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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: Abortion bill back on agenda; McCrory's misfire at Obama

ABORTION BILL IS 'CHRISTMAS IN JULY': The abortion bill resurfaces for discussion in the House on Tuesday after a vocal protest against it a day earlier. (More on Monday's demonstrations below.) So we know what critics say about the abortion bill, but what about supporters? Christian Action League's Rev. Mark Creech is asking proponents to "pray for Christmas in July." On the group's website, he writes: "In all my days, I have never seen a bill so full of good content. I have shared with my friends that the legislation is a veritable Christmas tree of beautiful lights and ornaments representing life, justice and other righteous principles. The only thing missing is the crowning star of final passage and the governor’s signature. For those of us who believe in faith, family, and freedom, this bill is Christmas in July."

McCRORY'S MISFIRE AT OBAMA: Gov. Pat McCrory sought to deflect blame for North Carolina's decision to curtail jobless benefits by pointing the finger Monday at President Barack Obama's administration. The problem is he pointed in the wrong direction. (Read more below.)

***Click below for details about the controversial abortion bill and more North Carolina political news and analysis in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Moral Monday protesters in court ahead of 8th rally

MORAL MONDAY PROTESTERS GO TO COURT, RALLY AGAIN: The 8th Moral Monday protest starts about 5 p.m. today and Democratic Congressman David Price will attend and boost its profile. Earlier in the day, about 17 protesters are expected to appear in court -- the first hearing for any of the nearly 500 people arrested at the N.C. General Assembly during protests against the state's Republican leaders. They are likely to plead not guilty to three charges stemming from their arrest at the first demonstration in April. N.C. NAACP President Rev. William Barber will be one of those in court. More from AP here.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House and Senate convene at 7 p.m. The House has a handful of routine legislative matters on the calendar but the Senate is scheduled to take a final vote on the landfill bill, which critics say would create mega-dumps for out-of-state trash in North Carolina. Earlier in the day, the House Finance Committee will hold a much-debated public hearing on Senate Bill 315, a measure regarding water and sewer lines to a controversial development in Durham County. Gov. Pat McCrory will attend the Red Hat headquarters opening in downtown Raleigh at 10:30 a.m.

***Good Monday morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. Read about the Democrats' "Daddy Warbucks fantasy" and business experts reaction to the tax proposal below. ***

Morning Memo: More Democratic trouble, N.C. vs. S.C. hoops rivalry renewed

UPDATED: DEMOCRATIC PARTY'S PROBLEMS GROW: The head of the North Carolina Democratic Party is facing questions about credit card charges made during a March trip to a Las Vegas casino to watch basketball games with his old college buddies. Records obtained by The Associated Press show state Democratic Chairman Randy Voller made $3,327 in charges to Southwest Airlines and the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel on an American Express Business Gold Card embossed with his name and that of the North Carolina Democratic Party. He said he's paid off the balance in full. Much more to this story -- click here.

N.C. LAWMAKERS TO PLAY "THE OTHER CAROLINA" IN BASKETBALL: North Carolina lawmakers will challenge their South Carolina counterparts to a game of hoops Wednesday evening at Reynolds Coliseum. The game is the first in at least four years between lawmakers from the two Carolinas. Rep. Burt Jones, a Rockingham Republican who will coach the North Carolina squad, helped revive the tradition. “The games in the past were pretty competitive,” he said. (Scouting report below.)

***This is the Dome Morning Memo -- the source for N.C. political news and fun (see below). Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com. ***

Morning Memo: Amid crossover, the unfinished tax plan takes center stage

HOUSE TO UNVEIL TAX PLAN OUTLINE:House Republicans plan to offer their own North Carolina tax overhaul plan Thursday that would reduce personal and corporate income tax rates and expand the sales tax to cover more services. The proposal's scope is much narrower than what Senate counterparts offered as GOP legislators try to fulfill a commitment to carry out tax reform this year.

The plan attempts to simplify income taxes and reduces the number of income tax brackets from three to one, according to the proposed legislation obtained by The Associated Press. House Republican leaders want to reduce slightly the combined state and local sales tax consumers in most counties pay from 6.75 percent to 6.65 percent. They also would subject the sales tax to a handful of new services such as automobile repairs and installations for personal property and warranty and service contracts, the bill says. In contrast, the Senate proposal unveiled last week would make the sales tax base one of the broadest in the country. More here.

NORQUIST TO BLESS SENATE TAX EFFORT: Americans for Tax Reform leader Grover Norquist will stand with Senate leader Phil Berger at a 9:30 a.m. press conference Thursday to talk about the Senate's tax rewrite. The visit is being coordinated by Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy group that pushing hard for a major tax overhaul measure this session. Opposition groups already are framing the visit, saying Norquist will support a bill that could raise taxes on a majority of people in the long-term. A luncheon with tax activists outside the legislature will follow later in the day.

Good Morning! This Dome Morning Memo is (unofficially) brought to you by Krispy Kreme donuts and coffee -- which is much needed after the House worked near midnight to beat the crossover deadline on a bevy of controversial bills in a 10-hour session. If you went to bed early, click below for all the North Carolina political news and analysis.***

Morning Memo: Money in politics, guns in bars

THE NAKED REALITY OF POLITICS: Much of politics is about money. But it's rare to see it so plainly stated in black and white: "We didn't give them money because we liked them," sweepstakes operator William George told the Associated Press. "We just knew they were powerful people up in Raleigh and they could get done what we wanted to get done. You give them your money and they're supposed to do what they say they're going to do." (More on the story below.)

TODAY IN POLITICS: The current State Board of Elections meets for the final time at 9 a.m. today before Gov. Pat McCrory's new appointees take office Wednesday. The board had planned to launch a formal investigation into the gambling money -- received by the governor, top GOP legislative leaders and some Democrats. But board members backed off the idea now that they are lame ducks.

AT THE STATEHOUSE: A House committee will consider a bill to limit pre-K programs, in part to children under the federal poverty line. The full House meets at 2 p.m. and will consider a controversial firearms bill to allow guns in restaurants and bars that serve alcohol. The UNC system is also opposed because it allows guns in cars on college campuses. The Senate will meet at 2 p.m. On its calendar is a measure to require a parent to report a child missing after 24 hours -- it is named after Caylee Anthony. Gov. Pat McCrory is attending two feel-good events Tuesday in Charlotte, first a YMCA prayer breakfast and then a Wells Fargo "Reading Above Par" event.

***More on the sweepstakes money, arrests at the legislature and Jamie Hahn death investigation below in today's Dome Morning Memo -- the place for North Carolina political news and analysis.***

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.***

Morning Memo: Inside McCrory's budget; Foxx considered for Obama post

UPDATED: WHAT THE BUDGET SAYS ABOUT McCRORY: Columnist Rob Christensen -- "It suggested that McCrory is a pragmatic, moderate conservative – not a tea party Republican. The budget colored him an incrementalist with a modest vision of what government can or should accomplish. A governor’s first budget is particularly important because the governor is at the height of his or her power to push an agenda through the legislature. McCrory will never has as much leverage as he has today. So what did he do with his leverage?

"McCrory’s budget offered no sweeping vision of what he wants his governorship to be about. ... This may be sound management, but it is not the stuff of which legacies are made."

REPUBLICANS STACK THE DECK: The UNC Board of Governors elections in the House on Wednesday opened a chasm between Republicans and Democrats. The GOP elected mostly its own kin to the board, sweeping out all incumbents. Democrats voiceferously objected. But House GOP leader Edgar Starnes' response crystalized the debate: "I would just remind you of one thing. The Republicans won the election. We are in control. We intend to elect Republicans and appoint Republicans and we make no apology for it."

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

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.***

Morning Memo: McCrory to White House; more details from strategy memo

MEMO STIRS THE N.C. POLITICAL POT: The political strategy memo from a cadre of groups aligned with Democratic causes is getting a good bit of attention for its tactics. One overlooked in all the coverage: a staff of video trackers to follow the every move of the "targets" (Pat McCrory, Thom Tillis, Phil Berger) and hiring private investigators.

McCRORY VISITING THE WHITE HOUSE: Pat McCrory is visiting Washington Friday through Monday for a series of meetings with the National Governors Association and Republican Governors Association. On Sunday, along with all governors, he will dine at the White House with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, followed by a meeting at the White House the next morning with the president.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- more N.C. political news and analysis below, including more details from the anti-Republican strategy memo.

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