JUDGE BLOCKS FOREST'S EFFORT TO STIFLE GOVERNOR COOPER'S AUTHORITY: Despite the claims of his Republican rival, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper likely has the authority to keep issuing coronavirus-related orders even if other political leaders don’t sign off on them, a judge has ruled. Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who’s running against Cooper for the governor’s office in this year’s elections, had sued Cooper over some of his executive orders. Forest said Cooper shouldn’t be able to issue the orders on his own. Gale said his order shouldn’t be seen as a ruling on the merits or necessity of the details of Cooper’s orders, but that Cooper appeared to be acting consistently and within the bounds of the law. He wrote that the coronavirus executive orders from Cooper have been “consistent with imposing a necessary ‘floor’ to be applied state-wide, while leaving more restrictive requirements to those areas where the pandemic’s affect and risk of spread is more severe.”
NC'S REPUBLICAN LAWMAKERS BRING CONSPIRACY THEORIES INTO COMMITTEE HEARINGS: Even among state lawmakers who oversee health policy, misinformation persists, despite months of briefings and question-and-answer sessions with state Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen and her staff. Rep. Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke, said he believes people are being misreported as having died from COVID-19 and asked whether hospitals are getting financial bonuses for such deaths. "There are absolutely no bonuses for anyone for having COVID deaths," Cohen said. "That is an absolute misnomer. That is not a true thing. And secondly, deaths are determined by doctors, clinicians. That is how they are reported to us." Rep. Perrin Jones, R-Pitt, a practicing doctor, questioned the state's hospitalization numbers. Jones said he believes many people reported as being hospitalized with COVID were actually hospitalized for other reasons unrelated to the virus, then later found to also be infected. "A number of the COVID cases I've taken care of recently," Jones said, "were in the hospital for a reason other than COVID."
BERGER'S CAMPAIGN-TO-RENT GRAVY TRAIN GETS DERAILED: North Carolina legislators can no longer spend campaign committee dollars toward buying or renting homes or condos that they or family members own -- a practice that powerful state Senate leader Phil Berger used for years. An administrative rule from the State Board of Elections that took effect this month bars such transactions for all state candidates or their campaign committees. The prohibition applies even if the residence is used as the result of holding office or if the payments are made to a business that the politician or officeholder owns. And the Legislative Ethics Committee also quietly approved new guidance in May that makes it “unethical” for a lawmaker to receive a daily expense check to cover lodging expenses while serving in Raleigh if the lawmaker gets them covered through another source. The changes come months after retired campaign reform group leader Bob Hall first filed a complaint with the elections board questioning real estate activity by Berger, a Rockingham County Republican. Transactions started in 2016, when Berger and his wife bought a townhouse in Raleigh, according to records. Berger’s campaign committee ultimately paid $1,500 a month to a limited liability company that Berger manages toward leasing the house.
BIDEN'S CHOICE OF KAMALA HARRIS AS VP IS BOTH SAFE AND BOLD: In naming Kamala Harris as his running mate, Joseph R. Biden Jr. made a groundbreaking decision, picking a woman of color to be vice president and, possibly, a successor in the White House someday. Yet in some ways, Mr. Biden made a conventional choice: elevating a senator who brings generational and coastal balance to the Democratic ticket and shares his center-left politics at a time of progressive change in the party. Having started his career in a capital consumed with Watergate and controlled by white men, Mr. Biden also turned to Ms. Harris to bring a fresh perspective to the West Wing should they win — a similar calculation, but with the roles reversed between ticketmates, that propelled him to the vice presidency 12 years ago. Mr. Biden spurned those progressives who wanted their consensus-oriented standard-bearer to elevate a liberal like Senator Elizabeth Warren, instead picking a prominent leader from the demographic that resurrected his campaign in the Democratic primary. By doing what Hillary Clinton did not do four years ago and choosing a Black running mate, he may give the party’s most loyal voters a reason, beyond animus toward Mr. Trump, to work for and elect the ticket. Ms. Harris comes to the ticket having started her career in the crucible of San Francisco politics, won statewide office in America’s largest state and sought the presidency herself. She has a relationship with many party donors, lawmakers and activists. She has been scrutinized far more than some of the runners-up, who have either never been elected outside a House district or had never been on a ballot at all, as was the case with Susan E. Rice, the former national security adviser.
TRUMP SHOWS HIS FEAR OF BIDEN-HARRIS TICKET BY ATTACKING HER RELENTLESSLY: In an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity on Tuesday night, Trump said he was not surprised by Biden’s choice of Harris and criticized her record on taxes, gun rights, military spending and other issues. “She was my number one draft pick,” Trump said. “She was the one that I thought would be the best for us.” The president argued that Harris is “the most liberal person” in the Senate, adding, “I’m not sure that’s what the country wants.” “A lot of people think it’s a dangerous choice,” he said. Soon after the announcement of her selection Tuesday, Trump tweeted a 30-second ad created by his campaign that criticized Harris for some of her more liberal positions, including a willingness to embrace Medicare-for-all. Trump followed up Wednesday morning with a tweet in which he mocked Harris’s performance in the Democratic presidential primaries. Harris “started strong in the Democrat Primaries, and finished weak, ultimately fleeing the race with almost zero support,” he tweeted. “That’s the kind of opponent everyone dreams of!” When Biden announced that he had selected Harris as his running mate, he made history. Harris is the first Black woman and the first Asian American woman to join a major-party presidential ticket in the United States. The news also rippled around the world. Harris is the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, giving her selection an unusually international dimension.