Howdy everyone. How’s Thursday treating you? We’ve got a bunch of state news to plow through, with the legislature about to wrap up its work for the year. So let’s get to it. —Jeffrey C. Billman
1. N.C. REPUBLICANS WANT TO IMPEACH ELAINE MARSHALL.
THE GIST: Republican Representative Chris Millis—he’ll make another appearance in item 3, if you want to skip ahead—does not like Democratic Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, who had the audacity to win reelection in November. So yesterday, he introduced a resolution requesting an investigation of Marshall to see if she should impeached, the first time a statewide executive officeholder in North Carolina would be impeached since 1870. The charge is that her office has commissioned some 320 noncitizens as notaries over a nine-year period; in March, he demanded Marshall’s resignation. Marshall, the first woman elected to statewide executive office in North Carolina, declined, saying Millis, a civil engineer by trade, didn’t understand the facts or the law involved.
THE CONFLICT: Millis believes it’s illegal for Marshall’s office to bestow notary commissions on noncitizens. The secretary of state’s office points out that a Supreme Court decision in 1984 ruled that it was improper to make citizenship a requirement to be a notary; the standard, based on a federal law passed in 2005, is permanent residency. So the office accepts permanent residency cards, employee authorization forms, and visas as acceptable identification for notary commissions. (The office says it does not accept proof of DACA protection, as Millis has alleged.) Millis still thinks this confers an illegal public benefit, though it’s not entirely clear how.
- Goes without saying: “‘We feel like this is politics,’ said Michael Arnold, a senior adviser to Marshall. He added that the state auditor and the state Department of Justice have reviewed the practice. ‘We are administering appropriately within federal and state guidelines.’”
WHAT’S NEXT: The House voted 20–10—along party lines, of course—to send a motion for an investigation to the full House.
In other NCGA news:The House completed its override of Governor Cooper’s budget veto yesterday, as expected.
2. SEN. WADE TAKES A SWING AT HER HOMETOWN PAPER.
THE GIST: Senator Trudy Wade is not the biggest fan of the free press, especially when that free press deigns to criticize her and her colleagues. Earlier this session—following a News & Observer series on companies that illegally classify employees as independent contractors, Wade sponsored a bill to make newspapers treat delivery people as employees instead of contractors, saying: “Surely the same industry that brought the problem to our attention will recognize this inconsistency between what they report and editorialize on and what they practice, and support this important reform to protect their own hard workers.” Wade introduced another measure that would have allowed local governments to opt out of printing government government notices in local papers, a big source of revenue for smaller-town publishers. (Think of the ramifications: if a small-town publisher prints something critical of a local government, the government can threaten to pull that revenue.) After the N.C. Press Association and others lobbied against it, the bill’s scope was narrowed to four urban counties; then, when that didn’t pass, Wade attached a provision to another bill singling out just Guilford County, where her hometown News & Record sits.
SHENANIGANS: “The final version also changes the requirements governing which newspapers can publish legal notices, prompting concerns from the N.C. Press Association. The new requirements appear to allow local governments to use a statewide newspaper, such as the North State Journal, instead of local newspapers, by eliminating a requirement that the newspaper have its postal permit in the county where the local government is located. … The North State Journal is published by Neal Robbins, a former staffer in Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration. Rep. Justin Burr, a Republican from Albemarle, is an investor in the paper’s parent company, according to Burr’s ethics filings.”
Related:The House passes the employee misclassification crackdown.
On the plus side: The so-called Brunch Bill, watered down though it may be, is headed to the governor.
3. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED ON TWITTER LAST NIGHT?
THE GIST:Here’s a weird #NCPOL adventure. Around eight o’clock last night, the Twitter feed for NC Conservatives PAC—a committee that originated in 2016 and had as its spokesman for last year’s elections none other than our buddy from item 1, Chris Millis—began tweeting out a series of gay slurs directed first at Democrats and then later at a Republican. First target: Democratic House leader Darren Jackson, whom the PAC said wasn’t “Butch” enough to lead the party; it suggested Representative Pricey Harrison instead. Later, it said Jackson sounds like a “faggy version of Truman Capote.” And after Brent Woodcox, a Senate Republican staff attorney, saw the tweets and objected, the Twitter feed called him a “fat boy cuck.” Anyway, Millis told WRAL that he was no longer associated with the PAC and thought the account had been hacked. The person the PAC is registered to didn’t respond to WRAL’s phone call. The PAC was fined for not releasing its campaign finance reports for the second half of 2016, though we do know that in the first half a slew on GOP lawmakers funded it.
WHAT IT MEANS: As of late last night, the Twitter account was shut down. It’s possible they were hacked. It’s also possible that someone with access access to the password and conflicted feelings about their own sexuality got a little tipsy and let loose. Or, in the least generous interpretation, the people running this PAC are straight-up homophobes, and they’re backed by the state GOP. Who knows.
UPDATE: In a tweet this morning (after restarting its account), the PAC blamed an unnamed ex-employee who had access to the account.
4. TRUMP MOVES TO ENFORCE NEW TRAVEL BAN.
THE GIST: With the Supreme Court giving the go-ahead for a partial reinstatement of the travel ban, the White House is issuing new visa criteria for people from six predominantly Muslim nations. The court said President Trump could only curtail visitation from those without a “bona fide relationship”; that definition was left up to the government, but the court suggested in its ruling that those who had relatives, a job, or an invitation to lecture in the U.S. would be exempt. The criteria the administration is rolling out appear far stricter. According to a State Department cable obtained by the Associated Press, visa applicants from six Muslim nations and all refugees must prove a “close” family or business tie. As the AP notes: “Grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-laws and sisters-in-law, fiancees or other extended family members are not considered to be close relationships.”
WHAT IT MEANS: This is probably going back to court.
5. FIVE LOCAL HEADLINES.
- Vets warn of rising number of copperhead bites. [WRAL]
- Zillow threatens to sue an N.C. woman over her blog. [INDY]
- Daryl Howard, falsely convicted of a double murder, sues the city of Durham. [INDY]
- Roy Cooper missed a deadline, so the Senate appointed one of its own to a plum gig on the Board of Review. [N&O]
- Durham cops save two women, one of them pregnant, from a sinking car. [Herald Sun]
6. ODDS & ENDS.
- The iPhone turns ten today.
- Hey guys, that viral photo of a seal hugging a beluga whale is totally fake.
- Washington, D.C. has begun issuing gender-neutral driver’s licenses. Oregon will do the same starting Friday.
- Lin Manuel-Miranda made a kickass, thought-provoking video for the Hamilton Mixtape track “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done).”
- Another sunny and pleasant day with no rain in the forecast. High of 87.
- Everything old is inexplicably new again. (Taken at King’s Red & White in Durham last night.)