Wednesday News: Twisted priorities


NC GOP BUDGET FUNDS ANTI-ABORTION CLINICS AND CHRISTIAN HUNTING CLUBS: The new state budget unveiled by Republican legislators Monday night will send hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to religious groups, including more than $1 million to pro-life pregnancy clinics. Other grants include a quarter of a million dollars for an outdoors group that combines Bible studies with hunting trips, as well as $100,000 to build a YMCA in an influential legislator's district, $35,000 for a prison ministry group, and more. The budget was written in secret by a handful of lawmakers and, now that it's public, GOP leaders have said it will not be open to any changes from other lawmakers of either party. It's the first time in modern North Carolina history that the budget has been closed to input from the public and amendments from lawmakers.

12 MORE ARRESTED AT LEGISLATURE FROM POOR PEOPLE'S CAMPAIGN: Twelve protesters have been arrested at North Carolina's Legislative Office Building as part of a demonstration calling for gun control, poverty relief and other social justice measures. General Assembly Police Chief Martin Brock confirmed the number arrested Tuesday and said each was being charged with misdemeanor trespassing. The protesters were part of a group of about 100 who gathered to hear speeches as part of the Poor People's Campaign led by the Rev. William Barber. Dozens marched into the office building near the Capitol where a joint House-Senate committee was holding a hearing on tax-related portions of the state budget. A few protesters made it into the hearing room and caused lawmakers to delay what they were doing for 20 minutes.

DEMOCRATS FILE BILLS IN NC HOUSE AND SENATE TO RELOCATE SILENT SAM: Legislative bills filed by Democrats on Tuesday would authorize UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt to relocate the Silent Sam Confederate monument. Companion bills filed in the state House and Senate would provide for the statue to be moved to a permanent indoor location "due to recent acts of vandalism to the monument that threaten the preservation and integrity of the monument." The language requires the chancellor to identify a new site for the statue and move it by April 1, 2020. The Senate bill was sponsored by Sen. Valerie Foushee, a Hillsborough Democrat, and Sen. Mike Woodard, a Durham Democrat. The House version was sponsored by Rep. Verla Insko, a Chapel Hill Democrat, and Rep. Graig Meyer, a Hillsborough Democrat.

VIRGINIA REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN RESIGNS DUE TO ALCOHOLISM: Republican Congressman Thomas Garrett of Virginia has announced that he will no longer seek re-election, saying he needs to work on recovering from alcoholism and renewing his commitment to his family. Garrett made the announcement in a video recorded at the state Capitol in Richmond. It was first reported by The Washington Post. “Any person — Republican, Democrat or Independent — who’s known me for any period of time and has any integrity, knows two things: I am a good man and I am an alcoholic,” Garrett said. “This is the hardest statement that I have ever publicly made, by far.” Garrett declined a request for an interview. A former prosecutor and state senator, Garrett is a libertarian-leaning conservative who advocated for looser marijuana laws and was a member of the House Freedom Caucus.

HAMAS LEADER SAYS EGYPT HAS BROKERED A CEASE FIRE WITH ISRAEL IN RECENT CONFLICT: Gaza's Hamas rulers said Wednesday they had agreed to a cease-fire with Israel to end the largest flare-up of violence between the sides since a 2014 war. Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, said Egyptian mediators intervened "after the resistance succeeded in warding off the aggression." He said militant groups in Gaza will commit to the cease-fire as long as Israel does. Israeli Cabinet minister Arieh Deri told Israel's Army Radio that he expected calm to be restored. "If it will be quiet, we will respond with quiet. We've given Hamas a chance to prove that we can return to routine ... If they release the reins there will be a very painful strike," he said. "There is a good chance that the routine will be restored after the blow the army unleashed on them."