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Morning Memo: Senate moves with speed, Muslim remarks put GOP on the spot

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.***

Morning Memo: The poor dream too; legislature returns to town

COLUMNIST -- CAN'T BAN POOR FROM THE LOTTERY: You got any dreams? We want them, too. That’s what comedian Richard Pryor swears his wife’s attorney asked him when they showed up in divorce court. That’s also what State Rep. Paul Stam is saying to welfare recipients in North Carolina by proposing a measure that would prevent them from playing the lottery.

***This is the Dome Morning Memo -- a digest of the political headlines and upcoming news in North Carolina. Click below to read more. ***

Morning Roundup: For convention, Democrats cozy up to Bank of America

Democrats excoriated Bank of America last fall over a proposed $5 monthly debit card fee, with one even taking to the Senate floor to urge people to pull out their money. But just a week and a half earlier, party leaders organizing the Democratic National Convention quietly deposited $17.7 million into the bank.

This year party leaders announced deposits totaling $4.5 million at two community banks and a credit union, touting their commitment to small and minority-owned lenders. Yet they’re doing much more business with Bank of America: The share of convention money passing without fanfare through the nation’s second-largest lender could reach $65 million. Read full story here.

In case you missed them, more political headlines below.

Morning Roundup: Speaker Tillis heard rumors about staffer's affair with lobbyist

House Speaker Thom Tillis said he heard rumors about an affair his former chief of staff had with a state lobbyist but Charles Thomas denied the relationship. Tillis, who bunks with Thomas in Raleigh, answered questions about the after Thomas' resignation last week for an affair with a homebuilders association lobbyist. Tillis also acknowledged a second staffer, Amy Hobbs, had a romantic relationship with a different lobbyist, Dean Plunkett, and would resign. Read the full story here.

Lots more political news:

-- A Charlotte area man is being questioned for firing a shotgun at an anti-amendment sign, which he recorded in a YouTube video that received widespread attention a week before the May 8 primary on the marriage referendum.

--Jurors at the John Edwards trial saw video on Tuesday afternoon of the house outside Chapel Hill where Edwards’ pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, lived for several months while hiding from National Enquirer reporters. Cheri Young, the wife of Edwards’ political aide Andrew Young, made the video in September 2008 while going through the two-story house in the Governors Club, a gated community near Chapel Hill. Day 7 Trial coverage here.

New subpoenas in Edwards investigation

EDWARDS INVESTIGATION: Federal prosecutors have issued several new subpoenas in the investigation into former U.S. Sen. John Edwards' campaign finances, his Raleigh attorney said Wednesday. (N&O)

BofA DEADLINE: N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper is giving Bank of America until Friday to halt foreclosure proceedings in the state amid concerns the Charlotte bank and other lenders haven't properly reviewed documents. (CharO)

DORITY HOPES FOR GOP WAVE: Republican Greg Dority watched the rain and wind pound his coastal N.C. home last week. Now he's hoping for another kind of storm next month - a GOP storm. He faces nine-term incumbent Democrat Mel Watt and Libertarian Lon Cecil in the 12th Congressional District. (CharO)

BofA chief: Banks made mistakes

OUR BAD: Bank of America's new CEO, Brian Moynihan, flew from his home in Boston to speak to business leaders in Raleigh on Monday, where he acknowledged that his industry had helped cause the economic crisis and would help end it, too. The banking industry is likely facing a wave of new regulations and scrutiny from lawmakers. (Charlotte Observer)

NEW SECURITY: President Barack Obama is announcing new measures Tuesday to beef up airline security after an alleged terrorist attempt to destroy a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner on Christmas Day. (AP)

GRIDLOCK: Partisan politics continues to slow business for the Wake County commissioners as Democrats refused to approve the Republican chairman's committee assignments. (N&O)

The other 'Ken Lewis'

Free name recognition may end up costing Kenneth Lewis.

Lewis, a Chapel Hill lawyer and Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate has a lot of work to do to establish name recognition across the state, according to poll numbers by Public Policy Polling.

A Dec. 11-13 survey of 593 likely North Carolina voters found that 80 percent of state residents are unsure of how they feel about Lewis. But PPP noted that in the Charlotte area code of 704, there are lots of strong opinions about "Kenneth Lewis."

Of the voters in that area code surveyed by PPP, 39 percent had an opinion, and many of those opinions — 27 percent — were negative. PPP's Tom Jensen postulates that Lewis may be a victim of his name.

There's another Ken Lewis, familiar to many in the Charlotte-area: outgoing Bank of America chief executive Ken Lewis.

Bank of America's Ken Lewis was once a popular figure in Charlotte, Rick Rothacker and Christina Rexrode of The Charlotte Observer reported.

A little more than a year ago, Lewis was hailed as the savior of Wall Street when he swooped in to buy Merrill Lynch on the brink of collapse during a frenzied weekend amid the financial crisis. At the time he called it a career-capping "deal of a lifetime," but by December he was trying to abandon the purchase as Merrill's losses ballooned. After regulators pressed him to proceed, the bank accepted more government aid and became a symbol for the nation's bailed-out banks.

There is plenty of time left for Chapel Hill Ken Lewis to show voters that he is not Charlotte Ken Lewis. Look for all of Chapel Hill Ken Lewis' ads and signs in Charlotte to include a photograph of the candidate.

Basnight aims at Davis

Senate Leader Marc Basnight may not have a favorite political analyst, but he has a least favorite: John Davis.

Davis is the former director of the North Carolina Forum for Research and Economic Education who last year incorrectly predicted a Republican takeover of the state senate, Mark Johnson reports. The GOP gained one seat.

"He is not a credible source," Basnight told Dome last week. "Somebody needs to question him about his accuracy."

Davis says Basnight’s unhappiness stems from Davis’ advice to businesses that were members of NCFREE that they stop giving money to Democratic Senate leaders. Davis argued that, while Basnight and other top Democrats in the Senate were pro-business, they gave much of their money to the Democratic Party, who used it to support Democratic senate candidates in other districts who were not business-friendly.

"They didn’t like me saying (to businesses): 'Stop giving money to the leadership because you lose control of where it’s spent and it’s being spent to beat your best friend,'" Davis said.

Davis' most recent North Carolina political report ended with the advice: "vote Republican."

Hagan mulling action on U.S. attorney

THINKING ABOUT IT: Sen. Kay Hagan said Wednesday that she has not decided whether to hold up the confirmation of a new U.S. attorney to give the Republican appointee who now holds the position time to complete his inquiries into two high-profile Democrats. (N&O)

NEW FUND: State Treasurer Janet Cowell is starting a $250 million equity fund to invest in North Carolina companies with two goals in mind: make money for the state pension fund and create jobs in North Carolina. (N&O)

CHECK IN THE MAIL: Charlotte-based Bank of America said it is set to repay all of its $45 billion in government aid, a step that helps remove the stigma of being a bailout recipient and dials back government scrutiny of its operations. (Charlotte Observer)

Burr has $3 million

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr has $3,461,445 in his campaign account.

Burr has received more than $3 million in contributions since 2007, according to federal campaign finance records. Of that amount, $1.4 million came from individual contributions and $1.2 million came from political action or other committees.

Contributors include the Associated Builders and Contractors ($5,000), a Bank of America PAC ($5,000), a Federation of American Hospitals PAC ($5,000), Thomas Mann of Raleigh, chairman of GE Insurance ($2,000), Duke Energy President James Rogers of Charlotte ($2,400) and Jerry Smith, CEO of Le Bleu water company ($2,400).

Previously: Democrat Kenneth Lewis who is running against Burr has $184,000. 

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