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Morning Memo: GOP moves to limit early voting as budget debate begins

REPUBLICANS MOVE TO CURTAIL EARLY VOTING: Republicans are moving in the final days of the legislative session to cut early voting by a week, limit Sunday voting and curtail some voter registration efforts in a sweeping bill that is expected to debut Tuesday. The measure also may advance the state's presidential primary to a week after South Carolina's first-in-the-South contest. The last-minute election measures will appear in a Senate bill requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. (Check Dome for more on the bill later today.)

EDUCATION FOCUS OF BUDGET DEBATE: The N.C. Association of Educators is threatening to sue over the tenure provisions in the state budget. State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said for the first time in her 30-year career, she fears for the future of public education. “I am truly worried about the ongoing starvation of our public schools,” she said. “I see other states making a commitment to public education. In our state I see in this budget we’re cutting teachers, we’re cutting teacher assistants, we’re cutting instructional support.”

With education as the focus, the House and Senate will take budget votes Tuesday and Wednesday as they race toward the end of session.

***More on the state budget and other North Carolina political news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

NAACP, Democratic voters appeal redistricting ruling

The state NAACP, a group of Democratic voters and other voter-rights organizations are taking their fight against the legislative and congressional boundaries drawn by Republicans to the state’s highest court.

“We know, without a doubt that the battle for voting rights is one that must be won,” the Rev. William Barber, head of the state NAACP, said on the Wake County courthouse steps on Monday. “We know we’re in a battle for the ballot.”

Their notice of appeal comes two weeks after a panel of three Superior Court judges validated the legislative and congressional districts intended to be used through the 2020 elections. They had 30 days to decide whether to appeal to the N.C. Supreme Court. Read more here.

Judges uphold GOP redistricting maps

A three-judge panel issued a judgment Monday saying that while race played a role in the mapping of North Carolina’s legislative and congressional voting districts in 2011, Republican leaders were within bounds in creating the districts.

The 171-page judgment comes nearly a month and a half after the three Superior Court judges from across the state heard testimony about the districts – Senate Districts 31 and 32 in Yadkin and Forsyth counties; House Districts 51 and 54 in Lee and Chatham counties; the 4th Congressional District in the eastern Piedmont; and 12th District stretching from Charlotte to Winston-Salem and Greensboro.

Morning Memo: Obama visits N.C., tax deal brokered

OBAMA VISIT: President Barack Obama is expected to unveil a plan to connect nearly every U.S. classroom to high-speed Internet while he’s in Mooresville on Thursday. The plan would expand broadband and wireless access to 99 percent of the country’s schools over the next five years, the White House said. It would use money already budgeted and would not require authorization or approval by Congress. The goal is to boost graduation rates and turn out students more prepared for tech-related careers. Full story here.

Gov. Pat McCrory won't be joining the president at his visit, according to his public schedule.

TAX DEAL BROKERED: For the second straight day Wednesday, House Republicans feuded among themselves on a major tax cut measure, stalling a top legislative priority. But 10 hours after a revolt in a morning committee meeting, House GOP lawmakers emerged from a lengthy closed-door meeting Wednesday evening to say they had reached a consensus to remove language from the tax bill aimed at helping the housing industry. The move puts the House tax plan back roughly in its original form. Full story.

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

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.***

Democratic lawmakers testify in redistricting trial

From AP: Current and former Democratic state legislators are testifying at a trial where judges are weighing arguments whether the redistricting maps drawn by North Carolina Republicans in 2011 are legal or should be thrown out.

State Sen. Dan Blue of Raleigh and former Sen. Eric Mansfield of Fayetteville told a three-judge panel Tuesday there was no need for Republicans to increase the black voting age population in their districts to make them majority-black to ensure black voters can elect their favored candidates.

Mansfield and Blue testified white voters are willing to elect black candidates due to changing voting patterns and views on race. Republican legislative leaders and the state argue racially polarized voting still exists in North Carolina and majority-black districts can be drawn to avoid federal voting rights challenges. R

Morning Memo: Expect a late night at legislature as bills fly fast

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The action starts early Tuesday and will likely stretch past 10 p.m. again. The House and Senate plan to convene a skeletal session just before 10 a.m. to read in committee reports, then recess until 2 p.m. House Speaker Thom Tillis said the session will go until 5:15 p.m. or so before a dinner recess for committee meetings. The chamber will reconvene at 7 p.m. and go late. The Senate isn't expected to stay as long but its calendar is getting crowded. Gov. Pat McCrory lists no public events.

McCRORY'S OFFICE WON'T RELEASE DAILY SCHEDULE ANYMORE: The governor's Communications Director Kim Genardo is changing the office's policy of releasing a daily calendar. Genardo said if there is no event scheduled, she won't send out a notice stating as much, meaning some days will have no notice to the governor's schedule. McCrory pledged to release a daily schedule during the gubernatorial campaign as he bashed his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue, for taking a "secret" trip to Pennsylvania to study fracking rigs. Republicans jumped on McCrory's Democratic opponent for not pledging to do the same. “Everyone knew where I was as mayor,” McCrory said a year ago. “My records were open."

***A busy week means lots of news below in the Dome Morning Memo. Send more news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com. ****

News flash: Redistricting disenfranchises minority party

A study commissioned by a good-government group documents the unsurprising finding that redistricting in North Carolina has long been used by the party in power to disenfranchise voters who don’t support them.

In 1992, Democrats received 52 percent of the votes in the state House but took 67 percent of the seats. In the Senate, Democrats won 55 percent of the votes and held 78 percent of the seats.

Twenty years later, Republicans received 54 percent of the vote for House and hold 64 percent of the seats, while holding 66 percent of the Senate seats even though the vote was split 50-50.

Another swing at independent redistricting under way

Another run at taking the politics out of redistricting has emerged this session in the form of a bipartisan bill packed with so many co-sponsors that they constitute a majority in the House.

HB606 would create an independent nonpartisan professional staff that would draw maps that the General Assembly would then approve or reject, with only limited technical amendments permitted.

The main backers of HB606 will try to drum up support at a news conference Wednesday with House Speaker Pro Tem Paul “Skip” Stam, R-Apex; Democratic caucus co-chair Rep. Deborah Ross, D-Raleigh; Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, and Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Fayetteville.

The bill is the same one that passed the House in 2011 on an 88-27 vote. Supporters note that House Speaker Thom Tillis supported redistricting reform when he was in the minority party.

Supporters say that 25 Republicans who didn’t sign on as sponsors of this bill have either voted for the 2011 bill or have said they support redistricting reform.

Morning Memo: Redistricting in the courts, education in the legislature

THE MOST IMPORTANT POLITICAL STORY IN N.C.: The legal fight about the new political boundaries drawn by Republicans in the redistricting process is headed to court this week. A three-judge panelwill hear the arguments Monday and Tuesday after Democrats and groups fighting the maps filed suit contending they were unlawful. The new boundaries seal Republican power in the state legislature for the next decade and Democrats need a judicial reversal to regain strength.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House will focus on education this week, with local school superintendents from across the state invited to meet with lawmakers. House Speaker Thom Tillis will hold a 3 p.m. press conference to discuss "education week." The House and Senate convene Monday evening for skeleton sessions. No votes are expected.

***Good Monday morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. Find more political news and a weekend headline wrap below. And find out more information about the N&O's new iPad app, available for download now. (Programming note: Dome is not available on the app at the moment. Look for an upgrade later.)***

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