Saturday News: 2 out of 3 ain't bad


THREE JUDGE PANEL RULES AGAINST 2 GOP POWER GRABS, OKAYS 3RD: The N.C. General Assembly’s attempt to revamp the state elections board and ethics commission weeks before Democrat Roy Cooper was sworn in as the new governor violates the state Constitution, a three-judge panel ruled on Friday. The judges also found unconstitutional the legislature’s shift of managerial and policy-making employees from former Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration to positions where it’s more difficult to replace them. But the Republican-controlled General Assembly’s attempt to have a say in who joins Cooper’s Cabinet was not found to be a violation of the separation of powers clause in the state Constitution. The 42-page order is the latest in an escalating power struggle between the Democrat at the helm of the executive branch and the Republicans leading the two chambers of the General Assembly.

ADVOCACY GROUP TO HOLD HIGH-DOLLAR FUNDRAISER WITH GOVERNOR AND STAFF: Paperwork filed with the North Carolina Secretary of State's Office shows that Moving NC Forward anticipates raising at least $500,000 for its 2016-17 fiscal year. A price list attached to the invitation to its March event suggests donations ranging from $10,000 for a "supporter" to $100,000 for an "executive partner." Hendrickson said raising money was a reality for an organization that hopes to push a public policy message. "It costs money to communicate," he said. "If we're going to get involved in it, we need to be able to effectively communicate the message. If we're going to do it, we're going to do it well." Asked if that would include television advertising, Hendrickson said he didn't know. "I think there's a common agreement that we need to strengthen our schools, grow jobs, strengthen access to affordable health care and protect our environment," he said.

TRUMP'S ABSURD WIRETAPPING CLAIM GROWS TO ENGULF GREAT BRITAIN: Trump's unproven recent allegations against his predecessor have left him increasingly isolated, with fellow Republican as well as Democratic lawmakers saying they've seen nothing from intelligence agencies to support his claim. But Trump, who rarely admits he's wrong, has been unmoved, leaving his advisers in the untenable position of defending the president without any credible evidence. On Thursday, spokesman Sean Spicer turned to a Fox News analyst's contention that GCHQ, the British electronic intelligence agency, had helped Obama wiretap Trump. Fox News anchor Shepard Smith said Friday that the network could not independently verify the reports from Andrew Napolitano, a former judge and commentator who has met with Trump. The GCHQ vigorously denied the charges in a rare public statement, saying the report was "utterly ridiculous and should be ignored."

ANDY WELLS FILES STREAM MITIGATION BILL FROM WHICH HE WOULD PERSONALLY BENEFIT: s written, this portion of Senate Bill 131 could benefit not only the entire development industry, but one of the bill’s primary sponsors, Sen. Andy Wells. A Republican, Wells represents Alexander and Catawba counties. He is the managing partner of Prism Companies, a “full-service” real estate company that includes development, brokerage, property management and investment services in the Hickory area. It would extend the length of a stream that a developer could harm or destroy before having to mitigate the damage. Currently, that threshold is 150 feet. That means if in the course of building a neighborhood or shopping center, for example, a developer destroys 151 linear feet of stream, the company must pay a fee for the entire length to a mitigation bank. But under the proposed language, developers could damage 300 feet before paying a mitigation fee. And if the company destroyed 301 feet of stream, it wouldn’t have to pay for the entire length of damage – just the amount over 300 feet. In this case, just 1 foot.

TRUMP BUDGET CUTS WOULD DEVASTATE NC'S RESEARCHERS: It’s hard to know how much President Trump had to do with specifics, both because he’s not a “details guy” and he has few entrenched political beliefs. But the right-wing conservatives around the president are getting their way, cutting out funding for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities. As a result, there will be cuts at the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art. In North Carolina one budget cut proposed by the Trump administration would have likely serious consequences: Universities in North Carolina have gotten hundred of millions of dollars in research money over the years through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that has funded life-changing medical/scientific research. But Trump’s budget would cut the NIH by about 19 percent of its discretionary budget, or $5.8 billion.