GOP CONTEMPLATES SPECIAL SESSION AFTER HURRICANE FLORENCE: Both Bell and Senate Finance Chairman Harry Brown said a session would deal only with disaster relief. The Republican majority that controls the General Assembly has a history, though, of dropping surprise legislation into special legislative sessions. They came back into session in December 2016 to pass some $200 million in disaster relief for Hurricane Matthew, then also passed legislation limiting incoming Gov. Roy Cooper's powers. This time, "if we come back into session, it will be for disaster recovery only," said Bell, R-Wayne. Brown, R-Onslow, said he couldn't think of anything else the legislature would take up. “I would think [disaster relief] would be the only thing," he said. The General Assembly already plans to come back into session after Thanksgiving to flesh out implementation language for any constitutional amendments that pass during the Nov. 6 elections.
TOWN OF SEVEN SPRINGS DESPERATE TO AVOID MORE FLOODING: Mayor Steven Potter of Seven Springs, a Wayne County town on the Neuse River that flooded during Hurricane Matthew, also said his community’s Matthew recovery efforts are still underway, but could now be ruined by Florence. “We’re getting close to finishing our plan,” he said. “My concern is where we’ll be next week.” The tiny town is shrinking. It had 175 people during Hurricane Floyd in 1999, and 110 when Hurricane Matthew hit in 2016. Now there are about 60 people left, he said. But some of the empty properties in town had been getting interest from new buyers, he said, and he hopes Florence doesn’t derail that. “Slowly but surely people are expressing interest in buying some of those properties and repairing them,” he said. “If we have another severe storm like we did with Matthew, what will be the future of the town after that? I really don’t know.”
HOUSING VOUCHERS SET TO EXPIRE FOR PUERTO RICAN HURRICANE EVACUEES: The clock began ticking late last month for hundreds of Puerto Rican evacuees who rely on federal assistance to pay for hotel rooms. A federal judge in Massachusetts set Friday as the deadline for the vouchers to end after denying an effort to force FEMA to continue the program. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Timothy Hillman, who expressed anguish over his decision, ended almost three months of legal challenges and extensions. As of Tuesday, there were more than 600 families using the vouchers on the mainland, with more than half of those families in Florida. Almost 400 families were using the vouchers on the island. The judge's decision is forcing Idalis Fernandez to split up her family. Her husband and 2-year-old son, Adrian, are heading back to Puerto Rico where family members can watch the boy and her husband has a job lined up. She is staying in Florida, where she has work as a line cook at Walt Disney World, and where the couple's oldest son, 11-year-old Alexander, is doing well in school.
TRUMP SIGNS EXECUTIVE ORDER AUTHORIZING SANCTIONS FOR ELECTION INTERFERENCE: Coats said the executive order directs intelligence agencies to determine whether an individual, entity or country has interfered in a U.S. election and, if so, turn the information over to the attorney general and Department of Homeland Security. He said the order also directs intelligence officials to conduct an assessment after elections to inform the public about what might have occurred. “This clearly is a process put in place to try to assure that we are doing every possible thing we can, first of all, to prevent any interference with our elections, to report on anything we see between now and the election, but then to do a full assessment after the election to assure the American people just exactly what may have happened or may not have happened,” Coats said. Trump has drawn widespread criticism for not taking threats to the U.S. electoral system seriously enough, particularly Russian interference in the 2016 presidential race.
RUSSIANS ACCUSED OF NERVE AGENT POISONING CLAIM THEY WERE MERELY TOURISTS: Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov made their first public appearance in an interview with the RT channel, saying that they had visited Salisbury as tourists to see its famous cathedral. "Our friends have been suggesting for a long time that we visit this wonderful town," Petrov said, while Boshirov added that they specifically wanted to see the cathedral's famous spire and clock. British police have released CCTV footage and photographs showing the two men walking in Skripal's neighborhood on March 4, the day of the attack. They were also pictured visiting the city a day earlier. Britain said the attack was almost certainly approved "at a senior level of the Russian state," an allegation that Moscow has vehemently denied. Boshirov did not react to the interviewer's request to show the pictures they took on that trip, only saying that he found Salisbury Cathedral "very beautiful."