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Senate leaders back away from closing UNC system campus

Senate leaders are backing away from the possibility of closing one or more of the UNC system campuses. “I don’t see that being in the budget,” Senate leader Phil Berger said. Senate leaders continue to look for more ways for campuses to save money, but will not propose closing any campuses in the budget that will cover the next two years. “For a long time folks have talked about needs for efficiencies in the system,” said Berger, an Eden Republican.

The Senate budget proposal is set to be released in a few weeks. Sen. Pete Brunstetter, a Senate budget writer, said last month that Senate leaders were considering closing or consolidating one or two UNC system campuses to save money and eliminate overlapping programs. Senate leaders were talking about closing campuses or merging or transferring campuses to the community college system.

The prospect of closing one of the 17-campuses triggered an outcry from UNC faculty and students. Full story here.

Morning Memo: Another big day at the statehouse, gambling money purge continues

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: Another big day at the legislature as the legislative session nears the half-way mark and the bill filing deadline. 10 a.m.: The Senate Education Committee considers a bill to take charter school oversight authority away from the state's Department of Public Instruction and loosen requirements on the schools. Noon: House Public Utilities considers bill to stifle the state's consumer advocacy group. 1 p.m.: House Elections Committee will discuss repeal of campaign finance matching money for candidates, a measure included in the governor's budget. The committee sent a notice that the voter ID measure is on hold temporarily so it can consider other legislation, a reversal from what lawmakers planned. At the same time, the Senate Finance Committee will begin talk about taxes with discussion of a bill to reduce the burden on businesses but no votes are expected. 2 p.m.: The Carolina Panthers bill is on the House calendar. The Senate convenes simultaneously with no major bills on the desk.

Today, Gov. Pat McCrory sticks to his comfort zone for another address to another business group, this one is the N.C. Chamber's annual conference in Greensboro. Later in the day, he'll meet privately with the N.C. Sheriff's Association.

GAMBING MONEY PURGE CONTINUES: As the Morning Memo reported Tuesday, McCrory forfeited campaign contributions from a second sweepstakes company executive charged in an gambling ring. And as AP found, the purge is likely to continue: McCrory received another $8,000 in October from John Patrick Fannin and his wife, who live in Little River, South Carolina, according to records reviewed by The Associated Press. Fannin is also among the sweepstakes operators indicted by Florida prosecutors in the Allied Veteran's case. (A McCrory spokeswoman) said McCrory's campaign will review those donations, too.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. Send tips and news to dome@newsobserver.com. Much more N.C. political news and analysis below.***

Morning Memo: National gun debate to hit North Carolina TV screens

UPDATED: BLOOMBERG TO TARGET N.C. IN GUN DEBATE: New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is preparing to launch a major TV ad campaign aimed at U.S. senators in swing states -- including Democrat Kay Hagan. From the NYT: "Determined to persuade Congress to act in response to that shooting, Mr. Bloomberg on Monday will begin bankrolling a $12 million national advertising campaign that focuses on senators who he believes might be persuaded to support a pending package of federal regulations to curb gun violence. The ads, in 13 states, will blanket those senators’ districts during an Easter Congressional recess that is to be followed by debate over the legislation."

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The Dix lease to the city of Raleigh hits the chopping block. The Senate convenes at 7 p.m. but won't consider the bill until Tuesday. The House convenes at 4 p.m. but no votes are expected. The Wake County delegation at 4 p.m. in room 643 of the legislative office building. (More on the meeting below.) Gov. Pat McCrory lists no public events on his schedule today.

***Good Monday morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- a daily tipsheet for N.C. political news. Send tips and news to dome@newsobserver.com. Read more below.***

Morning Memo: Democrat files first tax bill, McCrory concedes ground

UPDATED: DEMOCRAT FILES FIRST MAJOR TAX BILL: With a bipartisan list of sponsors, Charlotte Democratic Sen. Dan Clodfelter beat Republicans to the punch on tax overhaul legislation. Clodfelter filed a bill Thursday to lower personal and corporate income taxes, as well as the state sales tax with a more modest expansion of taxable services. One big proposed change: a flat income tax rate at 6 percent, instead of three-tiered structure now, as well as exempting the first $11,000 in income from taxation. Clodfelter said it would help all taxpayers but especially low- and middle-income residents.

McCRORY SAYS NO INCOME TAX ELIMINATION: Gov. Pat McCrory, who campaigned on a plan to significantly lower personal and corporate income taxes and possibly eliminate them, is now conceding ground. McCrory took his budget tour on the road Thursday to Wilmington. The Star-News reported: "Even though McCrory cited the state’s tax system as a disadvantage in competition with South Carolina and Virginia, he said it was not possible now to eliminate the personal or corporate income taxes as part of his upcoming tax reform proposals."

***It's March Madness -- in basketball and state politics. Read more Dome Morning Memo below. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com. ***

Morning Memo: Inside McCrory's budget; Foxx considered for Obama post

UPDATED: WHAT THE BUDGET SAYS ABOUT McCRORY: Columnist Rob Christensen -- "It suggested that McCrory is a pragmatic, moderate conservative – not a tea party Republican. The budget colored him an incrementalist with a modest vision of what government can or should accomplish. A governor’s first budget is particularly important because the governor is at the height of his or her power to push an agenda through the legislature. McCrory will never has as much leverage as he has today. So what did he do with his leverage?

"McCrory’s budget offered no sweeping vision of what he wants his governorship to be about. ... This may be sound management, but it is not the stuff of which legacies are made."

REPUBLICANS STACK THE DECK: The UNC Board of Governors elections in the House on Wednesday opened a chasm between Republicans and Democrats. The GOP elected mostly its own kin to the board, sweeping out all incumbents. Democrats voiceferously objected. But House GOP leader Edgar Starnes' response crystalized the debate: "I would just remind you of one thing. The Republicans won the election. We are in control. We intend to elect Republicans and appoint Republicans and we make no apology for it."

***Good morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -the source for North Carolina political news and analysis. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com. Click below for much more.***

Morning Memo: Voter ID talk continues, McCrory job rating steady

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The voter ID talk continues today at 1 p.m. in a House committee after more than four hours of comments Tuesday about the topic -- but not an actual bill. (More on this below.) Other House committees will consider an immigration measure to restrict the use of Mexican consular documents and a bill to limit lottery advertising. The House convenes at 3 p.m. The Senate at 2 p.m. to take a final vote on the Charlotte aiport authority. A Senate committee will consider UNC Board of Governors nominations at a 4 p.m. meeting. Gov. Pat McCrory lists no public events on his schedule.

McCRORY JOB RATING HOLDS STEADY: The Republican governor's approval rating stabalized in the latest Public Policy Polling survey after a month in which his negatives spiked. The March poll from the Democratic firm put McCrory's approval rating at 49 percent with 35 percent disapproving. Another 16 percent remain unsure. Pollster Tom Jensen previewed the numbers Tuesday on News14's Capital Tonight program with Tim Boynum. Check Dome for more when the full poll is released later Wednesday.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- the shot of caffeine that gets the North Carolina political crowd started. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com. Read more news and analysis below.***

Morning Memo: A new 2014 map, McCrory mum on second big departure

UPDATED: WHAT REDISTRICTING MEANS: Only one competitive congressional race in 2014. Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball political rankings show what happens when congressional districts are packed with like-minded folks. Of the state's 13 congressional races, only one is deemed competitive between parties. The seat is Democratic Congressman Mike McIntyre in District 7. McIntyre won a close race in 2012 -- one of the few where Mitt Romney won the president vote -- and another tight contest is expected in 2014. The pundits at University of Virginia give him the early edge, though, ranking the race "leans Democratic."

***You are reading the Dome Morning Memo -- more news and analysis below.***

Morning Memo: Senate GOP questioned on legality of power grab

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: No votes in the House on Thursday but the Senate is expected to give final approval to a bill to purge the state's boards of any Democratic appointees. Gov. Pat McCrory hosts legislators for a private breakfast and attends two closed-door events in Wake County. Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller is hosting a morning press conference to lay out his vision for the minority party amid GOP reign.

TEA PARTY GROUP MAY SCREEN GOP U.S. SENATE CANDIDATES: Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips said his group may begin to support candidates in Republican primaries, the Daily Caller reports. The move could have implications on North Carolina's U.S. Senate race in 2014 -- which is expected to draw a robust field to challenge Democrat Kay Hagan. Americans for Prosperity is a tea party group that once held close ties to Gov. Pat McCrory's budget director, Art Pope, who led the national board and donated significantly to the organization.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- more news and analysis of N.C. politics below.***

McCrory won't apologize, rejects he demeaned liberal arts

Gov. Pat McCrory bristled Thursday when asked about his recent inflammatory comments regarding liberal arts courses in higher education. "I never mentioned liberal arts in a negative way," McCrory asserted.

But just two days before, the Republican governor told a conservative radio talk show Tuesday that he is drafting legislation to shift education funding toward career-oriented fields and away from academic pursuits “that have no chance of getting people jobs.”

"If you want to take gender studies that’s fine, go to a private school and take it," McCrory told talk show host Bill Bennett. 'But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job."

A cacophony of students and professors reacted strongly, saying they felt insulted by the governor. The president of the UNC system responded, saying the universities should not be measured by jobs alone.

Asked about the reaction, McCrory refused to apologize and he declined to acknowledge his remarks on the radio.

Morning Memo: Circus returns to town, McCrory's big gaffe

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The circus returns to town as lawmakers start the legislative session at noon. The House and Senate calendars show no bills for consideration and no committees are scheduled to meet -- the first will meet Thursday, it appears. For the first day, the action will take place largely behind the scenes as lawmakers file bills for the session. In the House, each lawmaker can file 10 bills and there is no limit in the Senate. What will they emphasize this year?

Gov. Pat McCrory welcomed lawmakers back to Raleigh with a private breakfast at the mansion. The move is reminiscent of how former Gov. Jim Hunt would engage the legislature to successfully push his agenda. Will McCrory become his own chief lobbyist? The Republican remains mum about where he stands much of the GOP legislative agenda, so far.

McCRORY'S BIG 'GENDER STUDIES' GAFFE: More and more it's looking like McCrory's comments on higher education to national radio show host Bill Bennett amounted to a major gaffe. By the end of the day -- after his remarks about funding universities and liberal arts courses went viral and elicited a caustic reaction in the public sphere -- his press shop began tempering his language if not outright apologizing. “This was not meant to be a personal attack on UNC,” said spokeswoman Crystal Feldman. “Gov. McCrory did not mean to tarnish UNC’s reputation.”

***This is the Dome Morning Memo -- a daily source for the latests analysis and news in North Carolina politics. Click "Read More" for more. Updated at 10 a.m.***

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