Wednesday News: Lunatic fringe


PITTMAN SAYS LAWMAKERS WILL HAVE "BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS" FOR NOT ARMING TEACHERS: "Seeking to avoid controversy in an election year, our leadership has chosen not to allow this bill even to be heard in committee," said Rep. Larry Pittman, a Cabarrus County Republican and one of the bill's sponsors. "This is a failure to act that I fear may one day cost lives that could have been saved." His warnings echoed an email he sent legislators in April, in which Pittman said there would be "blood on our hands" if the legislature did not act to deter shooters. However, most North Carolina teachers said in a poll this spring that they thought arming teachers would make schools less safe and would harm the learning environment. In the Elon University/ News & Observer/Charlotte Observer poll, 78 percent of teachers thought arming teachers was a bad idea. Since the Parkland shooting, teachers who accidentally discharged weapons at school have made national news.

NC FARM BILL ATTACKS NON-DAIRY "MILK" PRODUCTS AND SHIELDS HOG FARMS FROM LAWSUITS: The annual Farm Bill included a surprise provision to make North Carolina the first state in the nation to bar soy, almond and other plant-based drinks from marketing themselves as "milk," starting next year. Other provisions in the bill included presuming farm operations to not be a nuisance unless they are conducting in a way not considered regular practice. That was in reaction to a series of lawsuits against large-scale hog farms over foul odors and other nuisances. Senate and House committees approved companion bills on the Build NC Bond Act, which would allow the state treasurer to issue up to $300 million a year in "special indebtedness" – no voter approval would be needed – to speed up road construction projects that the Department of Transportation would never get around to or would have to delay for years.

WAKE COUNTY SCHOOLS WARN OF CUTS DUE TO BUDGET SHORTFALL: A day after not getting all they wanted from Wake County commissioners, school leaders warned Tuesday that they might need to make severe budget cuts to close a $23.9 million budget gap. Commissioners voted Monday to give the school board $45 million of the $58.9 million increase it requested this year. School leaders said Tuesday that this year's budget gap has now reached nearly $24 million, because of unanticipated changes in the state budget. That gap will lead to "significant" and painful cuts that will affect school employees and families. "Our community, I think, is going to be very surprised at what their children are not going to receive in services when we end up taking that red pen and it's gone," school board member Kathy Hartenstine said during Tuesday's budget discussion.

STATE SUSPENDS OPERATIONS AT TEEN MENTAL HEALTH FACILITY: State officials in North Carolina have suspended most operations at a psychiatric center after allegations of physical abuse and faulty treatment. News outlets reported the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said Monday it has taken action against Anderson Health Services in Marshville, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of Charlotte. The facility opened last year to treat teens with histories of physical and sexual abuse, suicide attempts, and assault. A report this month said some teens at the center stole drugs, obtained a knife, a hammer and a chair leg that was used as a weapon. State officials plan to move patients to other facilities.

SOME GOP SENATORS WANT TO REIGN IN TRUMP'S TARIFF FRENZY: The idea being pursued by Corker, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and others who have been meeting privately — and with Democrats — would be narrowly crafted legislation requiring congressional approval of the tariffs Trump has imposed in the name of national security. Congressional Republicans are mostly at odds with what they view as Trump’s protectionist instincts on trade. Despite much hand-wringing, prospects for any bill to challenge him remain uncertain. Many Republicans are hesitant to confront Trump in a legislative showdown that could end badly for them. Doing so could court a veto and bruise their standing with Trump voters they need in midterm elections. “When you can just name anything as a national security issue then basically you undermine the whole trade agreement process,” Corker said Tuesday. Senate Republicans have warned administration officials that the tariffs could dampen the economic gains from the GOP tax cuts.