Saturday News: Milking the taxpayers

DOLLAR LOSES ELECTION, GAINS SIX-FIGURE INCOME WORKING FOR MOORE: Former state Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, has joined House Speaker Tim Moore's staff as a senior policy adviser. The former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Dollar will make $117,495 a year, an upgrade from the roughly $14,000 a year state legislators make in addition to per diems and expense reimbursements. Dollar has been heavily involved in a number of complex issues at the statehouse, including budget negotiations and the state's ongoing Medicaid reform efforts. He is a political and media consultant by trade. Dollar lost his seat by 884 votes last November to Democrat Julie von Haefen, the former president of the Wake County PTA. Von Haefen took her seat, representing parts of Cary, Apex and southern Wake County this month, and the legislature began its new session Wednesday.

COURT RULES ELECTED OFFICIALS CAN'T BAN PEOPLE OR DELETE COMMENTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA: “You cannot ban speech you don’t like from social media accounts you use to invite constituents to discuss government business,” Como said in an interview. “If that’s what you’re doing, this is sending a very strong message that public officials need to act quickly to educate themselves on this ruling.” No federal appellate court had ever ruled on the issue before Monday, when the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Virginia politician’s social media actions targeting a critic of hers were unconstitutional. The ruling doesn’t apply to the entire country, but it does apply to all the states in the 4th Circuit — North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. The same group that brought this lawsuit, the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, is also behind a lawsuit against President Donald Trump over his own social-media blocking of critics. Trump lost at the trial court level last year but his appeal is still pending, the group wrote in a post on its website after its victory in the Virginia case was announced.

U.S. HOUSE COMMITTEE MAY END UP DECIDING NC09 RACE OUTCOME: A U.S. House committee is signaling that Congress may ultimately resolve the nation's last undecided congressional race. The head of the House Administration Committee on Friday asked North Carolina elections officials to preserve all original notes, recordings or documents used in investigating allegations of ballot fraud in the state's 9th District. Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California says the U.S. House may also investigate and ultimately determine the rightful winner of the disputed seat. Lofgren says state officials should save all evidence they collect or which is turned over by law enforcement or prosecutorial agencies. Sworn statements by voters and other witnesses have suggested mail-in ballots could have been altered or discarded. Republican Mark Harris holds a narrow lead over Democrat Dan McCready.

TRUMP'S DOJ WAS WARNED ABOUT MCCRAE DOWLESS IN JANUARY 2018: The head of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section met with staff from the North Carolina state board of elections about allegedly improper election activities in Bladen County that occurred during the 2016 elections, according to emails obtained by The News & Observer. AnnaLou Tirol, the acting chief of the Public Integrity Section, was scheduled to meet with Josh Lawson, the state board’s general counsel, and Kim Strach, the board’s executive director, on Jan. 31, 2018. The meeting in Raleigh was set up by Brian S. Meyers, an attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The meeting took place and there has been no email correspondence between the board and the Public Integrity Section since a follow-up email a day after the meeting, according to Patrick Gannon, spokesman for the state board. In the January 2018 summary, also previously reported, state investigators reported they found “information strongly suggesting” that Dowless “was paying certain individuals to solicit absentee request forms and to collect absentee ballots from Bladen County voters.

NEW TRUMP RULE WOULD DENY BIRTH CONTROL COVERAGE FOR WOMEN ENROLLED IN ACA: A “substantial number” of women would lose free birth control coverage under new rules by the Trump administration that allow more employers to opt out of providing the benefit, a U.S. judge said at a hearing on Friday. Judge Haywood Gilliam appeared inclined to grant a request by California and other states that he block the rules while the states’ lawsuit moves forward. He said he would rule before Monday, when the rules are set to take effect. At issue is a requirement under President Barack Obama’s health care law that birth control services be covered at no additional cost. Obama officials included exemptions for religious organizations. The Trump administration expanded those exemptions and added “moral convictions” as a basis to opt out of providing birth control services. Karli Eisenberg, an attorney for California, told Gilliam Friday the loss of free contraceptive coverage from employers would force women to turn to government programs that provide birth control, and if they are ineligible for those, increase the risk of unintended pregnancies.