NORTH CAROLINA GENERAL ASSEMBLY
WBTV – Bill would add Bible study at NC public schools
Passages from the Bible could become part of the curriculum in North Carolina’s public high schools under legislation proposed in the General Assembly.
The bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Stan Bingham, would allow local school boards to offer elective courses for credit on the Old Testament, the New Testament or a combination of both.
No student would be required to take the courses, but the courses would provide academic credit toward graduation. Similar religious courses offered in taxpayer-supported schools in other parts of the country have raised concerns among civil libertarians about the Constitutional separation of church and state.
WRAL – Boards bill revamped in House
The House Commerce Committee gave approval Wednesday to a revamped version of a Senate bill that would eliminate, fire or reconfigure more than two dozen state oversight boards.
The move could mark the first political fight of the session between the House and Senate.
The Senate’s version of Senate Bill 10 would have cleared out the membership of the Utilities Commission, Industrial Commission, Environmental Management Commission, Coastal Resources Commission, Coastal Resources Advisory Council, Wildlife Resources Commission and State Lottery Commission. It would eliminate another 15 boards and commissions.
GREENSBORO NEWS & RECORD – N.C. Senate advances bill for fracking permits
The North Carolina Senate has given preliminary approval to legislation to prepare issuing permits for underground natural gas exploration.
The bill approved 38-10 Tuesday authorizes regulators to issue horizontal drilling and fracking permits starting in March 2015. That’s five months after a regulatory commission is expected to finalize rules governing the drilling. The General Assembly authorized fracking in 2012 but said permits couldn’t be issued without the express consent of legislators.
WITN – Senate OKs Fracking Bill
Legislation setting a potential March 2015 starting date when North Carolina regulators could begin issuing permits for underground natural gas drilling such as fracking now goes to the House.
The Senate gave its final approval Wednesday in a 39-7 vote to the measure that bill supporters say will give potential drilling operators certainty that North Carolina wants companies to explore for energy. Tentative Senate approval came Tuesday.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
CBS NEWS – Supreme Court divided on Voting Rights Act
The Voting Rights Act has been the law of the land for nearly half a century, helping to ensure that minorities are not denied the right to vote. On Wednesday, Shelby County, Ala., challenged the law at the Supreme Court.
The arguments sharply divided the justices: The court’s conservative majority appeared poised to strike down at least part of the act and eliminate the current federal oversight of voting in the South.
At issue is a decades-old provision in the law that requires nine states, mostly in the South, to get approval from the federal government before changing voting laws or procedures.
Justice Antonin Scalia called it a "racial entitlement."
Chief Justice John Roberts asked if the government believed "the citizens in the South are more racist than citizens in the North." Roberts said current data on voter turnout revealed more problems in Massachusetts than in Mississippi.
LOS ANGELES TIMES – Supreme Court voices skepticism about Voting Rights Act
The historic Voting Rights Act appeared to be in deep trouble Wednesday after the Supreme Court’s conservative justices argued during a racially charged debate that targeting the South for special scrutiny was no longer fair.
The unusually tense discussion split along ideological lines. Justices from the left and right took turns arguing the case — and arguing with one another over whether racism and racial discrimination remain problems.
At one point, Justice Antonin Scalia referred to the law as a "perpetuation of racial entitlement," a phrase that irked Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who voiced strong objection earlier this week to a Texas prosecutor’s focus on defendants’ race. After Scalia spoke, she repeatedly pressed a lawyer for Alabama’s Shelby County to say whether "the right to vote is a racial entitlement." He steered around the question.
THE WHITE HOUSE
NBC NEWS – How we got here
With Washington headed — inexorably — to Friday’s deadline when the automatic across-the-board spending cuts take effect, there’s a natural question to ask: How did we get here and why didn’t the sequester work as intended? Well, here’s our quick answer: First, Republicans, fueled by the Tea Party and their gains in the 2010 midterms on a message of cutting back the size of government, demanded that they would raise the debt limit only accompanied by equal spending cuts. (Prior to that, debt-ceiling increases had been fairly routine exercises for all past administrations.) Second, after agreeing to some spending cuts, the Obama White House and congressional Republicans couldn’t agree how to reduce the deficit by an additional $1.2 trillion over 10 years (to raise the debt limit by that much because the White House wanted to avoid another debt-ceiling showdown before Nov. 2012), so they created the sequester. That mechanism ($600 billion cuts in defense spending cuts that Republicans weren’t supposed to like; $600 billion in non-defense spending cuts that Democrats weren’t supposed to like) was intended to be so draconian that it would force the two parties to make a deal. As we know, it was the brainchild of Jack Lew, a veteran of the budget wars of the ‘80s, the first time the word “sequester” entered the Washington lexicon.
POLITICO – White House picks Edith Ramirez to lead FTC
President Barack Obama intends to designate Edith Ramirez as the next chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission.
Ramirez, who joined the FTC as a commissioner in 2010, will replace the agency’s outgoing leader, Jon Leibowitz, a White House official told POLITICO. Her new role will still leave an opening for a third Democratic commission member.
NBC NEWS – Senate confirms Lew as treasury secretary
The Senate has confirmed Jack Lew, a former budget director and chief of staff to the president, as the next secretary of the treasury.
The vote was 71 to 26.
Lew’s critics said he failed to adequately explain why he received a hefty severance package when he voluntarily left his job as an executive vice president at New York University.
Lew left the school in 2006 to take a position at Citigroup Inc., a post that some said made him too cozy with big banks.
THE WASHINGTON POST – Sotomayor, Kagan ready for battles
DANA MILBANK – For a quarter-century, Antonin Scalia has been the reigning bully of the Supreme Court, but finally a couple of justices are willing to face him down.
As it happens, the two manning up to take on Nino the Terrible are women: the court’s newest members, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
The acerbic Scalia, the court’s longest-serving justice, got his latest comeuppance Wednesday morning, as he tried to make the absurd argument that Congress’s renewal of the Voting Rights Act in 2006 by votes of 98 to 0 in the Senate and 390 to 33 in the House did not mean that Congress actually supported the act. Scalia, assuming powers of clairvoyance, argued that the lawmakers were secretly afraid to vote against this “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”
North Carolina Democratic Party