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Morning Memo: GOP Senate hopefuls take hard line on defunding Obamacare

North Carolina’s Republican U.S. Senate candidates are taking a hard line on federal budget negotiations – a position that puts them at odds with the state’s lone GOP senator, Richard Burr.

Four Republican candidates said Monday they support efforts to defund the federal health care act, apparently even if those efforts lead to a government shutdown. Their comments came the same day state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger announced he won’t join those running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Kay Hagan.

***Read more from the GOP candidates -- reaction to Berger's decision -- below in today's Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: McCrory opposed to new casino; Hagan still trumps GOP rivals

McCRORY OPPOSES CATAWBA CASINO: The Catawba Nation has filed an application with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs in a first step toward gaining permission to build a casino and resort in Cleveland County. But Gov. Pat McCrory declined requests to endorse the application, a spokesman said Monday. In his first comments on the project, the governor's office said McCrory “remains unconvinced that any new casino proposal is in the best interest of North Carolina.” Read more here.

2014 U.S. SENATE POLL: Look for a new Public Policy Polling survey on North Carolina's U.S. Senate race later today. In a preview, Politico reports that Democrat Kay Hagan is still trumping her GOP rivals and Senate leader Phil Berger is slightly edging House Speaker Thom Tillis in a hypothetical GOP primary-- though nearly half of voters are still unsure.

***Get a full N.C. political news roundup below in the Dome Morning Memo. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com.***

It takes 10,000 pages to answer Forest's Common Core questions

Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest is challenging the state's adoption of the Common Core education standards by asking the state's education department to answer 20 pages of questions (67 questions in all).

The State Department of Public Instruction received his request and asked him to provide 10,000 pages of paper so they could answer them, according to a Facebook post from Forest. The Republican said his office delivered the paper Friday and posted a photo online.

"Upon receipt of their reply to my letter, my team will methodically research all the answers supplied so that we can push this dialogue at the upcoming Board of Education meetings," Forest wrote. "I will keep you updated on the progress of this effort."

Forest is a member of the State Board of Education. No word on how much time and money it will take DPI to answer his questions or how long Forest's state-paid staff will spend going through the answers.

Lt. Gov. Forest opposed to major immigration bill

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest says a North Carolina bill to allow immigrants in the country illegally would lead to "an influx of illegal aliens" and drain the state's social welfare programs.

"Those of us elected to office owe it to the citizens of our state to protect the rule of law," the Republican wrote in a letter to the editor published in the Winston-Salem Journal. "Our legislature should pass laws that encourage legal actions, not illegal ones."

Forest's stance makes him the most prominent opposition to date on the immigration bill, dubbed the RECLAIM NC Act, which would also allow immigrants to be jailed while police check their immigration status. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Harry Warren, considers it a compromise measure to make roads safer and free police to focus on criminals. The legislation is stuck in the House Finance Committee, where it has sat since early May.

Morning Memo: Common Core fight hits North Carolina, tax bill divides GOP

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House tax plan returns for an unscheduled stop in another committee Wednesday morning. Look for lawmakers to possibly strip a provision added the day before by Finance Committee Chairwoman Julia Howard to remove the cap on home-related tax deductions. Continuing the fast timeline, bill sponsor David Lewis said the measure could hit the floor this week. The bill to fast-track fracking will get a vote in a House committee at 10 a.m. The full House will take a final vote to repeal the Racial Justice Act and consider a bill to redraw the Wake County school district boundaries. The Senate will work through a lengthy calendar that includes two beer bills and a measure requiring biodegradable plastic bottles to carry certain wording on their labels.

LT. GOV LAUNCHES COMMON CORE FIGHT: On Tuesday, North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest posted a nearly four-minute video on YouTube, titled “My Concerns with Common Core.” In it, he said he has serious qualms about the state’s “rush to implement” the K-12 standard. Common Core was rolled out in North Carolina’s classrooms last fall. Forest vowed a critical review starting Wednesday during orientation for new members of the State Board of Education, suggesting “perhaps a fresh set of eyes will give us reason to pause, and make sure our state looks, before we leap into the Common Core.” 

***Additional details on Common Core, Thom Tillis' U.S. Senate bid and much more below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Dalton's not governor, but he's poised to be a president

From AP -- Former North Carolina Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton is poised to have a new job May 1 as president of his community college back home. The Isothermal Community College board voted unanimously Friday to hire Dalton as its next leader, replacing the retiring Myra Johnson. Dalton's appointment still must be approved by the state community college board.

Dalton is a Democrat who lost the governor's race to Republican Pat McCrory in November. Since then he's been teaching a class at Gardner-Webb University and working as a special assistant to the president there.

Dalton was one of six finalists for the Isothermal post. He lives in Rutherford County, one of two counties served by Isothermal. He was the college's board chairman prior to joining the state Senate in 1997.

Morning Memo: Hagan hires campaign manager, GOP '14 field unsettled

HAGAN HIRES FORMER REID AIDE AS CAMPAIGN MANAGER: The 2014 U.S. Senate race is taking shape with Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan hiring Preston Elliott as her campaign manager. Elliott most recently served in the same role to help U.S. Sen. Jon Tester win re-election in Montana, one of the closely watched races of the 2012 campaign cycle. In 2010, Elliott worked as coordinated campaign director for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in his re-election effort, another high profile race. The big hire signals that Hagan expects a big fight in 2014. "He has a proven track record of success, and with his help and the help of North Carolinians of all walks of life, I expect to cross the finish line with a victory in November 2014," Hagan said in a statement.

WHO WILL HAGAN FACE?: A new Public Policy Polling survey -- set for release later Tuesday and obtained exclusively by Dome -- shows its a wide open race among Republican primary voters. Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest leads the field with 18 percent, according ot the Democratic polling firm. PPP added Forest's name to the potential field for the first time this month and he still managed to outpace Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (13 percent) and Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry (12 percent). The only announced candidate, tea partier Greg Brannon, gets 4 percent and at least a quarter of voters weren't decided on any of the nine names PPP tested. (More from the poll below.)

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

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest gets a new gavel

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest will gavel the N.C. Senate to session Monday with new oomph.

House Speaker Thom Tillis surprised Forest and presented him with a new gavel (at right) made from heart pine during Saturday's Mecklenburg Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner. It is made from the same wood as Tillis' gavel.

On Tillis' Facebook page, he writes that the wood comes from the state tree, the Long Leaf Pine. "The tree was a sapling around the time of the founding of our nation. It was felled around 1825 and used to build a house near Speed, North Carolina. The house was "visited" by Sherman's troops during the Civil War but the house was not destroyed. 150 years later it was used to turn historic gavels now in the hands of the leaders of the NC Senate and NC House. I am proud to share that history with my friend and my Lt. Governor," Tillis wrote. Find more on the wood's origin here.

Cartoon: McCrory stuck on driver's license issue

Charlotte Observer cartoonist Kevin Siers picked up on Gov. Pat McCrory's silence on the issue of whether immigrants here under a federal program should get driver's licenses.

Dan Forest wants a closer relationship with governor than his predecessor

Dan Forest took office as the state's No. 2 in a private ceremony Monday at the Capitol.

In an interview after the event, the Republican lieutenant governor said he hopes to establish a better relationship with new Gov. Pat McCrory, noting that his predecessor wasn't too close to Bev Perdue.

Forest's main role is to preside over the N.C. Senate and serve on various boards and commissions. But the lieutenant governor is often delegated duties from the state's chief executive. McCrory told Dome that he expects Forest to play a role in drafting a 25-year transportation infrastructure plan, drawing upon his experience as an architect, and consult on education policy.

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