Wednesday News: Good riddance


RENEWABLE ENERGY OPPONENT BILL COOK SET TO RETIRE AFTER NEW MAPS PUSH HIM OUT: Redistricting claimed its first victim. Republican state Sen. Bill Cook, drawn into a Democratic-leaning district in a new election map, announced Tuesday that he won’t run for reelection. Cook, who lives in Beaufort County, argued against the configuration of the district this week. It’s an area Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won with 53 percent of the vote over Republican Donald Trump, who took 45 percent. The new district includes incumbent Democratic Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, who lives in Northampton County. Cook vigorously opposed solar farms, saying they permanently ruined farmland. Solar technology experts say such concerns are unfounded.

LAWSUIT OVER GERRYMANDERING OF CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS MOVES FORWARD: A federal lawsuit challenging North Carolina's congressional districts will move forward, a panel of federal judges decided Tuesday, instead of being put on hold while the U.S. Supreme Court tackles issues relevant to the case. Common Cause v. Rucho is one of several lawsuits in North Carolina that have targeted election maps drawn by the General Assembly's Republican majority. But instead of alleging that voters' race was used to draw unconstitutional maps, plaintiffs in this case argue that the congressional map redrawn last year is overly partisan, amounting to a partisan gerrymander instead of a racial one. Partisan gerrymanders have been accepted in the past; racial ones have not. But that may change. A case out of Wisconsin may set new precedents on partisan gerrymanders, and the Supreme Court is slated to hear that case in early October.

NC'S VIRTUAL CHARTER SCHOOLS LOSE A THIRD OF THEIR STUDENTS EACH YEAR: Their first year, the schools enrolled nearly 3,900 students combined. By the end of the year, more than 1,200 students – more than 30 percent – left to seek education elsewhere, prompting one State Board of Education member to warn, "We need to monitor this closely." This past year, the schools enrolled more than 4,400 students and lost nearly 1,200, or about 27 percent. WRAL News filed public records requests with Connections Academy, Virtual Academy and the state Office of Charter Schools to find out specific reasons students and families have given for leaving the two virtual charter schools. The records revealed more than 100 responses, ranging from families who were frustrated or unhappy with the schools to those who enjoyed the online environment but left for personal reasons.

CONGRESS GRAPPLING WITH FEMA-SUBSIDIZED FLOOD INSURANCE PROGRAM TO MEET DEADLINE: Rubio and other coastal-state politicians are pushing to lower flood insurance premium increases to a maximum of 10 percent per year, a move meant to help their coastal constituents. Currently increases are limited to 18 to 25 percent, depending on the property. But experts say meaningful flood insurance reform will involve moving government-subsidized rates set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to rates that reflect the actual cost of insurance. That means higher costs for Floridians living in flood-prone areas. “It offers rates that are really below risk-based rates,” said Laura Lightbody, the project director for flood preparedness with the Pew Charitable Trusts. Lightbody said it will be a “missed opportunity” if Congress simply extends the flood insurance program and keeps rates the same instead of overhauling it.

TRUMP EMBRACES FAILED "TRICKLE-DOWN ECONOMICS" TO PUSH MORE TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHY: President Donald Trump will kick off his lobbying effort for a tax overhaul at an event with a Midwestern manufacturing backdrop and some economic tough talk. The one thing missing? A detailed proposal. Instead, in Springfield, Missouri, Wednesday, Trump will give remarks that the White House said will focus on his “vision” for spurring job creation and economic growth by cutting rates and revising the tax code. Details will come later, officials said, when lawmakers work them out. A key challenge is to frame a tax plan that could include cuts for corporations and top earners as a boon for the middle class. Officials suggested Trump would argue that cutting business taxes will benefit American companies and workers. The remarks were drafted by Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller with the speechwriting team, under Trump’s guidance, the White House said.