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Legal attempts to block North Carolina legislative and congressional elections from occurring under district maps approved by state Republicans last month are getting heard by state trial judges. A three-judge panel began a hearing Friday on two lawsuits. Plaintiffs want the judges to prevent state officials from administering elections with the maps because they say they’re extreme partisan gerrymanders. Candidate filing for the March 8 primary begins on Monday.

Duke Energy electric customers in North Carolina will now see a new line-item charge on their monthly bills to repay $1 billion in bonds the company issued to get repaid for repairs from 2018 and 2019 storms. The storm recovery charge will mean a roughly $2.40 increase for the average Duke Energy Progress residential customer and 50-cent increase for a similar Duke Energy Carolinas customer. The General Assembly gave Duke Energy the ability to issue the bonds to get reimbursed, rather than go through normal rate case requests with state regulators.

A wildlife official says a manatee found stranded on the North Carolina coast on Thursday has died. First reported by Outer Banks Today, the nearly 10-foot-long female was still alive when it was found by a woman walking the beach around sunrise near Kill Devil Hills. There were no visible signs of trauma, but Clark says the manatee appeared to have been malnourished. She says the remains will be taken to N.C. State University’s lab in Morehead City for a necropsy. Officials say there have been more local manatee sightings recently.

A law prohibiting certain modifications of vehicles known as the “Carolina Squat,” or the “Carolina Lean,” took effect Wednesday. PRE’s Meredith Radford has more.

  

NCDPS

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed more legislation, this time a bill that would prevent the counting of mail-in absentee ballots received after Election Day. Cooper's veto on Thursday was expected, given that the measure was approved by the House and Senate on party lines favoring Republicans. The veto is unlikely to get overridden. Current law says envelopes postmarked by the day of the election can count if received within a three-day grace period.

More current North Carolina state legislators have thrown their hat into the ring to run for Congress next year. Democratic state Sen. Don Davis of Pitt County on Wednesday kicked off his campaign for the 2nd Congressional District seat. And three-term Republican Sen. Chuck Edwards of Henderson County began his campaign for the 14th Congressional District seat on Tuesday. Current state Rep. James Gailliard and former state Sen. Erica Smith have already started their bids for the 2nd District Democratic nomination.

Annette Elizabeth Allen for NPR

Around 1:30 Thursday, Dec. 2, President Biden visits the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., to talk about measures the White House will take to fight COVID-19 this winter. His visit comes as the new omicron variant of the virus has sparked concern worldwide.

All or portions of over two dozen laws the North Carolina General Assembly approved this year took effect as the calendar changed to December. Measures starting Wednesday are designed to protect expectant mothers behind bars in part by prohibiting their shackling. They also raise the minimum age for prosecuting children in juvenile courts from 6 to 8 years old. All law enforcement officers are now required to report a fellow officer’s apparent excessive force to a superior. The legal process by which a family can review police body camera footage has been altered.

A North Carolina appeals court has blocked enforcement of parts of a trial judge’s order that demanded $1.7 billion be spent by state agencies to address public education inequities. The majority on a three-judge panel hearing a request by the state controller agreed Tuesday that Superior Court Judge David Lee crossed the line by appropriating money. The ruling could be appealed. Lee has said he believed he had the authority from the state constitution and the Supreme Court to act. This is the latest chapter in longstanding school funding litigation known as "Leandro."

A North Carolina judge has declined to essentially force state lawmakers to start over on this year’s redistricting of General Assembly districts, saying he can’t turn back the clock on the process that led to new seat boundaries. Wake County Judge Graham Shirley on Tuesday denied motions in litigation from advocacy groups and voters complaining about how the Republican-controlled legislature ignored race-based voter data as part of its process. Shirley says he's not passing judgment on actual lawfulness of the enacted maps.

The North Carolina General Assembly has wrapped up nearly all of its work for the calendar year. The Republican-controlled legislature held floor votes Monday on several measures before leaving Raleigh. Some bills are heading to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper. One of the bills that Cooper is expected to veto would prohibit the spending of private money to run elections, something that happened in 2020. Lawmakers are scheduled to return in late December, but only for limited purposes such as veto overrides and redistricting changes.

NCDPS

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen will be stepping down after five years of services, according to a news release. Gov. Roy Cooper appointed Kody Kinsley, the current NCDHHS Chief Deputy Secretary for Health to take her place, beginning Jan. 1.

N.C. Forest Service

The North Carolina Forest Service issued a ban on all open burning more than 100 feet from occupied dwellings and canceled all burning permits statewide due to an increased fire risk. This ban took effect at 5 p.m. Monday and goes until further notice.

Pitt County Government Website

Pitt County will launch their Low-Income Energy Assistance Program and Low-Income Household Water Assistance Program on Wednesday. PRE’s Meredith Radford has more.  

  

  

A trial judge earlier this month ordered North Carolina officials to allocate $1.75 billion to address education inequities. But the chief bookkeeper for the state government’s finances is now asking an appeals court to block that decision. An attorney for State Controller Linda Combs last week wrote to the Court of Appeals and said that complying with the judge's order would force her to violate the state constitution and other laws.

NCDHHS

New data released by state health officials shows roughly one in six eligible North Carolinians have gotten a COVID-19 booster shot. The state Department of Health and Human Services is urging all adults to come in for an extra shot ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. Recently approved kid-sized doses for children ages 5 to 11 have been administered thus far to about 1 in 8 kids in the age group. Recent state data shows unvaccinated individuals are more than five times as likely to get the virus and 25 times likelier to die from it compared to vaccinated people.

 

Contributed photo

Food insecurity is an ongoing problem in eastern North Carolina. But the pandemic and rising food prices have made it especially hard for some local families to put food on the table. PRE’s Jared Brumbaugh and Meredith Radford have more on how communities across the region are affected by food insecurity and ways organizations are helping those in need.

Incidents in which police officers kill or injure someone in North Carolina are going to be recorded statewide for the first time in a database. But the information will not be made available to the public. WRAL reported Sunday that the North Carolina General Assembly authorized the database earlier this year as part of legislation for policing reform. The database will be for law enforcement agencies to use in an effort to weed out problem officers. Police reform advocates have been pushing for the database to be made public for reasons of transparency and accountability.

Authorities say a 2.3 magnitude earthquake shook a portion of central North Carolina early Wednesday, the second earthquake to hit the region within a week. The Winston-Salem Journal reports that the U.S. Geological Survey confirmed a 2.3 magnitude earthquake occurred at 4:05 a.m. Wednesday in Winston-Salem. On Sunday morning, a 2.4 magnitude earthquake shook Winston-Salem shortly before 9 a.m. The Sunday earthquake was centered about 3 miles southwest of Winston-Salem. No injuries or damages were reported after either earthquake.

East Carolina University

Administrators at a North Carolina university have suspended a fraternity amid allegations that its members were involved in sexual assault and drink tampering at their house. News outlets reported Wednesday that East Carolina University said in a memo that the Theta Chi fraternity is on a 30-day suspension while an investigation begins into a reported incident on Oct, 29. ECU issued an alert on Nov. 9 that it had received a report about the incident, but authorities have provided no details.

Liam James Doyle/NPR

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether North Carolina Republican legislative leaders can intervene in a federal court battle over a 2018 state voter ID mandate. House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger want to formally step into a pending federal case to defend the law. They have argued Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein won’t adequately fight for the law.  The high court said Wednesday in a brief order that it will hear the case at a later date.

Democratic former state Sen. Erica Smith has announced that she will end her campaign for U.S. Senate and launch a congressional bid to replace Rep. G.K. Butterfield. She expects challenges for her party's nomination from state Rep. James Gailliard and state Sen. Don Davis. Gailliard declared his candidacy on Monday night and is trying to present himself as the moderate candidate with the best chance to win a general election. Davis has filed paperwork to run in the redrawn northeastern North Carolina congressional district. Smith filed last week but formally announced her run Tuesday

New Bern High School - Facebook

  North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has approved a measure that will create a formal agreement between the nonprofit body currently governing North Carolina high school sports and state education leaders. The compromise signed into law Tuesday eases some demands previously advanced by state lawmakers, which the North Carolina High School Athletic Association had fought against. The State Board of Education can now reach a memorandum of understanding with the group to administer and enforce the education board's requirements for high school sports.

Developers of COVID-19 treatments and a champion of public school integration are among the nine latest recipients of North Carolina’s highest civilian honor. Gov. Roy Cooper emceed Thursday’s formal presentation of the North Carolina Awards for 2020 and 2021. The award was created 60 years ago to recognize significant contributions to the state and the nation. Recipients include National Institutes of Health director Dr. Francis Collins and Harvard University faculty member Kizzmekia Corbett for COVID-19 work.

North Carolina’s jobless rate fell further in October to 4.1% as the overall number of people employed kept growing. The state Commerce Department unveiled the seasonally adjusted rate on Friday. It compares to a revised September rate of 4.3%. The number of people employed in grew in October by 11,000 to well over 4.82 million workers. North Carolina hasn’t logged a rising monthly unemployment rate since September 2020. The rate reached as high as 13.5% during the peak of COVID-19 lockdown and commerce restrictions in spring 2020.

North Carolina Republicans have pushed a bill through the legislature that would prohibit the counting of mail-in absentee ballots not received by Election Day. The bill now heads to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who is likely to veto it. Current law allows ballot envelopes postmarked by the day of the election to count if received within a three-day grace period. The bill that cleared the General Assembly with a House vote Thursday would require ballots be turned in by 7:30 p.m. of the day of the general or primary election.

Congressman G. K. Butterfield, NC-01 YouTube

North Carolina Representative G. K. Butterfield announced today that he is not running for re-election. PRE’s Meredith Radford has this. 

  

  

Gov. Roy Cooper - Twitter

A final North Carolina budget bill is now law after Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper signed it almost as soon as the legislature placed it on his desk. The General Assembly gave its final approval on Thursday to a two-year state spending plan with a vote in the House. The Senate gave its final OK on Wednesday. The bill passed by wide margins in large part to the fact that Cooper announced this week he’d sign the measure into law, saying the good inside outweighed the items he disliked. The budget was supposed to be in place July 1.

Duke Health

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein held a news conference Tuesday announcing a lawsuit and investigation into electronic cigarette companies and retailers over concerns about youth marketing and poor age verification. Meredith Radford has this feature report for Public Radio East.

  

ECU News Services

The UNC Board of Governors on Thursday voted unanimously to approve a joint operating agreement between Vidant Health and East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine.  The two organizations will form a shared brand: ECU Health, which will launch January 1st.  According to a news release, the clinical integration will allow Vidant and Brody to more efficiently and effectively address health disparities and care delivery obstacles facing the region.

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