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.***
HOUSE TRIES AGAIN ON REDISTRICTING REFORM -- SENATE IS THE QUESTION: A bipartisan effort is underway in the legislature to change the way North Carolina draws its congressional and legislative lines, creating districts based more on geography and compactness rather than on parties, politics and personalities. A bill introduced this week creates a nonpartisan redistricting system in time for the 2020 U.S. census. The measure has the backing of Republicans such as Rep. Paul “Skip” Stam of Apex and Democrats such as Rep. Deborah Ross of Raleigh.
A similar measure passed the House two years ago but died in the Senate. Full story.
WHAT'S MISSING FROM THE NEWS THESE DAYS? JOHN EDWARDS: From a USA Today write up on Obama political advisor David Axelrod's forthcoming memoir, expected in fall 2014: "He will also delve into his relationships with two "more notorious" politicians -- former North Carolina senator John Edwards and former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, according to Penguin." Just what we needed. More John Edwards.
SHUT DOWN THE FRAT PARTIES: McCrory named April Alcohol Abuse Awareness Month. In a statement he again took aim at the college binge drinkers he called out in his State of the State address. "We must have a strategy to change the culture of binge drinking and so-called recreational drug use in our schools and universities," said Governor McCrory. "There must be enforcement of their own policies and enforcement of North Carolina laws. In addition, we must offer help to young students who are doing harm to themselves and to their families."
--N.C. SEES BIG DROP IN EMPLOYER HEALTH CARE: A new study suggests rising health care costs have taken a particularly large toll in North Carolina, where the number of residents who receive health insurance through their employers has dropped sharply over the past decade. The portion of North Carolinians under age 65 with employer-sponsored insurance declined from 69 percent in 2000 to 56 percent in 2011, according to the report released Thursday by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
That change left 220,000 fewer residents with health insurance. Only four states had a larger percentage drop. Soaring health care costs and insurance premiums are largely to blame, experts say. In North Carolina, the average annual premium for family coverage more than doubled over the 11-year study period, rising to $13,974. Full story.
LAWMAKERS NAME BILLY GRAHAM N.C.'S FAVORITE SON:With his family and the governor looking on, and tearful testimonials from some of those he’s touched, the Rev. Billy Graham was honored as North Carolina’s “favorite son” Wednesday by the General Assembly. The House and Senate each passed resolutions honoring the 94-year-old Graham and his late wife, Ruth. “We’re really honored that the state would do this for my mother and father,” evangelist Franklin Graham told the Observer. Full story.
VOTER ID SUPPORRTERS TURN OUT: As the state House begins moving toward a voter ID bill, a public hearing Wednesday brought out strong support for the measure, which requires voters to produce a government-approved photograph at voting places. Unlike a previous hearing which brought out numerous critics of the proposal, dozens of speakers this time argued that voter fraud was more widespread than surveys have suggested, and that requiring photos would increase public confidence in the electoral process. Full story.
--GOP LAWMAKERS FILE 'RECLAIM N.C. ACT': Thousands of North Carolina immigrants who are in the United States illegally would have a chance to become legal drivers under sweeping legislation proposed Wednesday in the General Assembly – but the state also could make their lives harder with new restrictions, stepped-up immigration enforcement and tougher treatment in the jails and the courts. Four House Republicans led by Rep. Harry Warren of Salisbury filed a bill that would offer restricted driver’s permits to “undocumented aliens” not in the country legally if they had lived in North Carolina for a year.
SHADES OF ARIZONA LAW:Echoing provisions of an Arizona law that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld last year, Warren’s bill also would authorize police to check the immigration status of anyone they stop or arrest – and to detain them for 24 hours – “where reasonable suspicion exists that the person … is an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States.”
The bill sponsors called their legislation the “RECLAIM NC Act,” short for the “Reasonable Enactment of Comprehensive Legislation Addressing Immigration Matters in North Carolina Act.” They added a long preamble rebuking the federal government for failing to enforce immigration laws, and criticizing federal courts for limiting state powers on immigration matters. Full story.
UNC-CHAPEL HILL TO GET NEW CHANCELLOR THIS WEEK: The announcement of a new leader for UNC-Chapel Hill will happen this week. The UNC Board of Governors has scheduled a special meeting for Friday afternoon to elect a chancellor to succeed Holden Thorp, who will step down in June. Full story.
TEACHER TENURE SPLITS HOUSE, SENATE: A major fissure opened Wednesday between House and Senate leaders on how to grade schools and evaluate the state’s 93,000 teachers. A Senate committee endorsed a bill championed by Senate leader Phil Berger that would eliminate teacher tenure in 2018. But hours later, a bipartisan House coalition, acting with the support of House Speaker Thom Tillis, introduced legislation to maintain tenure and establish a task force to consider a wide variety of teacher pay models. “Obviously, we have a different plan,” said state Rep. Bryan Holloway, a leading Republican. “We have to collaborate. We are just moving forward with our ideas today, and that collaboration will take place at the appropriate time.” Full story.
CLOSURES OFF TABLE, BUT SENATE STILL WANTS CHANGES: University campus leaders and boosters don’t have to worry that any of their schools will be shuttered in the next two years, but the prospect of future campus closures or mergers remains alive. Full story.
ABORTION BILL FILED: It would be illegal for doctors to perform abortions because of the sex of the fetus under a bill filed Wednesday in the state House. The legislation would allow doctors and other health care providers to be sued for damages and fined heavily if they perform abortions where gender is a significant factor in the woman’s decision. Full story.
OBAMA TO MEET BofA CEO: President Barack Obama will meet this week with Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan and other heads of the world's largest financial institutions, according to Bloomberg News. More here.
--BONUS LINK: HIGHER THAN NORMAL RISK THIS YEAR FOR HURRICANE LANDFALL IN CAROLINAS: A team of Colorado State University meteorologists predicts above-average hurricane activity in 2013. The annual forecast issued Wednesday by Philip Klotzbach and William Gray calls for 18 named storms and nine hurricanes in the Atlantic and Caribbean basin this year. That compares to averages of 12 named storms and 6.5 hurricanes. The two forecasts also call for higher-than-average risk of landfall in the Carolinas. Full story.