NC GENERAL ASSEMBLY RAISES LEGAL AGE FOR MARRIAGE TO 16: The NC House unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that would raise the legal age to marry from 14 to 16, moving the state a bit closer to banning child marriage altogether. But Wednesday’s vote seemed unlikely earlier this year. When lawmakers first proposed Senate Bill 35 the plan was to ban marriage under 18 outright. The child marriage bill stalled when it was sent to the Families, Children and Aging Policy committee led by Rep. Jerry Carter, a Rockingham County Republican. After Carter’s death last week, the bill moved out of his committee and into the Rules committee which sent the bill to the House floor. I don't want to speak ill of the dead, so I won't say anything.
BIG SURPRISE, NC REPUBLICANS PUSH BILLIONS IN TAX CUTS: Despite objections from some Democrats, the state House is on track to approve its $25.7 billion spending proposal Wednesday evening. Budget writers came into the process with an unprecedented state surplus of more than $6.5 billion, plus billions more in federal COVID relief funds. Republican leaders touted the historic level of spending in the budget, including more than $1.6 billion in water and sewer infrastructure funding, as well as a personal and corporate tax cut totaling some $8.6 billion dollars over the next five years. "This isn’t a time to be figuring out ways to help out-of-state corporations save money," Reives, D-Chatham, said. "That money needs to go into investment in different communities here." Rep. Gale Adcock, D-Wake, blasted House Republicans for not only failing to expand Medicaid, but even cutting Medicaid funding to find millions for pet projects, "by increasing Medicaid office co-pays by 33 percent, and at the same time lowering reimbursements to the providers who care for Medicaid patients."
MASK MANDATES ARE BACK, THANKS TO A WHOLE LOT OF STUPID PEOPLE: Guilford County and Orange County governments announced a countywide indoor face mask mandate for everyone, regardless of a person's vaccination status. Orange County's restriction begins late Wednesday afternoon, while Guilford's mandate begins Friday afternoon. There are exemptions for small children, people with certain medical conditions and others working in private offices. Asheville also initiated a face mask requirement in its government buildings only starting Wednesday. It's following a similar action that took effect Monday for Buncombe County government offices. The orders come as state health officials said North Carolina reported the largest single-day jump in intensive care unit admissions at hospitals since the pandemic began. There were 557 ICU admissions related to COVID on Monday, compared to 502 on the day before, the Department of Health and Human Services said in a news release. Durham County and the city of Durham reinstituted a face mask requirement in all indoor buildings as of Monday.
CHEROKEE ARE SELLING MEDICAL MARIJUANA ON THE RES: The tribal government of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, well-known in North Carolina for having the first lawful casino in the state, this month voted to begin making and selling medical marijuana on Cherokee tribal territory, known as the Qualla Boundary. This is about 50 miles west of Asheville in the western North Carolina mountains. It includes the town of Cherokee and the Cherokee land in Swain, Jackson and Haywood counties. People who aren’t Cherokee will be allowed to visit the tribe and buy medical marijuana from the Cherokee dispensary, said Jeremy Wilson, the governmental affairs liaison for Principal Chief Richard B. Sneed. But any potential customer will have to share health records with the tribe’s Cannabis Control Board, the medical marijuana ordinance says. The board will review the health records and decide whether to issue the person a medical cannabis patient card, which is required for the purchase of medical marijuana in the Qualla Boundary. The person must be age 21 or older to receive the card.
TALIBAN NOT WASTING TIME IN TAKING OVER AFGHANISTAN: The Biden administration is preparing for Afghanistan’s capital to fall far sooner than feared only weeks ago, as a rapid disintegration of security has prompted the revision of an already stark intelligence assessment predicting Kabul could be overrun within six to 12 months of the U.S. military departing, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter. One official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the issue’s sensitivity, said Tuesday that the U.S. military now assesses a collapse could occur within 90 days. Others said it could happen within a month. Some officials said that although they were not authorized to discuss the assessment, they see the situation in Afghanistan as more dire than it was in June, when intelligence officials assessed a fall could come as soon as six months after the withdrawal of the U.S. military. The worsening outlook comes as Taliban fighters, emboldened by the American military departure, have steadily retaken ground from Afghan government forces — including at least seven provincial capitals in a span of days. Nevertheless, President Biden on Tuesday insisted that his decision to withdraw U.S. forces is not up for debate, saying that despite the Afghans’ weak performance militarily, he did not “regret” his decision to end the 20-year campaign and he is not considering any change of plans in light of the Taliban’s gains. “Look,” Biden told reporters at the White House, “we spent over a trillion dollars over 20 years. We trained and equipped, with modern equipment, over 300,000 Afghan forces. And Afghan leaders have to come together.”