NC REPUBLICANS NOT HAPPY WITH PROPERLY RE-DRAWN MAPS: The Stanford University professor hired to draw North Carolina election maps for a panel of federal judges weighing a gerrymandering case has submitted a plan that quickly drew criticism from Republican lawmakers and praise from challengers. Nathaniel Persily, a law professor tapped in November to review state House and Senate maps adopted by legislators ordered to correct unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, on Friday submitted proposed election district changes in Cumberland, Guilford, Hoke, Mecklenburg, Wake, Bladen, Sampson and Wayne counties. Persily’s maps only redrew a fraction of the state’s 170 legislative districts, mostly in urban counties that tend to favor Democrats. Most of the districts drawn in August favor Republicans, according to a News & Observer analysis.
HEARINGS FOR DUKE ENERGY'S PROPOSED RATE INCREASE CONTINUE: The North Carolina Utilities Commission began its hearing into how much of a rate increase to allow Duke Energy Progress to charge customers in eastern North Carolina. Part of Duke's requested increase would pay for cleanup of its ash pits at coal-fired power plants. The company says customers have benefited for decades from cheap power from the plants and should bear the cost of the state mandate to now clean up the ash pits, but opponents maintain Duke shareholders have been the main beneficiary of cheap power because customer bills repeatedly went up as power generation costs remained low.
MORE THAN 2/3 OF NC JUDGES FAVOR CONTINUING ELECTIONS AS OPPOSED TO APPOINTMENTS: The North Carolina Association of District Court Judges has polled its 272 members on whether they favored a system in which judges were selected instead of elected and the results returned in mid-November show that 69 percent said they supported holding elections in North Carolina. More than 96 percent of the judges were opposed to giving the lawmakers a role in appointing judges and 85 percent were against a system that would require legislative confirmation of the appointees, Buckner said, adding that the association has yet to take an official position on any proposal.
JUDGES WILL HEAR ARGUMENTS IN FEBRUARY OVER 2016 "ANTI-COOPER" SPECIAL SESSION: A panel of state judges wants to rule early next year on the legality of a special session of the North Carolina General Assembly and the laws approved during that session that scaled back incoming Gov. Roy Cooper's powers. The three judges, meeting Friday, scheduled attorney arguments for Feb. 21 over whether the December 2016 special session complied with the state constitution. Superior Court Judge Wayland Sermons said the panel wanted to make their decision later that week. A trial court judge last summer wouldn't dismiss the lawsuit, which focuses on whether there was proper or enough notice for the session, convened the same day another session on Hurricane Matthew relief ended. Republicans used the session to pass several laws affecting Cooper before he was sworn on New Year's Day.
LATE-NIGHT BARGAINING ALLOWS SENATE REPUBLICANS TO PASS CONTROVERSIAL TAX BILL: Republicans pushed a nearly $1.5 trillion tax bill through the Senate early Saturday after a burst of eleventh-hour horse trading, as a party starved all year for a major legislative triumph took a giant step toward giving President Donald Trump one of his top priorities by Christmas. Trump hailed the bill’s passage on Twitter, thanking McConnell and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. “Look forward to signing a final bill before Christmas!” the president wrote. The bill is “removed from the reality of what the American people need,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. He criticized Republicans for releasing a revised, 479-page bill that no one can absorb shortly before the final vote, saying, “The Senate is descending to a new low of chicanery.”