Reuters US Domestic News Summary

Following is a summary of current US domestic news briefs.

Supreme Court takes up challenge to consumer protection agency

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a challenge backed by President Donald Trump's administration to the structure of a federal agency assigned to protect consumers in the financial sector that could undermine its independence from presidential interference. The nine justices will hear an appeal involving the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau brought by a law firm that had been investigated by the agency, arguing that its structure infringes on presidential powers as laid out in the U.S. Constitution.

U.S. judge limits Florida law curtailing felons' voting rights

A federal judge in Florida ruled on Friday that a state law requiring felons to pay fines, fees and restitution related to their convictions before being allowed to vote cannot be applied to people unable to make payments. In his opinion, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee pointed to a U.S. constitutional amendment that prohibits denying citizens the right to vote in federal elections for failure to pay taxes. He also cited a previous federal court ruling that decreed access to voting "cannot be made to depend on an individual's financial resources."

Bye Bye, Bei Bei: National Zoo panda leaves for China next month

Washington's National Zoo will soon have an empty-nester exhibit on display when Bei Bei, the 4-year-old male offspring of the zoo's giant panda couple, sets out for China next month to help breed more of his species in his parents' homeland. “Bei Bei is part of our family,” Steve Monfort, director of the Smithsonian's National Zoo, said in a statement. "We’re sad he’s leaving, but excited for the contributions he will make to the global giant panda population."

Tropical Storm Nestor forms near the U.S. Gulf Coast

Nestor forms as the fourteenth named storm in the Atlantic and is expected to approach the northern Gulf Coast later on Friday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. The tropical storm is located about 195 miles (315 km) south of the mouth of the Mississippi river, packing a maximum sustained winds of 60 miles-per-hour (95 km/h), the Miami-based weather forecaster said in its latest advisory on Friday.

Tropical storm menaces U.S. southeast, New Orleans to demolish cranes

Tropical Storm Nestor barreled toward Florida's Gulf Coast on Friday, packing life-threatening storm surge, with New Orleans preparing to demolish two damaged construction cranes officials fear could collapse in high winds. Florida cities such as Indian Pass faced up to five feet (1.5 meters) of storm surge while parts of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana could be pummeled by gale force winds and up to six inches of rain, the National Hurricane Center said.

Trump says U.S. Energy Secretary Perry to step down at end of the year

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry will step down by the end of the year, President Donald Trump said on Thursday, a day before a deadline set by congressional Democrats for Perry to turn over documents in the impeachment probe. Trump told an event in Texas that he had known for months that Perry would resign.

New York city council votes to close infamous Rikers Island jails

The New York City Council voted on Thursday to close the city's infamous Rikers Island jail complex by 2026, casting off a detention system plagued by chronic violence and decrepit facilities, as the nation rethinks mass incarceration. The council approved an $8.7 billion legislative package to close Rikers and three other jails, replace them with four more humane facilities throughout the city, and eventually turn Rikers Island itself into a public space.

Ex-Hercules Capital CEO and former food executive to plead guilty to U.S. college scam

The former chief executive of specialty finance lender Hercules Capital Inc and a former food manufacturer executive have agreed to plead guilty to charges related to their role in the U.S. college admissions scandal, prosecutors said on Friday. Federal prosecutors in Boston allege that Hercules Capital founder Manuel Henriquez and Michelle Janavs participated in schemes that involved bribery and college entrance exam cheating to help their children gain admission to top schools.

Chicago teachers, district joust over 'sticking points' in 2nd day of strike

A strike by Chicago public school teachers entered its second day on Friday with union leaders reporting some headway at the bargaining table in a contract dispute focused on reducing class sizes and other issues that would benefit students. In addition to wage increases, the union has emphasized the demands of teachers for more money to ease overcrowded classrooms and to add more nurses, social workers and teaching aides.

Opioid settlement talks falter, landmark trial expected Monday: attorney

A landmark trial stemming from the U.S. opioid epidemic is expected to begin on Monday after last-ditch talks to strike a multibillion-dollar settlement faltered on Friday, according to an attorney for local governments. The thousands of towns and counties that sued drugmakers and distributors are "not on the same page" as state attorneys general who also sued the companies, said the attorney, Paul Hanly.