REPUBLICANS PUSH VOTER SUPPRESSION BILLS IN LEGISLATURE: Senate Bills 326, 724 and 725 target absentee voting access and private election donations. The bills have similar provisions to other laws being introduced in legislatures of at least 48 states. Senate Bill 326 would shorten the deadline for counties to receive valid mail-in absentee ballots. The current law states that absentee ballots can be received up to 5 p.m. three days after an election, if the ballots are postmarked on or before the day of an election. Under SB 326, absentee ballots would have to be received by 5 p.m. on election day to be counted. “I think we got 14,500 ballots received and counted after election night,” Newton noted in an interview with WITN News. “That breeds suspicion in the mind of some North Carolinians. What could go wrong with 14,500 votes coming in after election night?” Literally everybody has waited 4-5 days (if not more) to receive something important in the mail. The only thing going through their minds is what Republicans put there, so stop it.
ERICA SMITH SAYS HER MODERATE DEM OPPONENTS CAN'T WIN: Smith, who defines herself as “the only true progressive” of the three leading Democratic primary candidates, is a quarter of the way through a 100-county tour of North Carolina. Her campaign acknowledges she has a hill to climb to win the Democratic primary scheduled for March 8. Recent fundraising reports show that Smith is lagging behind state Sen. Jeff Jackson and former North Carolina Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who have both raised well over $1 million for their campaigns. Smith has reported raising about $220,000, plus an additional $85,000 in loans. Ganapathy said Smith’s team is confident they could beat a Republican in the general election. Frontrunners in the Republican contest are former Gov. Pat McCrory, U.S. Rep. Ted Budd and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker. Getting there will be Smith’s first hurdle. She’s counting on the idea that voters are fed up with moderate, middle-of-the-road politics, particularly after COVID-19 shuttered many businesses and left people worried for their health — financially and physically. During a stop on Sunday in Gastonia, she told her audience that her granddad gave her some advice: “The only thing in the middle of the road is roadkill.”
FAR-REACHING DUKE ENERGY BILL MOVES FORWARD, DESPITE QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS: Lawmakers are struggling to understand House Bill 951, a lengthy, complex bill negotiated over months. The bill delivers a number of regulatory changes that Duke Energy, the state's largest power provider by far, has wanted for years. It would also dial back – years earlier than planned – on coal-burning plants in North Carolina, though environmentalists complain it relies too heavily on natural gas to do so. The measure also boosts solar energy in the state, though. And it would set the stage for Duke to renew licenses on existing nuclear power plants while seeking approval for a new one. A number of manufacturing concerns, which are some of the state's largest electricity customers, are against the bill, saying it would drive up costs and potentially drive the textile industry out of North Carolina as a result. Advocates for low-income families have sounded the alarm as well over residential rate increases, and they fear the regulatory changes that House leadership has backed in this bill would let Duke boost its profits well above what the North Carolina Utilities Commission has allowed in the past.
CRAZY TEXAS ABORTION LAW IS CHALLENGED IN LAWSUIT: Abortion rights advocates and providers filed a federal lawsuit in Texas on Tuesday seeking to block a new state law empowering individuals to sue anyone who helps a woman get an abortion, including those who provide financial assistance or drive a patient to a clinic. A dozen states have passed laws banning abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy. But the Texas law, set to take effect in September, goes further by incentivizing private citizens to help enforce the ban — awarding them at least $10,000 if their court challenges are successful. Even religious leaders who counsel a pregnant woman considering an abortion could be liable, according to the lawsuit filed in Austin by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of several other groups. But abortion providers say the law, known as S.B. 8, is unconstitutional and will subject them to endless lawsuits, shut down clinics and reduce services — and they say it will isolate abortion patients by undermining support networks for pregnant women. “The state has put a bounty on the head of any person or entity who so much as gives a patient money for an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, before most people know they are pregnant,” Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “Worse, it will intimidate loved ones from providing support for fear of being sued.”
UNCLE JOE IS TIRED OF TRUMP'S BULLSHIT: President Biden used the birthplace of American democracy to offer an evisceration of the lie, spread by his predecessor, Donald J. Trump, that voter fraud cost him the 2020 election. “No other election has ever been held under such scrutiny, such high standards,” Mr. Biden said in Philadelphia. “The big lie is just that: A big lie.” Mr. Biden’s speech was intended to reassure Democrats who say he has not done enough to deliver on a promise to make voting rights a central theme of his presidency. His remarks came as Democrats see a worrying increase in efforts by Republican-led state legislatures to restrict voting, along with court rulings that would make it harder to fight back against encroachments on voting rights. A Supreme Court ruling this month weakened the one enforcement clause of the Voting Rights Act that remained after the court invalidated its major provision in 2013. Mr. Biden said a year ago that strengthening the act would be one of his first priorities upon taking office. “As soon as Congress passes the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, I will sign it and let the whole world see it,” he added, referring to two Democratic bills seeking to expand voting rights. But his rallying cry only underscored the impossibility of the task. Neither bill currently has a path to adoption by Congress amid unified Republican opposition. Republicans filibustered the broad elections overhaul known as the For the People Act last month, and are expected to do the same if Democrats try to bring up the other measure, named for a former congressman and civil rights icon, which would restore parts of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013.