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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: 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: Fracking board under fire, Letterman takes shot at 'Dick' Burr

ENERGY COMPANY THWARTS FRACKING RULE: After more than six months of congenial meetings, the N.C. Mining & Energy Commission was set to approve its first fracking rule Friday, perhaps the most important of all the safety rules the commission will write to protect the public and safeguard the environment. The standard spells out which chemicals fracking operators have to publicly disclose when drilling natural gas wells in North Carolina.

But commissioners learned Thursday the proposal they had approved in committee in March is on ice. The problem: Fracking giant Halliburton has told North Carolina’s environmental regulators the rule goes too far. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources is working to get the rule changed.

The developments raise questions about the independence and integrity of the Mining & Energy Commission, a panel created by the state legislature last year to create safety rules for shale gas exploration. Fracking refers to fracturing shale rock formations using high-pressure water and chemicals to release the natural gas trapped inside. Full story.

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

Morning Memo: McCrory, Foxx square off as legislature takes fast track

UPDATED: IS IT MAYOR PAT OR GOVERNOR PAT? Gov. Pat McCrory told two city of Charlotte staff members this week that state money for the light-rail extension to UNC Charlotte could be at risk if the city builds a controversial streetcar, according to a memo sent Thursday. Without the N.C. Department of Transportation’s $250 million grant, the $1.1 billion Lynx Blue Line extension can’t be built. As Charlotte mayor, McCrory, a Republican, championed light rail, which was one of his signature accomplishments. But he vehemently disagrees with using city property tax dollars to build a streetcar, and used the meeting in Raleigh to relay a message to City Council, according to the memo.

FOXX 'OUTRAGED' OVER WHAT HE CALLS A THREAT: “It’s particularly alarming that he would choose to deliver messages to city staff, particularly messages that contain threats," said Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, a Democrat and potential challenger to McCrory in 2016. “He is governor of the state, and there are a host of issues – tax reform, health care. Why the governor would choose to place focus on a transit project, particularly one contained in a transit plan that he voted to implement makes no sense,” Foxx said.

***This is the Dome Morning Memo a tipsheet on N.C. politics. Click "Read More" for other headlines and news.***

Morning Memo: Tax plan details emerge, N.C. sheriff won't enforce gun orders

TODAY'S BIG STORY: Republican lawmakers outlined a proposal Wednesday to revamp the state’s tax system, offering a slew of reforms that would radically shift the tax burden in North Carolina. The proposal would eliminate personal and corporate income taxes in exchange for higher state sales taxes levied against groceries, medical expenses and other currently tax-free services.

SUPPORTERS SAY: Senate leader Phil Berger said the moves are necessary to modernize the state’s tax code and kick-start a struggling economy. He pointed to the state’s tax rates, saying the current 6.9 percent corporate tax rate and 7.75 percent personal tax rate for the highest earners are among the highest the region. “It is important for us in terms of our competitive posture with other states,” the Republican from Eden told reporters. “It is important for us in terms of making sure there is a fair allocation of the cost of government.”

CRITICS SAY: Critics caution that the proposals represent a fundamental change in who pays the state’s tax burden, and economists said that low-income people would feel the brunt. “For this particular proposal, the responsibility would shift from rich households and prosperous corporations to poor households and smaller businesses,” Dave Ribar, a professor at UNC-Greensboro, concluded in his analysis of the proposal.

***You are reading the Dome Morning Memo, the source for all his North Carolina politics. Much more below.***

Morning Roundup: Meet McCrory's new environmental chief

The man Gov.-elect Pat McCrory appointed to run the state's environmental agency isn't convinced about global warming. And he’s anxious to move the needle back from what he sees as over-regulation toward what he promises will be a middle ground that protects the environment without hindering economic growth. Meet John Skvarla here.

More political news:

--President Obama cuts short his vacation with automatic budget cuts looming.

--More than 300 shipyard workers in North Carolina could stop loading and unloading cargo ships as of midnight Saturday, the result of stalled contract talks that threaten to idle more than 14,500 dockworkers at 15 of the nation’s major shipping ports.

Morning Roundup: How can Congress move forward?

How can a Congress with such wide political differences move forward together for the good of the nation? That’s the question the inaugural Solving It Together forum, presented by The Charlotte Observer and PNC Bank, will tackle.

Former N.C. Gov. Jim Martin, former U.S. Rep. John Spratt  and Congressmen Mel Watt, Patrick McHenry and Mick Mulvaney will participate. More details here.

More political headlines:

--The state Attorney General put on its public case Tuesday charging that a 7.2 percent rate increase approved for Duke Energy should be thrown out on the grounds that it’s causing a public hardship in the midst of a prolonged economic downturn.

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