ACTIVISTS WANT TO RAISE THE AGE OF MARRIAGE IN NC: In North Carolina, 14- and 15-year-olds can get married with parental consent due to a “pregnancy exception,” in which one person is pregnant or has become a parent. That’s the lowest age of consent in the United States, alongside Alaska. Registers of Deeds throughout the state have found that North Carolina has become a safe haven for predators to marry minors, in marriages similar to what Pollard says hers was. N.C. State Rep. Graig Meyer, representing Orange and Caswell counties, said his colleagues plan to introduce a bill at the beginning of the General Assembly session in January to raise the minimum age to marry. It will need a bipartisan coalition, which he does not think will be difficult.
3 NC PRISONS TEMPORARILY CLOSED DUE TO COVID OUTBREAKS: The state prison system shut down three prison facilities over the last 11 days to reshuffle staff and address an upswing in COVID-19 cases, in part by creating a medical surge unit. All three closures are temporary, Commissioner of Prisons Todd Ishee said Monday, though he also said the possibility of state budget cuts over the next year make that hard to guarantee. The system suspended operations altogether at Randolph Correctional Center. It closed minimum security units at Southern Correctional in Montgomery County and Piedmont Correctional in Rowan County, though other units at there remain open. Southern Correctional has turned some of its regular beds into hospital beds so it can serve as a medical surge unit, Ishee said. Much of the staff from Randolph was diverted to Greensboro so they can monitor inmates admitted to a hospital there, he said. "We need extra staff and extra medical staff," Bull said. "The nursing shortage is serious. ... We need to use them where their professional capabilities are maximized."
NEW CRIMINAL JUSTICE LAWS GO INTO EFFECT STARTING TODAY: The First Step Act allows a judge to deviate from mandated long prison sentences and hefty fines for drug-trafficking convictions if several conditions are met. A defendant in part has to have avoided violent activity, isn't a repeat offender and must admit to a drug addiction problem. Supporters say the change will help people with substance-abuse issues avoid long sentences when treatment is what they need. Drug trafficking offenders sentenced before Tuesday now can also ask a judge to ease punishment retroactively. The Second Chance Act expands the ability of people to get criminal records cleared of lower-level criminal convictions, dismissed charges and "not guilty" verdicts. These and other expunction laws are designed to remove what are deemed as youthful indiscretions that show up in background checks for employment and housing. Someone whose driver's license was revoked only because the person failed to pay court-ordered fines or costs can now apply for a limited driving privilege permit that lasts up to one year. Another new law is designed to speed up the process for the spouses of military service members who've located to North Carolina to obtain occupational licenses.
SENATE COALITION PUSHES PARED-DOWN STIMULUS PACKAGE: A bipartisan group of senators is expected to unveil an approximately $908 billion stimulus proposal on Tuesday, aiming to break a months-long partisan impasse over providing emergency federal relief to the U.S. economy, according to four people aware of internal negotiations. Congress has faced increasing pressure to approve additional economic relief since talks between the White House and House Democrats collapsed, first over the summer and then again in the fall ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election. Failure to reach an agreement could have serious consequences for the economy and millions of Americans. A number of critical relief programs are set to expire at the end of the year; 12 million Americans are on pace to lose their jobless benefits, and protections for renters and student borrowers are also set to expire. The plan set to be released by the bipartisan group seeks to reach a middle ground on numerous contentious economic issues. It would provide $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits — a lower amount than the $600 per week sought by Democrats, while still offering substantial relief to tens of millions of jobless Americans — for four more months. The agreement includes $240 billion in funding for state and local governments, a key Democratic priority opposed by most Republicans, as well as a six-month moratorium on some coronavirus-related lawsuits against firms and other entities — a key Republican priority opposed by most Democrats.
TRUMP'S "ELECTION DEFENSE FUND" GRIFT HAS NETTED $170 MILLION SO FAR: The money, much of which was raised in the first week after the election, according to the person, has arrived as Mr. Trump has made false claims about fraud and sought to undermine public confidence in the legitimacy of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory. Instead of slowing down after the election, Mr. Trump’s campaign has ratcheted up its volume of email solicitations for cash, telling supporters that money was needed for an “Election Defense Fund.” In reality, the fine print shows that the first 75 percent of every contribution currently goes to a new political action committee that Mr. Trump set up in mid-November, Save America, which can be used to fund his political activities going forward, including staff and travel. The other 25 percent of each donation is directed to the Republican National Committee. A donor has to give $5,000 to Mr. Trump’s new PAC before any funds go to his recount account. In October, Mr. Trump’s campaign began automatically checking a box on its website so that more donors would make additional, weekly donations from their accounts through Dec. 14 — the day the Electoral College will vote — to create a postelection revenue stream. Donors can opt out with an extra click, but critics called the tactic misleading. Rob Flaherty, who served as Mr. Biden’s digital director, said on Twitter that the huge sums raised by Mr. Trump since the election were “plain and simple grift.” On Monday, Arizona and Wisconsin, two key battlegrounds that Mr. Biden flipped this year, certified their election results, formalizing Mr. Biden’s victory as Mr. Trump and his allies have continued to complain without evidence of fraud.