Wednesday News: Packed and cracked


LAWSUIT FILED TO REDRAW NC'S GERRYMANDERED LEGISLATIVE MAPS: Common Cause and the North Carolina Democratic Party are suing for state House and Senate districts to be redrawn for the 2020 election, claiming the districts are partisan gerrymanders that violate the state constitution. The lawsuit was filed Tuesday morning in Wake County Superior Court against state legislative leaders and the state elections board. It will likely eventually be heard in the state Supreme Court. With the election of Anita Earls last week, Democrats will hold a 5-2 advantage on the state’s highest court. “North Carolina’s state legislative maps are among the worst partisan gerrymanders in North Carolina’s history, and indeed, in American history,” said Stanton Jones, a lawyer with the Washington, D.C., law firm Arnold & Porter.

NC TAXPAYERS FOOT THE BILL FOR DISPOSAL OF MILLIONS OF DEAD CHICKENS: Taxpayers spent at least $11 million to dispose of poultry killed by the flooding after Hurricane Florence, state agriculture officials said Tuesday. And that's way below budget. Gov. Roy Cooper's administration initially estimated the cost of these mass livestock disposals at $20 million. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler put the total cost between $11 million and $13 million, primarily for sawdust, during a presentation to state legislators. That's what it took to dispose of more than 4 million dead birds left on farms after the storm, he said. The sawdust is mixed in with the carcasses, and the state was lucky to find supplies in North and South Carolina, Troxler said. Without the South Carolina sawdust in particular, "this could have been held up for a long, long time," he said. Rep. Jimmy Dixon, who co-chaired the committee that heard Troxler's report, called the figure "astonishing." He asked whether the state could stockpile sawdust or pre-bid the job to cut costs the next time eastern North Carolina sees heavy flooding.

HATE CRIMES ON THE RISE IN NORTH CAROLINA AND ELSEWHERE: In its annual statistics, the federal crime-fighting agency listed 166 crimes in North Carolina motivated by race, ancestry, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability. That number rose from 148 in 2016 and 118 in 2013. Of the national total, the FBI said 59.6 percent stemmed from racial or ethnic bias — the most common motivation. The FBI cautioned that not all law enforcement agencies report these statistics. Intimidation ranked as the most frequent hate crime aimed at people, making up 44.9 percent. The remaining cases directed at property were most often classified as vandalism. The largest percentage of hate crimes nationwide were committed in or around homes and residences, the FBI said. Only 17 percent occurred on the street.

TRUMP PLANS CABINET SHAKE-UP WITH DEMOCRATIC HOUSE MAJORITY LOOMING: President Donald Trump is weighing an administration-wide shakeup as he looks to prepare his White House for divided government, but it is unclear who is going and who is staying. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was thought to be out as soon as this week, according to two people with knowledge of the issue, but she is now likely to remain in the post for a longer period because there is no obvious successor in place. Trump has soured on Nielsen and White House chief of staff John Kelly, in part over frustration that his administration is not doing more to address what he has called a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the people. But the scope of the contemplated changes is far broader, as Trump gears up for a wave of Democratic oversight requests and to devote more effort to his own re-election campaign. Other changes are afoot, as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are being discussed for replacement. And in an extraordinary move Tuesday, first lady Melania Trump's office called publicly for the firing of Trump's deputy national security adviser, Mira Ricardel.

NEWLY-ELECTED HOUSE DEMOCRATS PROTEST PELOSI AS ORIENTATION BEGINS: Freshman orientation for new members of Congress had barely begun when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 29-year-old darling of the progressive left and newly elected congresswoman from New York, visited Nancy Pelosi’s office for the first time. She was not there to meet the House Democratic leader. She was there to protest. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s noisy Washington debut, and her uncanny knack for grabbing the spotlight, underscores the difficulties that await Democratic leaders as they try to unify an unusually diverse incoming class. Newcomers in both parties descended on the capital Tuesday for the start of a biennial Washington rite — freshman orientation — that seems unusually freighted with seriousness in the age of President Trump. Ms. Pelosi, who already made history as the first female speaker, now hopes to return to that job.



The last thing we need

is a splinter group of Democrats trying to emulate the Freedom Caucus by holding bills hostage to get what they want. I know a lot of Progressives would love to see that, but I'm not one of them.