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Treasurer Cowell wants payday lending bills stopped

State Treasurer Janet Cowell is asking state lawmakers to stop advancing legislation to help the payday lending industry. Cowell, a Democrat, sent a letter to N.C. General Assembly members expressing her opposition to House Bill 875 and Senate Bill 89, especially after working to eliminate the practice seven years ago. "We cannot grow our state economy when citizens are trapped in debt they cannot hope to repay," she wrote in the letter. "We need to keep payday lending out of our state." Read the full letter below.

Payday Lending Letter to General Assembly.pdf

Morning Memo: Money in politics, guns in bars

THE NAKED REALITY OF POLITICS: Much of politics is about money. But it's rare to see it so plainly stated in black and white: "We didn't give them money because we liked them," sweepstakes operator William George told the Associated Press. "We just knew they were powerful people up in Raleigh and they could get done what we wanted to get done. You give them your money and they're supposed to do what they say they're going to do." (More on the story below.)

TODAY IN POLITICS: The current State Board of Elections meets for the final time at 9 a.m. today before Gov. Pat McCrory's new appointees take office Wednesday. The board had planned to launch a formal investigation into the gambling money -- received by the governor, top GOP legislative leaders and some Democrats. But board members backed off the idea now that they are lame ducks.

AT THE STATEHOUSE: A House committee will consider a bill to limit pre-K programs, in part to children under the federal poverty line. The full House meets at 2 p.m. and will consider a controversial firearms bill to allow guns in restaurants and bars that serve alcohol. The UNC system is also opposed because it allows guns in cars on college campuses. The Senate will meet at 2 p.m. On its calendar is a measure to require a parent to report a child missing after 24 hours -- it is named after Caylee Anthony. Gov. Pat McCrory is attending two feel-good events Tuesday in Charlotte, first a YMCA prayer breakfast and then a Wells Fargo "Reading Above Par" event.

***More on the sweepstakes money, arrests at the legislature and Jamie Hahn death investigation below in today's Dome Morning Memo -- the place for North Carolina political news and analysis.***

Morning Memo: More strong numbers for McCrory, immigration ads debut

CIVITAS POLL PUTS McCRORY ABOVE 50%: A Civitas poll puts Republican Gov. Pat McCrory's favorability rating at 54 percent, a touch higher than a poll earlier in the week showing it at 49 percent. His unfavorable rating is 30 percent, according to the political nonprofit that traditionally supports Republicans. Look for more numbers on Dome soon.

IMMIGRATION ADS PROVIDE GOP COVER: Americans for a Conservative Direction, a group backed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, is airing an ad in North Carolina that defends the immigration legislation. The Hill reports that it is targeted at six red-leaning states and designed to support Republicans who favor the plan. From the story: "Anyone who thinks that what we have now on immigration is not a problem is fooling themselves," (Marco Rubio) says in a news clip featured in the ad. A narrator goes on to say that "conservative leaders have a plan," and cites news outlets like McClatchy, CNN and the Washington Post in describing it as "the toughest enforcement measure in the history of the United States," "bold" and "very conservative."

***Happy Friday! Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. A quiet day in N.C. politics. No legislative action and the governor lists no public events. Find more news and analysis below. ***

Black Caucus says GOP 'at it again' with drug testing bill

The N.C. Legislative Black Caucus says Republicans lawmakers are "at it again."

Caucus Chairman Rep. Garland Pierce, a Wagram Democrat, is peeved about Senate Republicans approving a bill to "criminalize applicants" for the state's public assistance program, Work First, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

"The cruel tea party Republicans are creating bills that are unconstitutional and prevent our citizens from taking care of their families," he said in a statement announcing an 11 a.m. press conference Wednesday. "Where are the jobs?"

The caucus has railed against the GOP leadership for approving bills that hurt low-income and minority residents, such as a bill to block Medicaid expansion and curtail unemployment benefits.

Morning Memo: Voter ID week starts, Foxx gets FBI vetting

VOTER ID WEEK BEGINS: A highly partisan voter ID measure that could cost more than $3.7 million gets heard in an appropriations committee Tuesday but the outcome is set. The House plans to reserve Wednesday and Thursday for floor debate. The State Board of Elections suggested as many as 318,000 registered voters may not have driver's licenses.

FOXX CLOSE TO BECOMING OBAMA APPOINTEE?  The FBI has been backgrounding Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, who’s reportedly a candidate to be U.S. Secretary of Transportation, sources say. The FBI typically backgrounds potential candidates for federal appointments, Jim Morrill reports from Charlotte. Foxx, who has said he won’t run for a third term this year, has been mentioned for the transportation post now held by Ray LaHood.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- more North Carolina political news and analysis below.***

Gov. McCrory holds steady; GOP legislature, legislation not popular in new poll

Gov. Pat McCrory remains popular in North Carolina but his Republican colleagues in state government and the legislature are underwater.

The governor -- recently named one of the most conservative in the nation -- received 49 percent job approval with 36 percent disapproving. Another 15 percent remain undecided, according to the latest survey from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.

With his numbers holding steady for the past few months, McCrory is faring much better than Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue, whose neared negative territory about this point into her term.

Morning Memo: UNC-CH gets new chancellor; McHenry won't challenge Hagan

UNC-CHAPEL HILL TO GET FIRST WOMAN CHANCELLOR: As first reported by The News & Observer, UNC system officials will name Carol Folt, the interim president of Dartmouth College, as the next chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Folt, 61, would be the first woman to lead the campus in Chapel Hill, where the 29,000-member student body is 58 percent female. She will succeed Holden Thorp, who is stepping down by July 1 to become provost at Washington University in St. Louis. Full story.

McHENRY WON'T CHALLENGE HAGAN: N.C. Congressman Patrick McHenry took his name out of the crowded field of potential challengers to Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who faces re-election in 2014. Polls put McHenry in the top half of Republicans. "I'm grateful for the good numbers, but I think I've got a better opportunity to make a difference here in the House," McHenry told the Mountain Xpress in Asheville. "I want to end the distraction about this potential Senate run so I can get back and focus on the work that I need to be doing to help get this economy going."

***Good morning. Thanks for reading the Friday edition of the Dome Morning Memo. Much more N.C political news and analysis below.***

North Carolina lawmakers (finally) move to name a state marsupial

Just when you think state lawmakers are all business, a group of Republican lawmakers files a bill to designate a state fossil, frog, salamander, marsupial and folk art.

The bill is worth a read during the hours-long House session expected today. Primary sponsors include Reps. Marilyn Avila, Susan Martin, Pat McElfraft and Roger West.

But to steal the suspense, the bill would make the state fossil the teeth of a megalodon shark; the state frog a pine barrens tree frog (Hyla andersonii, for you science geeks); the state salamander the marbled salamander (Ambystoma opacum); the state marsupial the Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana); and the state folk art Vollis Simpson's whirligigs.

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."

Morning Memo: Senate moves with speed, Muslim remarks put GOP on the spot

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: In a metaphor for this legislative session, the Senate is moving fast to raise the speed limit to 75 mph on some highways. The full Senate is scheduled to hear the bill Thursday, a day after it passed a committee and a week after it was filed, AP reports. The Carolina Panthers incentives bill also won approval in committee Wednesday and heads to the floor. Senate convenes at 10 a.m. The House is expecting a longer-than-normal day with a busy calendar, including a measure to limit the N.C. Lottery's ability to advertise and sell games. It starts at 1 p.m. Earlier in the day, House committees will consider a wind energy bill and IT changes requested by the McCrory adminsitration.

Gov. Pat McCrory will attend the UNC system Board of Governors meeting in Pembroke -- where he will surely face questions about the budget cuts he proposed -- before making an economic development announcement in the area.

HOW WILL GOP REACT? As AP reports, an American-Islamic group wants national Republican leaders to repudiate comments by a North Carolina legislator who compared Muslim prayer to terrorism. The Council on American-Islamic Relations said Wednesday that bigoted comments must be rejected if the GOP wants to reach minorities. State Rep. Michele Presnell of Yancey County did not respond to messages seeking comment.

***The Dome Morning Memo sets the stage for the day in North Carolina politics. Get more news and analysis below.***

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