Thursday News: Say what?


GOP BUDGET GIVES $1.5 MILLION TO DAN FOREST TO STUDY DRONES: Half of the $1.5 million would go toward studying the potential for drones and eVTOL aircraft use in North Carolina. The lieutenant governor’s office is instructed to interview “leaders in aviation, telecommunications, education, health care, transportation, fuel technologies, emergency management, military, agriculture, planning, and venture capital to determine opportunities” for those aircraft systems. The other half of the money is to “organize and convene a summit.” But the money may be used to hire staff, consultants and vendors to conduct the study. An interim report on the study would be due to a legislative committee by next April and more complete research would be due to the eVTOL summit by October 2020. The demand to operate eVTOL vehicles in North Carolina is unclear.

FORMER LEGISLATOR JUSTIN BURR GETS $50,000 RAISE IN GOP BUDGET: A few lines in the $24 billion state budget moving through the General Assembly this week would give a former lawmaker a $52,000 raise. Former Rep. Justin Burr lost his re-election bid last year in a Republican primary. He started as executive director of the state's Outdoor Heritage Advisory Council earlier this year after some back and forth in 2018 over just what the salary would be for a position the legislature created in 2017. An effort to boost that salary eventually fell out of last year's budget, and Burr makes about $62,000 a year. The proposed budget that won initial approval in both the House and the Senate on Wednesday would raise that salary to $113,057 and exempt the position from some of the state's human resources rules. Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, noticed the salary increase in the hundreds of budget pages released Tuesday and called it out on Twitter and on the House floor, saying it's "highly irregular." "It's offensive in light of all of the much more pressing needs our state faces," Harrison said.

NC REPUBLICANS PUSH BILL THAT WOULD ALLOW CITIZENS TO SUE SANCTUARY CITIES: The North Carolina House wants to give individuals the ability to sue North Carolina local governments that enact policies blocking enforcement of federal immigration laws or preventing their officers from gathering information about someone's immigration status. State law already prohibits "sanctuary" policies, but the measure approved Wednesday by the chamber goes further by allowing anyone to file a lawsuit to halt such a policy should a city or county initiate one. The bill's chief sponsor is Republican Rep. George Cleveland of Onslow County. A previous version of his bill would have directed the Attorney General to investigate claims that such policies exist and suspend the distribution of revenues to local government found to be in violation. The latest edition advanced to the Senate following a largely party-line vote of 65-52.

1ST DEMOCRATIC DEBATE FOCUSES ON POLICY, BUT TRUMP JABS WERE INEVITABLE: Candidates focused mostly on policy but also spent time attacking Trump for his governing style and his record since taking office in 2017. Trump’s erratic approach to foreign policy came in for blistering attacks. “I don’t think we should conduct foreign policy in our bathrobe at 5 in the morning,” Klobuchar said. “This president and his chicken hawk Cabinet have led us to the brink of war with Iran,” Gabbard said. “The biggest threat to the security of the United States is Donald Trump,” Inslee said to applause. Ryan was one of several candidates who blamed Trump for conditions at the border, where migrants from Central America have been traveling in family groups, overwhelming U.S. facilities meant to house adults. Lawyers visiting some of the facilities have said that children in the facilities were living in squalor without access to basic hygiene items. On Wednesday, with Biden not on the stage, Trump appeared less interested in the actual substance of the debate. “BORING!” he tweeted as the candidates began discussing the deaths of a father and daughter at the border.

IN A NOW SIGNATURE MOVE, TRUMP ATTACKS ALLIES RIGHT BEFORE MEETING WITH THEM: In the hours before and after leaving for an international summit meeting, Mr. Trump assailed Japan, Germany and India. He complained that under existing treaty provisions, if the United States were attacked, Japan would only “watch it on a Sony television.” He called Germany a security freeloader and chastised India for raising tariffs on American goods. The choice of targets seemed directly tied to the president’s schedule of meetings on Friday. He is set to sit down with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, the host of the annual Group of 20 gathering in Osaka, and then jointly with Mr. Abe and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India. Then he will meet separately with Mr. Modi. After that, he is scheduled to sit down with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. By contrast, Mr. Trump said nothing critical about the fourth leader on his diplomatic schedule for Friday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, whose government waged a systematic campaign to interfere in American elections in 2016 and has arrested two Americans on what critics consider false charges.



A campaign donation, by any other name

Giving Forest $1.5 million to travel all over the place and meet with a variety of industries is nothing less than a fraudulent misuse of taxpayer dollars to promote a rival of Governor Cooper.

The Ethics Commission (or whatever it's called now) needs to be all over this nonsense, with the quickness.

Hey Steve,

I'm not going to get back into the weeds of NC politics at the moment but I just wanted to say this. You're continuing to do one heck of a job compared to some of the other news outlets in NC.

Thank you!

It's (very) hard to winnow down the number and content of stories to cover on a daily basis, and it always feels like I've left something out that really needed exposure. Making this as good a time as any to remind everybody:

This is a community-driven website. Every member has the capability of publishing diaries, and a couple of years ago, we decided to have them all show up on the front page instead of them having to be "promoted" by an administrator. I know some people are more computer-savvy than others, but our platform is one of the easier ones to navigate. Even so, the first few times might be a challenge, and if anybody needs some help, just shoot us a private message or e-mail, and we'll be glad to walk you through it.