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Morning Roundup: Budget-watch continues, as do John Edwards headlines

Last year the governor and state lawmakers from both parties came together for the first sweeping revision of sentencing laws in North Carolina in nearly two decades, aimed at keeping closer tabs on ex-convicts. But for all the fanfare about the cutting-edge crime-fighting plan, lawmakers left out one key ingredient: money to pay for probation officers to supervise the newly released prisoners. Read more here.

More political headlines:

--John Edwards and Rielle Hunter continue to appear in the headlines. Exclusive photos appearing on a British tabloid’s website Tuesday appear to show John Edwards spending Father’s Day weekend at the beach with Rielle Hunter and their 4-year-old child, Quinn. The Daily Mail Online identified the locale as North Carolina’s Figure Eight Island, where Edwards owns a home. At the same time, Hunter is saying she wasn't Edwards' first mistress.

General Assembly aims for June 30 -- Saturday -- adjournment

UPDATE: See post above. House is shooting for a little later departure.

The N.C. General Assembly is cruising toward a June 30 -- Saturday -- adjournment.

Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca announced the date Tuesday -- retreating from his initial hope/prediction/intention to adjourn today. "Raleigh is a safer place without us here," he said.

The Saturday adjournment next week drew a grimace from Democrats who wonder why not leave Friday, June 29. And surely a groan or two from lobbyists and reporters who must hang around until the circus leaves town.

With Senate vote, Republicans override 8th Perdue veto

With Senate Democrats silent, Republican lawmakers voided a veto from Gov. Bev Perdue for the eighth time.

The legislation -- House Bill 7 -- is a low-profile measure that lets community college opt out of a federal loan program. A number of individual community colleges have requested the move. The Senate voted 31-16 on Monday to make it law, despite the governor's objections. The override needed 30 votes to meet the three-fifths threshold.

Perdue, a Democrat, vetoed the bill more than a year ago and rebuked the House when  they overrode her veto last week. (More here.) Unlike the House, the GOP didn't need Democrats to defect from Perdue. The override vote effectively mirrored the (31-18) vote to approve the bill in April 2011 because Republicans have a veto-proof majority.

House's unusual budget earmarks a sticking point in negotiations

Republicans are close to finishing closed-door negotiations on the state budget -- but one sticking point is apparently a House provision earmarking economic development money for specific projects, or what some may call "pork spending."

The $20 million provision in question is tucked into the state commerce department budget for the One NC Fund, an pot of money used to entice companies to expand in North Carolina. The House wants to give $500,000 to Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte and another $500,000 to RTI, a nonprofit research firm in Research Triangle. Another $4.5 million is destined for the Rural Center's small business loan program. The other $14.5 million? It's House budget doesn't specify where it goes. 

The provision doesn't appear in the Senate budget and the commerce department didn't ask for it, an agency spokesman Tim Crowley said.

Morning Roundup: State lawmakers are moving fast on major legislation

The legislature is moving quickly with session expected to finish by the end of the month -- if not sooner. Get the full stories here:

A fracking bill is on the fast-track even though new federal estimates reveal a far smaller amount of natural gas than previously thought in North Carolina. Gov. Bev Perdue signed the Cherokee gaming bill minutes after Senate approval, as the tribe aims for July 4th gaming at its casino. A House committee approved a restricted Racial Justice Act and the controversial bill is likely to emerge on the full House floor next week. And a divided House panel approved a measure to prohibit death row inmates from watching TVs, despite concerns that it would lead to increased violence and bad behavior.

More political headlines below.

Senate lawmakers to consider much-maligned global warming bill

Bloggers and TV comics have ridiculed it, and now state legislators will get their first chance Thursday to debate unusual legislation that would put tight restrictions on how state and local agencies cope with rising sea levels.

The Senate Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources Committee will air the proposal, which was drafted by Republicans in response to controversy over a state-appointed science panel’s warning that a rise of one meter (39 inches) is likely by the end of this century.  Coastal economic development interests protested that the figure was much too high, and they persuaded the state Coastal Resources Commission to reject the panel’s findings.

N.C. Senate approves legislation legalizing fracking

The state Senate approved the legalization of fracking in North Carolina this afternoon, sending the measure to the state House, where it is widely expected to be approved.

Republicans overcame objections from Wake County Sen. Josh Stein and other Democrats that natural gas exploration poses risks to the environment and to the public health. Fracking boosters argued that energy is the lifeblood of the economy and assured the risks are manageable. Read more here.

News alert: House approves bill naming state mullet and livermush festivals

At the General Assembly, it's not all partisan bickering. As the N.C. House sped through noncontroversial legislation Tuesday afternoon, one bill sparked some good humor.

Senate Bill 236 establishes the eastern tiger swallowtail as the state's official butterfly, names the Swansboro Mullet Festival as the state's official mullet festival and honors not one -- but two -- state livermush festivals. (Shelby gets the fall livermush celebration, and Marion gets the spring glory.)

Rep. Sarah Stevens joked that she couldn't support the bill because she doesn't like livermush. Rep. Tim Moore clarified that the mullet festival celebrates the fish, not the hair. But alas, in the end, the bill didn't get unanimous support with nine lawmakers voting against. The bill now goes back to the Senate.

Senate panel advances fracking bill with some detractors left out of room

A Senate committee on Tuesday voted to take steps to legalize fracking in North Carolina, leaving supporters elated about the potential economic benefits of natural gas drilling and critics resigned to the inevitability of legalization by the state legislature this summer.

The Senate Commerce Committee voted on the measure after an emotional debate in a standing-room-only hearing room, with an overflow crowd gathered outside. Before the debate began those in attendance were warned that any disruptions would result in ejection from the room.

The bill now heads to the full state Senate and afterwards for votes in the state House of Representatives. Boosters expect quick approval by the Republican-led legislature. Read more here.

Given GOP actions, Perdue says North Carolina is like "Alice and Wonderland"

On vacation last weekend, Gov. Bev Perdue said she read a book that reminded her of North Carolina. 

"I don't know about you all but when I continue to watch what's going on in North Carolina I feel like I'm in Alice and Wonderland," she said. "It's like being in a different country."

Perdue made the remark came in response to a reporter's question Tuesday morning about the Colbert report clip on the state. 

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