Associated Press

North Carolina legislators again have located money to help build a long-planned park for the contributions of African Americans in the state and to provide “contextual signage” for existing monuments on the old Capitol grounds. The state Senate voted on Monday to earmark $4 million toward the projects. The identical projects and the money were included in last year’s final budget bill but got derailed in a budget stalemate.

North Carolina public school teachers would get $350 bonuses and potentially more one-time income in a Republican measure approved by the state Senate. The proposal goes beyond the usual experience-based raises these categories of educators also would receive. The measure approved Monday also encourages Gov. Roy Cooper to use federal COVID-19 relief funds to give out additional $600 bonuses. Cooper's office said he doesn't have the power to do that. Democrats tried to offer an amendment to guarantee even larger raises. The bill passed on a mostly party-line vote and heads to the House.

NCDPS

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says he’ll announce early next week a decision on whether businesses still shuttered because of COVID-19 will be allowed to reopen. Cooper’s current executive order expires June 26. It allows restaurants to have dine-in seating again and for barber shops and hair and nail salons to reopen. But bars, movie theaters and gyms remain closed. The governor said Monday his decision will be based on science and data. He's worried about the recent upticks in cases and hospitalizations.

NCDPS

Gov. Roy Cooper has signed intio law legislation providing money to help run North Carolina elections safely and securely during the COVID-19 pandemic and making it easier to cast mail-in absentee ballots this fall. The governor signed the bill on Friday, the day after the House and Senate gave final legislative approval to the bipartisan measure. The law is designed to prepare for a spike in demand for absentee ballots from people at higher risk of developing complications from the new coronavirus.

NCDPS

North Carolina public health officials are concerned with the rising numbers of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. The state is most worried about the uptick in eight counties: Mecklenburg, Durham, Wake, Forsyth, Duplin, Lee, Johnston, Alamance. Experts fear a second wave of the virus, as the state continues to gather more data from individuals who tested positive for COVID-19. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has steadily opened up businesses and hopes to transition to a “Phase 2.5" if the numbers start to improve.

East Carolina University

Officials at East Carolina University have announced plans to place 110 workers on emergency temporary furloughs. News outlets report interim chancellor Ron Mitchelson said the workers have been identified and approved for furloughs as of Thursday. The school said in a news release that it is taking the action because several sources of revenue have been either completely or partially reduced during the coronavirus pandemic. Departments impacted by the proposed furloughs include athletics, administration and finance, Academic Affairs and Student Affairs.

Changes to mail-in absentee ballot rules in North Carolina to help operate a fall election during the pandemic has received tentative approval from the state Senate. The measure is a response to the expected spike in demand for absentee ballots from people at higher risk for developing complications from COVID-19. Wednesday's Senate debate was more divisive than a similar discussion in the House two weeks ago. The measure expands the options for registered voters to receive an absentee ballot request form.

NCDPS

The North Carolina legislature has passed another bill overturning parts of Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order that keep certain businesses closed to discourage COVID-19′s spread. The House voted on a largely party-line vote on Wednesday for the measure written by Republicans, many of whom have been critical of Cooper’s slow pace to loosen restrictions on the state economy.

NC DPS

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has announced a panel that will recommend how to alter police, prosecutor and judicial practices to end racial disparities in light of George Floyd's death. The North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice unveiled by Cooper on Tuesday will be led by Attorney General Josh Stein and Supreme Court Justice Anita Earls. The panel is supposed to focus on the use of force, community policing, alternatives to arrests and pretrial release.

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The military is rethinking its traditional embrace or tolerance of Confederate Army symbols. This includes whether to rename Army bases like North Carolina's Fort Bragg that honor Confederate officers who led the fight against the Union and directly or implicitly defended slavery. The issue has arisen periodically but is gaining new attention as the nation wrestles with questions of race after the death of George Floyd in the hands of Minneapolis police. A spokesman for Defense Secretary Mark Esper says Esper is open to a “bipartisan discussion” of the issue.

Richard Phillips/NC Dept. of Cultural Resources

The North Carolina city of Rocky Mount has approved the removal of a Confederate statue that has stood for more than a century. CBS 17 reports that the Rocky Mount City Council approved the removal Monday night. The vote follows several days of protests in North Carolina and across the country against racism and police brutality. The demonstrations were sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis. Since Floyd’s death, Virginia’s governor has ordered the removal of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from the city of Richmond.

North Carolina gyms could reopen thanks to legislation advancing in the state Senate that would essentially overturn Gov. Roy Cooper’s COVID-19 executive order keeping them closed. The measure approved on Thursday by a committee would allow the gyms and health clubs to reopen at 50% capacity. It's another effort by lawmakers to overturn Cooper’s restrictions that have kept certain types of businesses shuttered during the pandemic. Legislation already on Cooper's desk would allow bars to reopen outdoors.

NCDPS

Gov. Roy Cooper has unveiled a state commission and other initiatives to address socioeconomic and health disparities for African Americans and Latinos in North Carolina underscored during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cooper announced on Thursday a task force that will collect information and identify solutions to health access issues, economic opportunities for minority-owned business, education and environmental justice. Cooper pointed to disproportionate numbers of black and Hispanic residents diagnosed with the coronavirus.

The General Assembly wants to let more young people begin driving on their own even though the North Carolina DMV isn’t offering right now required behind-the-wheel tests due to COVID-19 health worries. The full House and a Senate committee approved separate measures on Wednesday that would set aside the behind-the-wheel test for teenagers seeking a limited provisional license. A young person still must log 60 hours of driving with a parent before seeking such a license.

President Donald Trump is no longer planning to speak at the Republican convention in Charlotte, but the Republican National Committee says it plans to hold some business activities in North Carolina if Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and other officials “allow more than 10 people in a room.” Trump and the RNC had demanded that the convention be allowed to move forward with a full crowd and without participants having to wear face coverings. Trump vowed Tuesday night on Twitter to deliver his speech outside North Carolina.

North Carolina legislators want to make available another $300 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration to cover additional government expenses incurred due to the virus. The Senate voted unanimously on Tuesday for the measure, which would raise the amount distributed from North Carolina’s share of federal funds to Cooper’s state budget office to $370 million. The measure now moves to the House. Last month, the legislature approved distributing close to half of the state’s $3.5 billion allocation from Congress.

Richard Phillips/NC Dept. of Cultural Resources

The Rocky Mount City Council in North Carolina has voted to remove a Confederate monument from a city park. News outlets report that the 6-1 vote during Tuesday night’s budget meeting was prompted by Councilman Andre Knight, who said during a budget meeting that he feels no money should be spent on renovations at Battle Park until the monument is removed, “given what has happened all across the country.” Mayor Sandy Roberson says the monument will be removed from the park and stored elsewhere once a second vote finalizes the decision. 

Consensus legislation designed to help North Carolina voters worried about COVID-19 gain access to absentee ballots received some changes before clearing a state Senate panel. The Senate elections committee on Tuesday approved the measure that retained all of the provisions included in the legislation when the House voted for it overwhelmingly last week. The bill in part expands options for registered voters to receive absentee ballot request forms, including the creation of an online portal for submissions.

NCDPS

Organizers of the Republican National Convention say they will begin visiting potential alternative sites after North Carolina’s governor told them in a letter that the COVID-19 pandemic means they must prepare for a scaled-back event if they want it in Charlotte. Gov.

Fayetteville Police Department - Facebook

Police officers in the North Carolina city of Fayetteville took a knee in solidarity with protesters two days after the area had experienced violence and looting. The Fayetteville Observer reports that the incident occurred Monday night following protests against police brutality. Nearly 300 protesters were facing a line of police officers in riot gear when the activists lowered down and chanted, “I can’t breathe.” Police officers followed suit, prompting cheers and applause from the activists. Some shook hands and fist-bumped with law enforcement.

A second North Carolina General Assembly chamber is pushing ahead with legislation designed to help voters access absentee balloting should COVID-19 make in-person voting risky for them. The Senate elections committee scheduled debate on Tuesday for legislation prompted by the expectation of increased demand for mail-in ballots this fall due to the new coronavirus. The House version of the measure approved last week expands options for registered voters to receive absentee ballot request forms.

Mass COVID-19 testing at a second North Carolina state prison has turned up more than 30 additional positive cases. The Department of Public Safety said on Monday the prisoners were among more than 400 offenders at Caswell Correctional Center who were tested last Friday. The Caswell prisoners testing positive are all asymptomatic. The rest tested negative. Mass testing within Neuse Correctional Institution in Goldsboro in April uncovered well over 400 cases.

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As hurricane season starts Monday, most of North Carolina’s coastal counties are grappling with shortfalls or concerns about equipment and resources as they balance the dual threat of tropical weather and the COVID-19 pandemic. All 20 counties in the state’s coastal management zone told The Associated Press that COVID-19 is factoring into hurricane preparations. Five said overall plans hadn’t changed, but they’re ready to adjust to the virus if needed.

"Bars" by foreverdigital is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Mass COVID-19 testing is happening at a second North Carolina state prison. The Department of Public Safety said testing began Friday for all inmates at the medium-security Caswell Correctional Institution, with results expected next week. The department says testing is occurring there because close to 40 prisoners or staff have tested positive since mid-April. A similar mass testing occurred last month at the dormitory-style Neuse Correctional Institution in Goldsboro, where over 450 prisoners tested positive. The number of overall COVID-19 cases statewide is now almost 26,500.

NCDPS

North Carolina’s top health official has asked for more details on how GOP leaders will protect attendees of a Republican National Convention this summer during the COVID-19 pandemic. President Donald Trump has threatened to move his formal renomination elsewhere if he doesn't soon get guarantees of being able to hold a large-scale event. State Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen sought more specifics Friday beyond the safety protocols the GOP leaders said want approved for the August event in Charlotte.

NCDPS

North Carolina’s governor said Thursday that his administration hasn’t received the written safety plan for the upcoming Republican National Convention requested by his health secretary in response to President Donald Trump’s demands for a full-scale event. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said during a media briefing that his administration has yet to see plans for how the RNC envisions safely holding the convention in Charlotte in August amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Changes to mail-in absentee ballot rules in North Carolina and funds to improve safety at in-person voting sites during the COVID-19 pandemic have received overwhelmingly approval in the state House. The bipartisan measure approved Thursday by the chamber is designed to help those at higher risk for developing complications from the coronavirus be able to vote. The measure now heading to the Senate expands the options for registered voters to receive an absentee ballot request form and to turn it back in.

Lawmakers in North Carolina are advancing legislation that would allow voters to have more options in requesting absentee ballots this November and would give officials funds to keep precincts clean and staffed. The measure that cleared two House committees on Wednesday prepares for November’s high-stakes election to occur amid the pandemic. The bill would expand the options to seek and return absentee ballot forms. The number of required witnesses on the ballot envelope would decrease from two to one.

North Carolina legislators are starting to debate proposed election rule changes this fall so people have wider paths to cast ballots despite COVID-19 health risks. House committees scheduled meetings on Wednesday to advance a bipartisan bill that would make it easier for someone to request a mail-in absentee ballot and for officials to recruit polling site workers. There would also be millions of dollars distributed to elections boards in part to upgrade security and equipment. Demand for absentee ballots is expected to soar this year.

North Carolina bars closed due to the pandemic could again serve patrons who are outdoors in legislation that's advancing in the General Assembly. One of two bills that cleared a Senate committee on Tuesday would allow bars and similar private clubs whose doors remain completely closed under Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order to sell beverages outside, whether on a patio or under a tent. Another measure expands further the customer capacity for restaurants and breweries allowed to partially reopen their indoor serving areas by going outside, too.

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