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Morning Memo: NCGA studies Colo. school choice; DHHS execs see pay bump

NCGA STAFF EXAMINES COLORADO SCHOOL CHOICE: Three employees of the General Assembly went to Douglas County, Colo., for nearly a week in June to examine that county’s school funding model and determine the feasibility of trying something similar in North Carolina.

The Douglas County school district, the third largest in Colorado, is known for its emphasis on school choice and has pursued major – and often controversial – education reforms in recent years. Read more here.

***Get a full wrap on North Carolina political headlines below in the Dome Morning Memo. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com.***

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.

NC Republicans sign name to immigration overhaul effort

A handful of prominent North Carolina business leaders and lawmakers are joining a national effort to urge the Republican Congress to support an immigration overhaul.

The letter -- sent by major Republican donors such as Vice President Dan Quayle, Carlos Gutierrez, the commerce secretary under President George W. Bush, and Karl Rove -- calls for "legal status" to those living in the country illegally.

In North Carolina, developer Judd Ammons, prominent farmer John Barnes, agribusiness leader Frank Granger and homebuilder Tim Minton joined Republican state Reps. Tom Murry of Morrisville and Tim Moffitt of Asheville in signing their names to the effort.

Document(s):
immigrationletter.pdf

Morning Memo: Daily Show says North Carolina trumps South Carolina in crazy

VOTING BILL TARGET OF LAUGHS: Another day, another national television show puts North Carolina at the butt of the jokes. The Daily Show on Comedy Central took aim at the recently approved elections bill that puts restrictions on voting. Host John Oliver joked that the state election bill would place “all voting booths on buoys that are only accessible by yacht." The segment lumped North Carolina together with Texas and Florida but the Tar Heel state (starting at 2:30) received particular attention and Senate leader Phil Berger make an appearance from a TV clip. Oliver says the voting bill is just the “tip of the true $h*!-berg of a legislative session" and concludes: “Your move South Carolina. Oh, you thought you had crazy Carolina all sown up, didn’t you?”

***The state's system to deliver food assistance is troubled and ALEC is targeted ahead of this week's meeting. Read more North Carolina political news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Senate budget on the table

SENATE BUDGET TIME: The state Senate released a $20.58 billion proposed budget late Sunday night that would eliminate class-size limits for the youngest public school students, move the State Bureau of Investigation to a department the governor’s appointee controls and puts various environmental programs under the control of a state agency. The proposal represents a 2.3 percent increase over the current budget and is about $17 million short of the budget Gov. Pat McCrory proposed in March.

Senate budget writers will hold a press conference at 10:30 a.m. to discuss it in more detail. Full Senate votes are expected later this week. More here.

NCGA PROTESTERS CHALLENGE CHARGES: As protesters gear up to assemble again Monday to highlight concerns about welfare cuts, health care funding, voting rights, racial justice, tax reform, environmental deregulation, workers rights and more, legal analysts are raising questions about whether the General Assembly police are within their power to arrest the nonviolent demonstrators. Irv Joyner, a law professor at N.C. Central University who has observed the demonstrations, said legal challenges of the arrests are being drafted. “We think we have clear-cut First Amendment issues,” Joyner said. Full story.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- more North Carolina politics to start your week below. Send tips to dome@newsobserver.com***

Conservative blogger accuses legislature of stealing Asheville water system

Carl Mumpower, a conservative blogger from Asheville, clinical psychologist, former Asheville City Councilman and former GOP congressional candidate, accuses the legislature of the "theft" of the Asheville water system.

My party's Republican majority in Raleigh, under the local leadership of State

"Representatives Tim Moffitt, Nathan Ramsey, and Chuck McGrady are a few days away from commandeering Asheville's water system. Asheville's City Council is to be commended for their decision to fight back with one of the few cards remaining in their deck. Taking legal action merits support and enthusiasm by all citizens - especially those with a firm interest in fair play. Much repeated misassumptions merit challenge-

1. "This is a waste of money" - No, just the opposite. Spending several hundred thousand dollars in the attempt to salvage a billion dollar plus asset is a smart .

investment. Surrender will result in a lifetime burden for city residents and taxpayers.

Morning Memo: Fracking board under fire, Letterman takes shot at 'Dick' Burr

ENERGY COMPANY THWARTS FRACKING RULE: After more than six months of congenial meetings, the N.C. Mining & Energy Commission was set to approve its first fracking rule Friday, perhaps the most important of all the safety rules the commission will write to protect the public and safeguard the environment. The standard spells out which chemicals fracking operators have to publicly disclose when drilling natural gas wells in North Carolina.

But commissioners learned Thursday the proposal they had approved in committee in March is on ice. The problem: Fracking giant Halliburton has told North Carolina’s environmental regulators the rule goes too far. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources is working to get the rule changed.

The developments raise questions about the independence and integrity of the Mining & Energy Commission, a panel created by the state legislature last year to create safety rules for shale gas exploration. Fracking refers to fracturing shale rock formations using high-pressure water and chemicals to release the natural gas trapped inside. Full story.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- more news and analysis from the North Carolina political arena below. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com.***

Morning Memo: State to probe gambling money; contentious day in N.C. House

STATE ELECTION OFFICIALS TO INVESTIGATE GAMBLING DONATIONS: State elections officials are calling for an investigation of $235,000 in political donations to dozens of North Carolina candidates from an Oklahoma sweepstakes operator, contributions that they say may have violated state campaign finance laws, AP reported. Gov. Pat McCrory, state House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger are among those who received the checks, many of them mailed from a Charlotte lobbying firm where McCrory worked until just before he took office.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House will consider three highly contentious measures Tuesday: first, a sweeping immigration bill at 10 a.m. in House Judiciary Subcommittee B and a gun bill at the same time in House Judiciary Subcommittee A, and then, at 2 p.m., the full House convenes to hear a voter ID measure. Immigration advocates are expected to appear in full force at the legislative building today to lobby. Also today: a House panel will also consider a bill to adopt a state marsupial, among other state symbols, and a Senate committee will hear a bill to make hospitals more transparent in their billing.

Gov. Pat McCrory -- and legislative leaders -- will attend the NFIB meeting in Raleigh at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. Later in the day, the governor will sign Kilah's Law (HB75) at a 4:30 p.m. ceremony at the Capitol.

Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- our thoughts are with Jamie and Nation Hahn's family and friends today. More North Carolina political news and analysis below.

Safeguards on law enforcement drones sought in bipartisan bill

A bipartisan bill filed this week would place firm restrictions on drones. The North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union immediately praised the legislation as providing needed safeguards.

“Across the country, law enforcement agencies are greatly expanding their use of domestic drones to conduct surveillance on citizens, often without any oversight,” state ACLU policy director Sarah Preston said in a statement.

Tillis makes key committee chair appointments, emphasizing sophomore representatives

House Speaker Thom Tillis on Wednesday announced his choices to lead several key committees, elevating several second-term representatives to prominent positions.

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