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Morning Memo: McCrory quietly signs RJA, Social Security is landmine for GOP

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The growing consensus at the legislative building: state lawmakers may stay in session through mid-July. And the not-in-a-hurry pace is evident in today's calendar. Only a handful of committees will meet and most of the work is being done behind the scenes among select lawmakers negotiating the tax bill and state budget. A bill allowing coastal jetties will draw a crowd in the 10 a.m. House Environment Committee. And on the floor, the House will consider a measure to up the speed limit to 75 mph in some places. The Senate will debate a bill that could allow mega-dumps for out-of-state trash, a political hot potato the McCrory administration now supports.

Gov. Pat McCrory will meet with legislators in the morning before attending a ribbon cutting in Greenville for a children's hospital at Vidant Medical Center and meeting with N.C. League of Municipality officials later in the day at the mansion.

McCRORY SIGNS RACIAL JUSTICE ACT: Talk about burying the lead -- Just before 6 p.m., the governor's office announced that he signed 56 bills Wednesday. Among them: the Racial Justice Act. It was tucked into the long list at the bottom, noted only by its bill number. From AP -- Gov. Pat McCrory’s signature Wednesday repealed a landmark law that had allowed convicted murderers to have their sentences reduced to life in prison if they could prove racial bias influenced the outcome of their cases. McCrory signed a repeal of the 2009 Racial Justice Act, which both proponents and critics say will restart the death penalty in a state that hasn’t executed an inmate since 2006.

***More on the Racial Justice Act, the GOPs latest political problem and McCrory's agenda below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Rural Center questions continue, First Lady steps out

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: In committees, a number of contentious measures are being considered for discussion only. The House Finance Committee will review a taxpayer bill of rights, known as TABOR, that would constitutionally limit state spending. The Senate Education Committee will look at a House-approved bill to give students with disabilities vouchers to attend private schools. Senate lawmakers will also hear a bill in the Finance Committee that critics argue would allow mega-dumps and attract out-of-state trash. Also, the House Commerce Committee will roll out a major bill on Gov. Pat McCrory's agenda to reorganize the state commerce department.

In a rare appearance, First Lady Ann McCrory will step into the spotlight and hold her first news conference to ask the Senate to pass a watered down measure to regulate so-called puppy mills. The House approved the bill but the Senate has sat on it for a month without action. Her event is at 3:30 p.m. at the mansion. Gov. McCrory will have breakfast with lawmakers and then host his education cabinet at 1 p.m.

RURAL CENTER UNDER FIRE: Several board members of the taxpayer-funded N.C. Rural Economic Development Center said this week they are concerned about practices brought to light in a recent News & Observer series and welcome additional oversight.Rural Center leaders, however, said the newspaper reports do not properly reflect the organization’s work.

***More on the Rural Center controversy -- and the N.C. Democratic Party troubles, as well as a headline only Asheville could do best -- below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: First Lady ventues into policy, TABOR bill gets a hearing

FIRST LADY BACKS BILL TO REGULATE PUPPY MILLS: Venturing into public policy for the first time as First Lady, Ann McCrory issued an open letter to lawmakers supporting House Bill 930 to establish standards for dog breeders. The bill is a weakened version of the original legislation which sought to crack down on puppy mills. "| am writing to thank you for your unanimous support of l-louse Bill 930. Passing legislation to establish basic standards of care for large commercial dog breeding facilities is a very important issue to me, and to people across our state," Ann McCrory wrote in the letter. "| especially wish to Representatives Saine, McGrady and Brown for their leadership on this issue. l hope you and other members of the General Assembly will continue to advocate for this bill, and other legislation establishing higher standards for Commercial breeders. These policies increase our quality of life in North Carolina and ensure better care for dogs across the state. You have my full support."

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: A House committee will consider a Taxpayer Bill of Rights measure, known as TABOR, that would restrict state spending. Its hugely controversial and produced varied results. Other legislative committees will consider trimming environmental regulations and altering rules governing midwifery. On the Senate floor, lawmakers will hear a bill to prevent undercover whistleblower operations at farms and processing plants. And in the House, a bill about cancer drugs that split Republicans faces another vote, as does the LEED certification bill. Gov. Pat McCrory lists no public events.

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

Morning Memo: The private first lady, and inaugural party time begins

MUST READ: First Lady Ann McCrory shuns the public spotlight. From the story: Ann McCrory hasn’t fully embraced McCrory's political career. Nor has she opposed it. Now, after her husband’s three city council terms, seven terms as mayor and two tries at the governor’s office, she has moved into a late 19th century mansion at the center of government for a state of more than 9 million people. There, the demands on her time – and the questions about her own life and marriage – will immeasurably grow. However, those who know the new first lady say there are no guarantees that her public role will grow right along with them.

***Welcome to the Dome Morning Memo, a digest of the day's political news and other tidbits from the statehouse arena. Click below for more***

Ann McCrory appears at Durham Mission to help with lunch

First Lady Ann McCrory made a rare public appearance Thursday at the Durham Rescue Mission, reading books to children and handing out paper plate for lunch.

McCrory's handlers -- press secretary Ricky Diaz and the governor's sister, Linda Sebastian -- didn't let any reporters near her at the event and continually attempted to control photographers movements before asking them to leave the building before the end of the event, the N&O's Chuck Liddy reports.

Morning Roundup: Congressman Kissell refuses to debate GOP rival Hudson

Citing scheduling conflicts, U.S. Rep. Larry Kissell, D-N.C., has declined to commit to a locally televised debate with Republican challenger Richard Hudson.

Hudson, in a statement released by his campaign, called on the Democratic congressman “to come out of hiding.” Full story here.

More political headlines:

--Get a rundown on the feisty second presidential debate and see a fact check on the candidates' statements. Students at Queens College gave the win to the president.

--Emulating President Barack Obama, Walter Dalton also took an aggressive stance while Pat McCrory bobbed and weaved in the governor's race debate. And see an excerpt from a key exchange.

Michelle Obama pays tribute to Bill Friday

Michelle Obama started her remarks at UNC-Chapel Hill on Tuesday with a tribute to the late Bill Friday.

"I also want to take a moment just to note the passing of William Friday, a man whose visionary leadership of this university system was an inspiration to all of us who believe that education is the key to a brighter future," the first lady said. "Chancellor Friday was a courageous reformer who transformed North Carolina's public universities into a model for our country."

Read more about Michelle Obama's visit here and read her full remarks below.

North Carolina's cameo in Michelle Obama's video

Nine-year-old Will Cunningham's friends at school don't believe him when he tells them about his summer.

But now he has video proof. Will, the son of former state Sen. Cal Cunningham, and his sister Caroline, 10, met First Lady Michelle Obama in a private event in the Raleigh backyard of state Rep. Grier Martin. The Aug. 1 private visit was featured in the eight minute video introducing Obama at the Democratic convention Tuesday night. (Click below for video. 3:33 mark)

Morning Roundup: What could have been for John Edwards

This could have been John Edwards’ convention. Don’t laugh. The switch of 135,000 votes in Ohio in 2004, and the country would be coming to the end of the second term of the Kerry-Edwards administration.

Vice President Edwards – too busy attending funerals of foreign leaders to be fooling around with a New York party girl – would have stepped from President John Kerry’s shadow and accept his party’s nomination. But now Edwards is the name that must not be mentioned at the Democratic convention in Charlotte. Rob Christensen's column here.

More political stories:

--Gov. Bev Perdue finds a new candidate to campaign for this election year.

-- DNC wrap: First Lady Michelle Obama's speech. N.C. reaction. The Latino outreach effort at convention. A photo gallery from the first day. Up next: Bill Clinton. N.C.'s oldest delegate. Jon Stewart rips Uptown. Alternate speakers platform is lonely. Harvey Gantt's legacy influences Obama. Find much more coverage here.

Morning Roundup DNC edition: The deubutante turned Obama money machine

When Barack Obama began his quest for the presidency, one of the first people he hired was a former Eastern North Carolina debutante-turned star political fundraiser named Julianna Smoot. 

Her job four years ago was to raise a campaign war chest large enough to take on the vaunted Bill and Hillary Clinton money machine. This year, it’s to raise more money than Republican Mitt Romney. She raised $880 million for the 2008 election. So far this election cycle, she has raised $600 million. That makes her the $1.4 billion woman and counting. Read the full story here.

More political headlines from the News & Observer and Charlotte Observer:

--National political conventions used to be about just two things: Nominate a presidential ticket, then sell it to the American electorate with a big TV show. This year, there’s a third goal: Win North Carolina’s 15 electoral votes – and perhaps a second term in the White House – by using the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte as a campaign organizing tool.

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