RICK GUNN SETTLES LAWSUIT OVER MARITAL AFFAIR: Former state Sen. Rick Gunn has settled a lawsuit filed by a man who accused him of a long-running affair with his wife, who was also the senator's legislative assistant. Arthur Johns says the affair destroyed his marriage and that he lost half his property in a divorce. He sued Gunn, an Alamance County Republican, for as much as $3 million. It was not immediately clear how much Johns would get in the settlement. His attorney confirmed the settlement to WRAL News but wouldn't provide details. In the lawsuit filed last summer, Johns alleges that his wife, Karen Johns, had an affair with Gunn for up to four years. General Assembly insiders told WRAL that their affair was a poorly kept secret. Arthur Johns said his wife began spending more and more time with Gunn over the years, going out for things that didn't sound like work. Eventually, the lawsuit states, she began treating Gunn more like a husband.
SENATE REPUBLICANS SAY THEY ARE CLOSE TO A COMPROMISE WITH THE GOVERNOR ON SCHOOLS: Ballard said they’re “moving in the right direction.” Cooper would only say he was in discussions with lawmakers and that he hoped for “a compromise bill soon,” but that he had not seen that legislation. “I can’t talk about that right now because we are in discussions,” Cooper said. The compromise could make the future of Senate Bill 37 “moot,” Berger said Tuesday. That bill would require school districts to offer a full-time, in-person instruction option — Plan A — to special needs students. It would also require schools to offer either Plan A or Plan B to all students. The latest state guidance calls for Plan A only for K-5 students, and Plan B for 6-12. SB 37 passed both the House and Senate with bipartisan support, then was vetoed by Cooper. The Senate held an override vote on March 1, but that failed to pass and the governor’s veto was sustained. It failed by just one vote, and Democratic Sen. Ben Clark of Fayetteville, a co-sponsor of the bill, was absent. So Senate Republican leadership said last week that they would hold the vote again.
SECRETIVE BIG ENERGY BILL BEING DISCUSSED IN NC HOUSE, RATEPAYERS AND ENVIRONMENTALISTS NOT ALLOWED: Big players in the state’s energy sector are meeting behind closed doors, hammering out details for major energy legislation that may be revealed later this session. At least one attendee said the group has agreed not to speak about the process. Others involved largely declined comment or did not return calls, but the working group includes representatives from Duke Energy, clean energy lobbyists and lobbying groups for manufacturers and retailers, which are both big electricity users. Lobbyists for environmental and other advocacy groups said no one is in the room representing residential electric customers or environmental groups. They criticized the process but asked for anonymity because they hope to be included further down the road. “House lawmakers have been working with a diverse and evolving group of parties on a number of energy issues,” Hall said in an email. “This is a process similar to what occurs across every policy sector. Once we get closer to a final product, I will gladly send it over.” Public Staff at the North Carolina Utilities Commission, which represents ratepayers when utility issues come before the commission, isn’t involved, its executive director confirmed. Neither is the Governor’s Office, spokeswoman Dory MacMillan said in response to WRAL News' questions. Nor are any House Democrats, according to House Minority Leader Robert Reives.
NC REPUBLICANS ARE (ONCE AGAIN) TRYING TO FORCE SHERIFFS TO WORK FOR ICE: North Carolina Republicans are again pressing legislation to force county sheriffs to recognize requests of federal immigration agents who believe a defendant is in the country illegally. Sen. Wiley Nickel, a Wake County Democrat who opposes the measure, asked Edwards whether something would lead Cooper to do anything else but veto the latest bill. Edwards pointed out that punishment for failing to hold an inmate under a detainer would be a criminal misdemeanor. The 2019 measure could have subjected a sheriff to removal from office. He told Nickel that crime is on the rise in urban counties, so it's more important than ever for these sheriffs to keep violent defendants not unlawfully in the country off the streets. "That circumstance in itself causes reason for alarm and for reconsideration of this bill," he said. Bill critics say it would actually make their counties more dangerous, because members of immigrant communities will be worried about coming forward to report crimes to authorities for fear of deportation. The anxiety has grown during the pandemic, when "we've seen far, far too many stories about impacts of family separation on children and families," Sheila Arias with Moms Rising North Carolina said. "North Carolina should not be in the business of tearing families apart."
FINAL APPROVAL FOR $1.9 TRILLION STIMULUS MAY COME TODAY: The bill, which cleared the Senate on Saturday, would send direct payments of up to $1,400 to Americans and extend a $300-per-week federal unemployment benefit until early September. It would provide funding for states and local governments as well as for schools to help them reopen. The bill also contains money for coronavirus testing, contact tracing and vaccine distribution. The legislation establishes an aggressive effort by the new president to drive down poverty, as the measure offers substantial benefits for low-income Americans, including a sizable one-year expansion of the child tax credit. “It’s a remarkable, historic, transformative piece of legislation which goes a very long way to crushing the virus and solving our economic crisis,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday. Mr. Biden is scheduled to showcase the legislation on Thursday during a prime-time television address marking one year since the virus prompted shutdowns across the country. Republican lawmakers, however, have criticized the stimulus plan as a partisan product that lavishes federal dollars on liberal priorities unrelated to the pandemic. No Republicans voted for it when it first passed the House last month or when it cleared the Senate over the weekend. The sharp partisan division over the package offers a preview of the political dynamics Mr. Biden will have to contend with in the coming months as he tries to advance other pieces of his agenda, including an infrastructure plan and an immigration overhaul. The bill that will go before the House on Wednesday differs in notable ways from the legislation that the chamber initially approved last month. It no longer contains an increase to the federal minimum wage, which Mr. Biden had proposed and House Democrats had included in their bill, but the Senate omitted.