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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.***

Morning Memo: McCrory to announce Medicaid overhaul; big day at statehouse

McCRORY TO ANNOUNCE MEDICAID SYSTEM OVERHAUL: Gov. Pat McCrory rejected a Medicaid expansion earlier this year saying the system was broken and Wednesday morning he is expected to describe how he plans to fix it. The Republican has talked frequently about the rising costs of the healthcare system for select low-income and disabled residents and issued a video preview Tuesday saying he would create a "partnership" that will help keep costs low. Check Dome later today for more details from the 10 a.m. press conference.

***It's a jam-packed day in North Carolina politics. Get the full scoop on all the big stories from the Dome Morning Memo below. Send tips and news to***

Cowell debuts TV ads in re-election bid

Democratic State Treasurer Janet Cowell is debuting two new TV ads, according to her website.

The first focuses on education -- an issue with tenuous ties to her job description -- in which Cowell touts job training and college affordability. The second (see below) focuses on her accomplishments as treasurer and touts the state's AAA bond rating.

Morning Roundup: Education divides gubernatorial candidates

The two major-party candidates for governor both stress close connections between education and business but approach the question of improving education from different angles. Democrat Walter Dalton would extend already established paths, while Republican Pat McCrory’s education proposals have the potential to remake the state’s public education system from kindergarten through college.

Read about education in the governor's race, the third installment in a series, and see a graphic of how the plans stack up.

More political headlines:

--On Tuesday, it will be four weeks before the Nov. 6 elections – let the countdown begin. We have had our first debates, more ads than you can shake a stick at, and more than a few motorcades. Read Rob Christensen's tutorial on what to expect in the closing month.

Cowell: Not all bills will be funded

Janet CowellSen. Janet Cowell says she does not expect every one of her spending bills to be approved.

The Raleigh Democrat, who is running for state treasurer, is sponsoring and cosponsoring bills totaling $76 million for the current budget. 

She said that signing onto an appropriations bill is a way for a legislator to signal that she thinks it is an important issue, but in tight fiscal years such as this one she expects only a few will make it into the final budget.

"When I sign onto a bill, I'm supporting the concept and saying that under ideal circumstances this would be a good idea," she said. "The debate will happen on all of these, but at least you've got some different approaches and ideas out there." 

Cowell does not have high hopes for the one bill she is sponsoring, which would provide $2.1 million for the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences to expand an outdoor educational facility near the RBC Center in Raleigh. A similar bill did not make it into the 2006 budget either.

She said that Senate leader Marc Basnight is "intrigued" by the project because of the state's current focus on science education, but Gov. Mike Easley did not include it in his proposed budget.

"It's obviously a harder fight if the governor doesn't put it in there," she said. 

Cowell seeks $76m in state spending

Janet CowellSen. Janet Cowell is seeking nearly $76 million in state spending.

The Democratic nominee for state treasurer has sponsored one bill and co-sponsored 24 bills seeking appropriations in the upcoming state budget.

Cowell is the primary sponsor on a bill to give $2.1 million to the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences for an environmental education facility at the Prairie Ridge Ecostation.

Among the larger appropriations bills she is cosponsoring: $25 million for a school construction pilot program, $6 million for the Communities in Schools programs on dropout prevention, $5.8 million for the Center for Bioenergy Technologies, $5.6 million for the N.C. Museum of Art, $5.6 million for dropout prevention, $5 million for a strategic plan on biofuels, $5 million for public libraries.

Other large appropriations she is cosponsoring: $4 million for a statewide study on aging, $2 million for the N.C. Arts Council, $1.6 million for a pilot program on dropout prevention in Durham and Vance counties, $1.5 million for a pilot program on adult protective services, $1.4 million for water resource management, $1.2 million for teen pregnancy prevention and $1.2 million for Wake Tech Community College.

She is also cosponsoring bills less than $1 million: Support for caregivers of people with dementia, a statewide literacy program, Kids Voting, treatment of autistic children, services for the developmentally disabled, a legal mediation network, a youth golfing program and the African-American Heritage Commission.

In addition, she is cosponsoring a bill that would give state employees a 7 percent raise.

Update: Her Republican opponent, Rep. Bill Daughtridge, is seeking $19 million in spending.

Martin gets roped into competition

Grier Martin

State Rep. Grier Martin shows off his jump-roping skills at Washington GT Magnet elementary in Raleigh this morning.

Martin was one of several legislators, including Sen. Janet Cowell, Rep. Jennifer Weiss, Rep. Deborah Ross, Rep. Nelson Dollar and Wake school board member Anne McLaurin, that went to the school to learn about an athletics program.

But Martin was the only one to compete and make it to the final rounds. Most dropped out after the stretching was done.

His jump roping skills impressed third grader Bowen Beaty, 9, right. "He is pretty good for an elected offical" said Beaty "because usually they just sit around and make laws." (Ethan Hyman)

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