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UNC system bans co-gender housing, earning conservative praise

The UNC Board of Governors voted Friday to ban UNC campuses from letting students of opposite genders live in the same dorm suites or apartments. Trustees at UNC-Chapel Hill had endorsed the idea of “gender-neutral” housing last year, after a yearlong push from students who said the move was necessary to give gay, lesbian and transgender students a place free of harassment.

But others thought such living arrangements would be inappropriate. Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition, released a statement after the Board of Governors action Friday. “We applaud the UNC Board of Governors for passing a uniform housing policy that will prohibit students of the opposite sex from living together in on-campus housing unless they are siblings or legally married,” Fitzgerald said.

Morning Memo: Tillis dodges shutdown questions; McHenry pressed on Obamacare

TILLIS DODGES GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN QUESTION: Republican Thom Tillis is emphasizing his opposition to the federal health care law in his campaign for the U.S. Senate but at the same time he's avoiding answering some questions on the issue. A Democratic Party operative recently asked the Republican House speaker about whether he agrees with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and others who suggested shutting down government to defund the federal health care law.

While walking to a recent D.C. fundraiser, Tillis didn't offer a direct answer -- even though if elected he may face similar circumstance. "It's not my decision to make but anything we could do to slow down or eliminate Obamacare would be good for the nation," he said in a video posted online. (Watch above.)

Does Tillis agree with North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr that a shutdown is the "dumbest idea" ever? Again no answer. "I'm going to leave that to the duly elected senators but i think we can do to stop Sen. Hagan and President Obama from creating all the uncertainty and cost that comes with Obamacare it would be a good thing," he said. Expect both questions to return soon.

***See the Tillis video below in the Dome Morning Memo, along with another video from Republicans punking people at the "Moral Monday" rally.

Morning Memo: McCrory's taxing pledge; Tillis super PAC money questioned

TAX BILL NOW PUTS FOCUS ON McCRORY: Gov. Pat McCrory pledge in his campaign to make any tax overhaul revenue neutral. It was the only specific detail he offered and came under pressure from Democratic candidate Walter Dalton who warned such a tax bill, if not revenue neutral, could lead to huge cuts in government spending on popular services.

With legislative approval Wednesday, the two-billion tax bill goes to the governor. Will he meet his pledge, one he repeated just months ago in his State of the State address? It depends. The governor's office called the bill fiscally responsible and essentially revenue-neutral in the first year at about $35 million in less revenue. From there, the bill is nowhere close to bringing in as much state revenue as projected. And McCrory is moving the goalposts and redefining what he meant. (Read below to see how the governor's office is positioning itself.)

TILLIS SUPER PAC GETS BIG CHECKS FROM 3 HE HELPED PUT ON UNC BOARD: A super PAC for House Speaker Thom Tillis recently raised $105,000 from five donors for his U.S. Senate race, including $70,000 from three men the House appointed to the University of North Carolina Board of Governors.

The contributions raise more questions about whether donations to the Republican candidate’s bid are connected to legislation in the chamber he controls. They also highlight Tillis’ ability to raise money when other lawmakers are limited in soliciting campaign contributions. W.G. Champion Mitchell said his $25,000 contribution had nothing to do with his recent appointment to the university’s governing board. “I want to see him be our next senator,” Mitchell said. “That is the answer.” Read more here.

***Get a full roundup of North Carolina political news and analysis below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: GOP fundraising, Rural Center face major questions

GOP ABANDONS PLEDGE FOR TAX REFORM: From Rob Christensen's column: Tax reform in North Carolina died last week. RIP. …The House has rolled out its plan, and the Senate has rolled out an alternative plan. Those plans focus almost exclusively on cutting corporate and personal income taxes, rather than revamping the 1930s tax code. So tax reform is dead. In its place, we have large tax cuts, the size and shape of which will be worked out in a House-Senate conference committee. Cutting taxes is in the Republican comfort zone. Reforming the tax code is not. Full story.

LOBBYING FIRM ACTED AS TILLIS, McCRORY FUNDRAISING CONDUIT: The giving by the sweepstakes industry also puts a spotlight on fundraising efforts organized by McGuireWoods. Multiple contributions from sweepstakes operators were often recorded on the same days, with the largest group coming on May 16, 2012, when the Tillis campaign tallied a total of $60,002 from 19 individuals. Days earlier, on May 10, McGuireWoods held a fundraiser at its Raleigh office attended by Payne and lobbyists from other organizations. Harry Kaplan, a McGuireWoods lobbyist, said he invited clients who were interested in meeting with Tillis to talk about the issues they represented. They could also make campaign contributions, which some did, he said.

***More on Tillis, McCrory campaign fundraising, the sweepstakes industry and questions clouding the N.C. Rural Center and top Republicans below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Legislature an embarrassment, big issues dominate post-crossover Jones Street

NEARLY HALF VOTERS CONSIDER SAY #NCGA CAUSING NATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT: One of the more intriguing poll numbers in the latest monthly Public Policy Polling survey due out later today: 45 percent. That's the portion of voters who believe the N.C. General Assembly is causing the state "national embarrassment." The poll question comes after a number of hot-button legislative issues received national attention -- and ridicule. Another 31 percent don't think the state legislature is a blemish and another 24 percent are undecided. (More from poll below.)

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: No rest for the weary this week on Jones Street. The Senate appropriations committee meets at 8:30 to discuss its $20.6 billion state budget. Democrats will raise objections but no significant changes are expected. At the same time, the House Finance Committee will consider a major immigration bill that is drawing increasing fire from the ACLU and others concerned about Arizona-type provisions about stopping and detaining people who did not enter the country legally. At 11 a.m., the House Education Committee will get its first look at a new private school voucher bill. Senate and House floor calendars are light after crossover week's flurry, but the House will give final reading to a bill limiting tolling of existing highways.

Gov. Pat McCrory will meet with the Philippine ambassador at 8:45 a.m. in a private meeting and later attend a N.C. Department of Transportation luncheon. McCrory will speak to a group of under-45 CEOs as part of the southern chapter of the Young Presidents' Organization conference and travel to Charlotte this evening for a forum with the city's other current and former mayors.

***This is the Dome Morning Memo. Read more new exclusive PPP numbers below and get more insights into the state budget. ***

1369145279 Morning Memo: Legislature an embarrassment, big issues dominate post-crossover Jones Street The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

UNC system leaders want universities removed from gun bill

Update: UNC system President Tom Ross issued a statement expressing concern about House Bill 937, which would loosen the state's gun laws.

Part of the bill allows holders of concealed carry permits to keep guns in locked vehicles at college and university campuses.

“We have an obligation to provide a safe environment for our students and employees, and every UNC campus has a trained police force charged with promoting the safety of all people who come onto our campuses," Ross said in a statement.

"All UNC chancellors and chiefs of police believe allowing guns on campus would increase the risk to public safety and hamper our ability to protect not only our students, staff, and faculty, but also campus visitors, including parents, siblings of students, and summer camp participants. Vehicle break-ins are one of the leading crimes on college campuses, and even guns brought lawfully onto campus, as contemplated by this bill, could fall into the wrong hands and result in serious injury or death.

“In addition, a number of UNC campuses house early college high schools, middle schools, or summer camps for younger children. The presence of these young people further heightens our concerns about the safety risks that come with guns getting into the wrong hands. Moreover, when responding to an armed robbery or active shooter incident, our officers would often be hard pressed to distinguish between a criminal suspect and well-intentioned bystanders with weapons drawn, particularly in the heat of the moment. The potential for tragedy far outweighs any potential benefit or convenience to concealed-carry permit holders. We encourage the General Assembly to remove the provision that would allow guns to be brought onto UNC and other college and university campuses.”

Earlier Monday, UNC-Chapel Hill Director of Public Safety, Chief Jeff McCracken released a statement saying it's a bad idea to relax restrictions on guns.

"While intended to promote safety, this legislation allowing additional guns on public campuses actually would make colleges and universities less safe," his statement said.

Pat McCrory's "Aha!" moment

Gov. Pat McCrory raised the possibility Wednesday that public education leaders- from pre-K to the university system - would get together on a budget to send legislators rather than have each sector work separately with the governor's office on the proposal.

McCrory described it as his "Aha!" moment as he assembled his first budget.

Closer collaboration on budgeting was one of the goals discussed at the first Education Cabinet meeting in the McCrory administration.The cabinet has the branches of state education and a representative of independent universities consider joint projects and ways to cooperate.

A collaborative budget would be a switch from current practice, where budget requests are developed separately and the K-12 public education and the UNC system often seen to be competing for money at the legislature.

McCrory said he and his budget staff thought it would be better to have pre-K through universities work on a budget together - "have an education budget as opposed to a university budget, or a K-12 budget, or a community college budget, or a pre-K budget."

McCrory acknowledged that there is already information shared. For example, leaders of the community college system meet regularly with UNC system leaders and with the state Department of Public Instruction. But McCrory wants a formal process with his office in on it.

Morning Memo: UNC-CH gets new chancellor; McHenry won't challenge Hagan

UNC-CHAPEL HILL TO GET FIRST WOMAN CHANCELLOR: As first reported by The News & Observer, UNC system officials will name Carol Folt, the interim president of Dartmouth College, as the next chancellor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Folt, 61, would be the first woman to lead the campus in Chapel Hill, where the 29,000-member student body is 58 percent female. She will succeed Holden Thorp, who is stepping down by July 1 to become provost at Washington University in St. Louis. Full story.

McHENRY WON'T CHALLENGE HAGAN: N.C. Congressman Patrick McHenry took his name out of the crowded field of potential challengers to Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who faces re-election in 2014. Polls put McHenry in the top half of Republicans. "I'm grateful for the good numbers, but I think I've got a better opportunity to make a difference here in the House," McHenry told the Mountain Xpress in Asheville. "I want to end the distraction about this potential Senate run so I can get back and focus on the work that I need to be doing to help get this economy going."

***Good morning. Thanks for reading the Friday edition of the Dome Morning Memo. Much more N.C political news and analysis below.***

McCrory changes language to urge UNC system change

Gov. Pat McCrory told the UNC Board of Governors on Thursday that the status quo is no longer acceptable in the operation and funding of education in North Carolina.

“My goal is to continue to have the brand of our university system be the first rate brand in the nation and in the world,” he said. “It’s going to be crucial to our economic development, but that also means we’ve got to change some things. And that’s not change for the sake of change. It’s change just like the private sector has to do with their customers and their products every single day.”

McCrory did not echo the criticisms of liberal arts programs that he had made on a conservative radio talk show a few months ago. His previous comments ignited outrage among faculty, prompting letters, petitions and an invitation to meet with professors.

Education is for two purposes, McCrory stressed – exercising the brain and using knowledge to apply toward a career. But he said universities must adjust enrollment to meet market needs. He cited a hypothetical example of campuses producing too many lawyers and not enough engineers. More here.

--Jane Stancill, staff writer

Morning Memo: Senate moves with speed, Muslim remarks put GOP on the spot

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: In a metaphor for this legislative session, the Senate is moving fast to raise the speed limit to 75 mph on some highways. The full Senate is scheduled to hear the bill Thursday, a day after it passed a committee and a week after it was filed, AP reports. The Carolina Panthers incentives bill also won approval in committee Wednesday and heads to the floor. Senate convenes at 10 a.m. The House is expecting a longer-than-normal day with a busy calendar, including a measure to limit the N.C. Lottery's ability to advertise and sell games. It starts at 1 p.m. Earlier in the day, House committees will consider a wind energy bill and IT changes requested by the McCrory adminsitration.

Gov. Pat McCrory will attend the UNC system Board of Governors meeting in Pembroke -- where he will surely face questions about the budget cuts he proposed -- before making an economic development announcement in the area.

HOW WILL GOP REACT? As AP reports, an American-Islamic group wants national Republican leaders to repudiate comments by a North Carolina legislator who compared Muslim prayer to terrorism. The Council on American-Islamic Relations said Wednesday that bigoted comments must be rejected if the GOP wants to reach minorities. State Rep. Michele Presnell of Yancey County did not respond to messages seeking comment.

***The Dome Morning Memo sets the stage for the day in North Carolina politics. Get more news and analysis below.***

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