Saturday News: Love & Treason?

RANDOLPH COUNTY MAN, TEXAS WOMAN IN CUSTODY FOR CAPITOL BREACH: Bennett was a QAnon devotee from small-town North Carolina, according to court records. She was a musician, lifestyle coach and essential oils guru from San Antonio. In a series of videos and photographs posted real-time from the day, the couple strolled through the Capitol and posed inside the Senate chambers. Williams mugged for the camera both inside the iconic building and outside on its grounds. “TODAY WAS A REVOLUTIONARY MESSAGE,” Bennett roared in an all-caps Facebook mini-manifesto posted that day. “WE WON’T GO AWAY. WE WILL FIND VICTORY.” For now, both must find lawyers. Bennett remained in custody Friday at the Mecklenburg County Jail, where he awaits transfer to the federal courts of Washington, which will prosecute his case. He joins some 420 others facing trial in connection with the Capitol siege. At least 12 are from North Carolina.

NC UTILITIES COMMISSION APPROVES SMALLER RATE INCREASES FOR DUKE ENERGY: The two orders approved “partial rate increases” for both utilities after they had requested increases in 2019. Duke Energy Progress wanted a 12.3% rate increase, while Duke Energy Carolinas sought a 9.2% increase, according to commission news releases. Both utilities were allowed to issue temporary rates in 2020. The final rates haven't yet been been finalized, but the commission said they will be “somewhat higher” than the temporary rates. The orders also approved a settlement announced in January by Duke Energy, Attorney General Josh Stein and a conservation group over how coal ash clean-up costs would be divvied up. Charlotte-based Duke Energy is working on closing all 31 of its coal ash pits or ponds in the state. The settlement would shift an estimated $1.1 billion in expenses away from customers over the next decade and to Duke Energy and its shareholders. As part of the orders, Duke Energy said its shareholders also will contribute $11 million over two years toward efforts to assist low-income customers with their bills and make their residences more energy- and cost-efficient.

PROTESTERS TAKE TO THE STREETS IN RALEIGH AND DURHAM ONCE AGAIN: Chants of “Black Lives Matter” were heard again in downtown Raleigh and Durham on Friday evening, as people condemned police shootings of young men of color around the country. The gatherings were small compared to the crowds that coursed through Durham and Raleigh last May after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. Those protests continued well into the summer and kept many downtown Raleigh businesses boarded up against a potential repeat of vandalism and looting that occurred in late May. Friday’s protests began peacefully. A few dozen came together outside the Executive Mansion in Raleigh, before marching through the streets of downtown. The protests were prompted in part by two recent cases of white police officers fatally shooting young men of color: 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago and 20-year-old Daunte Wright in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. Durham marchers also called attention to the death of Jaida Peterson, a Black transgender woman who was found dead in a Charlotte hotel room April 4.

OPPOSITION MOUNTS TO ZONING BILLS PERKING IN NC GENERAL ASSEMBLY: Across North Carolina, a zoning debate is set to unfold over the coming weeks and months. Discussions have already featured plenty of technical jargon about density, parcel standards, and traffic assessments, but they've also stirred up broader questions about wealth, inclusion, urban sprawl, and neighborhood control. No matter its outcome, the fight over middle housing will likely be intense; as Asheville-area realtor Dusty Allison put it: “Zoning is always a very sensitive topic.” The middle housing bills have drawn support from both sides of the aisle. Several Republicans and Democrats joined Senator Edwards in sponsoring the legislation, including Sen. Valerie Foushee (D-Orange), who chairs the Senate Democratic Caucus, and Rep. Billy Richardson (D-Cumberland). If the middle housing bills were to become law, developers would no longer need special permission from local governments to build townhouses, duplexes, triplexes or quadplexes in single-family zones. The North Carolina League of Municipalities, which represents more than 500 towns, has lambasted the legislation as a disingenuous overreach of state government. “We think it’s basically an attempt to undermine local control and local decision-making in the guise of an affordable housing bill,” said Scott Mooneyham, NCLM’s director of political communication and coordination. In a scathing public statement on April 5, the Boone Town Council condemned House Bill 401 and Senate Bill 349 for hiding “behind the term ‘affordable housing’” while not actually requiring middle housing units be sold at affordable prices. Last week, the High Point City Council issued a similar rebuke, deeming the legislation "a radical and comprehensive attack on local land-use decisions."

WHITE SUPREMACY-LACED "ANGLO-SAXON CAUCUS" FORMED BY GOP EXTREMISTS IN THE U.S. HOUSE: Far-right Republicans in Congress are forming an “America First Caucus” that would promote nativist policies, according to materials outlining the group’s goals first obtained by Punchbowl News. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) are reportedly behind it, with Reps. Barry Moore (R-Ala.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) signed on as early members. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who faces federal and House Ethics Committee investigations over allegations of sexual misconduct and illicit drug use, tweeted that he was joining Greene in the caucus. “We will end wars, stop illegal immigration & promote trade that is fair to American workers,” said Gaetz, who has denied all allegations against him. In a section on immigration, the document describes the United States as a place with “uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions” and argues that “societal trust and political unity are threatened when foreign citizens are imported en-masse into a country, particularly without institutional support for assimilation and an expansive welfare state to bail them out should they fail to contribute positively to the country.” Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the third-highest-ranking Republican leader in the House, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), one of Trump’s most vocal critics within the GOP, also denounced what the caucus stood for. “Republicans believe in equal opportunity, freedom, and justice for all. We teach our children the values of tolerance, decency and moral courage,” Cheney tweeted. “Racism, nativism, and anti-Semitism are evil. History teaches we all have an obligation to confront & reject such malicious hate.” Kinzinger called for anyone who joined the caucus to be stripped of their committee assignments in Congress. On infrastructure, the caucus calls for the construction of roads, bridges and buildings that reflect “the architectural, engineering and aesthetic value that befits the progeny of European architecture, whereby public infrastructure must be utilitarian as well as stunningly, classically beautiful, befitting a world power and source of freedom.”