BUSINESS LEADERS AND WATCHDOGS OPPOSE DUKE ENERGY'S 5 YEAR RATE PLANS: Lobbyists for large manufacturers, industrial customers and Google spoke against a key section of Senate Bill 559 in committee Wednesday. Walmart, the state's largest private employer and one of its bigger electricity users, issued a statement saying the bill "could lead to unchecked electricity rate increases." "There are better options here," Howard told legislators. "We ask that you slow down." The state's Department of Environmental Quality recently said Duke would have to excavate more coal ash ponds around the state, boosting what would have been a roughly $5.6 billion cleanup plan closer to $10 billion. With those costs and others coming down the pike, "now is not the time to loosen the regulator reins," said Sharon Miller, another lobbyist for large manufacturers.
CLUB FOR GROWTH THROWS ITS WEIGHT INTO ANOTHER 17 CANDIDATE GOP PRIMARY: Republican Celeste Cairns nabbed a key endorsement just weeks before primary election day in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District. The Club for Growth, an influential conservative group that promotes limited government, endorsed Cairns on Wednesday, less than two weeks before the April 30 primary. Cairns is one of 17 Republicans running to replace the late Rep. Walter Jones, who died on Feb. 10. Club for Growth Action, one of the group’s political action committees, helped elevate Ted Budd over a crowded Republican field in 2016 in North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District. Budd won the primary and is now in his second term in the U.S. House. Club for Growth Action spent $500,000 on television ads in 2016 on Budd’s behalf, The Charlotte Observer reported at the time. McClatchy emailed to ask if the group would run ads on Cairns’ behalf but didn’t get a response.
REPUBLICANS TARGET NC'S BUSINESS FRANCHISE TAX IN LATEST TRICKLE-DOWN EFFORT: The measure also includes language meant to help the state collect more than $100 million a year in internet sales taxes, as well as tax break extensions for NASCAR and airlines, both of which enjoy sales tax exemptions that would be extended until 2024 under the bill. Gov. Roy Cooper has come out against the bill, opening another front in what was already expected to be a big fight over the state budget between the Democratic governor and GOP legislative leaders. All told, the state would take in about $200 million less a year if the legislation passes, with most of the impact coming from step-downs in the state's franchise tax, long a target for businesses hoping for reform. A lobbyist for LabCorp, which is based in Burlington, told legislators Wednesday that the company files taxes in more than 500 jurisdictions, and "North Carolina is the most complicated" because of its franchise tax. "We'll bring in more revenue with tax cuts," Tillman said. "That's just an old conservative money principle that we believe in."
MILITARY ACADEMIES BEGIN TO ENFORCE TRUMP'S TRANSGENDER BAN: The elite academies that educate officers for the nation’s armed forces have begun to implement the Trump administration’s ban on transgender service members. The U.S. Naval Academy will ban people who are transgender from attending the school, beginning with the 2020 school year. The Defense Department confirmed that change to the Capital Gazette newspaper on Monday. The school in Annapolis, Maryland, currently accepts transgender students and retains midshipmen who transition to another gender. The administration’s new policy took effect last week, stripping transgender troops of rights to serve openly and denying servicemen and women medical care if they choose to transition to another gender. The Obama administration had lifted restrictions on transgender service members in 2016, allowing them to serve openly, and covered gender affirmation surgery. The U.S. Coast Guard has also implemented the new policy, as of April 12, the agency states on its website.
300 ARRESTED SO FAR IN MASSIVE LONDON CLIMATE CHANGE DEMONSTRATION: Climate activists glued themselves to the top of a London commuter train, blocked a major bridge at rush hour by staging a group yoga class and occupied four major London landmarks for a third day on Wednesday as part of a global civil disobedience campaign that demands government action on climate change. Major London road junctions and tourist sites, including Marble Arch, Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge, have been at a standstill since Monday, as hundreds of environmental activists have staged events, formed roadblocks and camped out in colorful tents in scenes reminiscent of the Occupy movement of the past. Further confrontations were expected after the Metropolitan Police announced their intention to limit the protests only to the area around Marble Arch, and began working to remove protesters from their encampments at Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge. “We will not leave until our concerns are addressed,” said Cressida Thomas, a student from Bristol, after the police warned her to move her tent in Oxford Circus. “That could take weeks or months. The more of us they arrest the better. It will only bring more attention to the cause.’’