Friday News: Tangled web

FEDERAL LAWSUIT FILED AGAINST MIKE CAUSEY BY BAIL BONDSMAN: A federal lawsuit accuses state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey of crushing a company solely for political gain and under pressure from top Republican lawmakers. Causey denies the allegation, which hinges on affidavits from two bail bond agents, both of whom say Causey acknowledged the conspiracy to them in a Greensboro Bojangles. A third bondsman disputes their version of the conversation, telling WRAL News that he was there, and he doesn't remember the alleged admission at all. The lawsuit offers another glimpse into the tangled world of North Carolina bail bonding, an industry regulated by Causey's Department of Insurance. For years, competing factions have tried to outmaneuver each other, filing complaints on their competitors and, in one case, pushing through legislation that gave one side a monopoly on lucrative training classes until the law unraveled and a judge declared it unconstitutional.

NC'S SCHOOL YEAR BEGINS ON MONDAY, 2/3 WILL BE LEARNING REMOTELY: North Carolina’s public schools will reopen Monday, amid concerns about the quality of education that the state’s 1.5 million students will get during the coronavirus pandemic. More than two-thirds of the state’s K-12 students are beginning the school year with only online classes in a virtual environment that’s still unfamiliar to many of their teachers. And few of the students who will receive in-person instruction will get it on a daily basis because of social distancing requirements designed to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19. Echoing what’s being said by schools across the state, Craddock said students and parents need to expect that the online classes will be different than what was done in the spring. New material will be taught and grades will be given. “The expectations are a lot more,” Craddock said. “Since it was so sudden in March we were very lenient and giving people the benefit of the doubt. (Now) there’s a set schedule they’re required to attend and attendance will be taken.” For schools that are bringing students back on campus, families face the prospect of COVID-19 outbreaks. Some private schools that have already opened for in-person instruction have reported individual COVID-19 cases that are causing them to suspend face-to-face classes and/or quarantine some students and teachers.

NORTH CAROLINA NEEDS TO ELECT MORE WOMEN, ACROSS THE BOARD: The number of women serving in North Carolina elected offices hasn’t changed much over the past five years, earning the state a “D” rating on the latest report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Female representation in the N.C. House has increased slightly, from 22% of seats in 2015 to 28% this year, according to the report. But the percentage of senators who are women has decreased from 24% to 20% over the same period. And the percentage of women in the state’s U.S. House delegation has decreased from 23.1% to 15.4% between 2015 and now. The report did find a few bright spots for female representation in state politics: Women currently make up 49% of the governor’s appointees to boards and commissions (up from 37% in 2016) and they make up 33% of statewide elected officials. The Council for Women & Youth Involvement has scheduled two more online events to present the report, on Aug. 18 and Aug. 25.

TRUMP TRIES "BIRTHERISM" ATTACK ON KAMALA HARRIS: A legal adviser and spokesperson for President Trump’s reelection campaign questioned the citizenship of Sen. Kamala D. Harris, a California native and the presumptive Democratic nominee for vice president. Trump campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis, in comments to ABC News, Aug. 13, 2020: “I heard it today that [Harris] doesn’t meet the requirements. And, by the way, the lawyer that wrote that piece is a very highly qualified, very talented lawyer. I have no idea if that’s right. I would have assumed the Democrats would have checked that out.” Later in the day, Trump said Harris possibly “doesn’t meet the requirements” to serve as vice president. For years, and as a presidential candidate in 2016, Trump stoked the “birther” conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Now, the citizenship of another prominent African American politician is being challenged with no evidence. Harris was born in Oakland, Calif., on Oct. 20, 1964. The 14th Amendment and a Supreme Court decision from 1898 give citizenship to people born in the territorial United States, according to constitutional law experts. Trump perhaps knows this, because he announced in 2018 that he would try to end birthright citizenship with an executive order, which was never released. Harris’s mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was born in India and came to the United States at age 25 to earn a PhD in nutrition and endocrinology at the University of California at Berkeley. Her father, Donald Harris, who is Black, arrived from Jamaica in 1963 to earn a PhD in economics from UC-Berkeley.

U.S. SENATE ADJOURNS WITHOUT PASSING NEW CORONAVIRUS RELIEF BILL: The Senate formally adjourned on Thursday until early September, leaving undone any package of pandemic relief. House members had already left Washington. Democrats and the Trump administration remain far apart on the stimulus, including how much to spend and where the money would go. The House, which is controlled by Democrats passed a $3 trillion dollar package in May. Republicans, who control the Senate, want to stay in the $1 trillion range. A major sticking point, aside from how much more to help unemployed Americans, was providing more aid to state and local governments. With tax revenues plummeting, states could face a cumulative budget gap of at least $555 billion through the 2022 fiscal year, according to one estimate. Economists warn that, unless Congress intervenes, the long-term financial damage might be greater than after the recession of 2007-9. President Trump and top Republicans warn that providing more money to states could simply bail out fiscally irresponsible governments that did not manage their budgets and their public pension plans prudently in good times. Democrats insist that states need more money and have proposed as much as $1 trillion, saying it would support needed services and help the economy recover more quickly. Nearly all states are required to balance their budgets, meaning officials will need to plug shortfalls by tapping rainy-day funds, raising taxes or cutting costs, including by eliminating jobs.



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