Friday News: Of course they did

SENATE COMMITTEE CONFIRMS HALL AS MILITARY AFFAIRS SECRETARY (WRAL-TV) -- After weeks of arguing over the legality of the confirmation process, a Senate committee voted unanimously Thursday to approve former state Rep. Larry Hall as secretary of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. Early on in the hearing, he said his office would be focused on making sure veterans knew about the services available to them that they may not be using. "What we've failed to do is engage (veterans) and ensure they get they full advantage of every right and benefit they have earned," he said. Other pressing issues for the office, he said, would be creating more jobs for veterans, ending homelessness among veterans and combating an epidemic of suicides among veterans.

COURT RULINGS MEAN NC IS WITHOUT ELECTIONS BOARD AND ETHICS COMMISSION (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A N.C. Court of Appeals order means that the state doesn’t have a board that oversees elections and ethics laws, Senate leader Phil Berger said Thursday afternoon. Berger made a rare visit to the room in the Legislative Building reserved for reporters to announce the latest news in an ongoing lawsuit over a December law combining the ethics and elections boards into a new State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement.

HOUSE LOOKS TO TAKE MORE APPOINTMENT POWERS AWAY FROM COOPER (Raleigh News & Observer) -- N.C. House Republicans want to take away Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s power to fill local judicial vacancies and pick trustees at some community colleges. Four bills sponsored by Republican Rep. Justin Burr of Albemarle are the latest attempts to limit the power of the governor. The House approved a pair of bills Thursday that would give legislators the power to select some of the trustees on the boards of 16 of the state’s 58 community colleges. Currently, the governor appoints four board members while others are appointed by local county commissions or school boards.

SENATE INTEL CHAIRMAN DEFENDS SESSIONS (The Hill) -- Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) defended Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Thursday amid reports that he spoke with the Russian ambassador during the presidential campaign. "I trust Jeff Sessions," Burr told reporters when asked about calls for the former GOP senator to recuse himself from an investigation into potential contacts between Trump officials and Moscow. Asked if he believed Sessions should recuse himself, Burr said, "That's up to Jeff Sessions." Sessions also spoke with Kislyak via phone in September, according to a spokeswoman for the attorney general. The conversation took place during a time when U.S. intelligence officials assert that Russia was interfering in the 2016 race through a hacking and influence campaign intended to help sway the election for President Trump. Sessions did not disclose those conversations during his confirmation hearings for attorney general, testifying under oath that he “did not have communications with the Russians."

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