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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.***

Morning Memo: GOP fundraising, Rural Center face major questions

GOP ABANDONS PLEDGE FOR TAX REFORM: From Rob Christensen's column: Tax reform in North Carolina died last week. RIP. …The House has rolled out its plan, and the Senate has rolled out an alternative plan. Those plans focus almost exclusively on cutting corporate and personal income taxes, rather than revamping the 1930s tax code. So tax reform is dead. In its place, we have large tax cuts, the size and shape of which will be worked out in a House-Senate conference committee. Cutting taxes is in the Republican comfort zone. Reforming the tax code is not. Full story.

LOBBYING FIRM ACTED AS TILLIS, McCRORY FUNDRAISING CONDUIT: The giving by the sweepstakes industry also puts a spotlight on fundraising efforts organized by McGuireWoods. Multiple contributions from sweepstakes operators were often recorded on the same days, with the largest group coming on May 16, 2012, when the Tillis campaign tallied a total of $60,002 from 19 individuals. Days earlier, on May 10, McGuireWoods held a fundraiser at its Raleigh office attended by Payne and lobbyists from other organizations. Harry Kaplan, a McGuireWoods lobbyist, said he invited clients who were interested in meeting with Tillis to talk about the issues they represented. They could also make campaign contributions, which some did, he said.

***More on Tillis, McCrory campaign fundraising, the sweepstakes industry and questions clouding the N.C. Rural Center and top Republicans below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Morning Memo: Crossover week begins at #NCGA; Ben Carson to visit Raleigh

Welcome to Crossover Week on Jones Street. Think the action’s been fast so far? Well, hold onto our elephant ears, this week lawmakers will be shoveling as many bills as possible through committee and out to their floors for a vote to meet a Thursday deadline dubbed crossover.

The House and Senate rules say that bills that don’t raise or spend money or propose amendments to the state constitution must pass either the House or Senate by Thursday to be considered during the session. Of course, rules are made to be circumvented, so there are many ways to keep legislation alive. Dome’s favorite: Strip a bill that has already crossed over of its language and insert your bill of choice.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo. Read more about the issues hanging in the balance this week at the legislature. And send news and tips to dome@newsobserver.com.***

Morning Memo: McCrory to announce Medicaid overhaul; big day at statehouse

McCRORY TO ANNOUNCE MEDICAID SYSTEM OVERHAUL: Gov. Pat McCrory rejected a Medicaid expansion earlier this year saying the system was broken and Wednesday morning he is expected to describe how he plans to fix it. The Republican has talked frequently about the rising costs of the healthcare system for select low-income and disabled residents and issued a video preview Tuesday saying he would create a "partnership" that will help keep costs low. Check Dome later today for more details from the 10 a.m. press conference.

***It's a jam-packed day in North Carolina politics. Get the full scoop on all the big stories from the Dome Morning Memo below. Send tips and news to dome@newsobserver.com.***

McCrory's budget gets mixed reaction among lawmakers

Republican lawmakers are giving Gov. Pat McCrory's budget a favorable rating -- particularly compared to his Democratic predecessor -- but Democrats are raising concerns about taking money from outside entities, particularly those focused on economic development and minority programs.

State Budget Director Art Pope presented the plan to lawmakers Thursday, a day after it was submitted to the legislature for consideration.

"If this was the budget bracket battle, this would go to the next round," Republican state Rep. Tom Murry said, playing office the start of March Madness. The previous governor's budget would have been eliminated in the first round.

But Democrats are concerned about gutting once-sacred cows, such as the Golden LEAF Foundation, N.C. Rural Economic Development Center and other programs that received money from the state commerce department.

Morning Memo: Questions mount on MetLife incentives deal

FIVE DAYS LATER, McCRORY STILL SILENT ON ROLE IN METLIFE DEAL: Five days after the MetLife jobs announcement, Gov. Pat McCrory and the governor's office remains quiet on what role he played in luring the company even as questions mount. Consider this lead sentence from AP story Friday: "Gov. Pat McCrory avoided questions Friday about the state offering MetLife Inc. $94 million in tax breaks and other incentives to move thousands of jobs to North Carolina and using his former employer to help broker the deal." The Friday announcement was the second time in two days that McCrory dodged reporters' questions. The governor appears at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources today for a 12:30 p.m. announcement. Will he break his silence?

QUESTIONS MOUNT ABOUT THE INCENTIVES: At the same time, Charlotte area officials are raising questions about whether the incentives were even necessary to lure the company to the city, where half the 2,600 jobs will be located. On Saturday, less than 24 hours after a press conference announcing the deal, county commissioners questioned whether MetLife knew it was coming to Charlotte before commissioners on Tuesday gave preliminary approval for the incentives.

Commissioners Chairwoman Pat Cotham said questions about the timing of the incentives vote started to enter her mind when news broke that the company had picked North Carolina and media events were arranged – only two days after the commissioners voted. Later, she learned that some MetLife executives had already been picking out schools and colleges for their children. “In my opinion, the deal was done when we first learned of it and voted for incentives,” Cotham, a Democrat, wrote in her first email to commissioners on Saturday.

***Good morning and thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- the source for N.C. political news and analysis. Read much more below.***

Morning Memo: Senate GOP questioned on legality of power grab

TODAY AT THE STATEHOUSE: No votes in the House on Thursday but the Senate is expected to give final approval to a bill to purge the state's boards of any Democratic appointees. Gov. Pat McCrory hosts legislators for a private breakfast and attends two closed-door events in Wake County. Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller is hosting a morning press conference to lay out his vision for the minority party amid GOP reign.

TEA PARTY GROUP MAY SCREEN GOP U.S. SENATE CANDIDATES: Americans for Prosperity President Tim Phillips said his group may begin to support candidates in Republican primaries, the Daily Caller reports. The move could have implications on North Carolina's U.S. Senate race in 2014 -- which is expected to draw a robust field to challenge Democrat Kay Hagan. Americans for Prosperity is a tea party group that once held close ties to Gov. Pat McCrory's budget director, Art Pope, who led the national board and donated significantly to the organization.

***Thanks for reading the Dome Morning Memo -- more news and analysis of N.C. politics below.***

Morning Memo: GOP flirts with Charlotte for 2016 convention

GOP FLIRTS WITH CHARLOTTE: Could Charlotte do for Republicans in 2016 what it did for Democrats in 2012? The Republican National Committee’s meeting in Charlotte this week has fueled speculation that the GOP might return for its national convention in four years. “It’s always a possibility,” GOP Chairman Reince Priebus said Wednesday at the Westin hotel. “North Carolina was good to us. And it’s a red state – all the more reason to look at Charlotte.”

AFP TOUTS GOP REIGN IN NORTH CAROLINA: Tim Phillis, the national president of Americans for Prosperity, writes in a Politico op-ed that North Carolina is a state where the GOP plans to make a difference. It starts: "In Raleigh, N.C., on Jan. 11, a new free-market Republican governor celebrated his gubernatorial win at the inaugural balls. The occasion was historic for North Carolina: the first time since Reconstruction that a conservative GOP governor will be joined by free-market GOP state legislative majorities in both state legislative chambers." Read full piece here.

***This is the Dome Morning Memo a digest of important N.C. political news. Click below for more.***

Morning Memo: McCrory's approval slides, Congressman Price prominent on guns

MORNING MEMO EXCLUSIVE: GOV. McCRORY'S POLL NUMBERS SLIP. A new Public Policy Polling survey finds the new Republican governor's approval ratings at 45 percent to start his first term, down eight points from a month ago. The new poll -- set for release later Wednesday -- suggests his cabinet picks may have pulled his popularity downward. Among those who know, 31 percent approve of his cabinet and 24 percent disapprove. Likewise, more people disapprove of McCrory's controversial picks Art Pope and Tony Tata than approve, though most people aren't sure about the two.

MORE PEOPLE UNSURE: The Raleigh-based Democratic polling firm found Republicans approve 73 percent to 6 percent, independents split 43 to 23 and Democrats even at 26 percent. All the numbers are lower than the previous month, with those people unsure what to think about McCrory on the rise. The falling numbers put his approval rate at the start of his term in the neighborhood of his Democratic predecessor, Gov. Bev Perdue. Four years ago, she started with an approval rating at 43 percent.

***This is the Dome Morning Memo -- the source for breaking news, analysis and a daily news digest for North Carolina politics.

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