Virginia’s 1st female lt. gov. takes her seat in the Senate

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – History-making Republican Winsome Earle-Sears began her tenure presiding over the Virginia Senate on Monday as the state’s first woman to serve as lieutenant governor and the first Black woman to hold statewide office.

Earle-Sears, a former member of the state House who last year returned from a nearly 20-year absence from elected office to win election, did not give lengthy prepared remarks.

Earle-Sears was part of a GOP sweep of Virginia’s top offices in November. She was sworn in Saturday, along with Gov. Glenn Youngkin and Attorney Gen. Jason Miyares. The party will also enjoy a new majority in the House of Delegates, meaning Democrats’ sole remaining hold on power in Richmond will be in the Senate, where their majority is a razor-thin 21-19.

US House map splitting Nashville advances in state Senate

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – A proposed U.S. House map that carves up fast-growing, Democratic-leaning Nashville into three different congressional districts advanced another step Thursday over strenuous objections from Democrats that it unfairly dilutes Black representation in Tennessee.

The Senate redistricting panel’s vote to move along the map came a day after a counterpart GOP-led state House committee gave the public a first look at its similar map and passed it to the next step. In lawmakers’ once-a-decade task of carving new legislative and congressional districts, they appear to have the new U.S. House map on a fast track and it could come up for final votes as quickly as next week.

Democrats have argued the map is a brazen move by Republicans to try to flip a Democratic seat, including by diluting the voice of Nashville-area Black voters by splitting them into multiple districts. The Democrats’ narrow majority in the U.S. House of Representatives is leading to fierce battles across the country over new congressional districts.

Already delayed, N. Carolina primary could now move to June

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina Republican legislators on Monday announced plans to attempt to further delay the already postponed state primary, responding to worries about timing should the state Supreme Court strike down recent redistricting plans.

The legislature returned to work Wednesday to take up a bill that would push the May 17 primary for U.S. Senate and House seats, the General Assembly, and scores of judicial and local positions to June 7, GOP leaders said.

Any election date change likely would need some Democratic support to become law. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper isn’t on the ballot this year but would be asked to sign any measure into law. Republicans lack veto-proof majorities in the state House and Senate.

Collecting race data on defendants nearly complete in ND

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – A nearly yearlong effort at collecting race data on defendants to identify any potential bias in North Dakota’s justice system will come to an end soon.

The court rule that took effect in March 2021 requires that prosecutors filing criminal complaints include the race of adult defendants as perceived by law enforcement officers’ reports.

The judiciary’s Minority Justice Implementation Committee will look at the data this spring and identify any issues or disparities, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

Illinois eases process of deleting racist terms from deeds

CHICAGO (AP) – A new state law lets homeowners in Illinois request the removal of racist language from property deeds, decades after the language was deemed unenforceable and outlawed.

WBEZ reports that restrictive covenants barring Black people from owning a property or labeling properties “white only” can be edited more easily due to the change.

State Sen. Adriane Johnson, a Buffalo Grove Democrat, was among the law’s sponsors. Johnson said the covenants aren’t enforceable but making it simpler to edit them is “another way of righting the wrongs from the past.”

Such deeds and covenants were considered legally binding in the U.S. from 1916 until 1948, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled they were unenforceable.

The 1968 Fair Housing Act made them illegal.

But homeowners still reported finding the racist language in deeds for property and some also found it was difficult to have the documents altered.

Ex-NJ police chief granted delay on reporting to prison

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) – A judge has granted a request by a former New Jersey police chief to delay reporting to federal prison to serve a 28-month sentence on a conviction of lying to the FBI during a hate crime investigation.

U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler agreed last week that former Bordentown Township police chief Frank Nucera Jr. should be allowed to remain free while seeking medical treatment for a number of health problems. The judge also cited rising coronavirus case counts, especially in the area around the FCI Ashland prison in Kentucky.

Kugler signed an order directing Nucera to report for prison April 30 rather than this month but warned defense attorney Rocco Cipparone that he would not be amenable to further delays. A prosecutor had expressed sympathy for Nucera’s medical ailments but objected that he shouldn’t be able “to put off his surrender indefinitely.”

Nucera was sentenced in 2019 after he was convicted of lying to the FBI by a jury that deadlocked on other charges. He had pleaded not guilty to charges of slamming a handcuffed Black man’s head into a door jamb in 2016 while two officers were escorting the man from a hotel.

Biden chooses 3 for Fed board, including first Black woman

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Joe Biden will nominate three people for the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, including Sarah Bloom Raskin, a former Fed and Treasury official, for the top regulatory slot and Lisa Cook, who would be the first Black woman to serve on the Fed’s board.

Biden will also nominate Philip Jefferson, an economist, dean of faculty at Davidson College in North Carolina and a former Fed researcher, according to a person familiar with the decision Thursday who was not authorized to speak on the record. The three nominees, who will have to be confirmed by the Senate, would fill out the Fed’s seven-member board.

Oath Keepers leader jailed on Capitol attack charges

WASHINGTON (AP) – The founder and leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group remained in jail after his first court appearance on Friday, a day after his arrest on charges he plotted with others to attack the U.S. Capitol to stop Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory.

The seditious conspiracy charges against Stewart Rhodes and 10 other Oath Keepers members or associates are the first to be levied in connection with the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021. They’re also the first to be brought by the Justice Department in over a decade.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kimberly Priest Johnson ordered Rhodes, 56, of Granbury, Texas, to be held in custody until a detention hearing next Thursday in the Dallas suburb of Plano.

Michigan state police disproportionately stop Black drivers

LANSING, Mich. (AP) – The leader of the Michigan State Police pledged changes Wednesday as the agency released an independent report finding that troopers disproportionately pulled over Black drivers in 2020 traffic stops.

African American motorists were more likely to be stopped than expected under a series of benchmarks – including population, an analysis of crash data and a comparison of stops in daylight vs. night, according to the research done by the Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice.

The review, which had been commissioned by the department after it identified potential racial disparities, also said Black and Hispanic drivers were significantly more likely than White motorists to be searched or arrested after traffic stops.