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Morning Memo: Dems eager to replace Kinnaird; GOP's barbs in Senate fight

FOUR CANDIDATES SEEKING KINNAIRD SENATE SEAT: State Rep. Valerie Foushee and three others announced Wednesday their intent to seek state Sen. Ellie Kinnaird’s District 23 seat. The other candidates for Kinnaird’s seat that emerged Wednesday were retiring Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton; author and educator Amy Tiemann, and former Alamance County Rep. Alice Bordsen. Read more on the candidates here.

TODAY IN POLITICS: The country's former top military officer and the head of an Internet giant are the main attractions at a gathering of North Carolina business executives that will draw Gov. Pat McCrory. The CEO Forum is scheduled for Thursday at North Ridge Country Club in Raleigh. Former U.S. Secretary of State and retired Gen. Colin Powell is speaking along with Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers. McCrory will attend the event at 8 a.m.

***More North Carolina political news from the U.S. Senate race below in the Dome Morning Memo. Send news and tips to capitol@newsobserver.com.***

Telepsychiatry program to bring mental health to counties via technology

More rural areas will get access to mental health providers through video technology in a program Gov. Pat McCrory announced on Friday in Greenville.

Introduced in this session’s budget, this statewide telepsychiatry plan will provide $4 million over two years for East Carolina University to develop a network of providers, and install the infrastructure necessary for counties to administer telepsychiatry – or video counseling.

“It’s kind of like a Skype counseling or something like that,” said Doug Boyd, a spokesman for the ECU School of Medicine. “It’s just the same thing you would do face-to-face but the psychiatrist is in (another county or city).”

Currently, 58 counties qualify federally as Health Professional Shortage Areas, due to a lack of mental health resources. Supporters hope telepsychiatry can bring mental health to rural communities that lack the physical presence of psychiatrists and psychologists.

Morning Memo: Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer to attend Wake fundraiser

JAN BREWER TO ATTEND WAKE GOP FUNDRAISER: The Wake County Republican Party announced Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer will attend a Sept. 14 fundraiser in Raleigh for the local party's fall candidates. The announcement email includes the now infamous photo of Brewer, a Republican, wagging her finger upon meeting President Barack Obama at an airport tarmac. The top ticket for the fundraiser is a $5,000 VIP package and a single ticket is $75. The party expects the event to sell out.

THE MUMMIES RETURN: From columnist Rob Christensen-- "We have seen this before in North Carolina – the reign of the green-eyeshaded men who thought low taxes trumped all, and if there were any coins left in the till at the end of the day they would throw it into the education pot.

"It was called the 1800s. And Walter Hines Page had a name for them. He called North Carolina’s leaders “the mummies” as in very old, well-wrapped, very dead Egyptians because of their complacent conservatism." Read his full column here.

***Get more North Carolina political news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Abortion bill puts McCrory in spotlight, Monday protests grow

ABORTION BILL PUTS McCRORY IN A TOUGH SPOT: A controversial measure based on disputed science will get most the attention Tuesday at the statehouse. The legislation -- an amended version of which already passed the Senate -- requires teachers tell seventh graders that abortion is a risk factor in subsequent premature births. It gets a hearing in the House health committee at 10 a.m.

If approved, it could put Gov. Pat McCrory in the spotlight. In a gubernatorial debate, McCrory said he wouldn't support any new abortion restrictions -- a point critics plan to hold him to. “Governor McCrory made a promise to all of us back in October when he said he would not support any new restrictions to abortion access in our state. We’ve been collecting signatures all year from North Carolinians who have vowed to hold the Governor to his word,” said Suzanne Buckley, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, in a statement. “I want to be very clear here,” Buckley continued, “We will consider anything less than a veto of legislation aimed at limiting access to abortion care as a breach of that promise.”

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: With Republicans unable to craft a state budget before the July 1 deadline, the Senate Appropriations Committee will consider a continuing resolution to keep government running at its current level for another 30 days. It could also get to the Senate floor later in the day. In the House, an education committee will debate a bill to create an independent board to govern charter schools -- a measure that the Republican chairman of the state board of education opposes. The House is expecting a light calendar when it convenes at 2 p.m.

***Read about the big crowd and growing number of arrests at the Moral Monday protests below in today's Dome Morning Memo. Sends news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com.***

ARC leader Dave Richard to DHHS

Dave Richard, executive director of the ARC of North Carolina, will be the next director of mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse services at the state Department of Health and Human Services.

He replaces acting director Jim Jarrard.

Richard has been at the ARC of NC for nearly 25 years. He starts his new job May 28.

"His extensive expertise in program implementation, public education, government affairs, and his deep understanding of individual and community needs will help us improve customer service as we seek to help every North Carolinian fulfill their potential," DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos said in a statement.

As ARC executive director, Richard was an outspoken critic of the Medicaid managed care system for mental health that now governs payments and treatment.

He said recently that he liked the plan for the statewide Medicaid waiver that Gov. Pat McCrory's administration is pursuing.

Morning Memo: More arrests expected at legislature, McCrory to Texas

MORE ARRESTS EXPECTED AT LEGISLATURE: Activists fighting the Republican legislative agenda say they will return to the Legislative Building on Monday and more plan to be arrested. The civil disobiendence, led by the N.C. NAACP and other groups, is design to raise the public's awareness of the policies GOP-lawmakers are pushing this session. A demonstration a week ago led to 17 arrests.

McCRORY TO TOUT DRILLING IN TEXAS: From AP -- Gov. Pat McCrory is visiting an offshore energy trade conference in Texas to try to help build momentum for drilling off the coast of North Carolina and other states. McCrory says he'll participate Monday in a panel discussion with other governors at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. McCrory says the energy industry could create thousands of jobs and reduce America's dependence on foreign oil and generate state revenues.

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

Morning Memo: Obama to name Watt to housing post, taxes split Republicans

OBAMA TO NAME MEL WATT AS HOUSING CHIEF: President Barack Obama intends to nominate Rep. Melvin Watt to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency, the government regulator that oversees lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a White House official told the Associated Press.  The president was expected to name Watt, a 20-year veteran of the House, on Wednesday, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the announcement.

HOUSE, SENATE STILL APART ON TAX PLAN: Senate Republicans are expected to debut a comprehensive tax plan in coming days -- but don't expect the House to stand at their side. Rep. David Lewis, the lead House tax negotiator, said Tuesday they still haven't found complete agreement. "The two chambers are not yet on one accord," he said. Lewis said he's optimistic the two sides will still unify around a single plan. He wouldn't identify the sticking point but it is likely how to pay for the plan -- with the Senate wanting to tax dozens of new services and the House wanting a more modest approach.

***Click below to keep reading the Dome Morning Memo for more details on Watt's new post -- and what it means in North Carolina -- as well as more political news and analysis.***

House panel advances major gun bill

A measure designed to limit access to firearms for mentally ill people won approval in a House committee Wednesday, but not without much debate about other provisions in the legislation to loosen the state's gun laws.

The mental health provisions are aimed at preventing another Newtown school shooting, the bill's supporters said. It requires local clerks of court to report to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System within 48 hours when a person is committed for a mental illness, admitted for substance abuse treatment and a danger, deemed mentally incompetent in court and three other conditions.

But most of the discussion in the House Judiciary Subcommittee A focused on a provision in House bill 937 to allow concealed handgun permit holders in restaurants and bars that serve alcohol unless the establishment posts a sign prohibiting it. It also allows concealed carry permit holder to have a handgun in a locked vehicle at a public college or university.

Morning Memo: McCrory to announce Medicaid overhaul; big day at statehouse

McCRORY TO ANNOUNCE MEDICAID SYSTEM OVERHAUL: Gov. Pat McCrory rejected a Medicaid expansion earlier this year saying the system was broken and Wednesday morning he is expected to describe how he plans to fix it. The Republican has talked frequently about the rising costs of the healthcare system for select low-income and disabled residents and issued a video preview Tuesday saying he would create a "partnership" that will help keep costs low. Check Dome later today for more details from the 10 a.m. press conference.

***It's a jam-packed day in North Carolina politics. Get the full scoop on all the big stories from the Dome Morning Memo below. Send tips and news to dome@newsobserver.com.***

A 4th state psychiatric hospital?

A report to legislators from the state Department of Health and Human Services puts one-time start-up costs for a fourth state psychiatric hospital at $137.2 million. Yearly operating expenses would be about $78 million, with about $61.9 million paid by the state.

Legislators asked DHHS to determine the cost of building a state hospital for use by a dozen counties including Mecklenburg, Union and Davidson. A state hospital in this region would be the smallest, at 200 beds, the DHHS study says.

Legislators asked for the study because patients wait an average of more than two days in emergency rooms for openings in state hospitals. The state has 866 beds in its three psychiatric hospitals, and the hospitals are considered full.

The state is building two replacement psychiatric hospitals in Goldsboro and in Morganton. The new Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro, set to open this year, will have 124 more beds, bringing its total to 314. The new Broughton Hospital in Morganton will have room for 85 additional beds.

Maximizing space at the new buildings and using the old John Umstead Hospital in Butner could add 271 beds in 2015, the report says.

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