NC PARTISAN GERRYMANDERING CASE WILL BE HEARD THIS SUMMER: A trial is set for this summer in the lawsuit Democrats and election reform advocates filed alleging North Carolina legislative districts violate the state constitution because of excessive partisan bias favoring Republicans. A state three-judge panel filed an order Friday directing a July 15 trial start in Wake County court. The plaintiffs allege partisan gerrymandering taints maps largely drawn by Republican legislators in 2017, even though a federal court altered them and Democrats won 16 additional seats in 2018. Republicans have said the plaintiffs are way off base and looking for a favorable state appeals court to rule their way.
BERGER & MOORE LAVISH HEFTY RAISES ON STAFF MEMBERS: Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore have seen a lot of turnover on their staffs since 2017, but some of the staffers who stuck around have been rewarded with pay increases of 20 to 50 percent. The NC Insider compared current salary records for the president pro tem’s office and speaker’s office with records from January 2017, at the beginning of the last biennium. The records show pay increases varying significantly among staffers who have kept the same job titles for the past two years. By contrast, most state employees received a $1,000 raise in 2017 and a 2 percent raise in 2018. The biggest raise went to one of Moore’s policy advisors, Lewis King, who saw his pay jump 50 percent from 2017 to an annual salary of $85,672.
VIRGINIA GOVERNOR FACES CALLS FOR RESIGNATION OVER RACIST YEARBOOK PHOTOS: Virginia’s governor acknowledged on Friday that he was photographed more than 30 years ago in a costume that was “clearly racist and offensive” — admitting that he had dressed either as a member of the Ku Klux Klan or in blackface — but resisted a flood of calls for his resignation from national and state Democrats. “I am deeply sorry for the decision I made to appear as I did in this photo and for the hurt that decision caused then and now,” Ralph Northam, the Democratic governor, said in a statement on Friday evening. Mr. Northam issued his statement hours after the photograph — which was included on his 1984 yearbook page from Eastern Virginia Medical School and appeared alongside other pictures of himself — became public. Neither person in the black-and-white photograph was identified, and Mr. Northam, a pediatric neurologist, did not confirm which costume he had worn.
"BUILD THE WALL" FUNDRAISER VOWS TO BUILD THE WALL WITHOUT GOVERNMENT HELP: What started as an online fundraiser to provide President Donald Trump with donations for his southern border wall has morphed into a foundation whose members vow to build a wall themselves. The "We The People Will Build the Wall" campaign has surpassed $20 million since it was created in December by Air Force veteran and triple amputee Brian Kolfage. The campaign has received almost 350,000 donations even as wall opponents derided the effort and after the longest government shutdown in U.S. history ended with Congress refusing Trump's demand for billions in wall funding. Whether a private group could build such a wall remains to be seen. There are legal and environmental obstacles in South Texas that have delayed the U.S. government, even with its powers to seize land and waive laws for national security. The average cost of 1 mile built by the government exceeds what the campaign has raised.
TRUMP AND PUTIN ON THE VERGE OF TRASHING INTERMEDIATE-RANGE NUCLEAR TREATY: The collapse of the INF Treaty has raised fears of a repeat of a Cold War showdown in the 1980s, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union both deployed intermediate-range missiles on the continent. Such weapons were seen as particularly destabilizing as they only take a few minutes to reach their targets, leaving no time for decision-makers and raising the likelihood of a global nuclear conflict over a false launch warning. After the U.S. gave notice of its intention to withdraw from the treaty in six months, Putin said that Russia would do the same. He ordered the development of new land-based intermediate-range weapons, but emphasized that Russia won’t deploy them in the European part of the country or elsewhere unless the U.S. does so. “We will respond quid pro quo,” Putin said. “Our American partners have announced they were suspending their participation in the treaty and will do the same. They have announced they will conduct research and development, and we will act accordingly.”