LAWSUIT FILED OVER LEGISLATIVE PROTECTIONS OF HOG FARMS: After North Carolina’s pork industry began facing — and then losing — high-dollar lawsuits related to pollution and foul odors, state lawmakers passed new legal protections for the companies. But on Wednesday, several environmental and social-justice groups filed a lawsuit over those new legal changes, seeking to have them overturned. “These laws not only violate the state constitution, but also have disparate impacts on low-wealth and non-white North Carolinians, who disproportionally live where North Carolina has permitted industrial hog facilities to develop and operate,” the lawsuit says. Specifically, the lawsuit is asking the state courts to overturn the 2017 farm bill and part of the 2018 farm bill. They added new legal protections for the agricultural industry by restricting the ability of people who live near farms to sue over pollution, odor and other problems using “nuisance” laws.
ICE DETAINER BILL COULD ALSO BE USED TO REMOVE SHERIFFS: "House Bill 370 is not about protecting our communities. It's not about making our communities safe. House Bill 370 is clearly about attacking a select group of sheriffs," McFadden said at a news conference. The bill also would allow a judge to remove any law enforcement officer or sheriff from office for failing to cooperate with immigration officials. Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, called the removal provision "repugnant." "They're trying to intimidate sheriffs to comply with these [immigration] laws," McKissick said. "On a multitude of levels, this bill should not become law, and if it does become law, I hope that it will be challenged immediately." Some courts have said ICE detainers, which aren't approved by any judge, violate the Constitution. "They're on a fast track to remove us," McFadden said, calling the removal provision "unprecedented" for an elected official. "House Bill 370 is now mixing politics with our policies."
NC HOUSE COMMITTEE REDUCES DUKE ENERGY RATE BILL FROM FIVE YEARS TO THREE: A Senate measure sought by Duke Energy Corp. that could let utilities bypass lengthy regulatory battles over North Carolina consumer electricity prices by receiving multi-year rate plans and profit ranges has been tweaked in the House. Duke Energy wants the option approved Wednesday by the House Finance Committee because it says it will reduce legal costs of going before the state Utilities Commission and provide customer predictability. The commission wouldn’t have to issue multi-year rulings unless it determines the result is fair and benefits the public. The House made changes to reduce those periods from five years to three. The bill cleared the committee 16-12. Democrats opposing the measure said more study was needed and agreed with outside groups arguing it could harm consumers and benefit Duke Energy’s coffers.
FORMER TRUMP PARTNER FELIX SATER WILL TESTIFY BEFORE HOUSE COMMITTEE TOMORROW: Felix Sater, a Russian-born real estate developer, is set to testify Friday before the House Intelligence Committee about his experience working on a proposed Trump tower project in Moscow during the 2016 election, according to Sater and other people familiar with his scheduled appearance. The closed-door interview is part of an inquiry by the House panel into President Trump’s long-standing interest in expanding his brand to Moscow, a topic that Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the committee, has said he intends to explore further. “This was a project that the president was pursuing during the presidential campaign” that “may have been the most lucrative deal of his life,” Schiff said Wednesday of Trump’s efforts to develop a project in Russia, which never advanced beyond the early stages. Along with Sater, the House Intelligence Committee is seeking the testimony of another businessman who was part of discussions about a Trump tower in Russia: Giorgi Rtskhiladze, a native of Georgia who is now a U.S. citizen and briefly expressed interest in a Trump Moscow development during a 2015 email exchange with Cohen.
FLORIDA CITY PAYS OFF HACKERS AFTER RANSOMWARE ATTACK: The leaders of Riviera Beach, Fla., looking weary, met quietly this week for an extraordinary vote to pay nearly $600,000 in ransom to hackers who paralyzed the city’s computer systems. Riviera Beach, a small city of about 35,000 people just north of West Palm Beach, became the latest government to be crippled by ransomware attacks that have successfully extorted municipalities and forced them to dig into public coffers to restore their networks. A similar breach recently cost Baltimore $18 million to repair damages. The relatively large ransom demanded from Riviera Beach suggests hackers have become emboldened by their increasingly sophisticated ability to target government agencies, said Jason Rebholz, who tracks ransomware payments and has helped victims of similar attacks. “The complexity and severity of these ransomware attacks just continues to increase,” said Mr. Rebholz, a principal for Moxfive, a technology advisory firm. “The sophistication of these threat actors is increasing faster than many organizations and cities are able to keep pace with.”