Associated Press

A North Carolina judge has agreed to sign an order that calls for $427 million in additional education spending this year to carry out longstanding court rulings on public school funding. Superior Court Judge David Lee formally backed on Tuesday the spending plan developed by the State Board of Education and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration.

North Carolina’s governor is extending an executive order that limits the hours that restaurants can serve alcohol to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Roy Cooper announced Monday that he’s extending his order that requires restaurants to stop serving alcoholic beverages at 11 p.m. until Oct. 2. State law usually allows sales until 2 a.m. The order originally went into effect in July. The order doesn’t apply to grocery stores, convenience stores and other retailers that sell beer and wine for consumption off premises. Bars remain closed under Cooper’s executive orders.

NCDPS

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has issued an executive order that will soon allow residents to go to gyms but keep them prohibited from entering bars. The mass gathering limit will increase to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors starting on Friday. Republicans remain concerned businesses can’t survive further closure extensions. The executive order will allow gyms and bowling alleys to open at 30% capacity. Bars, movie theaters, nightclubs, dance halls, amusement parks and indoor entertainment venues must remain closed. Cooper said the mandate for face coverings will stay in place.

Tropical Depression 15 has formed off North Carolina’s coast but was not expected to approach land. The U.S National Hurricane Center said Monday evening that the depression had maximum sustained winds of 35 mph and was about 190 miles south-southwest of Cape Hatteras. It was moving northeast at 12 mph. The Hurricane Center in Miami predicted it will strengthen into a tropical storm Tuesday, in which case it would be named Nana. Swells from the depression were affecting parts of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, but no watches or warnings were issued by the center.

Authorities in North Carolina say a police officer acted lawfully when he shot a man who was fleeing on foot with a BB gun. The Raleigh News & Observer reports that Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman released her findings on Thursday. A Raleigh police officer had shot Keith Collins six times on Jan. 30. Police said a 911 caller had reported a man with a gun outside a Big Lots store. Freeman said state law allows officers to use deadly force against what they consider imminent harm, and that being forced to make split-second decisions factors into what is reasonable.

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis says he “fell short” of his own standard by failing to keep his face mask on in the White House crowd while listening to President Donald Trump's speech. Tillis has been consistently talking up face coverings as a chief method to slow the spread of COVID-19, and his campaign tweeted a picture of him wearing one before Thursday night's speech.  But other media outlets later showed images of a maskless Tillis in the tightly packed crowd. Democrats accused Tillis of being a hypocrite. He's in a tough reelection bid against Democrat Cal Cunningham.

NCDPS

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is recommending to legislators how to spend nearly $1 billion in COVID-19 federal relief dollars, mainly for public health, K-12 schools and local governments. But he asked separately on Wednesday that legislators reconvening in Raleigh next week spend more state tax dollars on disaster relief, at-risk students and teacher bonuses. The Democrat also tacked on other policy and spending prescriptions that will likely be idled by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is looking to fend off a challenge from Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest in one of the few closely watched gubernatorial races in the country this election season. Both campaigns have confirmed they'll participate in a debate on Oct. 14 organized by the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters. Forest is pushing for Cooper to agree to two more debates. Cooper has no plans to do any in-person campaign, as he consistently leads Forest in public opinion polls by double digits. Forest is active on the campaign trail, often holding large, maskless gatherings.

International Association of Geophysical Contractors

North Carolina has sued the federal government to block an attempt at seismic testing off the state’s Atlantic coast to measure for oil and gas deposits. The lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court by Attorney General Josh Stein’s office says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was wrong in overriding the state's objections to the tests. The lawsuit says the bursts of sounds from airguns would adversely affect sea life, tourism and fishing. Stein and fellow Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper oppose offshore drilling.

NCDPS

North Carolina residents will soon receive $175 million to help pay their rent and utility bills. The announcement Tuesday from Gov. Roy Cooper comes as many families grapple with the economic crisis fueled by the coronavirus. It also comes at a time when thousands of college students are leaving their dorms and returning home. Community colleges and public and private four-year colleges and universities have asked state lawmakers for more than $225 million to address budget shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new report commissioned by a North Carolina agency finds political participation trends among women in the state have worsened slightly over the past five years. The latest “Status of Women” report released on Tuesday gave North Carolina a “D” letter grade while evaluating a host of participation factors. The state received a “C-minus” in 2015. The report finds while voter turnout among women has improved, the percentage of women registered to vote declined slightly. The percentage of statewide elected offices held by women also has fallen.

East Carolina University

Officials at East Carolina University are reporting two new COVID-19 clusters at two dormitories. The school issued an alert on Monday saying six positive cases had been reported at Jones Hall and White Hall. The school also says contact tracing has been initiated with direct communication to anyone determined to have been a close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. ECU has already announced that it will move undergraduate courses online for the remainder of the fall semester, beginning Aug. 26.

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The coronavirus pandemic has put the brakes on planned repairs at a 145-year-old lighthouse in eastern North Carolina. A nonprofit that runs the Currituck Beach Lighthouse is now seeking financial help to finish the work. The Virginian-Pilot reported this week that the lighthouse is awaiting its first makeover since being built in the 19th Century. The Outer Banks Conservationists is hoping to raise $345,000. Tens of thousands of people a year pay up to $10 for a ticket to climb the 162-foot tower and enjoy its panoramic view.

N.C. State

North Carolina State University will move all of its in-person undergraduate classes online starting next week, according to an email sent to students from Chancellor Randy Woodson. The announcement comes just one day after the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill halted physical instruction on its campus. Several coronavirus outbreaks have occurred since classes began at both campuses on Aug. 10. Both campuses have offered students housing refunds. UNC System President Peter Hans said a small number of irresponsible students have prompted the transition to fully remote learning.

Attorneys for convicted felons have urged North Carolina judges to block a state law that keeps those who are on probation or parole from voting. On Wednesday, groups that help ex-offenders argued that the state’s law is racially discriminatory and that people with felonies should be able to regain their voting rights after they are no longer incarcerated. If voters’ rights activists are successful, the decision could lead to an influx of voters in a hotly contested election year and potentially affect close races.

A North Carolina judge has ruled certain touch-screen ballot-marking machines will remain in use in the state this fall. The judge rejected a request by the state NAACP and voters who wanted ExpressVote machines barred from future elections. They've been used in roughly 20 counties. The names of the voters’ choices are printed on the ballot and correspond with bar code data that’s printed on the same ballot and tallied by a separate counting machine.

NCDPS

North Carolina agencies within Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration are changing hiring practices to help give people with criminal histories more job opportunities. Cooper issued an executive order this week that directs state agencies and offices under his control to implement “fair chance” policies by Nov. 1. The order tells the agencies to omit criminal records questions from employment applications. Background checks must wait until later, and applicants will be given the opportunity to explain that history. Criminal pardons and expunctions can’t be considered in hiring, either.

N.C. Utilities Commission

A moratorium on shutoffs for customers of North Carolina’s large for-profit utilities will be over at the end of the month. The News & Observer of Raleigh reports the ban issued by North Carolina’s Utilities Commission expires on Sept. 1. The commission has directed utilities to allow customers at least 12 months to repay overdue bills. An executive order by Gov. Roy Cooper halting cutoffs for all residential customers needing help due to the pandemic expired in late July, but the commission extended a delay for utilities it regulates.

North Carolina’s public schools have returned to class with most students still learning at home to start the year due to continued worries about COVID-19. Nearly all schools in K-12 districts began classes on Monday. Districts and charter schools that teach about two-thirds of the 1.5 million students chose full-time remote learning for now. The first day was marked initially by problems entering an online portal to access several digital applications for students and teachers. The Department of Public Instruction said it was back up later in the day.

Craven County Schools

North Carolina’s public schools are returning to class with most students still learning at home through their computers to start the year due to continued worries about COVID-19. Nearly all schools in K-12 districts begin classes Monday. Districts and charter schools that teach about two-thirds of the 1.5 million public school students chose full-time remote learning for now. Gov. Roy Cooper’s plan also gave school boards options to hold in-person instruction with strict social distancing or provide a mix.

The mayor of the eastern North Carolina city of Washington has died from complications of the coronavirus. The Raleigh News & Observer reports that the city announced his death on Wednesday night. Mac Hodges had been mayor since 2013 and was described as a “legend and a leader.” He tested positive for COVID-19 in July. City officials said in a statement that “we are heartbroken." But the statement also said that they are thankful for his amazing leadership and the friendship he provided. Gov. Roy Cooper tweeted his condolences.

East Carolina University

University police say about 20 parties, including one with nearly 400 people in attendance, were shut down at a university in North Carolina during the school’s opening weekend. A campus police official at East Carolina University told McClatchy News Wednesday the parties were held last week and over the weekend. The official says most of the gatherings that authorities shut down had between 25 and 50 people in attendance. Parties of 25 people or more violate the state’s ban on large gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic.

NCDPS

Gov. Roy Cooper says he’s preparing to accept extended unemployment benefits for North Carolina that President Donald Trump ordered as part of the continuing response to the COVID-19 economic downturn. The Democratic governor told top Republican legislators of his plan Wednesday. GOP leaders asked him on Tuesday to act quickly to ensure North Carolina workers can get an additional maximum weekly benefit of at least $300. The legislature says it plans to authorize the state's share of matching funds the order requires next month.

NCDPS

North Carolina public health officials have announced a major reporting error in the number of coronavirus tests conducted since the start of the pandemic. North Carolina previously reported having more than 2 million COVID-19 tests performed. Officials now say that is 200,000 more than were actually performed. They blame LabCorp. DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen says the company gave different numbers when it reported electronically and manually. She noted the error doesn't affect data on key metrics such as the number of confirmed cases and deaths.

Campus workers in the University of North Carolina system have filed a lawsuit saying working conditions are unsafe and that workers are reporting for work with inadequate protective equipment in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. The News & Observer of Raleigh reports that the union representing the workers says some university employees, including housekeepers and other campus workers, are provided one or two masks per week and many don’t have access to face shields or gowns.

Gov. Roy Cooper - Twitter

The U.S. Geological Survey says a magnitude 2.9 aftershock rattled the North Carolina town where a 5.1 earthquake on Sunday shook items from grocery store shelves and was felt from Washington, D.C., to Atlanta. The USGS website shows the aftershock occurred around 4:45 p.m. Tuesday and was centered almost 2 miles (3 kilometers) southeast of Sparta. The latest aftershock occurred hours after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper toured the town to survey the damage. Cooper met with homeowners as well as with local and county officials.

North Carolina’s Attorney General will have his office investigate the sources behind so-called “forever chemicals” that have contaminated drinking water in the southeastern part of the state. The Fayetteville Observer reports that  AG Josh Stein made the announcement on Monday. The chemicals his office will focus on include substances like PFAS and GenX. PFAS are used in industrial processes to make things like nonstick coatings and fire suppression foams. Stein says the chemicals do not break down once they are released into the environment.

NC DPS

North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has won another legal victory defending his COVID-19 executive orders, this time involving a lawsuit filed by Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. A judge on Tuesday refused to block temporarily his orders limiting business activities and mass gatherings and mandating face coverings. Forest sued Cooper last month, saying the orders were unlawful because he failed to first get support from the Council of State.

The two most powerful state lawmakers in North Carolina want President Donald Trump and Joe Biden to have an extra presidential debate. House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger are pushing for a fourth debate to be held in North Carolina. Trump's campaign has called for the additional debate, though it did not name a particular desired host site. The Commission on Presidential Debates turned down the request but said it would consider the possibility of an extra debate if both candidates agreed to it.

NCDPS

Data from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction shows most K-12 parents won't have the option of sending their kids back to school at the start of the fall, even partially. Gov. Roy Cooper allowed districts to opt for fully remote learning in his reopening guidance. His Republican gubernatorial election opponent, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, wants every parent to be able to have the choice for fully in-person learning five days a week.

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