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Party on

Anyone would be forgiven for thinking the legislature is still in session with all the lawmakers still wandering around Raleigh this month. For folks who like hanging out with politicians and have a few thousand dollars lying around, there are enough political fundraisers to fill a social calendar.

House Democrats invited folks to a social spot on Fayetteville Street last week. Top dollar "benefactor" tickets went for $5,000. The lowest cost ticket was $250.

Republican Reps. Mike Hager of Rutherfordton and Jacqueline Schaffer of Charlotte were at Tyler's Taproom on Tuesday. High dollar, $4,000; low dollar, $250. It was not a joint event, so donors were asked to aim their checks at individual campaign committees. Republican Reps. Tom Murry of Morrisville, Tim Moffitt of Asheville, and Susan Martin of Wilson were at Natty Greene's Wednesday night. ("Three M's are better than One!" said the invite.) Again, not a joint event. $250 to $4,000.

The House Republican Freshman Caucus is having a fundraiser Aug. 27 at the Carolina Country Club ($250 to $2,000, contribute to individual committees) featuring Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a Charlotte Republican and House GOP caucus leader who is on the list of potential House Speakers. That will roll immediately into a House GOP Caucus fundraiser at the country club ($150 to $10.000) The $10,000 platinum hosts will get a dozen tickets to the VIP and general receptions.

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.***

Fundraising follows lawmaking

The lawmaking season is over. Let the fundraising season begin.

Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a Republican from Charlotte, emailed invitations Monday morning to her August 15 Raleigh fundraiser.

It's a $250 per person donation to get in, $4,000 to host, $2,000 to co-host.

Samuelson is on the short-list for House Speaker next session. A Charlotte Observer profile this year called the four-term legislator "a proven fundraiser."

Morning Memo: Speaker's hometown paper calls for his resignation

HOUSE SPEAKER'S HOMETOWN PAPER CALLS FOR HIS RESIGNATION: Responding to the second story (here and here) in a month about House Speaker Thom Tillis skipping session to fundraise for his U.S. Senate campaign, The Charlotte Observer editorial board said he needs to resign his post. In an editorial headlined, "Tillis tries but can't serve two masters," they concluded: "It’s fine that Tillis is interested in higher office, and we don’t fault him for recognizing the need to raise millions. But the fiscal year started three weeks ago and the legislature still has not agreed on a budget. Tillis is missing sessions. His actions are raising questions of conflict of interest.

"He has shown he can’t give his undivided attention to the N.C. House and the U.S. Senate at the same time. He should give up his Speaker’s gavel, resign from his House seat and give his full energy to his Senate bid, unencumbered by such distractions as running the state."

Facing this question before, Tillis has said he intends to remain speaker and do his job. But he also said he wouldn't actively campaign during the legislative session, a pledge that is in question. Some Republicans are starting to privately grumble that he may need to step down. Read the editorial here.

PAT McCRORY ON HIS FALLING APPROVAL RATINGS: Meh. WCNC-TV's Dave Wagner interviewed Gov. Pat McCrory and asked about the latest PPP numbers showing McCrory in the negative for the first time in his term. Accccording to a @WagnerWCNC tweet, McCrory replied: "I'm shocked they're not lower, cause we're stepping on the toes of the status quo."

***Welcome to the Dome Morning Memo -- more North Carolina political news and analysis below.****

House gets abortion bill amid concerns from DHHS

The sweeping abortion bill the Senate rapidly approved last week slowed down in the House on Tuesday, where the state’s public health regulators told lawmakers extensive questions should be answered before enacting it into law.

As a result, the House and Senate authors of the legislation agreed to try to work out concerns with the state Department of Health and Human Services. Rep. Ruth Samuelson, a Republican from Charlotte, said she hoped the questions could be resolved this week and a bill sent to the governor before this session is over.

But the extent of Gov. Pat McCrory’s concerns about the “Family, Faith and Freedom Protection Act,” which he discussed with reporters on Tuesday, became clear when the head of DHHS and top aides showed up at the House Health and Human Services committee on Wednesday morning.

DHHS Secretary Dr. Aldona Wos said the department has concerns about the bill’s provision requiring the agency rewrite current regulations for abortion clinics, including imposing a higher level of regulation similar to what currently covers ambulatory surgical centers. Only one abortion clinic in the state currently meets the more stringent regulations and the 16 others would be forced to close, the bill’s opponents say.

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. ***

Growler bill, in-stand beer sales approved by House committee

A trip to the grocery store may soon include a growler fill along with the carton of milk. A House panel approved a bill Wednesday to allow retailers such as grocery stores and beer specialty shops to fill half-gallon jugs known as growlers from a beer tap, just the state's growing list of craft breweries can do. South Carolina allows a similar practice. "With our burgeoning craft brew industry, what this bill would allow is the same thing to happen here in North Carolina," said sponsor Chuck McGrady, a Hendersonville Republican.

Morning Memo: Obama to name Watt to housing post, taxes split Republicans

OBAMA TO NAME MEL WATT AS HOUSING CHIEF: President Barack Obama intends to nominate Rep. Melvin Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the government regulator that oversees lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a White House official told the Associated Press.  The president was expected to name Watt, a 20-year veteran of the House, on Wednesday, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement.

HOUSE, SENATE STILL APART ON TAX PLAN: Senate Republicans are expected to debut a comprehensive tax plan in coming days -- but don't expect the House to stand at their side. Rep. David Lewis, the lead House tax negotiator, said Tuesday they still haven't found complete agreement. "The two chambers are not yet on one accord," he said. Lewis said he's optimistic the two sides will still unify around a single plan. He wouldn't identify the sticking point but it is likely how to pay for the plan -- with the Senate wanting to tax dozens of new services and the House wanting a more modest approach.

***Click below to keep reading the Dome Morning Memo for more details on Watt's new post -- and what it means in North Carolina -- as well as more political news and analysis.***

Hager's bill to end state's renewables standard refuses to die

Rep. Mike Hager's bill to rid the state of its renewables energy mandate refuses to die.

The bill was voted down in Hager's own committee last week 18-13, but he's got it scheduled to be taken up again in the House Committee on Public Utilities and Energy on Wednesday.

Hager was unavailable for comment but Dallas Woodhouse, North Carolina director for the Arlington, Va.-based Americans for Prosperity, which has supported Hager's bill, offered his opinion: “While there was not the right mix in the committee on that day, some of them may need more education.”

That presumably includes Rep. Tim Moore of Cleveland County, chair of the House Rules Committee; Conference Leader Ruth Samuelson of Mecklenburg County; and Wake County’s Nelson Dollar, senior chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. All three voted against the bill. Read the full story here.

Voter ID price tag put at $3.6 million

The proposed new voter photo ID law could cost as much as much as $3.6 million to implement – the price of providing free photos to those without driver's licenses, and voter education efforts, officials said.

The voter ID bill cleared another hurdle Thursday when it was approved by the House Finance Committee by an 18-10 party-line vote. It is scheduled for a full House vote next week.

The legislative staff prepared an analysis of how much it would likely cost to implement the law requiring voters to provide a photo ID by the 2016 election. It would also require a trial run for the 2014 election.

One of the biggest costs will be providing free photo Ids to persons who do not hold driver's licenses or other government-approved photos such as student Ids for state-supported campuses.

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