Associated Press

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North Carolina has seen a sizable drop in the number of new people coming in for a COVID-19 vaccine. Health officials are waging an informational campaign promoting the vaccine as a key to returning to pre-pandemic summer life. The state has also hoped a commitment to end the indoor mask mandate once two-thirds of adults get at least one shot would boost vaccine participation. But that two-thirds target is not achievable for several months at the current pace of vaccination.

The North Carolina House has approved legislation barring abortion providers from performing the procedure if a woman’s decision centered on the unborn child’s race or a Down syndrome diagnosis. Thursday's vote came after nearly after an hour of impassioned debate. Abortion rights groups and their allies on the House floor agreed the measure is another method to meddle in the deeply personal decisions of a woman. Six Democrats joined the Republicans in voting for measure, which now goes to the Senate. The bill is likely to receive the veto stamp of Democratic Gov.

Federal judges have expressed skepticism about reinstating North Carolina’s ban on abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday heard oral arguments from attorneys for abortion providers who sued to challenge the ban and local prosecutors and state officials who are trying to restore it. The law contains an exception for medical emergencies. A trial judge declared the ban unconstitutional in 2019. The U.S.

Punishments for rioting in North Carolina would be increased and new criminal counts created for mayhem resulting in death in legislation approved by a House committee. The measure was pushed personally on Thursday by House Speaker Tim Moore. He cited both the destruction of property in cities linked to some demonstrations following the May 2020 death of George Floyd and the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as reasons for the bill. Critics call the measure unnecessary and harsh and suggest this bill and others like it elsewhere are designed to quiet people seeking racial equity.

Most North Carolina adults have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot. The state Department of Health and Human Services revealed the updated figures on Thursday. Elderly residents have overwhelmingly gotten the vaccine, with nearly three in four adults 65 years or older now fully vaccinated. Participation among younger residents, especially those between the ages of 18 and 24, is lagging behind. Those under 50 are also underrepresented in vaccine adoption rates. Democratic Gov.

North Carolina’s Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County have lifted curfews that were implemented after county sheriff’s deputies fatally shot a Black man in the city. Websites for the city and county stated that the 8 p.m. curfews were lifted on Thursday. The curfews were implemented April 26 in the wake of protests against the shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr. outside his Elizabeth City home on April 21. Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies were serving drug-related search and arrest warrants when Brown was shot. Brown, who was Black, was behind the wheel of his car.

North Carolina’s long practice of county sheriffs granting permits to local residents before they can buy a handgun would end under legislation approved by the state House. The North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association backed the pistol purchase permit repeal idea approved on Wednesday. It says the permit system is now obsolete thanks to a robust national background check database. Federal law requires licensed gun dealers to perform instant checks before someone can buy a gun. Sheriffs would still issue concealed weapons permits.

The constitutionality of North Carolina’s ban on abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy is being weighed by a federal appeals court. A panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals scheduled remote arguments Thursday by attorneys for abortion providers who sued to overturn the ban and for the local prosecutors and state officials who are defendants. A federal trial judge declared in 2019 the law was unconstitutional because the 20-week limit prohibited some abortions before a fetus could live outside the womb.

A North Carolina bill prohibiting pregnant women from seeking abortions on the basis of a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome is one step closer to becoming law. House Bill 453 was approved by a House judiciary committee on Wednesday afternoon and is set to make one more stop later in the day in another House committee before reaching the chamber floor for debate as early as Thursday. In order to be considered this legislative session, it must be approved in the House by May 13. It is unlikely to be signed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

Some North Carolina Republicans are taking a different tack on legislative efforts to move up mail-in absentee balloting deadlines by also giving citizens more time to vote on the front end. But Democrats say the idea still treats voters unequally. The House elections committee voted along party lines on Wednesday for a GOP measure that requires traditional absentee ballots be received by county officials by Election Day in order to be counted. A Senate bill makes the same deadline change.

A Senate committee has retooled legislation requiring that more details about the personnel history of North Carolina state and local government employees be accessible to the media and the public. The bill was voted out by the Senate judiciary panel a week ago, but sponsor Sen. Norm Sanderson said Wednesday it made sense to make changes now before a floor vote. The bill still requires government to provide a general description for the reasons for employee demotions, dismissals, transfers or suspensions.

A scarcity of aluminum has forced North Carolina to suspend an effort to replace old license plates.The Division of Motor Vehicles announced this week that the move will help ensure there is enough material to produce first-time plates. The agency had been replacing all license tags that are at least six years old in line with a mandate signed into law two years ago.

The fatal shooting of a Black man by sheriff’s deputies has sent shock waves through North Carolina's Elizabeth City. The majority Black city in the state’s rural northeastern corner holds an important place in African American history in the 19th and 20th centuries. But some residents say it seemed too close-knit and too out-of-the-way to become a flashpoint in the 21st. Andrew Brown Jr., was shot by Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies serving warrants at his house on April 21.

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Qualifying income levels and maximum grants would rise for North Carolina’s publicly funded scholarship program for K-12 students to attend private schools under a measure approved  by the state Senate. The legislation was approved Tuesday on a nearly party-line vote. It favors Republicans attempts to build on the Opportunity Scholarship Program started several years ago by the GOP.  The measure also would combine the state’s two scholarship programs for children with disabilities. The House already approved a somewhat similar measure. Any final measure approved would go to Democratic Gov.

A state Senate committee has advanced a criminal justice reform package focused on targeting insubordinate and overly aggressive officers while giving more mental health assistance to police and deputies. The measure attempts to pinpoint misbehaving officers and prevent misconduct from others that could result in injury or death. The bill contains a few proposals from a task force created by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to address racial inequities in the state’s justice system. But most will be left out.

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The North Carolina General Assembly has started moving its annual farm bill. A Senate agriculture committee voted Tuesday for legislation that in part would create a more streamlined permit for turning hog waste into energy. The bill would create five-year “general permits” for animal farm operations that allow the owner to operate a farm digester system that collects natural gas. The pork industry backs the idea, saying it makes sense because these operations are similar wherever the farm is located.

North Carolina Republican lawmakers have advanced a bill to make it illegal for physicians to perform abortions because of the fetus’ race or a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Bill sponsors say procedures performed based on race or Down syndrome amount to “discriminatory eugenic abortion.” Abortion rights group oppose the measure and say it will interfere with a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy. Under the bill, a physician would be subject to monetary damages if he or she still knowingly performed the procedure.

N.C. General Assembly

North Carolina House members no longer have the option to cast floor votes remotely. It's the result of improving conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The House returned this week to operating rules in which members must be present in the chamber to cast “ayes” and “noes.” House leaders offered proxy voting last spring and it continued into the first months of this year's session. The number of members using proxy voting has dwindled as more legislators receive vaccinations. The Senate has never offered proxy voting.

The funeral for Andrew Brown Jr., a Black man shot and killed by deputies in North Carolina, brought calls for justice from the Rev. Al Sharpton and attorneys for the family. Sharpton delivered a fiery eulogy that likened delays in the release of law enforcement footage to a con job done on the public at the service Monday in a church in Elizabeth City. Other speakers included civil rights attorney Ben Crump and the Rev. William Barber II, who leads the Poor People’s campaign.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has granted a pardon of innocence to a man who had been imprisoned for two decades before his two murder convictions were vacated more than four years ago by a judge. Friday's pardon of Darryl Anthony Howard means he can now apply to the North Carolina Industrial Commission for compensation of up to $750,000 for his wrongful convictions. Howard was convicted in Durham County court in 1995 for the 1991 deaths of Doris Washington and her daughter Nishonda. DNA testing of sexual assault kits ultimately led to Howard's release in August 2016.

A trial on North Carolina’s latest photo voter identification law has ended after three weeks with no immediate ruling. The trial wrapped up on Friday after closing statements before a panel of three judges by attorneys for voters who sued over the 2018 law and for Republican legislative leaders defending it. The plaintiffs contend the law was discriminatory and would disproportionately harm Black voters who lacked easy access to IDs. GOP lawmakers say the law's requirements benefit more voters than a 2013 voter ID law that was struck down by federal courts.

NCDHHS

North Carolina legislators are starting to fill in more details on distributing the latest tranches of coronavirus relief money approved in Washington. The Senate’s budget-writing committee recommended on Thursday legislation that would formally appropriate well over $6 billion allocated for North Carolina in the American Rescue Plan approved by Congress. That law already determined how this money must be used. This legislation doesn’t address spending $5 billion more earmarked for North Carolina. Lawmakers have more discretion in how to spend that cash.

A North Carolina city where a Black man was shot and killed by deputies said Friday it will push its curfew back by several hours each night after a week of generally peaceful protests. Elizabeth City officials said that starting Friday night, the curfew will run from midnight until 6 a.m. On previous nights, the curfew had taken effect at 8 p.m. Protesters have been demanding justice and transparency, including the release of deputy body camera footage, after Andrew Brown Jr. was shot and killed last week by deputies serving drug-related warrants.

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis says he feels great following prostate cancer surgery earlier this month. The second-term Republican senator told Charlotte TV station WCNC this week that he was diagnosed at the height of his reelection campaign last fall. The station says a routine physical and PSA blood test revealed the possibility of prostate cancer. Tillis defeated Democratic candidate Cal Cunningham in November. He says he’s slowly adding exercise back into his routine, and is aiming to skydive on his 61st birthday in August.

NCDHHS

A North Carolina state audit says the details and timing of a coronavirus relief grant program created last year by the General Assembly made it more difficult for low-income families to obtain payments. State Auditor Beth Wood released on Thursday a performance audit of the “Extra Credit Grant” program, which was carried out by the Department of Revenue. Families received $335 to assist with virtual schooling and child-care costs during the pandemic.

North Carolina's House speaker says the legislature won’t advance legislation preventing transgender girls and women from competing in school sports labeled for biologically female athletes. Speaker Tim Moore tells The Associated Press there's not a need to take up the "Save Women’s Sports Act" and questioned whether there would be enough votes for it to become law. The inaction marks another decision by Republicans to step away from controversial LGBT legislation. The Senate won't vote on legislation that sought to limit medical treatments for transgender people under 21.

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A North Carolina law that gives local courts authority over the release of body camera video has come under a harsh glare after a judge refused to make public footage of deputies shooting and killing Andrew Brown Jr. The 2016 law says that law enforcement video is not a public record and generally cannot be released without court approval. A judge ruled Wednesday that body camera and dashboard footage in Brown's death must be kept from public view for at least another month to avoid harming a state investigation.

Minors could continue to marry in North Carolina but additional limits would be set in legislation approved by a state Senate committee. Current law allows children as young as 14 to get married. Youths who are 16 or 17 can marry with parental consent, while those 14 and 15 can marry if a pregnancy is involved and a judge signs off. The proposal approved on Wednesday would retain the current restrictions, but no one age 14 to 17 could marry a partner who is more than four years older. Some child marriage opponents still want a bill barring anyone under 18 from marrying.

North Carolina Senate Republicans have unveiled a criminal justice reform package that includes databases to discourage misbehaving North Carolina law enforcement officers from remaining on the job and expanded mental health assistance for others. The measure debated in a judiciary committee Wednesday is a retooled bill developed during a time of national focus on racial inequity and officer-involved shootings of Black residents. The measure received endorsements from several law enforcement groups and the state’s local prosecutors.

NC DPS

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has decided to lift the state's outdoor mask mandate. He is also increasing indoor and outdoor gathering limits. Starting Friday, 100 people can assemble indoors and 200 people may gather outdoors. The Democratic governor has said he hopes to further ease restrictions and possibly eliminate the mask mandate altogether if at least two-thirds of North Carolina adults are at least partially vaccinated. Nearly half of adults have gotten at least one COVID-19 shot. The U.S.

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