Mark Robinson’s Deal, What Is It?

Happy 420, come get your dumb weed jokes + Chauvin case to jury + NCGA Rs push bill to help selves + Kamala pitched big infrastructure while Joe pledged compromise + CJ Davis walking in Memphis

Tues., April 20, 2021

Happy 420, y’all. In honor of this sacred holiday, here’s my all-time favorite bit of stoner comedy:

  • Weather: Partly cloudy, high of 75.

  • Welcome, new readers. A whole bunch of people joined the email list yesterday. We’re not sure where they came from, but we’re glad they’re here.


Today’s Numbers:

0

People charged with vandalism and property damage related to the protest against police violence in downtown Raleigh on Sunday night.

  • 12 people were cited for failure to disperse after the cops declared the protest an unlawful gathering.

  • One of those 12 was charged with simple assault, another was charged with assault on a law enforcement officer, both misdemeanors.

  • The Derek Chauvin case went to the jury yesterday afternoon. If the cop gets off, the streets won’t be quiet.

64

People who have been killed by American law enforcement officers since March 29, the day opening statements began in Derek Chauvin’s trial for the death of George Floyd. (Source: NYT)

23

Mass shootings in 2021 in which three or more people have died, through April 18. (Source: Gun Violence Archives)


+TODAY’S TOP 4

1. NCGA Republicans Push Bill That Benefits Them

Check out this timeline:

  • April 13, 2:29 p.m.: Charlotte reporter emails House Speaker Tim Moore asking for an interview about a bill to change the tax code related to Paycheck Protection Program loans.

  • April 13, 5:36 p.m.: Moore tells reporter, “I just want you to know that I have not advocated for that bill.”

  • April 13, 6 p.m.: State Rep. Julia Howard, the chair of the Finance Committee, opens a committee meeting with “I was given orders from the Speaker that we would hear this PPP bill today.”

The bill passed on a voice vote and headed to the House. To be honest, the legislation itself isn’t that controversial. But no one deigned to mention to the bill’s chief proponents—and Moore—all stand to benefit if it becomes law.

  • “If passed, House Bill 334 would exempt some federal coronavirus relief loans from state taxes. Records show some of the bill’s strongest backers would likely save thousands of dollars, including one lawmaker whose businesses could gain some $20,000. House Speaker Tim Moore’s law firm could stand to benefit a more modest amount, as much as $1,300.” 

  • “Rep. John Bradford, a Republican from Cornelius and a supporter of the bill, for example, could see his businesses’ taxes owed reduced by up to $20,000. Bradford is the CEO of a software company and sole owner of a property management company.” (N&O)

  • So long as the change applies to all PPP recipients and not just the lawmakers’ companies, they don’t have to recuse themselves.

The House passed the legislation yesterday.

  • The PPP loans themselves aren’t taxable. If this bill becomes law, North Carolina will join 47 states in exempting the expenses for which they used that money—things like masks and hand sanitizer.

  • The House has declined to waive income taxes on unemployment benefits—though the federal government has done so—saying it can’t afford such largesse.

  • The House also passed a bill to waive interest on tax filings that come in before May 17. Senate leader Phil Berger says he’ll move that one, but he’s not committing to anything else.

▶️ OTHER NCPOL NEWS

  • State Sen. Ted Alexander copy/pasted plainly unconstitutional right-wing legislation that would let you sue Facebook for deleting your hate speech. (N&O)


2. In NC, Harris Pitches Big Infrastructure. In DC, Biden Pitches Compromise.

At a meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers—all former mayors or governors—on Monday morning, President Biden said he is “prepared to compromise” on his infrastructure bill.

  • “It’s a big package, but there are a lot of needs,” Biden said.

In the afternoon, speaking in the Triad, Vice President Kamala Harris seemed less willing to water it down.

  • “We are not going to take it slow, and we are not going to take it one step at a time. Nope. We are going to take a giant leap into the future.”

Harris also pushed the standard talking points: good jobs, union jobs, jobs for women, clean energy jobs.

  • Harris: “Help is here, help is here. And hope is here. Things are looking up.”

  • “Cooper, [EPA chief Michael] Regan, U.S. Rep. David Price of Chapel Hill, and plant leaders joined Harris. The tour included the bus floor assembly area, automated vehicle guidance system, electric vehicle charging station, and the electric vehicles fleet. The jobs plan designates $20 billion for electric school buses.”

  • “Harris called the electric buses ‘a model for the world’ and a ‘clear example of American aspiration—to see what is possible and then do it.’ She said the $20 billion would be a ‘significant step’ toward the goal of electrifying all school buses. She said the plant is an example of what happens when you put the resources into place for American ingenuity and innovation.” (N&O)

Big picture: For all the happy talk of compromise, if Republicans stick to their $800 billion range, Democrats will stiff-arm them. This is, as Harris acknowledged, a “once in a generation” opportunity.

▶️ OTHER NATIONAL NEWS

  • On Friday, President Biden reversed an earlier pledge to raise Trump’s historically low refugee cap from 15,000 to 62,500, then reversed himself again after progressives—and, well, decent human beings—threw a fit. He’ll raise it, the White House says, but not the 62,500. The whole thing was a big misunderstanding, or something. (CNN)

  • The Washington, D.C., medical examiner says that Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick suffered two strokes and died of natural causes after confronting rioters on Jan. 6. (WaPo)

  • Former vice president Walter Mondale died at the age of 93. (NYT)


3. Mark Robinson’s Deal, What Is It?

Mark Robinson, who became lieutenant governor roughly 37 seconds ago, posted a video to Facebook last week announcing that he was taking a “serious look” at running for Senate because the people were demanding it.

His “serious look” at the race last all of four days. On Monday, he posted a statement to Facebook announcing that he wasn’t going to run after all.

  • “Our state deserves real leadership, and right now there is a vacuum left by a do-nothing governor,” Robinson wrote. “I have seen the Cooper administration play favorites with vaccinations, stifle small businesses, and veto good legislation purely for political points. I will not stand idly by.”

  • Standing by is pretty much what lieutenant governors do.

  • Robinson praised his team, “especially with the important task of education.”

That reminds me:

  • Remember a month ago when he formed a task force to look into claims of left-wing indoctrination in schools?

  • Remember when I requested records of those complaints, which his website initially promised to keep confidential, though there was literally no way that was legal under the state’s public records law?

Time for an update: After a month of “looking into it,” Robinson’s general counsel informed me, via email, that based on his “research and analysis … many if not all of these records would be exempt from disclosure due to the privacy requirements of FERPA and the Lieutenant Governor’s status as a member of the State Board of Education.”

  • So far as I—and the lawyer I consulted—can tell, this is an absurd response. FERPA prevents educational institutions from disclosing students’ records. I did not ask for students’ records, and this task force is not an educational institution. And I have no idea why the LG’s status would absolve him from public records disclosures.

  • When I put in this request, it was kind of a lark. It’s not anymore. Stay tuned.


4. DPD Chief Davis Is Off to Memphis

After five years, Durham Police Chief CJ Davis is headed to Memphis, where she’s accepted a position as that city’s next chief. Memphis has twice Durham’s population and four times its police force.

  • Davis’s resignation is effective in June.

  • Durham will be the second Triangle city looking for a top cop. Raleigh is, too.

The city’s had an uptick in gun crime, and its police department hasn’t had the best homicide-clearance rate lately. As the N&O’s write-up notes, Davis’s requests for more cops and Tasers, as well as for the controversial Shotspotter system, were rejected or delayed by the city council.

  • The N&O quotes “some Durham residents and political leaders”—including long-ago city council and school board member Jackie Wagstaff (who came in, I think, seventh or eighth when she ran for council in 2019)—guessing that these disputes pushed Davis out.

  • Perhaps. But until I see evidence to the contrary, it seems more likely to me that she saw an opportunity and took it.

Davis’s tenure deserves a more thorough analysis. But on the whole, I think she acquitted herself well here.

  • The DPD handled the George Floyd protests much more professionally than did its colleagues in Raleigh.

  • She was a proponent of rethinking policing—though not to the degree that Durham Beyond Police wants—and banning chokeholds.

  • She focused more on violent crime and less on mundane stuff.