Welcome to Friday, everyone. Let’s do some headlines.
1. The president brought some classy friends to the White House Wednesday.
That would be Kid Rock, Sarah Palin, and Ted Nugent, mocking the official portrait of Hillary Clinton.
The New York Times has the tick-tock
“We were there for four hours, man!” Mr. Nugent, a 68-year-old Detroit native, said in a telephone interview on Thursday, using a four-letter expletive to signal his amazement at Mr. Trump’s willingness to spend so much time with his three casually dressed visitors.
About those “epithets”
“He gave us a wonderful personal tour of every room and talked about the origins of every carpet and every painting — there was a Monet — and then we had dinner,” said Mr. Nugent, who has referred to former President Barack Obama as a “mongrel” and to Hillary Clinton with an array of unflattering epithets.
As recently as January, he called for both Obama and Clinton to “be tried for treason & hung.” (Just months later, Trump would find himself mired in controversy over a comment widely interpreted as a barely veiled, violent threat against Clinton.)
2. We’re headed for a budget showdown over the border wall.
And in years past, Nugent has told President Obama (who he has dubbed a “piece of shit” and a “subhuman mongrel”) to “suck my tiger dick,” and to also “suck on my machine gun.”
“Hey Hillary [Clinton], you might want to ride one of these [guns] into the sunset, you worthless bitch," he added for good measure during that same infamous mid-concert rant in 2007.
The White House is insisting that money for the border wall be included in the budget. This is obviously a nonstarter for Democrats.
From The Washington Post
White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said Thursday that he hopes to use negotiations to keep the government open past April 28 in an effort to force Democrats to back some funding for creating a new wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — a risky move that could provoke a spending showdown with congressional Democrats next week.
Mulvaney said the White House would be open to funding some of the Democrats’ priorities — such as paying insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act — if Democrats agree to fund some of the more controversial parts of President Trump’s agenda, notably the border wall.
It’s likely that not
paying those subsidies would basically eviscerate the health insurance market, which would be politically disastrous for the Trump administration. And, at least on this front, it’s not clear that the Trump administration has the upper hand, despite unified control of government.
Republican leaders and members of the House and Senate appropriations committees had hoped to avoid a spending confrontation early in Trump’s administration by negotiating directly with Democrats, whose votes will be necessary to pass any spending bill. Republicans hold a slim 52-to-48 advantage in the Senate, meaning they will need at least eight Democrats to reach the 60 votes required to pass spending measures in that chamber.
3. Attorney General Jeff Sessions may not be aware that Hawaii is a state.
Sessions, a racist
who lied under oath during his confirmation hearing
about his contacts with Russia during the campaign, went on Mark Levin’s radio show earlier this week and expressed dismay that a judge “sitting on an island in the Pacific” could halt Trump’s unconstitutional travel ban.
"We've got cases moving in the very, very liberal Ninth Circuit, who, they've been hostile to the order," Sessions said. "We won a case in Virginia recently that was a nicely-written order that just demolished, I thought, all the arguments that some of the other people have been making. We are confident that the President will prevail on appeal and particularly in the Supreme Court, if not the Ninth Circuit. So this is a huge matter. I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the President of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and Constitutional power."
4. The N.C. Senate wants to direct economic incentives toward the state’s poorer counties.
Last month, a federal judge in Hawaii, Judge Derrick Watson, issued an order that blocked Trump's ban on travelers from several Muslim-majority countries. The Department of Justice is currently appealing the decision.
The upshot is that metropolitan areas like the Triangle and Charlotte, which have benefitted from these incentives in recent years, could suffer. And the secretary of commerce is warning that the changes might not do those poorer counties very much good, either.
From The News & Observer:
A proposal to redirect state financial incentives – to encourage companies to move to poorer counties – passed a state Senate committee Thursday. But some lawmakers and the N.C. secretary of commerce warned that the proposal, Senate Bill 660, would do little to help economically distressed counties and would instead undermine the ability of job-magnets like the Triangle and Charlotte to continue attracting high-paying jobs.
5. N.C. House Republicans want to add a right-to-work provision into the state Constitution.
The legislation, called Economic Development Incentives Modifications, cleared the Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday and now heads to the Senate Finance Committee. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Harry Brown from Jacksonville, said using incentives to reward not only job creation but also geographical selection would restore the original intent of incentives: to help poor counties compete for jobs. […]
Tony Copeland, secretary of the N.C. Department of Commerce, told lawmakers he agrees with their general goal but said incentives won’t produce magical results. He said the primary considerations for job creation are the quality of the workforce and the quality of the infrastructure, such as access to airports, highways and natural gas lines.
“I’ve seen what companies look for, and without the talent they’re not going anywhere,” Copeland said.
It’s already embedded in state statute.
The House Judiciary I Committee passed House Bill 819 in a 6-5 vote along party lines Thursday morning. Several Republicans were absent from the meeting, and at one point Democrats nearly made up a majority of lawmakers present for the meeting. House Speaker Tim Moore briefly appeared in the meeting to speak with the committee chairman, who delayed the vote until more GOP legislators arrived.
6. The House targets local governments’ billboard restrictions.
If the bill passes both the House and Senate, voters would decide in November 2018 if the state law governing union activity should be added to the constitution. The law – and the constitutional amendment – bans employers from requiring their workers to join a labor organization or pay dues to a group.
A pair of measures backed by state House leaders would supersede some local ordinances restricting the size and location of billboards and dramatically increase compensation for billboard owners who lose locations. State and local officials are opposing the measures.
7. Durham considers a tax-relief program for gentrifying neighborhoods.
House Bill 580, sponsored by House Rules Chairman Rep. David Lewis,R-Harnett, would make it easier for a billboard owner to find a new location for a billboard that has to be relocated due to road construction or development. The owner could basically pick a new location as long as it's zoned the same as the old one. […]
But critics warned that, as written, the bill would allow billboards to proliferate, not just maintain their numbers.
"We believe that local governments should retain control of the placement of billboards in their community," Zebulon Mayor Bob Matheny, president of the North Carolina League of Municipalities, told lawmakers. "We regulate other signage in our community."
House Bill 579, also sponsored by Lewis, would increase what billboard owners must be paid if their billboards are condemned and not relocated. Under current law, they're worth the cost of their materials, but the proposal would mean local and state officials would have to pay the "fair market value" of their business for years into the future.
The INDY’s Sarah Willets reports
Durham city officials are working on a loan program to help residents whose property taxes have gone up because of city-initiated revitalization, but it’s unclear still whether residents or the city would bear the costs of administering that program.
8. Orange County moves ahead with light rail.
As the INDY has previously reported
The idea sprang from a November city council work session in which longtime residents of the Southside neighborhood complained of an increase in their property taxes as a result of the city’s work to redevelop that area. Residents there saw their tax bills go up $314 on average in 2016.
At a work session yesterday, Mayor Bill Bell pitched a deferred loan program in which residents would get a loan for the difference in their property tax obligation from the previous year. They would only repay the zero-interest loan when they sold or transferred their home. Homeowners would be able to apply annually, but for no more than four years. No vote was taken.
, the new financing plan calls for it to pick up a smaller share of the cost, with Durham paying more.
From the Herald-Sun
A plan reducing Orange County’s share of the Durham-Orange Light-Rail plan’s $3.3 billion cost won support Thursday but also raised questions about the county’s options if something goes wrong. […]
Revised figures now show Orange County’s cash balance for the project hitting a low of $4.4 million in 2019. The lowest cash balance for Durham County could be $3.4 million in 2027. Durham County’s numbers also include a commuter rail line project with Wake County, Cole said.
Orange County could use any remaining money to buy more bus services, Deputy County Manager Travis Myren said. County transit director Theo Letman has identified several Hillsborough and county routes that could be expanded.
If the counties don’t get the anticipated state or federal funding, the agreement requires them to meet with GoTriangle and consider other solutions.
“In the absence of federal funding, I would venture to say the project is not possible,” Myren said. “In absence of state funding, it becomes very difficult or impossible.”
The plan goes before the Durham County Board of Commissioner Monday, then back to the Orange County commission next Thursday.
That’s all for today. Have a great weekend.