NC SENATE'S BUDGET IS A TAX-CUT EXTRAVAGANZA: There would also be bonuses of $1,500 for law enforcement, correctional officers and staff and employees of 24-hour residential and treatment facilities. Additional bonuses across the board, using state funds, would go to teachers, who would get $300, and principals, who would get $1,800, respectively. The budget’s tax cuts include cutting the personal income tax rate to 3.99% by 2026. The current tax rate is 5.25%, and the budget would reduce it to 4.99% in 2022. The budget also includes parts of the same tax-cuts plan the Senate already passed, including phasing out the corporate income tax entirely. There is no cost of living adjustment for retired state employees in the Senate budget.
GOP POLITICAL OPERATIVE PLEADS GUILTY TO SOCIAL SECURITY FRAUD: Leslie McCrae Dowless, 65, of Bladenboro, pleaded guilty to theft of government property and Social Security fraud and faces up to 15 years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 23. Dowless concealed his work and income as apolitical consultant from the Social Security Administration while receiving monthly benefits, authorities said. He applied for Supplemental Security Income benefits in February 2013, claiming that he was unable to work due to a disability. In July 2018, he applied for retirement benefits, stating that he hadn't worked for two years and didn't expect to work that year. But, authorities said, Dowless had received at least 59 checks, totaling $135,365.57, for his consulting work between March 2017 and November 2018. Dowless still faces state charges of obstruction of justice, conspiracy and illegal possession of an absentee ballot in connection with the 9th District scandal.
NC HOUSE BILL WOULD LET SCHOOL DISTRICTS SET MASK POLICY: A new version of education legislation proposed in the state House on Monday would allow local school boards to set their own masking policies for the upcoming 2021-22 school year. Schools across North Carolina are currently considered at-risk settings that are still covered by the state’s scaled-back mask mandate, which was recently extended by Gov. Roy Cooper through the end of July. Under the new version of Senate Bill 173 that was introduced Monday by Rep. David Willis, a Union County Republican, school boards would be free to require masks, or not, at their own discretion. Earlier this month, the Harnett County school board voted to make masks optional for students and teachers participating in its summer school program. It isn’t clear if the county will face any consequences for choosing not to abide by the governor’s mask mandate, but that hasn’t stopped some parents in Wake County, the state’s largest school system, from pressing their school board to emulate Harnett County and make masks optional.
GEN Z AND MILLENNIALS ARE SKIPPING THE COVID VACCINE: The nation’s youngest adults remain the least likely to be vaccinated against the coronavirus — and their weekly rates of vaccination are declining, according to federal research released Monday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed adult vaccination rates by age through May 22, finding 80 percent of adults older than 65 had been immunized compared with just 38.3 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds. The percentage of people getting one shot per week stalled after vaccine eligibility opened to all adults in April and has continued to decline. From April 19 to May 22, the percentage of 18- to 29-year-olds being vaccinated dropped from 3.6 percent a week to 1.9 percent a week. For 30- to 49-year-olds, the percentage getting a shot each week declined from 3.5 percent to 1.7 percent. The weekly shot rates for younger adults never matched the 8.2 percent peak of people older than 65, according to the report. “The way that the pandemic has been framed, essentially what we heard at the beginning, is that if you were older, you’re more likely to face severe consequences related to covid,” said Rupali J. Limaye, a Johns Hopkins University researcher who studies vaccine use. “I think a lot of younger people were like, ‘It’s okay if I get it. I’m going to be able to survive it.’ ” Researchers surveyed people under 40 about their intention to get vaccinated. Nearly half of the 2,726 people surveyed said they were unsure or did not plan on getting a coronavirus vaccine, with 18- to 24-year-olds being the least likely to have been vaccinated and most likely to be unsure about getting a shot.
VOTING RIGHTS VS. GOP OBSTRUCTION IN THE U.S. SENATE TODAY: The Senate will consider a Democratic bill on Tuesday that, if enacted, would be the most expansive federal election overhaul in generations. Republicans are expected to use the filibuster to block debate. Democratic leaders plan to call a test vote to try to advance the bill, known as the For the People Act, though they are all but certain to fail. As Republican-led states rush to enact restrictive voting laws, Democrats have presented the legislation as the party’s best chance to undo them, expand ballot access and limit the impact of special interests on the political process. “We can argue what should be done to protect voting rights and safeguard our democracy, but don’t you think we should be able to debate the issue?” Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said on Monday in a last-ditch appeal to Republicans to let the bill proceed. On Monday, former President Barack Obama tepidly endorsed Mr. Manchin’s version as the best chance to pass a new federal voting law. “The bill that’s going to be debated, including Senator Manchin’s changes, would address, as Eric mentioned, many of the concerns and issues that I was just discussing,” Mr. Obama said during a call with former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and supporters. “I’ll be honest, the bill doesn’t have everything I’d like to see in a voting rights bill. It doesn’t address every problem.” Republicans are united in their opposition to both Democrats’ original bill and Mr. Manchin’s changes, describing them as poorly drafted and overly prescriptive.