NC REPUBLICANS FACE CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT OVER RETIREE HEALTH PLAN PREMIUMS: More than 200,000 retired state workers might soon receive hundreds or even thousands of dollars, if a class action lawsuit goes in their favor at the North Carolina Supreme Court. The fight started in 2011, when Republican legislators took control of the North Carolina General Assembly and quickly passed a law introducing the premiums, plus other changes. The new retiree premiums started at around $22 a month and have more than doubled since then. The governor at the time, Democrat Bev Perdue, vetoed the bill at first. But after lawmakers compromised by not also eliminating a no-premium option for current state workers, The News & Observer reported, she allowed the changes to become law.
BILL TO ALLOW CONCEALED-CARRY IN CHURCHES THAT HAVE SCHOOLS EMERGES FROM COMMITTEE: Guns are already allowed in houses of worship, provided church, temple, mosque, etc. leadership allow them. But current law forbids guns on school campuses, and religious campuses that have their own private schools qualify as school campuses. Senate Bill 43 would let people carry concealed on those campuses, outside of school hours only. Some pastors, and a number of Republican legislators, have been pushing the change for years. Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a broader gun bill last year that included the change. This year's bill cleared the Senate Judiciary committee with at least some committee Democrats voting against it. There are several steps left before the bill is finalized. A handful of pastors – some well known at the statehouse for lobbying conservative priorities – backed the bill Tuesday in committee testimony. They noted the disparate treatment houses of worship that have schools face compared with those that don't.
KAREN BRINSON BELL WANTS LAWMAKERS TO POSTPONE MUNICIPAL AND PRIMARY ELECTIONS: She noted that 62 of the more than 500 municipalities across the state need the Census data because candidates submit paperwork or voters cast ballots based on their specific ward or district. While it's possible for many of the remaining local governments that do not require districts or wards to go forward without the Census data, Bell called on lawmakers to follow her advice in order to address redistricting and avoid confusing voters. “It is very difficult for voters to understand why one municipality would be having an election, while another is not, especially when they're accustomed to those elections being held at the same time,” Bell said. She noted it's unlikely redistricting would be completed in time for the December filing deadline ahead of the March 2022 primary. Every 10 years, states are tasked with creating new maps for state legislative and congressional races. Because of the delayed Census, Bell is asking leaders to endorse her 2022 recommendations for a May 3 primary, July 12 runoff primary and Nov. 8 general election. “We would propose that the municipal elections coincide with those election dates." The 2022 primaries include bids for U.S. Senate and House, judicial races and state legislative seats.
NUMEROUS WARNINGS WERE IGNORED PRIOR TO JAN 6 INSURRECTION: “If they were finding efforts that this was a coordinated attack, that had been coordinated among numerous states for some time in advance of this, that’s the information that would have been extremely helpful to us,” Sund said, adding, “That type of information could have given us sufficient, advance warning to prep, plan for an attack such as what we saw.” But Tuesday’s joint hearing by two Senate committees also spotlighted the stark warnings that were issued before Congress met in a joint session to formalize President Biden’s victory. One came in the form of the Capitol Police’s own intelligence report three days before the attack, as The Washington Post first reported. In a 12-page memo, the agency’s intelligence unit warned that “Congress itself” could be targeted by angry Trump supporters who saw the electoral college vote certification as “the last opportunity to overturn the results of the presidential election.” Two days later, the FBI alert issued by its field office in Norfolk described how “an online thread discussed specific calls for violence to include stating ‘Be ready to fight. Congress needs to hear glass breaking, doors being kicked in, and blood from their BLM and Pantifa slave soldiers being spilled.’ ” Two people familiar with the memo, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe security preparations, said the report was conveyed to all Capitol Police command staff by the intelligence unit’s director, Jack Donohue. The report said organizers were urging Trump supporters to come with guns and specialized combat gear, including gas masks and military-style bulletproof vests called “plate carriers.” But Tuesday, former Capitol security officials said the intelligence did not point with enough specificity to the potential for an attack on the complex. “The intelligence was not that there would be a coordinated assault on the Capitol, nor was that contemplated in any of the inter-agency discussions that I attended in the days before the attack,” former House sergeant-at-arms Paul Irving said in a written statement to the committees, adding that the Capitol Police assessed the potential for civil disobedience and arrests as “remote” or “improbable.”
ISRAEL IS SENDING VACCINES ALL OVER THE WORLD, BUT NOT TO PALESTINIANS: The vaccines allocated on Tuesday were given without conditions, but they tacitly reward recent gestures from the receiving countries that implicitly accept Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, which both Israelis and Palestinians consider their capital. Guatemala has moved its embassy to Jerusalem, while Honduras has pledged to do so. Hungary has set up a trade mission in Jerusalem, while the Czech Republic has promised to open a diplomatic office there. Israel has given at least one shot of the two-dose, Pfizer-manufactured vaccine to just over half its own population of nine million — including to people living in Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories — making it the world leader in vaccine rollouts. That has left the Israeli government able to bolster its international relationships with its surplus supply of Moderna vaccines. But the move has angered Palestinians because it suggests that Israel’s allies are of greater priority than the Palestinians living under Israeli control in the occupied territories, almost all of whom have yet to receive a vaccine. Israel has pledged at least twice as many doses to faraway countries as it has so far promised to the nearly five million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Israeli government says that the Palestinian Authority was given responsibility for organizing its own health care system in the 1990s, after the signing of the Oslo Accords that gave the Palestinian leadership limited autonomy in parts of the occupied territories. “A few weeks ago there were question marks about whether we had enough vaccines for our own people,” said Mark Regev, an adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Now that it appears we do, we can be more forthcoming with our neighbors.” In any case, human rights watchdogs say that Israel should organize a systematic vaccine program in the occupied territories, rather than sporadically deliver spares a few thousand at a time. They cite the Fourth Geneva Convention, which obliges an occupying power to coordinate with the local authorities to maintain public health within an occupied territory, including during epidemics.