Associated Press

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed a proposal pushed by Republicans to prohibit women from getting an abortion because of the race or sex of the fetus or a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Physicians would be required under the bill vetoed on Friday to sign a report confirming an abortion was not desired for those three reasons. Democrats and abortion rights groups feared the measure would prevent women from having open conversations with their doctors. Republicans say the proposal sought to end a modern-day form of eugenics.

North Carolina Waterkeeper Alliance

The North Carolina legislature is near final approval of its annual farm bill, which includes a new method to permit operations at hog farms so they can convert liquid waste into consumer natural gas. The House voted on Thursday for the measure, which makes changes in more than a dozen categories related to agriculture. A similar version passed the Senate last month and could soon be on Gov. Roy Cooper's desk. Interest is growing in biogas because of the potential revenue source. Some Democrats complained the permit process would be too swift and could omit concerns over air quality.

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has named a longtime legislative lobbyist and policy adviser on environmental issues as his next secretary for the environment. Cooper's choice of Elisabeth Biser on Thursday comes three weeks after Senate Republicans voted down Cooper’s appointment of Dionne Delli-Gatti as secretary of the Department of Environmental Quality. They said her reticence during a confirmation hearing about Cooper’s natural gas policy disqualified her. Delli-Gatti's rejection marked the first such no-confirmation result for a governor since the advise-and-consent law took effect.

Republicans in charge of the North Carolina General Assembly have agreed to legislation ending the $300 federal weekly supplemental benefit to the unemployed in the state. The House and Senate voted separately on Wednesday. Nearly all Democrats voted against the elimination, signaling a possible veto from Gov. Roy Cooper. The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation already is expected to expire nationwide in early September. The bill would end the program in North Carolina in roughly a month.

The House has voted to let local school leaders — and not state officials — decide for next school year whether people in K-12 schools must wear face coverings. The chamber voted Wednesday to give local school boards and leaders of private schools the “exclusive authority” to decide on face coverings. Gov. Roy Cooper’s current executive order and guidance by state health officials direct that most everyone wear face coverings indoors. The measure marks another effort by Republicans to scale back the Democratic governor’s influence over the state’s coronavirus response.

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A bipartisan effort to legalize marijuana for medical use in North Carolina has received a legislative committee hearing. But it’s unclear yet whether enough legislators are ready now to alter their views on pot. Nearly three-quarters of states already allow medical marijuana. Senators debated the measure on Wednesday. Patients would have to be declared in writing by a physician to have one of several “debilitating medical conditions” to obtain an ID card to purchase or possess marijuana. Up to 10 cannabis suppliers who are named could operate several sales centers.

North Carolina’s unemployment rate fell for the eighth consecutive month in May. But data released Wednesday by state officials show the reduction appears largely connected to a decline in the number of people actively seeking work. The seasonally adjusted jobless rate fell from 5% in April to 4.8% in May. The state’s overall workforce actually fell by more than 16,200 people compared to April, and the number of employed workers decreased by over 4,500.  Leisure and hospitality industries showed the largest increase in employment last month.

A key figure in a North Carolina investigation into ballot fraud in a congressional race has pleaded guilty to federal charges involving Social Security benefits. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Raleigh said Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. entered the plea Monday in Greenville federal court. Prosecutors had accused Dowless of receiving benefits unlawfully by concealing money he earned working on state and federal campaigns. The charges carry a combined maximum sentence of 15 years. Dowless still faces state charges involving the 2016 and 2018 elections.

North Carolina General Assembly

A North Carolina state government budget proposal written by Republicans that also would cut taxes by several billion dollars this decade has cleared the chamber’s finance committee. The panel’s approval of the measure Wednesday sets the stage for Senate floor debate Thursday and the first of two required votes. The bill would spend $25.7 billion in state funds next fiscal year. The measure also would reduce the individual income tax rate incrementally to just under 4% by 2026 and phase out the current 2.5% corporate tax starting in 2014.

Legislation to raise the minimum age for marriage in North Carolina from 14 to 16 has now cleared a House committee after getting Senate approval last month. The measure also would prevent the young person’s spouse from being no more than four years older. And 16- and 17-year-olds would need either written parental consent or a judge’s order to marry. Backers of the measure approved by a judiciary committee on Tuesday say that North Carolina has become a destination for out-of-state couples involving an underage partner because of its rules.

Senate Republicans have pushed their North Carolina government budget proposal through the chamber’s largest committee. The measure cleared the appropriations panel Tuesday after less than three hours of debate. The bill spends state funds and allocates over $5 billion in federal COVID-19 relief aid for business grants, state employees bonuses, broadband expansion and water and sewer projects. GOP leaders also highlighted plans within the measure to cut income taxes more deeply and fund more future capital projects.

Investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones has told the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in a letter that she will not join the faculty at its journalism school without tenure. NC Policy Watch reported Tuesday that the letter says Hannah-Jones will not begin her position as Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism as scheduled July 1. Hannah-Jones won a Pulitzer Prize for her work on The 1619 Project for the New York Times Magazine. She accepted a five-year contract to join the journalism school’s faculty this year.

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The Rev. William Barber II called Monday for members of Congress and legislative leaders around the country to commit to fighting poverty and systemic racism. The civil rights leader and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign addressed a crowd in a public plaza near North Carolina’s legislature. The gathering kicked off a year of events for the Third Reconstruction project, building toward a march next summer in Washington. Barber said ending poverty and addressing social problems must become a top legislative priority.

NC General Assembly

North Carolina Senate Republicans have unveiled a two-year state budget proposal that sticks to earlier spending limits even with recent news of a massive revenue windfall. The Senate will vote on the spending plan this week. The measure sticks to spending caps agreed to with House counterparts. Those numbers were set before economists announced the state would take in $6.5 billion more than expected. The bill puts much of that extra money in a savings reserve and an infrastructure construction fund, and makes deeper tax cuts than Republicans originally pitched.

NCDOT

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has signed legislation that will continue the operation of a passenger-only ferry that takes people from Hatters Island to Ocracoke Island. The Raleigh News & Observer reported Friday that the move will give Outer Banks visitors the option of taking a passenger-only ferry to Ocracoke for the third summer in a row. Other ferries carry people and their vehicles. The N.C. Department of Transportation will continue to lease a boat because the one it ordered remains unfinished.

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An expedition is underway that will explore unmapped areas off the U.S. Atlantic Coast. The Charlotte Observer reports that scientists are particularly interested in an underwater plateau that sits about 440 miles off Virginia. But they’re also prepared to find undiscovered shipwrecks between North Carolina and Rhode Island. The expedition is being conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It is set to finish up June 27. The deep sea anomaly off Virginia’s coast is known as the Caryn Seamount. It rises about 6,500 feet over an otherwise flat section of ocean floor.

NCDOT

A task force force has been formed with the aim of saving the main highway on North Carolina’s Outer Banks from storms and sea level rise. The Virginian-Pilot reported last week that the task force will focus on protecting seven vulnerable spots along 67 miles of the narrow highway. It runs from Oregon Inlet to Hatteras Village and continues after a ferry ride to Ocracoke. The group is made up of federal, state and local agencies. The highway constantly floods with ocean water or after heavy rains and high tides inundate the road.

The pilot of a small plane was killed when their aircraft went down near a drag strip in North Carolina. News outlets report the aircraft crashed around 8:30 p.m. Thursday near Kinston Drag Strip, where races were being held. Authorities say there was only one person on the aircraft, but their identity was not release because next of kin had not been notified. Personnel from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration were expected to arrive on the scene to look into the crash and what may have caused it.

"The Gun" by Auraelius is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed another piece of gun-rights legislation that would allow parishioners at more churches to be armed. The veto by the Democratic governor on Friday marked the second year in a row he’s blocked the idea. The legislation advanced by Republicans says people going to religious services at a location where private schools also meet can carry handguns if they have a concealed weapons permit. Attendees of stand-alone churches already have that ability. Cooper says the state should keep guns off school grounds to protect teacher and students.

"Solar Panels" by Chandra Marsono is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Negotiators of a wide-ranging North Carolina energy bill to retire Duke Energy coal-fired electricity plants, expand solar power production but keep nuclear defended the measure’s goals as it got its first hearing. A House committee began scrutinizing the Republican measure on Thursday just after Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper came out against it. He told lawmakers in a statement to “go back to the drawing board.” Bill sponsor Rep. Dean Arp told collagues the measure embraces an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy that also includes natural gas. Others say it relies too much on fossil fuels.

North Carolina Senate Republicans have pushed a trio of election measures through their chamber, but they're unlikely to become law in their current forms given Democratic opposition. Democrats voted against the bills on Wednesday, including one that would prohibit counting mail-in absentee ballots that aren’t received by local officials by Election Day. Currently there's a three-day grace period. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has been critical of GOP election changes, and Republicans lack veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate.

"Tax Calculator and Pen" by Dave Dugdale is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The North Carolina House wants to exempt military retiree pay from state income taxes for more veterans in North Carolina. The chamber voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday for the legislation, which would apply to retirees with at least 20 years of service and cover any benefits to their survivors. A bill sponsor says it would help boost North Carolina’s image as a landing place for retiring armed forces members.  Carrying out the measure would cost $50 million annually within five years. The bill now heads to the Senate.

A federal appeals court has ruled North Carolina’s ban on most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy must remain unenforceable. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld a 2019 lower court decision striking down the prohibition. The Republican-dominated legislature in 2015 narrowed the scope of medical emergencies under which a woman would be exempt from the 20-week limit. The appeals judges dismissed arguments by state attorneys that the prohibition isn't enforced and thus fails to be an issue.

One big marlin meant one big check for a boat entered in an annual tournament on the North Carolina coast. The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reports Natural, which is based in Beaufort, had to wait out a thunderstorm before learning Jonathan Fulcher had landed a 521.6-pound marlin, which was good for nearly $829,000 in prize money at the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament. The victory was earned in the tournament's Fabulous Fisherman's prize. Of the 270 participants, only 159 went offshore on Tuesday. Among the boats entered in the tournament is Catch 23, which belongs to Michael Jordan.

A major energy bill has been unveiled by North Carolina House Republicans. It would direct several low-efficiency coal-fired power plants operated by Duke Energy’s North Carolina subsidiaries to transition to alternate fuels by the end of 2030. And a renewable energy procurement program made law in 2017 would be retooled and expanded. Tuesday's bill says the legislation would contribute to a 61% reduction in carbon-based emissions in the state by 2030 when compared to 2005. This compares to the 70% reduction sought by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.

North Carolina economists report government coffers could collect several billion dollars more by the middle of 2023 than what that anticipated just four months ago. A forecast released Tuesday by Gov. Roy Cooper's budget office and the legislature’s fiscal research agency says revenue collections for the year ending June 30 will be $1.9 billion more than previously predicted. They also increased projected revenues for the next two years by well over $2 billion annually. The economists attribute the extraordinary windfall to a resurgent post-pandemic economy.

The North Carolina state auditor’s office says a former school system superintendent in eastern North Carolina misused more than $45,000 during his time in the position. WRAL-TV reports that Shelton Jefferies violated multiple Nash County Public Schools policies related to his procurement card and a school system vehicle that he was authorized to drive. He started as superintendent in January 2016. The Nash County Board of Education learned that cards and district vehicles were improperly used in spring 2019. Jeffries resigned that August.

The N.C. Board of Transportation has approved state funds totaling more than $4 million for projects that help improve safety and customer service at seven airports across the state. The board awarded the money last month and announced them on Monday. The awards range from $90,000 for the design and bid of an airfield drainage system assessment at Duplin County Airport in Kenansville, to $2.3 million for land acquisition in the runway protection zone at Moore County Airport in Carthage. The funds awarded will be distributed by the NCDOT Division of Aviation.

Military weapons including assault rifles and a light machine gun have been lost or stolen from bases in North Carolina. An Associated Press investigation into firearms missing from the U.S. armed services shows at least 56 guns disappeared or were recovered in North Carolina from 2010 through 2019. The weapons are among at least 1,900 U.S. military firearms that AP learned were unaccounted for during the last decade. Intended for war, some guns ended up on America’s streets. Army pistols, for example, were used in violent crimes including shootings and robbery.

North Carolina civil rights groups are criticizing election bills written by Republicans and expected on the Senate floor this week. Speakers for the groups at a Legislative Building news conference Monday called them another GOP attempt at voter suppression, especially of minority groups. One bill would require mail-in absentee ballots be received by mail or handed in by the date of the election in order to count. Current law gives a three-day grace period for envelopes postmarked by the election date.

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