Associated Press

The mostly behind-the-scenes work of North Carolina House budget writers fashioning a proposed two-year government spending plan is getting unveiled. The House scheduled several subcommittee meetings on Thursday to consider spending and policy items for most government agencies. The meetings mark a key step toward rolling out a complete budget bill and the full House voting on it by the end of next week. The Republican-controlled Senate approved its own plan in June. The two chambers ultimately will have to work out differences to get a final spending plan on Democratic Gov.

Wikimedia Commons

Nearly two in five North Carolina K-12 public school districts are making masks optional for students and staff at the start of the new school year. North Carolina experts who released a frequently cited report showing minimal COVID-19 transmission within K-12 schools are warning of increased learning loss as a result of local school boards’ decisions to defy public health recommendations. COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and test positivity rates are at their worst levels in months. Kids under 12 can’t yet get vaccinated and many eligible young adults are unvaccinated.

Legislation to license and tax sports betting throughout North Carolina has cleared its first Senate committee. The bipartisan legislation approved on a divided voice vote Wednesday would direct the issuance of up to 12 sports wagering operators’ licenses. License fees and a tax on gross revenues would be collected by the state. The bill’s chief sponsor says many people already are wagering on collegiate and professional events through out-of-state betting sites. Sen. Jim Perry says regulating these activities would promote transparency and generate revenues for things like education.

The North Carolina legislature has agreed that people convicted of a felony can’t run for sheriff even if it's been removed from their criminal records. The House voted on Wednesday to accept Senate changes to a measure that clarifies how to carry out a 2010 addition to North Carolina’s constitution barring convicted felons from running for sheriff. The bill now heads to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's desk. Criminal offenders have been able to get some felonies removed from their records for a decade.

National Hurricane Center

U.S. government forecasters say they expect the Atlantic hurricane season to be busier than they first thought. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration updated its hurricane outlook Wednesday. Forecasters now expect 15 to 21 named storms, with seven to 10 becoming hurricanes.

Young people would need parental permission now before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine in North Carolina in legislation approved unanimously by the state Senate. The bill voted on Tuesday contains a parent or guardian requirement for vaccines approved by federal regulators for emergency use, such as the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

A bill that would regulate sports gambling across North Carolina and give the state a piece of the revenues is finally getting a hearing this year in the legislature. The Senate Finance Committee prepared for debate Wednesday on a measure that would allow up to 12 companies to obtain sports wagering licenses from the state, and to make clear certain betting isn’t unlawful.  The legislation would have to clear four Senate committees to reach the Senate floor. Many state residents already are wagering online without North Carolina government oversight or regulation.

Corolla Wild Horse Fund

An organization is mourning the death of a wild horse that was one of the oldest mares in the herd that roams North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday that Hazel was believed to be close to 30 years old. She didn’t show signs of trauma or any indication that she didn’t die naturally. But her death came when the National Weather Service said some areas of the Outer Banks saw heat index values near 110 degrees. She assumed the role of “honorary grandmother" to the foals and was often seen babysitting them.

A North Carolina city council that voted more than a year ago to remove two Confederate statues has decided to keep them out of downtown for good. News outlets report the Wilmington City Council made the decision on the two statues Monday. In a July 5 letter to the city, officials say a local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy asserted its right of possession over the statues and their pedestals and requests the city hold them in storage until it can make arrangements to take possession of them.

Wikipedia

A sitting member of the North Carolina House has died. Republican Rep. Jerry Carter of Rockingham County died early Tuesday at Duke Hospital in Durham at age 66. Carter was senior pastor at Reidsville Baptist, the church he founded more than 30 years ago. Assistant pastor Aaron Shelton says Carter died from complications after surgery to treat a rare gastrointestinal disorder. State leaders praised Carter for his service. He was first elected to the House in 2018, and chaired the Families, Children and Aging Policy Committee.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report on a helicopter crash along the North Carolina coast last month that killed two Virginia men says the helicopter was seen landing in a field and taking off again before the crash. The NTSB says the helicopter was destroyed July 19 when it crashed in the Albemarle Sound, killing the pilot and passenger. About an hour after the helicopter refueled in Virginia, a witness in North Carolina reported seeing a helicopter land in a field about a half-mile from the shoreline, then take off toward Albemarle Sound.

Officials say a Virginia man drowned at a North Carolina beach on Monday. The Town of Emerald Isle says emergency services were called for a report of a man in the water who needed assistance and he was pulled from the water by firefighters and two lifeguards. News outlets report that 36-year-old Joshua Paul Bishop of Roanoke, Virginia, died at Carteret Health Care in Morehead City about an hour later. Yellow flags were flying along the beach Monday as rip current risks were considered low.

Legal Aid of North Carolina is seeing strong demand for assistance from residents who cannot afford to pay their rent. The nonprofit law firm that helps low-income renters facing the threat of eviction is inundated with calls and struggling to keep up with demand. Pandemic-induced job loss, a COVID-19 surge fueled by the delta variant and a lack of awareness of state and local rental assistance programs are creating extra cause for concern. The state still has hundreds of millions of unspent dollars available to help cover rental costs.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s legal adviser within state government for several years has returned to a private law practice. A law firm in Greenville, South Carolina, announced on Monday that William McKinney is back with the business he worked at in the 2010s. McKinney was general counsel in the governor’s office since Cooper took his gubernatorial oath in January 2017. McKinney led attorneys who offered legal strategies as Cooper issued executive orders during the COVID-19 pandemic and when he challenged in court legislative actions that lessened his gubernatorial powers.

Massive ticket sales for the North Carolina Education Lottery during the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in a best-ever $936 million in annual game profits for education. The lottery announced on Monday that earnings for education during the year ending June 30 grew by 28% compared to the year before. Ticket sales also soared by 26% to $3.8 billion. A lottery leader says consumers played games more because they had few other options for entertainment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He says multistate lotteries, scratch-off tickets and a new game called Fast Play also helped.

A 15-year-old visiting Wrightsville Beach needed 15 stitches in his leg after he was bitten by what officials think was a shark. Town Manager Tim Owens said lifeguards and emergency personnel tended to the boy’s injury after he walked out of the water on July 27. The teen’s father, Ivan Nekrasov, says the family was visiting from Tennessee and the teen was in waist-deep water when he was bitten. No one got a good look at what bit the boy, but Wrightsville Beach Fire Department Chief Glen Rogers says they believe it was a shark.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation says work to preserve a bridge linking a beach town to the mainland is going to impact residents and beachgoers into next year. The department says in a news release that a lane closure will begin this weekend on the Odell Williamson Bridge on N.C. Highway 904 over the Intracoastal Waterway.  A lane will close overnight Sunday through Thursday. After Labor Day, the department says lane closures will last longer, but no lane will be closed between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays.

Authorities have charged two North Carolina parents in the death of a 6-week-old baby who a district attorney says may have been exposed to drugs through breast milk. News outlets report the Morehead City Police Department says 20-year-old Mellony McIver and 26-year-old Zackery Phelps — are each facing a second-degree murder charge. Carteret County District Attorney Scott Thomas says investigators are awaiting the infant’s toxicology report, but natural causes have been ruled out in the baby's death.

 A federal freeze on most evictions enacted last year is scheduled to expire Saturday, after President Joe Biden's administration extended the date by a month. The moratorium, put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in September, was the only tool keeping millions of tenants in their homes. Many of them lost jobs during the coronavirus pandemic and had fallen months behind on their rent.

NC DPS

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday called on all K-12 public school students and staff to wear a mask indoors, even if they are already vaccinated. He'll let his statewide mask mandate expire on Friday. Cooper had previously announced plans last week to let the statewide mask mandate expire and ease masking requirements for high school students starting on Friday. Spread of the more contagious delta variant rose sharply leading up to his earlier announcement and has only continued to skyrocket. Several COVID-19 metrics are at their worst levels in months.

A district attorney says the operator of a local news website has been found guilty of extortion resulting from a 2019 incident with a North Carolina lawyer. News outlets report District Attorney Ernie Lee says Gerald Jackson Jr., the operator of “The North Carolina Beat”, was sentenced on Thursday to an active term of 11 months to 23 months. Jackson was found guilty on Tuesday. According to Lee, between Sept. 18 and Sept.

A North Carolina sheriff's office has accused a man of committing sex crimes against two children dating back to 2015. The Pitt County Sheriff's Office says in a news release that 54-year-old Johnny Ray Perry is charged with statutory rape of a child age 15 or younger and two counts of first-degree statutory sex offense. According to the news release, the sheriff's office received a report in August 2020 of a possible sexual assault involving a minor that allegedly occurred years ago. In January, there was another report of a sexual assault involving a different child.

The U.S. Department of Justice is suing a North Carolina county, alleging that a 911 operator was fired after she complained about being sexually harassed on the job. According to the lawsuit, Jennifer Riddle began working for Wilson County Emergency Communications in 2017 and was sexually harassed by the agency’s assistant director. The lawsuit says that when she complained of the harassment, an investigation substantiated her complaints and county officials fired the assistant director.

Military Bases

Two Navy sailors have died due to complications from COVID-19, amid growing concerns about the deadly delta variant and new federal guidance to increase mask use. A Navy reservist based in Idaho died Monday, and a doctor assigned to the Naval Medical Center at Camp Lejeune, N.C., died last Friday, bringing the total number of sailor COVID deaths to 10. The Navy identified the sailors Wednesday as Master-at-Arms First Class Allen Hillman, 47, of Boise, and Capt. Corby Ropp, 48, of Camp Lejeune. Their deaths are the first COVID-related ones in the Navy since April 29.

Police at a North Carolina university have accused a Pennsylvania man of setting a campus patrol SUV on fire. A news release from East Carolina University on Wednesday says officers received a call on Tuesday about one of its vehicles on fire off campus. Damage to the vehicle was confined to the rear and the fire was quickly extinguished. The news release says an ECU patrol sergeant located the suspect and apprehended him after he tried to flee. Authorities filed multiple charges against 20-year-old Fernando Daniel Laurens, including three counts of felony arson to personal property.

NCDPS

North Carolina’s state health department is compelling workers, volunteers and others at 14 state-run health care facilities to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of September. If they don't get the vaccine and do not qualify for an approved medical or religious exemption, they could be fired. Several North Carolina hospital systems are requiring staff to get vaccinated if they want to remain employed. Republican House Speaker Tim Moore criticized the new mandate state health officials established Tuesday.

The N.C. Department of Transportation Ferry Division says it is suspending its Currituck-Knotts Island service to alleviate a staffing shortage at the Hatteras terminal. NCDOT says in a news release that Currituck-Knotts Island route will resume its scheduled service on July 31. Earlier this year, the department said its ferry service was facing a shortage of deck hands, seamen and captains. The Virginian-Pilot reported in the spring that there is often a waiting list to get a ferry job. But this year the service needs to fill an expanded summer schedule.

NCDPS

North Carolina COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have skyrocketed in recent weeks amid spread of the more contagious delta variant. But despite the rises in cases, the state appears unlikely to implement new restrictions. It is instead moving forward with plans to eliminate its statewide mask mandate and ease masking guidelines for high school students starting on Friday.  This has prompted concerns from teacher advocates that it may be less safe to return to work.

NCDOT Ferry Division

North Carolina transportation officials say successful drone flights this week to Ocracoke have them hopeful that it may soon get easier to deliver vital supplies to the remote Outer Banks island amid bad weather. The North Carolina Department of Transportation and drone logistics company Volansi completed two successful trial flights of a delivery drone from a ferry dock in Hatteras to Ocracoke Island. That's according to a news release the department issued Friday. The tests conducted Thursday involved an eight-mile round-trip flight.

Officials say no one was seriously injured when a small airplane flipped over onto its roof shortly after landing at the Ocracoke Island Airport on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. A news release from the Cape Hatteras National Seashore said the incident happened around 1:30 p.m. Sunday. The single-engine airplane came to rest in grass near the end of the runway, and emergency officials responded. Neither the pilot nor passenger required transport to a hospital. The Federal Aviation Administration was notified and no further details were immediately available.

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