Wednesday News: Every vote is important


BALANCE OF POWER IN VIRGINIA HOUSE FLIPPED BY A ONE VOTE MARGIN: A single vote may spell the end of Republican control in Virginia's House of Delegates. A Democratic challenger seems to have won a recount Tuesday by one vote, putting the partisan balance in the House at a tie. It would mean a rare power-sharing agreement may have to be brokered. Shelly Simonds beat three-term incumbent Republican Del. David Yancey in the 94th District in Newport News, 11,608 to 11,607, in a dramatic hourslong recount that ended only after the precinct ballots were exhausted and provisional ballots were examined. The recounted votes still must be certified by a court Wednesday, although officials said they expected that no ballots would be challenged.

SENATE PASSES TAX SCAM, HOUSE HAS ONE MORE VOTE TODAY: Jubilant Republicans pushed on early Wednesday to the verge of the most sweeping rewrite of the nation's tax laws in more than three decades, a deeply unpopular bill they insist Americans will learn to love when they see their paychecks in the new year. President Donald Trump cheered the lawmakers on, eager to claim his first major legislative victory. After midnight, the Senate narrowly passed the legislation on a party-line 51-48 vote. Protesters interrupted with chants of "kill the bill, don't kill us" and Vice President Mike Pence repeatedly called for order. Upon passage, Republicans cheered, with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin among them. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., insisted Americans would respond positively to the tax bill.

BOTH OPERATOR ERROR AND DELAYED SAFETY TECHNOLOGY LIKELY CAUSED SEATTLE TRAIN DERAILMENT: A federal official told The Associated Press that investigators are looking into whether the engineer was distracted by the presence of an employee-in-training next to him in the locomotive. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said investigators want to know whether the engineer lost "situational awareness." Investigators also confirmed that technology that can automatically slow or stop a speeding train — known as positive train control — was not in use on that stretch of track. Track sensors and other PTC components have been installed, but the system is not expected to be completed until the spring, Dinh-Zarr said. Regulators have been pressing railroads for years to install such technology, and some have done so, but the deadline has been extended repeatedly at the industry's request and is now set for the end of 2018.

CANDIDATE MAY GET ANOTHER SHOT AT SHARPSBURG MAYORAL SEAT OVER ELECTION PROBLEMS: The Wilson County Board of Elections is supporting a mayoral candidate’s call for a new election in Sharpsburg after an Election Day ballot shortage caused some voters to be turned away. The board planned to meet again Tuesday, Dec. 19, to finalize its order after holding a hearing last week and determining a do-over was necessary. Mayoral candidate Robert Williams, who lost by only three votes last month, had argued that the ballot shortage could have swayed the election because some of his supporters weren't able to cast ballots. According to Williams’ complaint, the Wilson County Board of Elections only printed 12 Sharpsburg ballots, even though 200 registered voters were eligible to participate at the site.

OFFSHORE WIND ENERGY COULD BE COMING TO NC WITHIN A FEW YEARS: Avangrid won the rights to the first project off the N.C. coast during a March 16 auction, paying just over $9 million for the rights to a 122,405-acre site roughly 25 miles off the Outer Banks. According to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which controls the offshore leasing process, the company signed a lease Oct. 10, and the agreement became effective Nov. 1. Per the lease, Avangrid’s lease includes a one-year preliminary term, followed by a five-year site assessment period and a 25-year operating term. The company will also pay $367,215 annually to rent the area. A pair of sites identified as Wilmington East and Wilmington West that sit off the shore of Bald Head Island and slightly northwest, respectively, remain under evaluation.