Saturday News: Gerrymandering goes to trial


LAWSUITS TESTING POLITICAL GERRYMANDERING CLAIMS MOVE TO SUMMER TRIAL (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Two lawsuits questioning the breadth to which N.C. lawmakers can design congressional districts for partisan gain are on path toward a summer trial. A panel of three federal judges issued a ruling on Friday rejecting a request by state lawmakers to dismiss the cases filed last year by Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of North Carolina, two organizations that have been critical of partisan gerrymandering by both parties. The federal judges — James Wynn of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (appointed by Democratic President Barack Obama) and U.S. District Judges William Osteen Jr. (appointed by Republican President George W. Bush) and W. Earl Britt (appointed by Democratic President Jimmy Carter) — noted the novelty of the arguments put forward in the cases challenging the maps drawn and approved by the Republican-led General Assembly in 2016. But they also noted “obstacles the plaintiffs must overcome to prevail.”

CRAFT BREWERIES WANT TO EXPAND. BUT BIG CAMPAIGN DONOR GET IN THE WAY (Charlotte Observer) -- The effort end the 25,000 barrel limit on craft beer brewers pits the fast-growing N.C. craft beer industry against wholesale distributors, a group that has reinforced its clout with nearly $1.5 million in political contributions in the last four years, according to Bob Hall, who tracks campaign money for Democracy North Carolina. That includes $523,000 from the N.C. Beer & Wine Wholesalers political action committee and $941,000 from individual distributors and their families. Together they gave Senate GOP leader Phil Berger $182,200 and Republican House Speaker Tim Moore nearly $98,500. Lawmakers say that’s helped stifle attempts to change the law. “Money talks,” says Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Hendersonville Republican. He plans to introduce a bill that could raise the production cap to 200,000 barrels and make other changes to the state’s alcohol laws.

PROPOSED BILL WOULD ALLOW CONCEALED GUNS ON UNC CAMPUSES (WRAL-TV) -- Some North Carolina lawmakers want to allow people to carry concealed weapons on public college campuses across the state. Rep. Kyle Hall, R-Rockingham, filed a bill Thursday that, if passed, would make it legal for people to carry concealed weapons on any of the 17 University of North Carolina campuses or at a community college. "I see this as not only a protection issues, but I see this as a constitutional issue," Hall said Friday. While it is very early on in the process, Hall said he hopes North Carolina is next. "I don't believe that anybody's constitutional rights end by simply walking onto a college campus," Hall said.

PROTEST, SUPPORT, CONTROVERSY SURROUND ATLANTIC COAST PIPELINE (Public Radio East) -- The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a proposed, 600 mile infrastructure project that, if completed, it will transport natural gas from West Virginia shale fields through Virginia and into North Carolina. The pipeline’s final 200 miles go through eastern North Carolina – from Halifax to Robeson Counties. It’s been in the works for thee years and is primarily a partnership between Virginia Based Dominion Energy, Southern Company Gas of Atlanta, and Duke Energy, headquartered in Charlotte. The pipeline’s supporters say it will provide jobs, put a dent in the nation’s $1 trillion infrastructure “to-do” list, and bring jobs to an economically depressed region. Its critics say it will put residents and the environment in peril.

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