Capital Tonight June 1: NC GOP vice-chairman Wayne King, on the state convention

On Capital Tonight: Tim Boyum talks with Wayne King, the vice-chairman of the N.C. Republican Party about the state convention this weekend. Loretta Boniti recaps a busy week On Jones Street and we get the latest reaction to the John Edwards verdict.

Capital Tonight May 31: John Edwards verdict coverage

On Capital Tonight: An extended edition for complete analysis of the John Edwards case. Plus Young Voters speak out on the issues, and Loretta Boniti recaps House debate on the Cherokee gambling.

NC House debates Cherokee gambling bill

RALEIGH – The last major hurdle has been crossed for a proposal which would expand gambling options in North Carolina.

The state House has given initial approval to a bill that would allow live action gaming on the Eastern Band of Cherokee’s Land in western North Carolina.

But many lawmakers said this expansion is a gamble the state should not be taking.

The warnings came from both sides of the aisle Thursday: Legislators who joined hands to say gambling — in any form — should not be expanded in North Carolina.

And arguments that the expansion creates jobs aren’t telling the whole story.

“If that’s the case, perhaps we should take a stand and legalize prostitution,” said Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham. “We could create jobs with that.”

At issue is the casino gambling on the Eastern Band of Cherokee’s land. The Qualla Boundary is located in the western part of the state; an area that is one the state’s most economically depressed and where people are looking for jobs.

“We’d be replacing machines with live people,” said Rep. Roger West, R-Cherokee.

Right now, there aren’t dealers in the casino on reservation, but a new tribal compact with state allows dealers. Now the legislature needs to sign off on that.

“People won’t go play machines. They are taking that money to Vegas, Atlantic City, or Dover, or wherever else there is,” said Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquatank.

The proposal has passed the Senate, and after a back and forth with cross-aisle alliances, it got an initial vote of approval in the house with a 66 to 49 vote.

The House is expected to give final approval to the bill next Tuesday.

Edwards: ‘I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong’

GREENSBORO — The judge in the John Edwards campaign finance trial declared a mistrial after the jury declared they were deadlocked on five of the six counts Thursday.

After nine days of deliberations, they found Edwards not guilty on the other count of taking illegal campaign contributions from wealthy donor Rachel "Bunny” Mellon.

Edwards faced six felony charges including conspiracy to violate federal campaign finance laws and to make false statements to the federal election commission. He faced up to 30 years in prison and up to $1.5 million in fines.

In a statement after the trial ended, Edwards thanked the jury for their service, and that they had a tough decision to make. He said he never thought he did anything illegal.

"I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong and there was no one else that was responsible for my sins," he said. "I am responsible."

He thanked his family for sticking by him, including his daughter, Quinn, who Edwards fathered with his mistress Rielle Hunter. He said he was close to her and loved her very much.

"I don’t think God is through with me," he said.

Jurors had no comment after leaving the federal courthouse in Greensboro Thursday afternoon.

There is no word on whether the Justice Department will retry Edwards on the other five charges, but former prosecutor Kiernan Shanahan said the fed’s case wasn’t strong, to begin with.

"There was so much sex, lies and videotape," Shanahan said. "Where’s the beef on the campaign finance violations?"

Earlier Thursday, there was a false alarm and confusion between Judge Catherine Eagles and the jury foreman.

The judge told the jury that she understood that the panel had reached a verdict on all counts, and the jury foreman said no. It was just on the third count.

They were sent back to deliberate and an hour later they came back with the deadlocked decision.

Lawmakers want say in future of Dix Hospital land

RALEIGH – State lawmakers have advanced a proposal that would mandate the General Assembly get a say in what happens to the property where Dorthea Dix Hospital currently sits in Raleigh.

The hospital is expected to fully close its door by the end of the summer and normal state procedure would allow the Council of State to determine what is done with the property. Lawmakers say because of the huge state Health and Human Services personnel presence on the land, legislators say they should get to determine what is done with the property.

“Plans have been made and iI just thought this would help put the money where it needs to be, and for us to have a say as a state,” Rep. Pat Hurley, a Randolph County Republican, said.

Some members of the Wake County delegation say they are still hopeful the hospital would not close its doors but want to make sure if it does, that money from the property will be directed toward mental health services.

Capital Tonight May 30: NC Chamber president Lew Ebert

On Capital Tonight: Tim Boyum talks with Lew Ebert, president of the N.C. Chamber of Commerce, about the state’s unemployment system.

Cherokee live gambling bill advances in the NC House

RALEIGH – The proposal to expand gaming options on the eastern band of Cherokee land in North Carolina is closer to becoming reality.

In a unanimous vote, the state House Commerce Committee advanced the bill to the House floor. The proposal would allow for current games that can only be played on machines to be changed out for live action dealers.

That is expected to create 400 jobs immediately.

“Every employee at the casino will earn good pay and quality benefits,” said Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson. “We have double digit unemployment in the mountains. Relief can’t come soon enough and this is one vehicle to bring it to us.”

Some lawmakers who have expressed concern that this would increase gambling problems in the state. But supporters said the new jobs and economic opportunities are too good to pass up.

Education reform bill gets consideration in General Assembly

RALEIGH – A bill that aims to improve education in North Carolina got its first vote of approval.

The Excellence in Public Education Act saw multiple changes from the original proposal when it was presented to a senate committee Tuesday.

But even though the bill has advanced, many say it still has flaws.

The general concept of the Public Education Excellence Act seems to have broad support. But the devil is in the details.

The bill’s sponsor is the top man in the senate: President Pro-Tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham.

He said one of the issues he is hearing the most about in this reform bill is whether or not teachers could and should be given longer than a one-year contract.

In the proposal presented Tuesday, Berger changed the bill to allow up to four-year contracts.

“The local school boards should have the discretion to employ local professionals on contracts that extend beyond one year,” said Berger.

Also at issue in the excellence bill is pay for performance for teachers, giving bonuses to educators who excel, but educators said they would rather lawmakers take a different route.

We believe lawmakers would do best to focus efforts on increasing pay for teachers and all state employees who have gone four years with no increase, not even for a cost of living,” said Carol Vandenberg, with Professional Educators of North Carolina.

But one of the main components of the bill would increase reading proficiency in grades kindergarten through third grade. Even those who support that idea said this bill might not work.

“We all agree with that goal,” said Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe. “It’s just a question of how you get there and I don’t believe this year saying we are going to do it and not putting any money into personnel to do it moves anything ahead.”

It is expected these proposed changes could cost more than $45 million next year and more in years to follow.

This education overhaul advanced out of committee. It will be considered by one more committee before being debated by the full Senate.

Capital Tonight May 29: DNC chief Steve Kerrigan

On Capital Tonight: It’s 100 days until the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte and we talk with convention chief Steve Kerrigan about what’s left to be done before September.

Civitas Poll: McCrory leads Dalton, but Dalton closes gap

RALEIGH – A new Civitas poll is giving us a closer look at where things stand in the race for governor.

Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory has a 10-point lead over Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton, according to the poll.

Polled voters said they polled prefer McCrory by a margin of 48 percent to 38 percent.

Civitas also looked at the favorability of the candidates.

About 48 percent of voters view McCrory favorably, while 20 percent have an unfavorable view of the former Charlotte mayor.

The poll showed that 33 percent have a favorable view of Dalton, while 21 percent view him unfavorably.

Dalton has closed the gap by 8 points since Civitas’ February poll, which had McCrory ahead, 49 percent to 30 percent.

This poll was conducted by asking 600 likely registered general election voters.

For a breakdown of the Civitas results, click here.

Polling of the gubernatorial race has had McCrory ahead of Dalton, even before Gov. Bev Perdue said she wouldn’t run in late January.

Public Policy Polling said earlier this month that McCrory lead Dalton, 46 percent to 40 percent.

Read the full results here.

The poll comes while Dalton and McCrory are trading barbs over negative ads.

The Republican Governor’s Association tries to link Dalton with Bev Perdue, who is unpopular and has a low job approval rating.

But McCrory has filed a lawsuit over an ad funded by the Democratic Governor’s Association, questioning his ethics while sitting on the board of Tree.com. McCrory has spoken out vehemently against the ad, saying the ad is factually wrong and illegal.

His campaign also has filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.

When the Charlotte Observer wrote an editorial, calling for an end to negative ads in the gubernatorial campaign, McCrory took the pledge and called on Dalton to do the same thing.

But whether the respective campaigns will refrain from negative campaign is irrelevant, as it is third-party groups that are producing negative ads.

Whatever the polls say right now, the campaign has already taken an ugly turn.