Tuesday News: Better start drawing...


NC'S CONGRESSIONAL MAPS THROWN OUT BY 3-JUDGE PANEL: The legislature must now redraw the state’s 13 U.S. House districts. The judge — two Democrats and one Republican from different parts of North Carolina — wrote that the maps show signs of “extreme partisan gerrymandering” which “is contrary to the fundamental right of North Carolina citizens to have elections conducted freely and honestly to ascertain, fairly and truthfully, the will of the people.” Monday’s ruling, a preliminary injunction, said the state may not hold any elections for Congress using the current maps passed in 2016. Those maps replaced a different set of maps from 2011, also drawn by the Republican-led legislature, which were struck down as unconstitutional racial gerrymandering. The judges ruled that if there aren’t new maps in time for the primary elections on March 3 then they could delay all or some of the primaries until later in 2020.

BERGER BEGINS DAILY SCHEDULING OF VETO OVERRIDE VOTE (MUSICAL CHAIRS, ANYONE?): Senate leaders Monday night postponed a vote on whether to override the governor's veto of their spending plan. The vote is now scheduled for Tuesday, but Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said it may not happen this week after all. Berger said after Monday's session, which all 50 senators attended, that the measure was pulled because Republicans didn't have the votes needed to override. That signals Democrats have been true to their promise to hang together and deny the majority party the one extra voted needed to override Gov. Roy Cooper's veto. "So we'll move it to tomorrow and see what happens then," Berger, R-Rockingham, said late Monday. "Maybe tomorrow, maybe the next day, we'll see. ... Definitely maybe by Thursday." The plan is to adjourn this session, at least for a while, Thursday. Before then, Berger said he expects the legislature to address teacher salaries.

JUDGE ORDERS CHATHAM COUNTY TO HALT REMOVAL OF CONFEDERATE STATUE: A judge on Monday ordered Chatham County to temporarily halt its plan to remove a Confederate statue from the grounds of the historic courthouse in Pittsboro. The Winnie Davis Chapter of the N.C. United Daughters of the Confederacy and Chatham County residents Barbara Pugh, Gene Brooks and Thomas Clegg obtained the court order just days before a deadline to move the statue was set to expire. Judge Charles M. “Casey” Viser also ordered the UDC to post a $6,000 bond by noon Friday to cover the 10-day restraining order, according to the Chatham News and Record. The Chatham County commissioners voted 4-1 in August to give the UDC until Oct. 1 to come up with a plan for the statue and to set a Nov. 1 deadline for the county to take action if the UDC didn’t move it. The county attorney has said the statue belongs to the UDC, which was allowed to erect it under an agreement that can be revoked at any time. The UDC contends the statue was a gift and belongs to the county, making it a protected, public monument under state law.

U.S. HOUSE WILL TAKE ITS FIRST FORMAL VOTE ON IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS: The House will take a vote this week to formalize Democrats’ impeachment inquiry amid President Donald Trump’s criticism that the probe is “illegitimate.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the step is being taken “to eliminate any doubt” about the process as the administration tries to block witnesses and withhold documents. In a letter to colleagues on Monday, Pelosi said the resolution will “affirm the ongoing, existing investigation” and lay out procedures for open hearings and the next steps going forward. She dismissed the White House’s argument that impeachment isn’t happening without a formal vote, saying that “of course, this argument has no merit.” The Constitution doesn’t require a vote to begin impeachment. But Trump and his Republican colleagues have cited the lack of one to say that the probe is not real. Trump used that argument in a lengthy letter to the House earlier this month saying that he wouldn’t cooperate. Many government officials have cooperated with the inquiry despite Trump’s orders. But Pelosi’s letter comes as a national security official defied a House subpoena Monday, escalating the standoff between Congress and the White House over who will testify.

TRUMP IS ABOUT TO BEGIN SENDING U.S. ASYLUM SEEKERS TO GUATEMALA: The Trump administration is preparing to finalize an agreement this week to begin sending asylum seekers from the U.S. border to Guatemala, implementing a deal the two countries reached in July, according to three people with knowledge of the plan. The pact gives the Department of Homeland Security the ability to send asylum seekers to Guatemala if they do not seek protection there while transiting through the country en route to the U.S. border. It could mean that migrants from numerous countries will make the dangerous journey to the United States only to be sent back to Central America upon reaching U.S. territory. Homeland Security officials plan to start sending Hondurans and Salvadorans to Guatemala soon after the implementation of the deal, according to the three people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue. Critics of the accords say it is unrealistic to expect weak Central American governments to safely resettle vulnerable groups when they already struggle with widespread poverty and some of the world’s highest homicide rates.



My favorite part of the gerrymandering ruling...

is that the court invited the plaintiffs to file for summary judgement with arguments on an expedited schedule. The judges cited the "...detailed record of both the partisan intent and the intended partisan effects of the 2016 congressional districts drawn with the aid of Dr. Thomas Hofeller and enacted by the General Assembly.” as reason for both the injunction and the invitation to file for summary judgement. It's clear that they're ready to rule now and are just dotting the i's and crossing the t's in legal terms. We can expect a similar process to what they imposed for the legislative map redraw and a relatively non-partisan outcome for the 2020 maps. Dems might well pick up four or five seats as a result. We might finally have real representation in NC.