JUDGE WARNS LEGISLATURE TO PROPERLY FUND NC SCHOOLS: A state judge is warning that he may force lawmakers to act if they don’t begin funding a multi-billion dollar plan to provide every North Carolina student with a sound basic education. This week, state Superior Court Judge David Lee signed a court order approving a plan from the State Board of Education and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration that calls for at least $5.6 billion in new education funding through 2028. Lee said in the order that “time is of the essence” because so many children aren’t getting what they need educationally. “If the State fails to implement the actions described in the Comprehensive Remedial Plan … ’it will then be the duty of this Court to enter a judgment granting declaratory relief and such other relief as needed to correct the wrong,’” Lee wrote in the order. In a January 2020 court order, Lee said the state is further behind than it was in the 1990s in terms of providing students with a sound basic education.
GOVERNOR OFFERS 4 $1 MILLION CASH PRIZES FOR GETTING VACCINATED: To boost the number of North Carolinians getting vaccinated against coronavirus, Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday that the state will provide four $1 million prizes this summer to any adult who's gotten a vaccine shot. The Your Shot at $1 Million Summer Cash Drawing runs June 23 to Aug. 4. A drawing for a $1 million prize will be held every other Wednesday during that period, and anyone who's gotten at least one dose of vaccine since last December is automatically eligible. People vaccinated on or after Thursday will have two chances at each prize. The state also will hold four drawings for $125,000 college scholarships for youths ages 12 to 17 who have gotten at least one shot. As of Thursday, 54 percent of adults in the state have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, according to state Department of Health and Human Services data, compared with nearly 64 percent nationwide.
DOWN SYNDROME ANTI-ABORTION BILL NOW AWAITS VETO BY GOVERNOR: North Carolina’s Republican-majority legislature passed a proposal to ban race and Down syndrome-selective abortions Thursday, saying the matter is a civil rights and eugenics issue. The bill now goes to Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, who is likely to veto it. A federal appeals court recently upheld a similar law in Ohio, but numerous other courts across the country have blocked similar bans. North Carolina already bans doctors from providing abortions if the parent is seeking one because of the fetus’s sex, but the bill would expand that to include race and disability and newly require physicians and abortion providers to collect data about the procedure and send it to the state. House Bill 453 passed the Senate on Thursday on a vote of 27 to 20. Conservative lawmakers have moved to advance the legislation despite its likely demise when it reaches Cooper’s desk, likely in part because it helps Republicans score political points among its party’s base ahead of the 2022 election.
WHITE FARMERS SUE TO BLOCK LOAN FORGIVENESS FOR BLACK FARMERS: In the months since Congress included around $4 billion in the latest stimulus bill to forgive loans for Black and other minority farmers, thousands of them have been pushing to finally see the money. The Department of Agriculture promised to start paying for loans this month. But now, that relief is again on hold thanks to a lawsuit brought by a conservative group on behalf of White farmers, who argue the program is unconstitutional because it discriminates against them. On Thursday, a federal judge in Wisconsin sided with the plaintiffs and issued a temporary restraining order on the program. “The Court recognized that the federal government’s plan to condition and allocate benefits on the basis of race raises grave constitutional concerns and threatens our clients with irreparable harm,” Rick Esenberg, president and general counsel with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, which filed the lawsuit, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The assistance program, which was passed by the Senate in March as part of the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion stimulus relief package, sought to correct long-standing disadvantages faced by Black, Latino, and other minority farmers in getting loans from banks and the government. As covid-19 disproportionately affected communities of color, those groups also had a more difficult time accessing relief programs due to systemic racism and other issues, the Biden administration argued. “Over the last 100 years, policies were implemented that specifically twisted in a way that disadvantaged socially disadvantaged producers,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said. “There’s no better example of that than the covid relief efforts. Billions of dollars went to White farmers, because the system is structured in a way that gives them significant advantages.”
OREGON REPUBLICAN REMOVED FROM OFFICE FOR HELPING INSURRECTIONISTS INVADE STATE HOUSE: Lawmakers in Oregon ejected one of their colleagues from office for the first time in state history late Thursday night, voting 59 to 1 to oust Representative Mike Nearman for his role in helping a far-right crowd breach the State Capitol in December. Mr. Nearman, who was the only no vote, had faced rising pressure from his Republican colleagues to resign from office this week, days after newly surfaced video showed him apparently coaching people on how they might get inside the closed Capitol. Previous security footage had showed how Mr. Nearman exited the building where protesters had gathered, allowing them inside and setting off a confrontation with law enforcement officers. Mr. Nearman, who faces misdemeanor charges for his actions, said on Thursday that legislative leaders should have never excluded the public from the Capitol — a decision that was a coronavirus precaution. But Democrats said Mr. Nearman had shown a complete disregard for the rule of law and the principles of democracy. The case had striking similarities to the U.S. Capitol siege that unfolded a couple of weeks later. Although the crowd in Salem was smaller, it was filled with Trump supporters waving flags, far-right agitators wearing body armor, and people chanting for punishment: “Arrest Kate Brown,” they shouted, referring to Oregon’s Democratic governor. But while Republicans in Congress have resisted major actions in the Capitol siege — recently rejecting a plan for an independent commission — G.O.P. lawmakers in Oregon coalesced in recent days around the idea that Mr. Nearman needed to go. Each of his colleagues joined in a letter this week calling for his resignation.