Thursday News: Break the monopoly


GROUPS WANT STATE TO ALLOW COMPETITION FOR DUKE ENERGY: Organizers said they're not calling for deregulation but for a regulated model that allows more competition. They pointed to a number of states as examples, including Texas, Ohio, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and California. They also pointed to a recent study from the Retail Energy Supply Association that said monopoly states saw their average energy prices increase nearly 19 percent from 2008 to 2017. Prices fell 7 percent in competitive markets over the same period, the study said. This sort of shift would be a massive change, with hundreds of details. Organizers said they were working on legislation and that they had not yet lined up a sponsor to carry the bill. The state's legislative session began three weeks ago, and state leaders didn't immediately respond to requests for comment on the initial proposal.

MEDICAID EXPANSION WOULD RESULT IN 40,000 NEW JOBS IN NC: Democrats in North Carolina’s General Assembly filed bills to expand Medicaid last month, and now the party’s leaders are taking their case to the public. One big selling point: jobs. “Expanding Medicaid would bring 40,000 jobs to North Carolina,” said House Minority Leader Darren Jackson, who represents part of Wake County, in a Jan. 30 tweet. “The evidence continues to indicate that Medicaid expansion would increase the flow of federal funding into North Carolina, which would improve economic growth and increase the number of jobs,” Ku said. “States that expanded Medicaid found that their economies were stronger; the lack of expansion in North Carolina has held the state back.”

BIPARTISAN BILL FILED FOR INDEPENDENT REDISTRICTING COMMISSION: A bipartisan group of House members rolled out a measure Wednesday calling for an independent 11-member commission to take over the task of drawing the congressional and legislative voting district maps. Although earlier efforts have gone nowhere, the sponsors say uncertainty over the 2020 elections and the continuing slew of lawsuits over maps drawn by lawmakers in recent years could provide an opening for reform. Meanwhile, Gov. Roy Cooper spoke to the AFL-CIO and said he backs their call for a $15 minimum wage in North Carolina and more generous unemployment benefits. Some of the more interesting bills filed Wednesday include ignoring the U.S. Supreme Court's decision legalizing gay marriage, putting some controls on electric scooters, reinstating the state's film tax credit program and legalizing possession of up to 4 ounces of marijuana.

TRUMP'S FEMA DIRECTOR RESIGNS OVER MISUSE OF GOVERNMENT VEHICLES: Word leaked of the internal probe in September, just as Hurricane Florence was landing in the Carolinas. Homeland Security officials said there had been a longstanding practice of FEMA administrators using government vehicles to ensure they could remain connected during a crisis. But the use of government vehicles for home-to-work travel was not officially authorized, and that practice was eliminated in April. The report by Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General also found Brock Long used government vehicles for non-official reasons. It said this cost taxpayers $94,000 in staff salary, $55,000 in travel expenses and $2,000 in vehicle maintenance. The House Oversight Committee had also been looking into the allegations. Long said he accepted full responsibility for the unauthorized use of the vehicles.

U.S. HOUSE VOTES TO HALT ASSISTANCE TO SAUDI ARABIA IN YEMEN WAR: The House voted on Wednesday to end American military assistance for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, a defiant and rare move to curtail presidential war powers that underscored anger with President Trump’s unflagging support for Saudi Arabia even after the killing of a Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi. The 248-to-177 vote, condemning a nearly four-year conflict in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians and inflicted a devastating famine, will pressure the Republican-controlled Senate to respond. Eighteen Republicans — almost all of them hard-line conservatives with the Freedom Caucus — voted with the Democratic majority. Congress’s upper chamber in December passed a parallel resolution, 56 to 41, in a striking rebuke to the president and his administration’s defense of the kingdom. But that measure died with the last Congress after the House Republican leadership blocked a vote.