N.C. DOT rejects thousands of license plate names

The North Carolina Department of Transportation has banned thousands of license plates, according to an article from the Charlotte Observer. The Observer provided a comprehensive 26-page list of banned N.C. plates. The department rejects thousands of plates each year, and 2016 was no exception. But it is worth noting how many were highly politically-charged. Some examples include LCKHERUP, which references a popular “Lock her up!” chant at Donald Trump’s presidential campaign rallies. Others targeted at Democrats included 0BAMADIE and 0BAMALIE. There was no shortage of plates attacking Trump. Some included FTrump and RESIST45.

A DMV spokesman told the Charlotte Observer that a committee reviews the applications for vanity plates. The spokesman declined to explain the guidelines the committee uses to reject the plates.



Elementary students take over senator’s office to push for more funding

State Sen. Chad Barefoot, a Wake County Republican, had his office flooded with Durham elementary school kids on Wednesday, according to an article from the Raleigh News & Observer. Malcolm Goff, an art teacher at E.K. Powe Elementary School in Durham, spoke with legislative staffers about his desire to have the state increase per-pupil spending. He also held a classroom-style lesson inside Barefoot’s office with third graders. In a video, Goff asked a Barefoot staffer if the senator would be available to meet with him. The staffer replied Barefoot is in a meeting and unable to immediately talk.

House Bill 13 was signed into law last week to reduced kindergarten through third-grade class sizes from 24 students to between 19 and 21 students. After school districts complained that meeting the new class-size limits took away their flexibility to fund elementary school arts and physical education classes, the Senate modified the bill to delay the class-size changes to the 2018-19 school year. Senate leaders have pledged to consider funding arts but did not include a funding guarantee in the bill.

UNC Basketball team honored for championship victory

The UNC-Chapel Hill men’s basketball championship team was honored at state legislature on Wednesday. Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams spoke to the legislators about the need for greater teamwork going forward. In an article from WRAL, Williams was quoted saying, “We need your help in a lot of ways. We need you to reach across the aisle to work together as a team.” He also emphasized the need for both parties to come together to work on improving the quality of education in the state.

Om the same day, the Tar Heels traveled to Gov. Roy Cooper’s Executive Mansion in Raleigh. Cooper praised the team for never quitting and congratulated them on their championship victory. Williams presented Cooper with a signed basketball.

How N.C. representatives voted on Obamacare repeal

The U.S. House narrowly approved a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare on Thursday. The New York Times reports that the American Health Care Act would make profound changes to Medicaid by ending the program’s status as an open-ended entitlement. The bill would also eliminate tax penalties for people who go without health insurance. The original bill failed to go to the House floor for a vote in March shortly after a Congressional Budget Office report projected 24 million people would lose their access to healthcare by 2026. Overall, the House voted 217-213 in favor of the repeal bill.

Nine of the ten North Carolina Republican representatives voted in favor of the bill. All three Democratic representatives from the Tar Heel state voted against it. Rep. Walter Jones was among 20 House Republicans not supportive of the Republican bill. Jones said in a statement that the repeal bill had been rushed through without a new CBO score. “No one has any idea how much those deals will cost the American taxpayers, or how they might affect the cost, quality and availability of health insurance coverage for American families,” Jones said. He added that his office has received thousands of calls from Eastern North Carolinians, and 90 percent of those constituents were opposed to the bill.

Rep. Mark Meadows is chairman of the Freedom Caucus — a group that was largely responsible for the bill’s failure to go to a vote in March. Meadows supported the new bill, saying in statement that it would decrease premiums for Americans and protect those with pre-existing conditions. The bill now heads to Senate where it will likely face comprehensive review and edits. House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke at the White House Thursday praising the bill’s passage in the House but noted a long process lies ahead. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, but one thing is now clear: Republicans are committed to keeping our promise to lift the burden of Obamacare from the American people and put in place a better, more patient-centered system.”

Political reporter Mark Binker dies at 43

Veteran statehouse reporter Mark Binker died unexpectedly on Saturday at the age of 43. He covered state government for 12 years, first for the Greensboro News & Record, then for WRAL, and most recently for the Raleigh News & Observer’s The Insider newsletter.

A YouCaring fundraising page has been set up for funeral expenses and to support the needs of Binker’s family. A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. May 12 at the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh, WRAL reports. Binker was a highly regarded journalist, and since his death, he has received condolences from several state leaders.

Republican Senate Leader Phil Berger expressed his condolences to Binker’s wife and three sons and said in a statement that the highest compliment he can give is Binker as a reporter is that “through almost 15 years of regular interaction with him, I have no idea what his personal politics were. In a statement on Facebook, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper called Binker “an outstanding journalist who uniquely understood complex issues” who “never ducked asking tough questions, or stopped digging for more.”

NC lawmaker compares Hitler to Lincoln in Facebook post

N.C. Rep. Larry Pittman, a Concord Republican, said in a Facebook post Wednesday that President Abraham Lincoln was a “tyrant” similar to German chancellor Adolf Hitler. Responding to critics of the bill he introduced on Tuesday banning same-sex marriage, Pittman wrote: “And if Hitler had won, should the world just get over it? Lincoln was the same sort if (sic) tyrant, and personally responsible for the deaths of over 800,000 Americans in a war that was unnecessary and unconstitutional.”

Several people immediately replied to Pittman’s comment. One person inquired about his suggestion that the Civil War was unnecessary. Pittman has yet to respond. On Wednesday, House Speaker Tim Moore said the bill would die and not get a hearing.

Bill banning same-sex marriage is dead, House Speaker says

Republican House Speaker Tim Moore said House Bill 780, which proposed banning same-sex marriage in North Carolina, is dead and will not get a hearing in the House. In a statement on Wednesday, Moore said: “There are strong constitutional concerns with this legislation given that the U.S. Supreme Court has firmly ruled on the issue, therefore House Bill 780 will be referred to the House Rules Committee and will not be heard.” Bills often die in the Rules Committee due to lack of support from party leaders.

The bill was filed on Tuesday, and its short life does not come as a surprise since it would have violated the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage. The proposed legislation banning same-sex marriage gained widespread attention on social media shortly after a tweet from Buzzfeed News.