Under the Dome

Morning Memo: Tillis looks for Senate traction; tax bill benefits disputed

POLL SHOWS THOM TILLIS STILL SEARCHING FOR SUPPORT: More than a month after House Speaker Thom Tillis entered the Republican primary race for U.S. Senate, he is struggling to gain traction. A Public Policy Polling survey set for release later Wednesday will show only 5 percent of GOP primary voters support Tillis, the party's most prominent candidate officially in the race at this point. GOP primary voters still put Congresswoman Virginia Foxx at the top of their wish list with 16 percent support. But the Democratic polling firm's survey shows voters are widely divided and 35 percent remain undecided on the current field of potential contenders. About 19 percent of Republican primary voters give Tillis a favorable rating with 22 percent unfavorable about 59 percent undecided. The gap is within the PPP poll's margin of error and little changed from a June poll. The good news for Tillis: it's still early. The bad news: the numbers don't scare away other potential GOP challengers.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: At this point in the legislative session, as time grows thin, it's rarely the bills on the calendar that get the most attention -- it's usually the ones added at the last moment through a legislative trade that are the most important to watch. With that caveat, the House Finance Committee will look at a bill pushed by State Treasurer Janet Cowell to give her more pension investment flexibility. On the floor at 11 a.m., the House will take another vote on tax reform and a Republican lawmaker expects a longer debate after it was cut off after less than 30 minutes a day earlier. Lawmakers will also discuss a resolution supporting the right to bear arms. In the Senate, the Finance Committee will hear a bill to give children with disabilities vouchers to attend private schools. On the floor at 2 p.m., the Senate will give a final vote to the tax bill and could agree on a final measure to transfer control of the Charlotte airport to a separate authority.

***Find more PPP poll numbers looking at Kay Hagan and the U.S. Senate race below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

HAGAN LEADS ALL GOP CHALLENGERS: U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan leads all possibly Republican challengers at this point, the PPP survey found. She pulls 49 percent to Tillis' 38 percent in a hypothetical matchup -- a margin reflective of other GOP contenders. But her approval rating isn't great either. About 43 percent of voters approve of her job performance and 45 percent disapprove, a gap within the margin of error and reflective of her numbers a month ago. (Read more on the poll later today on Dome.)

SIDENOTE: The conventional wisdom is Tillis' politically moderate tendencies may hurt in a GOP primary and help in a general election matchup. But his poll numbers are worse among all North Carolina voters compared to GOP primary voters, the PPP survey found. About 12 percent of all voters view him favorably compared with 32 percent unfavorably and 56 percent undecided. His high negatives give him a -20 point approval, which is 10 points worse than GOP primary voters.

TILLIS ON LOSER LIST FOR FUNDRAISING: The Washington Post took at look at campaign fundraising winners and losers. On the winning list: Kay Hagan. On the losing list: Thom Tillis. See the write up below.

WINNER: "Vulnerable senators: Basically across the board, it was a good quarter for those who are already in the Senate. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) raised more than $2.2 million, Sens. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Al Franken raised about $2 million each, and Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) each outraised the competition by about $600,000."

LOSER: "Thom Tillis: The North Carolina state House speaker remains the only major GOP candidate in the race to face Hagan, but his first quarter isn’t going to scare away anybody. Tillis raised a pedestrian $300,000 as reports indicate the national GOP is actively seeking out other options, including Rep. Renee Ellmers and state Senate President Phil Berger. Tillis had to deal with some contentious legislative issues, so his fundraising could pick up next quarter. He could really use it." Read more here.

ONE FINAL U.S. SENATE NOTE: From the Washington Times -- "Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s announcement over the weekend that he wouldn’t seek the Senate seat there left analysts saying the battle for Senate control now comes down to races in Arkansas, Alaska, Louisiana and North Carolina — four states that supported 2012 GOP presidential nominee Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney over President Obama in the November election." Read more here.

READ THIS SENATOR APODACA: The Senate's No. 2 Republican -- along with his colleagues -- took a swipe at The New York Times during Tuesday's debate on taxes after Democrats mentioned the newspaper's recent negative editorial. Apodaca claimed, in a snarl like he was buying salsa from New York, that he has never bought a Times.

The editorial he thinks is important is what appears in the Wall Street Journal. So here you go senator, today's positive editorial on taxes from your favorite newspaper.

PERSONNEL FILE: N.C. House Republican caucus political director Matt Bales is departing for a new job at the N.C. Free Enterprise Foundation. He starts Aug. 19 as the research director for the pro-business organization.

REPUBLICANS TELL LAWMAKERS THANKS: They waved signs that bore messages Halifax Mall isn’t used to seeing on Mondays: “Stop abortion now,” and “Thank you McCrory.” Conservatives gathered behind the Legislative Building for “Thankful Tuesday,” a meeting planned to give constituents a forum to thank their legislators for their hard stands on taxes, voter ID, abortion and other issues. ...

It was not a protest, but a peaceful get-together, said Carol Jones, a Raleigh resident who has lived in North Carolina for 41 years. “We worked so hard to get these people elected,” she said, emphasizing her appreciation for the tax plan. “If that hadn’t started (to move through the legislature), I would have hollered and whistled for that.”

A group of about 25 Republican legislators took the stage early on in the program, waving and thanking attendees for their appreciation. Speakers kept the focus on taking the state’s reins from a Democratic Party that they said had plunged North Carolina into debt and overregulated business. But speakers also mentioned “Moral Mondays,” the weekly liberal protests that have criticized the exact policies GOP supporters congratulated on Tuesday.

“This is so much nicer than Monday, right?” asked Sen. Bob Rucho, a Republican from Matthews. “We’ll see (tax) relief in ’14 and in ’15. We’re working real hard on putting it back together.” Read more here.

WHO BENEFITS IN TAX PLAN UNDER QUESTION: Who pays more and who pays less under a major tax bill exposed a sharp divide among lawmakers Tuesday, as the House and Senate voted mostly along party lines to give it preliminary approval. Republicans leading the effort said the legislation would boost the state’s economy and give every taxpayer a break once it’s fully implemented. But Democrats cited their own numbers to argue that the wealthiest would get the bulk of the tax cuts, while some lower- and middle-class taxpayers may see tax hikes. The disparate narratives, each backed by their own fiscal analysis, dominated partisan debates in the House and Senate that took place just hours apart.

COULD SENIORS LOSE IN TAX BILL?A few scenarios show that senior citizens on retirement income and small business owners are likely to pay more in income taxes as a result of the legislation. A married couple with $15,000 in Social Security income and $35,000 from a pension could pay $800 more in income taxes, legislative analysis showed. The bill does maintain the state exemption for Social Security income, despite discussions earlier this year about repealing it, but it removes deductions for medical bills and eliminates a pension tax break in current law.

Another provision tucked into the bill eliminates a $50,000 income exemption for small business owners. It would lead a married couple with two children making $65,000 to pay $2,700 more in taxes, the legislative analysis showed. Read more here.

GOP PUNTS ON IMMIGRATION AGAIN: Bowing to concerns from Gov. Pat McCrory and fellow Republican lawmakers, state Rep. Harry Warren pulled back Tuesday on a comprehensive immigration package that would have combined driving permits for people here illegally with stringent, Arizona-style provisions to change how immigrants are treated by judges, jailers and police.

The House gave preliminary approval, 84-29, to an amended bill that asks the state Department of Public Safety to study most of Warren’s proposals. He said he hopes to generate enough support to bring the full legislation back for consideration by the General Assembly next year. “The bill is not dead,” said Warren, of Salisbury. “The governor, quite frankly, hasn’t seen the bill before. And he has some concerns about different provisions of it. I believe this is a more prudent approach to take at this time.”

It’s the second straight legislative session that Republicans punted on immigration legislation, an issue important to their conservative supporters, and it comes amid the deadlock in Washington on the same topic.

2014 IMPLICATIONS: The U.S. Senate’s vote to approve a bipartisan immigration overhaul split the North Carolina delegation, with Democrat Kay Hagan in favor and Republican Richard Burr against. State House Speaker Thom Tillis is running for the U.S. Senate in 2014, hoping to challenge Hagan if he can survive a Republican primary. Tillis said recently he would have voted against the federal immigration legislation. A spokesman did not respond to questions about where Tillis stood on Warren’s original bill. Read more here.

CLT AIRPORT BILL ADVANCES: After more than 70 years under city control, Charlotte’s airport could be taken over by a new authority as soon as this week under a bill passed Tuesday by the N.C. House. But the city is expected to go to court to keep it. The House passed the authority bill 75-39 after Republican sponsors rejected the city’s 11th-hour compromise proposal. It also approved an amendment that would create an authority on passage, not on Jan. 1 as in an earlier version. Read more here.

GUN BILL STALLS: A bill that would repeal the state’s permit system to buy handguns is drawing fire from law enforcement groups, the governor and the N.C. attorney general. Last month the N.C. Senate amended and passed a bill on concealed carry weapons to include a provision that would eliminate the state’s entire purchase permit system. On Tuesday, House members delayed a debate on the Senate version and sent the measure to a conference committee made up of four representatives and four senators. Read more here.

ROUNDUP: Get more from the statehouse here.

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