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Morning Memo: Amid crossover, the unfinished tax plan takes center stage

HOUSE TO UNVEIL TAX PLAN OUTLINE:House Republicans plan to offer their own North Carolina tax overhaul plan Thursday that would reduce personal and corporate income tax rates and expand the sales tax to cover more services. The proposal's scope is much narrower than what Senate counterparts offered as GOP legislators try to fulfill a commitment to carry out tax reform this year.

The plan attempts to simplify income taxes and reduces the number of income tax brackets from three to one, according to the proposed legislation obtained by The Associated Press. House Republican leaders want to reduce slightly the combined state and local sales tax consumers in most counties pay from 6.75 percent to 6.65 percent. They also would subject the sales tax to a handful of new services such as automobile repairs and installations for personal property and warranty and service contracts, the bill says. In contrast, the Senate proposal unveiled last week would make the sales tax base one of the broadest in the country. More here.

NORQUIST TO BLESS SENATE TAX EFFORT: Americans for Tax Reform leader Grover Norquist will stand with Senate leader Phil Berger at a 9:30 a.m. press conference Thursday to talk about the Senate's tax rewrite. The visit is being coordinated by Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy group that pushing hard for a major tax overhaul measure this session. Opposition groups already are framing the visit, saying Norquist will support a bill that could raise taxes on a majority of people in the long-term. A luncheon with tax activists outside the legislature will follow later in the day.

Good Morning! This Dome Morning Memo is (unofficially) brought to you by Krispy Kreme donuts and coffee -- which is much needed after the House worked near midnight to beat the crossover deadline on a bevy of controversial bills in a 10-hour session. If you went to bed early, click below for all the North Carolina political news and analysis.***

Poll shows NC voters want to retain campaign finance law for statewide judges

A new poll shows a majority of North Carolina voters favor the state's current system of publicly financing the campaigns of candidate for state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

The survey, finding 68 percent favor the program and 23 percent oppose, comes amid warnings that last year's multi-million-dollar campaign for Supreme Court Justice

Paul Newby's seat threatens to remake the campaign financing landscape. Newby won re-election over appellate Judge Sam Ervin IV, with a huge infusion of outside money.

Statewide judicial candidates can accept public financing if they agree to spending limits and refuse political action committee and special interest money. But with the emergence of "super PACs," which collect and spend money independent of candidates, those limits are meaningless.

State elections board slashes campaign fines

Former Democratic candidate Ty Richardson will pay far less than his $31,000 fine for failure to file timely campaign finance records during his 2008 campaign.

The N.C. State Board of Elections agreed Tuesday to let the former state labor commissioner candidate pay $5,000, in $400 monthly installments, after a mediation settlement. The board also approved penalties against 13 other political committees for not meeting filing deadlines, letting all pay far less than the original fine.

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.***

Thom Tillis raising more campaign cash

House Speaker Thom Tillis is a lame-duck lawmaker but he's busy raising money, which surely fuels speculation that he is getting closer to a possible U.S. Senate run.

Tillis, a Republican, is holding a fundraiser May 6 at the Cardinal Club in Raleigh. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is the special guest for the lunch-time event. Hosts are asked to donate $2,000 with individual tickets at $250, according to a copy of the invite. The money goes to the Committee to Elect Thom Tillis.

Hosts include John Kane, J. Patrick Gavaghan, Gene Minton and Harry Smith. Sponsors (at the $1,000 level) are Elbert Boyd, Dean Proctor and John Stone.

Gov. Pat McCrory helped the speaker raise money earlier this year. Tillis, whose self-imposed term limits make this his final two-year session, said he is considering a bid against Democrat Kay Hagan in 2014.

State lawmakers can raise money during session but can't accept contributions from political action committees.

Morning Memo: Gift ban repeal dead, Hahn investigation seeks motive

TILLIS SAYS LOBBYIST GIFT BAN WILL REMAIN INTACT: House Speaker Thom Tillis took to Twitter this week to declare Republican Robert Brawley's bill to lift the ban on lobbyists giving lawmakers gifts is dead. "Benny, does the fact that the bill is dead give you any idea?" @thomtillis wrote. The speaker's office confirmed the 10:10 p.m. Tuesday tweet was legit. Tillis addressed the response to Benjamin Ray, an operative at the N.C. Democratic Party pushing Tillis on the issue and tying it to his office's controversial past with lobbyists and the fact the bill came from one of his committee chairman.

MOTIVE FOR JAMIE HAHN'S STABBING TURNS TO CAMPAIGN MONEY: As the Triangle mourned slain political strategist Jamie Hahn on Wednesday, attention turned to whether the man who police say stabbed her had made questionable campaign finance reports while working for Hahn’s firm. More on the story below.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- click below for much, much more from a busy day in N.C. politics. 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.

U.S. Rep. Jones burning through money

What’s U.S. Rep. Walter Jones up to?

The North Carolina Republican, easily re-elected to office in a newly drawn congressional district last year, is spending campaign money already.

The most recent reports show he raised $78,000 in the first three months of this year ($25,000 of it from political action committees) and spent $72,000 of it.

The spending included $10,500 on consultants.

Jones has been on the outs with House leadership since he was one of nine Republicans who voted for someone other than John Boehner as speaker. Boehner retaliated by removing Jones from the House’s financial services committee last year.

Roll Call reported at the time that the GOP Steering Committee dealt with members who had not voted consistently with the leadership.

Jones’s 3rd District stretches from Currituck County to Onslow County.

Another donor to Gov. Bev Perdue under investigation

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby is looking further into the case of a wealthy Democratic campaign donor who helped pay the salary of a staff member of former Gov. Bev Perdue's 2008 campaign in violation of state election laws.

An SBI investigator went before the Wake County grand jury to provide a sketch of a case against Charles Michael Fulenwider, a Morganton resident who provided $32,000 to Tryon Capital Ventures in Chapel Hill, to help pay the salary of Julie Sitton, a fundraiser for Perdue's campaign who was paid off the books, investigators contend.

The grand jury issued a presentment, stating that there was probable cause to believe Fulenwider broke campaign laws. The presentment is a procedure used occasionally to give prosecutors an idea whether they have a case strong enough for a possible indictment. 

Fulenwider, according to Willoughby, has been cooperative with investigators and prosecutors during a longrunning investigation into Perdue's campaign activities. Sitton and Peter Reichard, Perdue's former campaign finance chief and an executive with Tryon Capital Ventures, have already pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in the case.

McCrory's transportation appointees donated $156,000 to his campaign

Gov. Pat McCrory's campaign raised $156,394 with the help of nine men and a woman who will take their seats Thursday as his appointees to the state Board of Transportation, according to financial disclosure statements released Wednesday by McCrory's office.

The governor's top helper among the group is Michael C. Smith of Raleigh, president of Kane Realty Corp., the developer of North Hills. Smith is the new transportation board representative for Division 5, seven Triangle-area counties including Durham and Wake. Smith is the only one of the 10 new board members who reports no campaign contributions directly from himself to McCrory. But he says he worked as a campaign fundraiser, bringing in $106,000 from other donors to McCrory, and his brother gave $250.

Among the other transportation appointees, only Michael V. Lee of Wilmington reported helping McCrory as a fundraiser. Lee said he raised $500 from other donors, and he and his wife contributed $829.

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