Friday News: Serve and protect whom?


POLICE "WHISTLEBLOWER" BILL GETS MIXED REVIEWS: A group that represents police officers, the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association, is pushing the bill with backing from GOP lawmakers. They say it will help stop people in power from retaliating against cops — or any other city government workers — who try to shine a light on corruption or abuse inside government. Democrats and a group that represents city governments, the League of Municipalities, oppose the bill, House Bill 7. They say it’s secretly intended to prevent bad cops or other government workers from ever being fired or even disciplined, since they could just claim to be whistleblowers. “My concern is that bad apples are going to be protected by this bill,” said Leo John, a lobbyist for the League of Municipalities.

APEX POLICE DEPARTMENT HAS A DEEPLY-ENTRENCHED RACISM PROBLEM: Some unidentified officers cited in the study said they felt the Town Council doesn't support police, and one described Floyd as a “drug head” who asked for it and did not die because of the police. Another officer described the Black Lives Matter movement as “an anarchy to create division and overthrow the police.” The Apex Town Council hired Diversity & HR Solutions initially in 2019 to review the culture within Apex’s municipal offices and make recommendations. The council asked the firm to take a similar study of the police department in 2020. “The entrenchment goes deep and will require a multi-pronged approach to change and build a culturally competent and caring APD to serve and protect a diverse community,” the report said. The study didn't provide details of what had been said and which of the department's nearly 100 officers said it. But interim Apex Police Chief Tommy Godwin called the report disturbing. “It's certainly not what we need in this profession and not what we stand for,” said Godwin, who took over the department on Jan. 1. “In a word, it's concerning.”

COOPER ADMINISTRATION AGREES TO EARLY RELEASE OF 3,500 PRISONERS OVER NEXT FEW MONTHS: The state prison system agreed to release at least 3,500 people over the next six months in a lawsuit settlement struck Thursday. At least 1,500 people will get out within 90 days, according to a joint motion filed Thursday in a case filed last year over prison conditions during the coronavirus pandemic. The rest would follow over the following three months. This is in addition to regular releases as people finish their sentences, and the state said it would hit the target through a combination of sentence credits to lower minimum sentences and early releases for non-violent offenders through programs that amount to supervised parole. That includes the "Extended Limits of Confinement" program, which was implemented months into the pandemic. To date, about 1,000 inmates have taken advantage, leaving prison facilities early.

SENATE PARLIAMENTARIAN RULES MINIMUM WAGE MUST BE REMOVED FROM PANDEMIC RELIEF BILL: President Biden’s proposed $15-an-hour minimum-wage increase cannot remain in his coronavirus relief bill as written, the Senate’s parliamentarian said Thursday, imperiling a major Biden campaign promise and top priority for the Democratic Party’s liberal wing. The ruling could be a major setback for liberals hoping to use Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief bill as the vehicle for their long-sought goal of raising the federal minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 an hour. And it could create divisions in the party as some push Democratic leaders for dramatic action to get around the parliamentarian’s ruling. Democrats had been anxiously awaiting the decision, but their next steps are not clear. Liberals are pressuring Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) to challenge the ruling on the Senate floor, although the White House has dismissed that idea. The ruling was made by Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, a nonpartisan official who is little known outside Washington but might command tremendous influence over certain elements of Biden’s agenda. Her ruling pertains only to the Senate, where the legislation will move forward under complex rules that prohibit certain items that don’t have a particular effect on the budget. MacDonough determined that, as written, the minimum-wage increase did not pass that test — an outcome that had been predicted by a number of Democrats, including Biden himself.

FCC WILL GIVE $50 A MONTH TO LOW INCOME HOUSEHOLDS FOR BROADBAND ACCESS: The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday approved an emergency subsidy for low-income households to get high-speed internet, an effort to bridge the digital divide that has cut off many Americans from online communication during the pandemic. The four-member commission unanimously agreed to offer up to $50 a month to low-income households and up to $75 a month to households on Native American land for broadband service. The F.C.C. will also provide a one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer or tablet for eligible homes. The program will use $3.2 billion allocated late last year by Congress as part of its Covid-19 relief bill to bring internet service to American families for distance learning, work and digital health care. “This is a program that will help those at risk of digital disconnection,” Ms. Rosenworcel said in a statement. “It will help those sitting in cars in parking lots just to catch a Wi-Fi signal to go online for work. It will help those lingering outside the library with a laptop just to get a wireless signal for remote learning.” Eligible recipients include families with children on free or reduced lunch programs, Pell grant recipients and individuals who have lost jobs or seen their income fall in the past year. The digital divide has been among the most persistent problems for telecommunications policymakers. More than $8 billion in federal funds are allocated each year to the problem. Much of that is allocated to internet service providers to bring service to rural and other underserved areas. But those people still have to pay for it.