Tuesday News: Gerrymandering on trial, again


STATE-LEVEL PARTISAN REDISTRICTING LAWSUIT MOVES FORWARD: A lawsuit challenging North Carolina's legislative districts for having excessively political boundaries is going to trial, just days after the U.S. Supreme Court declared it has no authority to rule on partisan gerrymandering claims. What's different about the case in Raleigh is that it's getting heard in state court, and the claims are based on alleged violations of the North Carolina Constitution, not the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court's majority opinion last week involving North Carolina's congressional map focused only on federal courts. The state lawsuit challenging state House and Senate districts is scheduled to go to trial July 15. A big issue during Tuesday's pretrial hearing will be whether a Republican consultant's private files will be allowed as evidence.

LEGISLATING VIA BUDGET: "IN GOD WE TRUST" NOW A LICENSE PLATE OPTION: Former Rep. Bert Jones introduced a bill last year to make In God We Trust an option for everyone at no extra charge. Jones, a Republican from Reidsville who did not seek re-election last year, said at the time that many North Carolinians had seen the motto on other state license plates and would like it on theirs as well. Jones’ bill did not go far, but his language establishing the new plates was included in the state budget approved in June 2018. Another bill introduced by Jones last year would have required that In God We Trust and To Be Rather Than to Seem be posted in a prominent place in all North Carolina public schools. It passed the House, but did not make it out of a Senate committee. The American Civil Liberties Union spoke out against the schools bill, saying it risked making some students feel less welcome. But the ACLU has stopped short of opposing the optional In God We Trust license plate.

BILL TO ENHANCE SECURITY ON ABSENTEE BALLOTS IN NC SENATE COMMITTEE: Voters would have to request absentee ballots with a personal letter, and the names of ballot requesters would be confidential until Election Day under an elections security bill moving at the statehouse. The measure is an answer to last year's 9th Congressional District fiasco and the ballot harvesting operation that led to a do-over election that's still underway in North Carolina. The bill also adds another Saturday to early voting, permanently returning one of the state's more popular early voting days. Senate Bill 683 ups the punishment for several types of ballot fraud, and it includes a number of recommendations that the State Board of Elections made after its deep dive into the 9th District controversy. But other state board recommendations were left on the cutting room floor, including one to cover the postage on absentee ballots, making it a little easier to vote and potentially deterring door-to-door operations that promise to mail a person's ballot for them.

FACEBOOK POSTS BY BORDER PATROL AGENTS EXPOSE RACISM, SEXISM AMONG THE RANKS: The sexist posts published by ProPublica came in response to Monday’s visit by members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, including Democrats Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Veronica Escobar of Texas, who toured a Border Patrol facility near El Paso, where attorneys said they had found migrant children living in fetid, filthy conditions. Some of the Facebook posts were graphic, doctored images of Ocasio-Cortez; including one that shows a smiling President Donald Trump forcing her head toward his crotch. Other comments refer to Ocasio-Cortez and Escobar as “hoes,” and one member encouraged agents to throw a “burrito at these bitches.” The lawyers’ report about the poor conditions at the facility in Clint came as the Trump administration has been managing a massive influx of Central American migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border that has overwhelmed facilities. Ocasio-Cortez raised hackles last month when she tweeted: “This administration has established concentration camps on the southern border of the United States for immigrants, where they are being brutalized with dehumanizing conditions and dying.”

TRUMP'S CHOICE TO LEAD FAA TRIED TO RUIN CAREER OF DELTA PILOT WHO FILED SAFETY COMPLAINTS: Senate Democrats are concerned about Mr. Dickson’s role in a case involving the Delta pilot Karlene Petitt, which was first reported by CNN. In 2016, Ms. Petitt presented Mr. Dickson and other executives with a report that she said documented unsafe conditions, including inadequate training and overworked pilots. Instead of taking her concerns seriously, Ms. Petitt said that the company retaliated against her. In a complaint to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Ms. Petitt alleged that soon after she raised her safety concerns, she was interviewed by a Delta investigator. Based on feedback from that investigator, Delta decided to have Ms. Petitt examined by a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist diagnosed a bipolar disorder, leading her to be banned from flying for more than a year. Two subsequent evaluations by other psychiatrists reversed that diagnosis, and Ms. Petitt was cleared to fly again. The F.A.A. conducted an investigation of Ms. Petitt’s safety complaints and substantiated some violations by Delta. Ms. Petitt is seeking damages in excess of $1 million, and her claim is pending before an administrative law judge at the Labor Department.