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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says his administration is acting prudently before recommending when and how state employees should return to their offices. Cooper made the comment Monday at a bill-signing ceremony in which he defended his decision late last week to end most COVID-19 face covering mandates. The governor says the state Department of Health and Human Services was speaking Monday with federal health officials before dispensing directives to Cabinet-level agencies and giving advice to private employers about at-home workers returning to communal office settings.

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The North Carolina Zoo has announced the birth of three litters of American red wolves, which are critically endangered and number less than two dozen in the wild. The zoo said Monday that 12 pups were born during over three days at the end of April.  According to zoo officials, all the pups and their mothers are healthy and doing well. The newest pups bring the total number of red wolves currently in the North Carolina Zoo’s breeding program to 36. Officials say that makes the pack at the North Carolina Zoo the second-largest in the U.S. after another zoo in Washington state.

Supporters of those with autism says legislation signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper should expand access to treatment services and rein in costs. The bipartisan measure that Cooper signed outside the Executive Mansion on Monday says behavior analysts can now operate independently, rather than under the previously required supervision of psychologists. Backers of the legislation say North Carolina was the only state still mandating such control. Now these analysts will be licensed on their own. Durham County Rep. Zack Hawkins has two sons with autism.

A North Carolina prosecutor says he is ready to discuss the results of a state investigation into the fatal shooting of a Black man by sheriff’s deputies. District Attorney Andrew Womble issued a statement saying he will hold a news conference Tuesday morning to talk about what the State Bureau of Investigation found in its probe of the death of Andrew Brown Jr. A bureau spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to an email Monday, nor did Womble. Deputies attempting to serve drug-related search and arrest warrants shot and killed Brown outside his Elizabeth City home on April 21.

Former President Donald Trump will speak at North Carolina's annual state Republican Party convention next month. Party officials announced Monday that Trump will speak at the June 5 convention dinner in Greenville. Trump has expressed interest in running for president again in 2024 but has not yet announced a decision. North Carolina GOP party leaders are hoping he'll keep playing a role in state politics and help the party in the upcoming 2022 midterms. A party spokeswoman said Trump's speech will be off-limits to the media and that journalists won't be able to view it in any way.

North Carolina State Capital by jimbowen0306 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The old state Capitol building in downtown Raleigh is reopening to the public after being closed for 15 months during the pandemic. Visitors can enter the 1840 Greek Revival-style building for self-guided tours starting Monday. It'll be open on weekdays during normal business hours. The Capitol once housed offices of the governor, the Supreme Court and the House and Senate chambers. The General Assembly and the Supreme Court have their own buildings now. Many of the governor’s offices remain inside.

A jury in a North Carolina federal civil rights case has awarded $75 million to two Black, intellectually disabled half brothers who spent decades behind bars after being wrongfully convicted in the 1983 rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl. The News & Observer reports the eight-person jury on Friday awarded Henry McCollum and Leon Brown $31 million each in compensatory damages, $1 million for every year spent in prison. The jury also awarded them $13 million in punitive damages.

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The National Park Service has begun a project to evaluate how to repair and whether to relocate the historic lighthouse on North Carolina’s Ocracoke Island. The bright white structure is the second-oldest lighthouse in the nation still operating and has been damaged several times in recent years by hurricanes. Water levels on the remote island are also rising, threatening to inundate the site, which sits on property just 2 feet above sea level.

One week after it resumed regular road testing after a year's absence, the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles says it will also open some of its offices on Saturdays. The agency said in a news release that Saturday hours would resume at 16 offices across the state, starting this Saturday. Eight of them will focus on road testing to help reduce the backlog of teenage drivers who are required by state law to pass a road test to gain their full provisional license. The other eight offices will offer in-house testing for permits and licenses and other services.

Lawyers representing two former North Carolina sheriff's deputies have agreed to a $9 million settlement with two half brothers who spent decades behind bars after being wrongfully convicted in the killing of an 11-year-old girl. The News & Observer of Raleigh reports the lawyers for two former Robeson County Sheriff’s Office deputies agreed in federal court on Friday to the settlement with Henry McCollum and Leon Brown. McCollum and Brown are both Black. They were released from prison in 2014 after DNA evidence exonerated them.

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With peak travel season on the Outer Banks fast approaching, N.C. Department of Transportation crews will be changing speed limit signs along sections of N.C. Highway 12  in several parts of Currituck and Dare counties.

NCDPS

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has immediately ended nearly all of the statewide mask-wearing mandates and the capacity limits on businesses. The governor of the nation’s ninth largest state announced his decision Friday, the day after the CDC eased mask-wearing guidance indoors for people who are fully vaccinated. Cooper had aimed to get rid of social distancing and mass gathering restrictions by June 1, but the CDC's action led him to act sooner. The number of daily confirmed cases and COVID-19-related hospitalizations continue to trend downward.

North Carolina Medicaid recipients are running out of time to ensure they’ll have no trouble getting the doctor they want when the program makes a significant shift soon. Friday is the end of open enrollment for North Carolina Medicaid Managed Care, which begins July 1. Most Medicaid recipients will participate. They can choose their primary care provider and health plan. There are several plans to choose from. People who don’t enroll will be placed in a plan automatically. Everyone will get 90 days to make changes.

Several Black activists are blasting a Republican measure at the North Carolina House that would increase penalties for rioters, calling it racist legislation. The House voted this week for the bill, which also would allow property owners to seek three times the monetary damage caused by a rioter. Speakers at a news conference Thursday said the measure is designed to silence otherwise peaceful demonstrators for racial justice.

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A new North Carolina state audit says Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration failed to thoroughly monitor how $3.1 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds were being used. Thursday's report from State Auditor Beth Wood’s office focuses on federal funds that the state received toward COVID-19 aid in the spring of 2020. The legislature then appropriated those funds. The performance audit’s authors wrote a new Pandemic Recovery Office failed to design procedures to ensure the money was being spent the way the legislature required, thus increasing the risk for misuse.

A North Carolina General Assembly parliamentary deadline designed to pare down what bills will be considered through 2022 passed quietly without the last-day clamor of previous biennial sessions. The Senate debated and voted on fewer than 10 bills before adjourning Thursday. Bills unrelated to taxes or spending, elections or a few other exceptions that didn’t pass the House or Senate by Thursday face long odds for consideration during the rest of the biennial session. The House completed its work Wednesday after disposing of over 130 bills that reached the chamber floor this week.

A case manager at a North Carolina prison has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a scheme to funnel drugs and other contraband into Caledonia Correctional Institution. The U.S. Department of Justice says in a news release that 62-year-old Ollie Rose III of Pleasant Hill admitted that he agreed to use his position from at least November 2018 through October 2020 to smuggle contraband — including oxycodone, marijuana and synthetic cannabinoids — into the prison for inmates.

North Carolina House members voted on Wednesday to curb the teaching of “critical race theory.” The framework examines how race and racism influence American politics, culture and law. Republicans in North Carolina quickly approved the bill ahead of a looming deadline. Their action follows a trend of other GOP-led states across the country seeking to limit how students are taught to think about race and racism. Democrats accuse GOP leaders of trying to rewrite history.

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The annual farm bill has been approved by the North Carolina Senate. The Republican-written measure passed Tuesday on a party-line vote despite criticism of a provision that likely would make it easier for livestock operations to seek and obtain permits to convert liquid waste into natural gas. Currently these operators seek individual permits. The bill proposes that state regulators issue general permits that are considered more streamlined. The pork industry supports the change.

North Carolina Republicans are moving quickly to advance a proposal to prevent schools from promoting several concepts about race and racism. It comes as a last-minute substitute to a charter school reopening bill Tuesday. Republicans say the bill isn't about rewriting history. Democrats are accusing GOP leaders of not allowing kids to learn about racism in the country. The measure must be approved in the House by Thursday to be considered this legislative session.

The North Carolina Senate has agreed on a party-line vote to a Republican measure designed to keep the names of donors to nonprofits confidential. The bill approved on Tuesday also would make clear a donor’s identifying information is not a public record when held by a government agency. A government worker could face a crime if it's disclosed. A bill sponsor, said the measure is designed to protect the privacy of donors in light of efforts by attorneys general in other states to obtain donor information from nonprofits.

North Carolina's Senate has approved a bill to require doctors to provide the same duty of care for children born alive after attempted abortions that they would for any other newborn child. Those who fail to make such effort to safeguard a child born after an abortion attempt could face civil penalties and be charged with a misdemeanor. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper rejected a similar measure in 2019. Democrats and abortion rights groups fear the bill approved Tuesday by the Senate would stifle a woman's right not to carry out her pregnancy. The latest proposal now heads to the House.

Lawyers for relatives of a Black man fatally shot by North Carolina deputies say body camera videos show that he didn’t strike them with his car before they opened fire, contradicting a local prosecutor. Chance Lynch is a lawyer who viewed the footage in private with Andrew Brown Jr.'s family. He says Brown was sitting in his stationary car with his hands on the wheel when the first shot was fired. Family members were shown approximately 18 minutes of footage Tuesday under a judge’s order.

Tennessee’s flag could be seen waving from atop the Capitol — but the one in North Carolina. The flag was unfurled from the building in downtown Raleigh on Tuesday for a movie being filmed this week at the 1840 Greek Revival-style building. The Department of Administration granted permission to the filmmakers of the “Evolution of Nate Gibson” to fly the Tennessee flag for one day only. The film features actors Marcia Gay Harden, Diane Ladd and Charlie Rowe. The old Capitol once housed offices of the governor, the Supreme Court and the House and Senate chambers.

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An array of groups and elected officials from both major parties support criminal justice reforms in North Carolina, but plenty of details still must be worked out. Legislators and representatives of these groups praised action so far by the House and Senate during a Tuesday news conference.   Speakers emphasized four bills — three that passed the House last week and one omnibus measure that’s expected to clear the Senate this week. One question is whether House members will accept additional items contained in the Senate bill or insist on narrower changes.

The family of a Black man who was fatally shot by sheriff’s deputies in North Carolina is expected to view more than 18 minutes of body camera video of the incident. County officials said the recordings will be shown to relatives of Andrew Brown Jr. at 3 p.m. Tuesday. Brown was behind the wheel of his car in Elizabeth City when he was shot on April 21. Deputies were serving a drug-related search warrant. A prosecutor said Brown’s car made “contact” with officers before the shooting began. But Brown’s family says he was driving away and called it an unjustified “execution.”

Johnston County officials say Amazon is planning a $100 million distribution and fulfillment center. The News & Observer of Raleigh reports the county made the announcement on Monday. Amazon plans to build a 620,000-square-foot warehouse in Smithfield by 2022 that will create 500 jobs paying at least $15 an hour. The announcement by Amazon comes less than two weeks after Apple announced that it was building its first East Coast campus in North Carolina, investing $1 billion for a site in Research Triangle Park.

N.C. General Assembly

The North Carolina House has approved more severe punishments for rioting. The chamber voted on Monday for the measure, which stemmed in part following mayhem in North Carolina cities last summer when largely peaceful demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd turned violent. House Speaker Tim Moore cited those demonstrations and the violence at the U.S. Capitol in January while pushing for the bill. The measure also would allow property owners to go to court and seek three times the monetary damage caused by a rioter.

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North Carolina House members on Monday approved a plan to curb the governor’s ability to mandate COVID-19 vaccines through executive action. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has shown no desire to exercise that power. The measure put forward by GOP Rep. Keith Kidwell would also bar state public health authorities and licensing agencies from requiring North Carolinians to get vaccinated in order to obtain a license. It’s perhaps the most mild of a string of anti-vaccination proposals brought forward by Republican state lawmakers.

North Carolina senators are interested in altering parts of the state's 2016 police body camera law in light of what's happened recently following the fatal police shooting of Andrew Brown Jr. in Elizabeth City. A measure approved by a Senate committee on Monday would direct law enforcement to let family members of a person who died watch unedited officer body camera footage within five business days of any request. A sheriff or police department could ask a judge to redact video.

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