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About 150 arrested at NC legislature in latest Moral Monday protest

Authorities arrested more than 100 people Monday evening in the rotunda between the legislative chambers – the largest mass arrest since the N.C. NAACP began organizing the weekly civil disobedience events in April. An exact number was not immediately available but organizers expected the arrests to reach near 150, double the number from the last protest.

Before the arrests inside, a huge crowd rallied outside the statehouse, listening to speakers condemn Republican legislative leaders. “That’s extreme,” shouted the Rev. William Barber, the N.C. NAACP president, into a loud speaker as he listed legislation Republicans have approved this year. “That’s immoral, and we must stand up and wake up right here, right now.”

Police estimated the crowd at 1,000 – about five times more people than at previous protests – but organizers counted 1,600. With this fifth protest in what organizers are calling “Moral Mondays,” the number of arrests is nearly 300 this legislative session.

3 competing tax bills complicate overhaul effort

UPDATED: The complex effort to overhaul the state’s tax system became more complicated Thursday as three competing bills were presented to lawmakers entering the final month of the legislative session.

Senate Republicans, led by President Pro Tem Phil Berger, are offering the most ambitious legislation to expand the sales tax to more than 100 services, food and prescription drugs, in exchange for cutting personal income taxes from the highest rate of 7.75 percent to 4.5 percent. It represents an overall tax cut, phased in over the course of three years, potentially reducing state spending by more than $1 billion over three years.

But Senate Bill 677 is facing considerable opposition from special interests concerned about how it eliminates all existing tax breaks and from outside organizations who point to analyses showing that it would likely raise taxes on a majority of people in the long run.

In presenting his bill to a Senate panel, Sen. Bob Rucho, a Charlotte Republican, didn’t mention any tax rates – instead spending about 10 minutes lashing out at lobbyists who packed the committee room.

State lawmakers revive bill to remake Wake school board

A new schedule shows that the state House Elections Committee has added the Wake County school board election bill to Wednesday's meeting agenda. The committee will discuss Senate Bill 325, which would change when Wake school board members are elected along with the boundary lines for the board seats. One thing to see is whether the committee backs the version passed by the Senate or makes changes.

Morning Memo: House begins budget writing

WILL THE STATE BUDGET FINISH IN TIME? As the House begins crafting its own state budget this week, the phrase "continuing resolution" is being heard more frequently in the hallways at the statehouse. The idea is this: with the Senate's budget delay, will the House finish writing its own in time to get it approved before the end of the fiscal year June 30? And if it gets close, and House and Senate budget writers are still deadlocked in conference, will they need to find an escape plan to keep government running? House budget writer Nelson Dollar dismissed the talk in an interview last week, but House Democrats are openly discussing the possibility. "I don't see how it's going to be avoided," said Rep. Mickey Michaux, a veteran Democrat. The state budget negotiations this year are complicated by House and Senate Republican leaders' attempts to imbed a tax overhaul that cuts government spending into the state budget, especially because the two chambers are so widely split on the issue.

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: With money on the table, a strong lobbying presence is expected this week. A group of physicians will make the rounds Tuesday asking the House to put money in the state budget to pay for youth tobacco use prevention. House budget committees begin meeting at 8:30 a.m. Another House panel will consider the new school vouchers bill at 10 a.m. and a transportation committee will hear a ferry toll bill at noon. The House convenes at 1 p.m. but there are no bills on the calendar. The Senate convenes at 4 p.m. but will also hold a skeletal session with no action expected. Gov. Pat McCrory plays Mayor Pat again Tuesday morning in Charlotte, speaking to the local rotary club. Elsewhere, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan will honor military spouses at an even in Fayetteville.

***Read more Dome Morning Memo below to get a roundup of North Carolina political news from the holiday weekend. ***

North Carolina lawmakers win easily against South Carolina in charity game

RALEIGH -- A deep bench and powerful inside presence under the basket gave North Carolina lawmakers the advantage they needed to make a second half run and beat a squad of South Carolina legislators 35 -27 in a charity game Wednesday.

With the win at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, North Carolina reclaimed the trophy from its southern rival and extended its series lead to 11-6 in an on-again, off-again competition that dates to 1979.

"It was a great game," said Rep. Burt Jones, a Rockingham Republican who coached the team and reveled in his post-game interview. "I think we played just a little bit better. ... We had a little run in the second half and pulled away."

The 6-foot, 5-inch center Rep. Chris Millis, a Hampstead Republican, scored big points for the bipartisan N.C. General Assembly team and swatted a few big South Carolina shots, easily winning the crowd's MVP nod. "Everybody played hard," he said, sounding just like a professional athlete. "It was a team win."

Gov. Pat McCrory made an appearance in the second half, playing good minutes but later clanked two free throws late in the game. "I've never been so nervous in my life," McCrory said at the line.

Morning Memo: More Democratic trouble, N.C. vs. S.C. hoops rivalry renewed

UPDATED: DEMOCRATIC PARTY'S PROBLEMS GROW: The head of the North Carolina Democratic Party is facing questions about credit card charges made during a March trip to a Las Vegas casino to watch basketball games with his old college buddies. Records obtained by The Associated Press show state Democratic Chairman Randy Voller made $3,327 in charges to Southwest Airlines and the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel on an American Express Business Gold Card embossed with his name and that of the North Carolina Democratic Party. He said he's paid off the balance in full. Much more to this story -- click here.

N.C. LAWMAKERS TO PLAY "THE OTHER CAROLINA" IN BASKETBALL: North Carolina lawmakers will challenge their South Carolina counterparts to a game of hoops Wednesday evening at Reynolds Coliseum. The game is the first in at least four years between lawmakers from the two Carolinas. Rep. Burt Jones, a Rockingham Republican who will coach the North Carolina squad, helped revive the tradition. “The games in the past were pretty competitive,” he said. (Scouting report below.)

***This is the Dome Morning Memo -- the source for N.C. political news and fun (see below). Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com. ***

Morning Memo: Legislature an embarrassment, big issues dominate post-crossover Jones Street

NEARLY HALF VOTERS CONSIDER SAY #NCGA CAUSING NATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT: One of the more intriguing poll numbers in the latest monthly Public Policy Polling survey due out later today: 45 percent. That's the portion of voters who believe the N.C. General Assembly is causing the state "national embarrassment." The poll question comes after a number of hot-button legislative issues received national attention -- and ridicule. Another 31 percent don't think the state legislature is a blemish and another 24 percent are undecided. (More from poll below.)

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: No rest for the weary this week on Jones Street. The Senate appropriations committee meets at 8:30 to discuss its $20.6 billion state budget. Democrats will raise objections but no significant changes are expected. At the same time, the House Finance Committee will consider a major immigration bill that is drawing increasing fire from the ACLU and others concerned about Arizona-type provisions about stopping and detaining people who did not enter the country legally. At 11 a.m., the House Education Committee will get its first look at a new private school voucher bill. Senate and House floor calendars are light after crossover week's flurry, but the House will give final reading to a bill limiting tolling of existing highways.

Gov. Pat McCrory will meet with the Philippine ambassador at 8:45 a.m. in a private meeting and later attend a N.C. Department of Transportation luncheon. McCrory will speak to a group of under-45 CEOs as part of the southern chapter of the Young Presidents' Organization conference and travel to Charlotte this evening for a forum with the city's other current and former mayors.

***This is the Dome Morning Memo. Read more new exclusive PPP numbers below and get more insights into the state budget. ***

1369145279 Morning Memo: Legislature an embarrassment, big issues dominate post-crossover Jones Street The News and Observer Copyright 2011 The News and Observer . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Morning Memo: John Edwards mounting a return to public life?

EDWARDS REGROUPS: Former presidential contender John Edwards has reactivated his license to practice law and is setting out on the speaking circuit, the Associated Press reports. The former U.S. senator and 2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee is scheduled to appear June 6 at a private retreat in Orlando, Fla., for lawyer clients of the marketing firm PMP.

Edwards has remained largely out of public view since his acquittal in May 2012 on one charge of campaign finance fraud. A judge declared a mistrial on five other criminal counts after jurors couldn’t agree whether Edwards had illegally used campaign money to hide his pregnant mistress as he ran for president in 2008. An itinerary says Edwards will speak for about 45 minutes as part of a program titled “Historic Trials of the Century.” Edwards earned millions as a personal injury lawyer before entering politics.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. If you're here, you survived crossover. Get a wrap up below. Now hold your hats for the final weeks of the legislative session. Send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com.***

Sharia law's tie to North Carolina

What North Carolina company wanted to use Islamic Sharia law? A: The private military contractor Blackwater.

On Thursday, the state House has passed a bill to eliminate the use of Sharia law in North Carolina. Opponents of Sharia like Rep. John Blust of Greensboro say Islamic law threatens to how North Carolinians marry, divorce and determine child custody: “It’s creeping, but it is stated within those who are pushing it, that is their goal: to have this type of law rule the world."

The former North Carolina company Blackwater had a different aim in mind back in 2006. They wanted to use Sharia to escape responsibility for a botched flight that killed three soldiers and the flight crew. Under Sharia law, employers are not liable for harm done by their employees. Federal judges opted to stick with U.S. law, despite the company's entreaties. Blackwater and its insurers settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount. --Joseph Neff, staff writer

Morning Memo: Amid crossover, the unfinished tax plan takes center stage

HOUSE TO UNVEIL TAX PLAN OUTLINE:House Republicans plan to offer their own North Carolina tax overhaul plan Thursday that would reduce personal and corporate income tax rates and expand the sales tax to cover more services. The proposal's scope is much narrower than what Senate counterparts offered as GOP legislators try to fulfill a commitment to carry out tax reform this year.

The plan attempts to simplify income taxes and reduces the number of income tax brackets from three to one, according to the proposed legislation obtained by The Associated Press. House Republican leaders want to reduce slightly the combined state and local sales tax consumers in most counties pay from 6.75 percent to 6.65 percent. They also would subject the sales tax to a handful of new services such as automobile repairs and installations for personal property and warranty and service contracts, the bill says. In contrast, the Senate proposal unveiled last week would make the sales tax base one of the broadest in the country. More here.

NORQUIST TO BLESS SENATE TAX EFFORT: Americans for Tax Reform leader Grover Norquist will stand with Senate leader Phil Berger at a 9:30 a.m. press conference Thursday to talk about the Senate's tax rewrite. The visit is being coordinated by Americans for Prosperity, an advocacy group that pushing hard for a major tax overhaul measure this session. Opposition groups already are framing the visit, saying Norquist will support a bill that could raise taxes on a majority of people in the long-term. A luncheon with tax activists outside the legislature will follow later in the day.

Good Morning! This Dome Morning Memo is (unofficially) brought to you by Krispy Kreme donuts and coffee -- which is much needed after the House worked near midnight to beat the crossover deadline on a bevy of controversial bills in a 10-hour session. If you went to bed early, click below for all the North Carolina political news and analysis.***

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