to the NCGA team on the big win against South Carolina last night. More North Carolina political news below. ***

Bucking speaker, House Republican committee chair resigns post

In a rare move, a leading Republican lawmaker resigned his committee chairmanship Wednesday, citing a litany of differences with House Speaker Thom Tillis and accusing him of a conflict of interest.

It's the second time in less than a month that a Republican lawmaker broke ranks to condemn Tillis' leadership as he considers a bid to challenge U.S. Sen.Kay Hagan in 2014.

Rep. Robert Brawley of Mooresville's decided to step down as a Finance Committee chairman in a letter that listed four reasons, including the speaker's apparent business relationship with Time Warner. "You slamming my office door shut, standing in front of me and state that you have a business relationship with Time Warner and wanting to know what the bill was about," Brawley wrote, not mentioning the specific legislation. "You and I both know the bill stifles the competition with MI Connections in Mooresville."

Brawley also asserts that the House's vote in last year to make the N.C. Bail Agents Association the only group allowed to certify bondsmen gave a monopoly to Rep. Justin Burr's family. (The bondsmen dispute was thesubject of a 2012 article in the News & Observer.) Burr's father, Phil Burr, is the current president of the association. The junior Burr excused himself from the vote. A judge later issued an injunction blocking the law.

"I look forward to working with you and the Republican team for Republican goals and objectives, but I reserve the right to continue to represent my district and to fight for what I believe is American," Brawley wrote.

Morning Memo: More arrests expected at legislature, McCrory to Texas

MORE ARRESTS EXPECTED AT LEGISLATURE: Activists fighting the Republican legislative agenda say they will return to the Legislative Building on Monday and more plan to be arrested. The civil disobiendence, led by the N.C. NAACP and other groups, is design to raise the public's awareness of the policies GOP-lawmakers are pushing this session. A demonstration a week ago led to 17 arrests.

McCRORY TO TOUT DRILLING IN TEXAS: From AP -- Gov. Pat McCrory is visiting an offshore energy trade conference in Texas to try to help build momentum for drilling off the coast of North Carolina and other states. McCrory says he'll participate Monday in a panel discussion with other governors at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. McCrory says the energy industry could create thousands of jobs and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil and generate state revenues.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. More North Carolina politics below. Send tips and news to dome@newsobserver.com. ***

Morning Memo: Gift ban repeal dead, Hahn investigation seeks motive

TILLIS SAYS LOBBYIST GIFT BAN WILL REMAIN INTACT: House Speaker Thom Tillis took to Twitter this week to declare Republican Robert Brawley's bill to lift the ban on lobbyists giving lawmakers gifts is dead. "Benny, does the fact that the bill is dead give you any idea?" @thomtillis wrote. The speaker's office confirmed the 10:10 p.m. Tuesday tweet was legit. Tillis addressed the response to Benjamin Ray, an operative at the N.C. Democratic Party pushing Tillis on the issue and tying it to his office's controversial past with lobbyists and the fact the bill came from one of his committee chairman.

MOTIVE FOR JAMIE HAHN'S STABBING TURNS TO CAMPAIGN MONEY: As the Triangle mourned slain political strategist Jamie Hahn on Wednesday, attention turned to whether the man who police say stabbed her had made questionable campaign finance reports while working for Hahn’s firm. More on the story below.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- click below for much, much more from a busy day in N.C. politics. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com. ***

GOP lawmaker defends his effort to repeal lobbyist gift ban

Lobbyists will once again be able to give freely to lawmakers and not disclose it under a bill filed this week by Rep. Robert Brawley, R-Iredell.

The legislation, HB 640, relaxes many of the ethics requirements passed in the wake of the Jim Black scandal. Black, who was Speaker of the House from 1999 until 2006, served time in prison for accepting illegal campaign contributions.

Brawley, who is chairman of the House Finance Committee, said he didn't think a ban on gifts from lobbyists was needed.

"I see people with integrity and honesty around here," he said Wednesday. "Jim Black was convicted of laws that were already on the books.

"I have faith in the majority of people being honest. Yes, I recognize that there are rotten apples, but I don't pass laws to treat everybody like a rotten apple. And that's what I think those ethics rules do."

Brubaker's rebuttal

Rep. Harold Brubaker remembers things differently.

On the stand yesterday, former Speaker Jim Black told a damning story about the Randolph County Republican's time as speaker in 1997.

According to Black, Brubaker wooed then Rep. Robert Brawley Jr., an Iredell County Republican. Black said that Brawley wanted a $300,000 contribution to his children's trust fund.

But Brubaker told the Greensboro News & Record that wasn't the case:

"First of all, I don't do that. That's something I've never been involved in,'' Brubaker said during an interview at his legislative office. "I was shocked when I heard about that."

Brawley, meantime, had his own version of events. 

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