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Morning Memo: Florida GOP governor takes N.C. Democrats approach

FLORIDA GOP GOV -- AN OBAMACARE HATER -- TAKES THE REP. INSKO APPROACH: That's right. Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who first entered politics to fight the federal health care law, is proposing to take the money for Medicaid expansion for the first three years when Washington will pay the full cost. State Rep. Verla Insko, a Chapel Hill Democrat, proposed the same thing in North Carolina, but Republican lawmakers shot it down repeatedly. "That's just completely nonsensical and doesn't work," Republican Rep. Nelson Dollar said of Inkso's idea.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House is taking it easy today. A skeletal session with no recorded votes -- none until Tuesday, in fact. The Senate will convene for action at noon. But most the action will take place in the Commerce Committee where the bill to speed up and incentivize fracking with get a hearing. Gov. Pat McCrory lists no public events on his schedule. He leaves this evening for Washington to attend the National Governors Association and Republican Governors Association winter meetings. Wonder if McCrory will talk to Scott and Ohio Gov. John Kasich about how their recent decisions to expand Medicaid?

***Good morning. Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- more N.C. political news below.***

Perdue's final days at the helm

Gov. Bev Perdue is spending her final full day as the state's chief executive touring two schools in Onslow County on Friday. The visits put her final focus on one of her top issues: education.

Perdue and her husband have been gradually moving items from the Executive Mansion in the past few weeks. But will move the final boxes Saturday morning. At noon, the Democratic governor plans to attend Gov.-elect Pat McCrory's noon swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol before departing for the final time.

Gov. Perdue touts digital learning efforts in her final days

Pat McCrory took the spotlight Wednesday with his economic speech. As he did Gov. Bev Perdue visited an Orange County school to highlight what she sees as one of her top achievements.

The Durham Herald-Sun attended the event: "In three different classrooms, the governor observed students using Lenovo laptops to work on Google documents, conduct virtual science experiments and analyze poetry.

“This is too cool,” Perdue said. “I’ve lived in Orange County for 13 years and this school’s always at the top. I’m really proud.”

Gov. Bev Perdue touts graduation numbers, GOP credits teachers

More than 80 percent of North Carolina public school students are now graduating from high school — the first time the state has reached that milepost.

Education leaders say a variety of state and local efforts aimed at encouraging students to stay in school have helped raise the graduation rate by nearly 12 percentage points in the last six years. “None of us are proud of 80 percent,” said Gov. Bev Perdue at a news conference on the graduation results. “ But wow it’s a good day, a great way forward for North Carolina.” (Read more here.)

Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis waded into the who-deserves-credit game: “This achievement is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our state’s students, parents, teachers, principals, and superintendents, and they are to be commended for their results," he said in a statement.

Morning Roundup: School grades change and Michelle Obama revs supporters

This is the last year of a much-maligned system that made parents angry, caused teachers to complain that they had to “teach to the test,” and kept principals up nights worried about showing improvement. The ABCs are gone after Thursday. In its place is a new measuring stick that emphasizes national standards and students’ readiness for college and work. Read more about the changes here.

More political news:

--Michelle Obama attended a campaign rally in Greensboro, previewing her role at the Democratic National Convention, and then attended a fundraiser in Raleigh in which she defended her husband's administration.

--Even in the wake of last month’s Colorado shooting rampage and a gunman’s spree last year that nearly killed former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, don’t expect Democrats to arrive in Charlotte armed with renewed calls for tougher gun laws. The issue is too risky.

GOP leaders to Perdue: Sign the budget -- and soon

UPDATED: Republican legislative leaders on Wednesday urged Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue to sign the state's $20.2 billion budget, saying her quibbling about $100 million in money for education doesn't outweigh the other spending priorities.

"$100 million in a $20.2 billion budget, it seems to me, is not the difference between nirvana and devastation," said Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.

"The governor is literally willing to oppose this budget over a fraction and put all of this funding at risk over a fraction ... less than a percent," House Speaker Thom Tillis added.

Morning Roundup: All eyes on Gov. Bev Perdue

After months of watching the action from the sidelines Gov. Bev Perdue is back at center stage. Three weighty issues are on her desk, and state employees, natural gas companies, environmentalists, prosecutors and teachers are watching to see if she will get out her veto stamp. So far she isn't tipping her hand. Read more here.

More political headlines:

--North Carolina ranked 45th in the nation in per-student spending on public schools in 2010, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released Thursday. The state’s public school systems spent an average of $8,409 per-student in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, according to the report. That compares to national per-student spending of $10,615. 

Walter Dalton said he would veto state budget, McCrory would sign

Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton said he told Gov. Bev Perdue he would veto the budget. "I am not a fan of this budget," Dalton said after a speech Thursday in which he criticized how the Republicans continue to under-fund education. He said he told Perdue where he stands. "I would be inclined to veto that budget. They did repair some of the cuts that were coming this year. But there are still additional cuts this year over and above the cuts last year. I think that gets lost."

Republican rival Pat McCrory, who also spoke at the N.C. Business Committee for Education annual meeting in Raleigh, said he would sign the budget.

Perdue was scheduled to give a speech at the event but she canceled at the last minute.

Gov. Perdue proposes tax on sweepstakes games to help fund education

Gov. Bev Perdue on Thursday proposed taxing video sweepstakes games to fund the state’s public schools.

As the General Assembly prepares for what could be its final week of budget negotiations next week, Perdue challenged lawmakers to squeeze a new source of state revenue out of the sweepstakes games. “We need to tax the heck out of them and regulate them, regulate them hard, and tax the heck out of them,” said Perdue, a Democrat.

She said such taxes were not her preferred method of raising money for education. Perdue held up a copy of her proposed budget, saying that plan was preferable. But her proposed budget, with its recommended sales tax increase, was dead on arrival at the Republican-led legislature.

Dalton takes mild tone on GOP budget, Perdue takes harsher approach

UPDATED: Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, the Democratic nominee for governor, says the Republican-crafted budget doesn't do enough to restore education money cut from last year's spending plan.

"I'm happy to see they are making attempts to avoid the cuts scheduled to come in this year to education," he said in an interview Thursday. "But as I understand it, it really does nothing to repair the $700-800 million cut out of public education last year. So I still think they need to buttress public education more than in this budget."

At the same time, Dalton isn't sounding off on the GOP budget as fervently as Democrats in the House, who spent about nine hours debating the bill. Dalton didn't object to other parts but said he is still reviewing the full plan.

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