Wednesday News: Sesame Street, with no muppets


NC REPUBLICANS WANT POOR KIDS TO HAVE "ONLINE" PRE-K: The state House Education Committee backed legislation on Tuesday that would create a three-year virtual early learning pilot program targeted at preparing at-risk preschool children for kindergarten. Backers of the new program say it will help underserved young children who aren’t able to get into a traditional pre-K program. “The purpose of this program is to deliver a high-quality program, early intervention for those kids so that when they do start school they’re not left in the dust.” But critics say the new program falls short of providing children a real preschool program. ‘It seems so often in the last few years that we’re doing things on the cheap.” Keith Poston, president of the Public School Forum of North Carolina, said in an interview Tuesday.

REPUBLICAN LEADERS SIT IN ON COMMITTEE TO PUSH THROUGH HIGHER FEES FOR THE POOR: House Bill 327 would increase the state cap on returned check fees from $25 to $35, raising that fee for the first time in more than 20 years. The bill also reworks origination fees for consumer loans. The maximum now is $25 for loans up to $2,500 and 1 percent for larger loans, with a $40 cap. That would change to a $50 maximum for loans up to $5,000 and 1 percent of the loan above $5,000, without the cap. The bill cleared the House Banking Committee, but only because two members of the House GOP leadership sat in, providing the votes needed to overcome Republican absences among regular committee members and the committee Democrats who voted against the measure. The party-line vote was 5-4, with House Rules Chairman David Lewis and House Majority Leader John Bell providing the margin. The bill also cleared the House Rules Committee Tuesday on a voice vote that appeared to fall along party lines. The bill may be on the House floor late next week, when the House returns from Spring break.

"BORN ALIVE" BILL PASSES HOUSE AND IS SENT TO GOVERNOR: A controversial abortion bill has been sent to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who must now decide whether he will veto it. The N.C. House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 359, called the “Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act,” by a vote of 65-46 on Tuesday. It previously cleared the Senate on Monday, in a 28-19 vote. If Cooper does veto the bill, Republicans will need some Democratic lawmakers to side with them to override the veto, since the Republican-led legislature lost its veto-proof supermajority in the 2018 elections. A spokesman for Cooper, Ford Porter, criticized the bill Tuesday. “This unnecessary legislation would criminalize doctors for a practice that simply does not exist,” he said. “Laws already exist to protect newborn babies and legislators should instead be focused on other issues like expanding access to health care to help children thrive.”

CHATHAM COUNTY TO STUDY REMOVING CONFEDERATE STATUE: The removal of a Confederate monument in a North Carolina town is being discussed by local officials and citizens. News outlets report that more than 500 people gathered in Pittsboro as Chatham County officials talked about the statue outside the historic courthouse in the town's center. Residents who want it to stay and those who want it moved spoke during the county board meeting Monday. Commissioners didn't make a decision on the statue and asked the county attorney to research, because state laws restrict governments from moving statues except under limited conditions. They voted 4-1 along party lines for the investigation. The board's lone Republican, Commissioner Walter Petty, opposed the motion, and also announced he'll resign at the month's end.

MUELLER REPORT WILL BE RELEASED TO THE PUBLIC TOMORROW. HERE IS A LIST OF WHAT WILL (PROBABLY) BE REDACTED: 1. Information that has been presented to a grand jury, which is subject to secrecy rules. This could conceivably cover a lot of material. 2. Material that intelligence officials fear could compromise sensitive sources and methods. This would include information from F.B.I. informants and foreign allies. 3. Information that could hamper other current investigations, including spinoffs of the Mueller inquiry. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn and Manhattan are investigating the finances of the Trump inaugural committee and hush payments intended to cover up a sex scandal that threatened to upend Mr. Trump’s campaign. 4. Material that the Justice Department believes would unfairly infringe on the privacy and damage the reputations of “peripheral third parties.”