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Morning Memo: Voter ID on hold, as taxes takes stage

VOTER ID STILL ON HOLD: From AP: The Senate is putting on hold for another week debating legislation that would require photo identification to vote in person in North Carolina. Rules committee Chairman Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville said previously a voter ID bill and legislation with broader election changes would be unveiled this week. Apodaca said Monday that won't happen until next week because Republicans are still working on the legislation. He declined to provide details.

MONDAY ARRESTS AT LEGISLATURE NEAR 700: About 80 more people were arrested outside the legislative chambers Monday after a rally attracted thousands outside. Earlier in the day, lawyers, professors and religious leaders who were among the first to get arrested were in Wake County District Court. Concerned about mounting court costs, Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby has encouraged General Assembly Police Chief Jeff Weaver to consider issuing citations rather than arresting the protesters.
Weaver said, however, that arresting them gives law enforcement officers a way to disperse the crowd.

***In the Dome Morning Memo below, find a GOP lawmaker's thoughts on why the Confederacy lost the war, reaction to the Senate's final tax plan and more N.C. political news and analysis.***

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The House is still on vacation, not holding full sessions. The Senate will consider its latest tax bill (officially, version 5 of House Bill 998, if you are keeping track at home) on the floor. In committees earlier in the day, the Senate will consider few hot-button bills to thwart agriculture investigations (the so-called "ag-gag" measure) and prevent Islamic Sharia law from being used in North Carolina courts. Gov. Pat McCrory will have breakfast with invited legislators and attend the Council of State meeting at 9 a.m.

IN EMAIL, GOP LAWMAKER MARKS CONFEDERATE TURNING POINT: At 8:21 p.m. Monday, Greensboro Republican Rep. John Blust sent an email apparently to everyone on the N.C. legislature's email list titled "150 years ago" that marked when he felt the Confederacy lost the Civil War. Blust wrote: "Exactly 150 years ago this very moment, Confederate General Richard Ewell did not push his victorious corps through Gettysburg to possess Cemetery Hill thereby allowing the union to possess it in force and thereby changing the outcome of the entire battle, and hence, the entire war in the favor of the Union. Exactly 150 years ago this moment." A historical lesson or lament? You decide.

ANOTHER PROTEST, MORE ARRESTS: In what has become a Monday routine, nearly 80 people were arrested outside the General Assembly chambers. On a day when many Triangle towns were cleaning up after heavy rains and flooding, throngs gathered to protest the Republican agenda that has made North Carolina a battleground where two very different visions of government are being fiercely fought.

The Republican leaders who have yet to respond to the demonstrators who gather outside their chambers and offices argue that they are pushing political agendas that won them historic victories in North Carolina.
But the protesters, some of whom voted for Republicans, counter that the agenda being pushed is far more extreme than any campaign platforms revealed. This demonstration focused on the unemployed workers who lost jobless benefits July 1. Full story.

NC COMMERCE SECRETARY SAYS THE STATE CAN HELP JOBLESS: State Secretary of Commerce Sharon Decker is urging the long-term unemployed to seek the state’s help in finding jobs. “Please come in and talk with us,” Decker said in an interview Monday. “Give us the opportunity to work with you, to help you find gainful employment.”

Decker was trying to get that message out Monday, the effective date of a new state law that triggered the end of unemployment benefits for an estimated 70,000 unemployed workers. Those workers had exhausted their state-funded benefits and were relying on extended federal benefits, which ended as a result of the law. The affected workers started receiving unemployment benefits before Jan. 1. Full story.

BREAKING DOWN THE SENATE TAX PLAN: The Senate’s latest proposal to revamp the tax code is designed to compromise with the House’s position. But the two Republican-led chambers are still deadlocked in the negotiations. Here’s a look at key shifts to move the Senate plan closer to the House and the major differences that remain.

Key Compromises

• No longer includes a state tax on Social Security income, preserves current exemption.

• No change to local 2 percent food tax.

• Applies a sales tax to service contracts, with some exceptions, starting next July.

• Allows unlimited charitable contributions and a deduction for mortgage interest and property tax capped at $15,000 for those who itemize.

• Adds a one-year cap on the gasoline tax at 37.5 cents.

Key Differences

• Eliminates the 6.9 percent corporate income tax in 2018. The House lowers it to 5.4 percent.

• Caps the sales tax refund for nonprofits, phased down to $2.85 million in 2018. The House imposes no cap.

• Changes how businesses are taxed by lowering the franchise tax and moving to a business privilege tax on all entities.

• Imposes sales tax on newspapers and vending machines, and eliminates the sales tax holiday for back-to-school. Read the full story here.

WHAT DO TILLIS/McCRORY THINK? Good question. The House Speaker and governor's office reacted with blank stares Monday to the Senate's tax proposal. Neither responded to questions for comment.

COLLEGE LOAN RATES INCREASE WITH CONGRESSIONAL IMPASSE: College students' interest rates are at the mercy of Congress. The interest rates on subsidized Stafford loans doubled from 3.4 percent Monday and could stay doubled unless Congress fulfills its pledge to restore lower rates when it returns from the Fourth of July holiday. Lawmakers from both parties, as well as the White House, vowed to lower that rate before students started signing loan documents this fall. But the rate now stands at 6.8 percent - higher than most loans available from private lenders. Full story.

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE FORECAST: North Carolina is oh-so-slooooowly on track to bring unemployment below 7 percent statewide and below 6 percent in the Triangle by 2015, according to prognostications prepared by N.C. State University economist Michael Walden. “The good news is that North Carolina’s economic recovery is expected to continue,” Walden writes in his monthly report. “The bad news is that a rapid acceleration in growth is not yet on the horizon.” Walden cited marginal improvement in May in leading economic indicators he tracks to forecast that state’s recovery. They include the nation’s economy overall, as well as statewide factors such as building permits, manufacturing work hours and initial jobless claims.

In May, Walden issued a prognosis for 18 months out, predicting substantial improvement over time. The report issued Monday looks four to six months ahead, but says the forecast remains essentially unchanged. His index, which dipped to an all-time low in early 2009, has been rising unsteadily and is up by 1.6 percent in the past year. Full story.

COOPER CHALLENGES DUKE RATE HIKE: A month after the N.C. Utilities Commission granted Duke Energy Progress a 7.5 percent residential rate increase, N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper is asking the N.C. Supreme Court to block it. In the appeal filed Monday, Cooper alleges that the Utilities Commission didn’t take into account the higher rate’s effect on Progress customers, many of whom are struggling in a weak economy.

Cooper noted that North Carolina has one of the highest jobless rates in the nation, which is particularly evident in rural areas that have experienced massive job losses in manufacturing and other trades. “Many people are already hard pressed to pay their bills, and now isn’t the time to ask them to pay more so utilities can make a bigger profit,” Cooper said in a statement. Full story.

COLUMNIST: Remembering the Speaker Ban: Fifty years ago last week – June 25, 1963 – the Democratic Party-controlled legislature borrowed a page from the Politburo and voted to prohibit anyone who criticized the government from speaking at state-supported colleges and universities. Some people think it was taking its marching orders from Helms – the conservative icon-in-training was then an incendiary WRAL-TV commentator who had praised such a ban on-air.

From interviews with people who lived through it and with historians – and from perusing state archives and newspaper clippings of the period – it’s clear that North Carolina in the early to mid-1960s was gripped by a fear of change. Full story.

MEDICAID SYSTEM TROUBLED, AS EXPECTED: State officials got the bumpy start Monday that they predicted with the new system that pays health care providers for Medicaid services. WakeMed in Raleigh said the new system was working intermittently, or “going in and out.” Other providers who had gone through the department’s training program said they weren’t able to log in. Sen. Jeff Tarte, a Republican from Cornelius, was told Monday that a software problem prevented providers who didn’t arrange in advance to use the system from signing on. Full story.

FOXX DEPARTS: Moments after saying he had “worked his tail off to make the city everything it could be,” Anthony Foxx resigned as mayor of Charlotte on Monday. He left the Government Center as colleagues and residents cheered and applauded his service. Foxx, first elected to the City Council in 2005, became mayor in 2009. He stepped down with five months left in his second term to join President Barack Obama’s Cabinet as U.S. secretary of transportation. He could be sworn in as early as Tuesday. Full story.


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