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Morning Memo: Arrests near 500, Democrats debut anti-Tillis website

TOTAL ARRESTS NEAR 500: Eighty-four demonstrators were arrested by the N.C. General Assembly police on Monday, bringing the total since April 29 to more than 480. Holly Jordan, 29, a teacher at Hillside High School in Durham, said she decided to get arrested on Monday because she was thoroughly upset with the education policies and budgets proposed. She knew that some of the Republicans had described their naysayers as “aging hippies” and “outsiders” who considered it “en vogue” to get arrested.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: The Senate will take a final vote on its tax plan, and send it to the House. The two chambers remain far apart on how to cut taxes. The House will consider Gov. Pat McCrory's transportation funding bill. In committees, House lawmakers will consider a bill to raise the speed limit to 75 mph on certain roads and a bill requiring cursive -- which is likely to be remade entirely at the last minute, given a similar bill passed earlier this session. Senate lawmakers will meet in committees to consider a bill requiring background checks on those who receive some public assistance and another measure to roll back energy efficiency regulations on building to 2009 levels.

Gov. Pat McCrory will visit another rotary club, this time in Winston-Salem, before meeting with unidentified business leaders in a private meeting at Womble Carlyle, a law firm that also has a lobbying practice.

***Below in the Dome Morning Memo -- U.S. Senate race news, remember Jim Holshouser and a legislative roundup.***

Former Gov. Easley gets law license back

From AP: Former North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley is again allowed to practice law, two years after his license was suspended following a felony plea.

The North Carolina State Bar on Monday reinstated the two-term Democratic governor and former attorney general's law license. State Bar Secretary L. Thomas Lunsford II wrote in his order that Easley satisfied the requirements of his suspension.

Easley accepted criminal responsibility in November 2010 for an improperly filed campaign finance report. Easley's Alford plea for the lowest-grade felony in state law focused on a 2006 helicopter flight worth $1,600 that wasn't reported.

The conviction ended both state and federal investigations into the ex-governor that began shortly after he left office in 2009. Easley has practiced law since 1976 after graduating from North Carolina Central University law school.

Mike Easley petitioning to get his law license back

Former Gov. Mike Easley wants his law license back.

The license of Easley, a lawyer, former state attorney general and two-term Democratic governor, had been suspended until last month by the state agency that regulates lawyers as a result of Easley’s felony conviction in 2010 on a campaign finance violation.

Easley, 62, gave up his law license as he accepted the conviction, which was the result of a plea deal that avoided at least one other possible charge and ended lengthy state and federal investigations of Easley. More here.

Conti defends Wilson bridge

In one of his last public acts as state transportation secretary in the waning days of Gov. Bev Perdue's administration, Gene Conti went to Wilmington on Dec. 8 to preside over a bridge-naming ceremony in honor of Lanny Wilson, a Democratic Party fundraiser who was forced to resign from the state Board of Transportation in 2010 amid state and federal investigations that brought down Perdue's predecessor, former Gov. Mike Easley.

Conti defended Wilson amid criticism that he didn't deserve the honor because of his role in the events that led to former Gov. Mike Easley's felony conviction on a campaign finance charge.

Edwards, Easley land in book on lying, cheating politicians

John Edwards isn't tied up on the campaing trail seeking a second term in the White House, but he does have a few pages dedicated to his political downfall in a new book called "Lyin', Cheatin' Bastards."

The book highlights 77 political scandals of the 2000's, from Rod Blagojevich's troubles with the FBI to Anthony Weiner's "Weinergate" to plenty of lesser-known but equally-troubling faux pas.

Edwards ranked No. 70 on the list, and Vicki Zwart, a co-author of the book, said his lack of prison time made him fare relatively better than his peers.

If misery really loves company, Edwards can take solace knowing he wasn't the only person to represent the Tar Heel State on the list. Former Gov. Mike Easley's felony conviction landed on the list at No. 77.

Andy Griffith, Democrats' go-to grandfather

Former Dome-meister Ryan Teague Beckwith reminds us to highlight Andy Griffith's political involvement.  Here's part of the profile of Griffith that Ryan and Rob Christensen wrote, which called the actor "the spiritual godfather of the North Carolina Democratic Party."

Over the years, Griffith was active in Democratic politics, especially for former Govs. Jim Hunt and Mike Easley and former Senate leader Marc Basnight.

In 1977, Griffith hosted an inauguration festival for the newly elected Hunt. In 1984, he stumped for Hunt Down East and taped political ads for the governor's unsuccessful bid to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Jessie Helms.

A number of Democrats tried to recruit Griffith to challenge Helms in 1990, even going as far as printing "Run Andy Run" bumper stickers. Despite the lobbying effort, Griffith never seriously considered running.

Former candidate for governor returns as lobbyist

Patrick Ballantine, a former GOP candidate for governor, has returned to Raleigh as a lobbyist.

Ballantine, who lost to former Gov. Mike Easley in 2004, is lobbying for aluminum giant Alcoa, Lorillard Tobacco, Universal Leaf Tobacco and a group called Advocates for Free Commerce, as clients in his new firm Ballantine Co.

Ballantine was elected Senate minority leader in 1999 when he represented New Hanover in the legislature. He resigned his Senate seat in 2004 to focus on his run for governor.

New Holding ad sounds "unglued" theme

George Holding's campaign for 13th congressional district has a new TV ad, picking up on strategist Carter Wrenn's comments last week that Paul Coble's campaign was "coming unglued."

Why else would Coble criticize Holding for prosecuting former Sen. John Edwards and investigating former Gov. Mike Easley, the ad asks? "Coble's campaign is falling apart, and it's not pretty," the ad says.

What rattled the Holding campaign were remarks Coble made to an online magazine that covers the U.S. Department of Justice, saying the Edwards prosecution was politically motivated and that there was practically no payoff in the Easley case. Wastes of money and done to advance Holding's political career, Coble suggested.

Holding, Coble clash again over TV ad

Another day, another war over a political ad in the race between 13th congressional district Republican primary candidates George Holding and Paul Coble.

A super PAC that is supporting Holding, The American Foundations Committee Inc., takes a shot at Coble in a new TV advertisement. Coble is a member of the Wake County Board of Commissioners.

“Paul Coble is a typical Washington politician and his record proves it,” the ad says. “Coble criticizes Congress for  increasing the debt by 50 percent, but since 2006, Paul Coble has  supported the commission raising its debt 93 percent. The numbers to remember: Paul Coble has run for office nine times, supported increasing the county debt 93 percent. Paul Coble – 9, 9, nein.”

That prompted a retort from Coble’s campaign today: “George Holding doesn’t care that his attack ads are untrue.”

The program formerly known as More at Four

More at Four is gone.

With the move from the state Department of Public Instruction to the state Department of Health and Human Services comes a name change for the pre-school program Gov. Mike Easley started.

It's now called the NC Prekindergarten Program, or NCPK.

Going from a rhyme to an alphabet test is not the biggest change, of course. Now, 80 percent of parents will be required to pay a fee.

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