PRE News

Stories broadcast on PRE which are of interest to Eastern North Carolina

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.

The Constitution Party of North Carolina and North Carolina Green Party have failed to garner enough signatures to remain official political parties in the state for now. The State Board of Elections agreed earlier this year to give the parties until Saturday to collect signatures needed to field candidates in the next set of elections. But a board spokesman confirmed Monday that neither party reached their goal. That means their parties’ 9,600 or so combined registrants will now be re-designated as unaffiliated voters.

Police say a series of weekend shootings in a North Carolina city has left three people dead and at least four people wounded. The Winston-Salem Journal reports police said a 31-year-old man was shot to death and a second man wounded Saturday evening during a fight at a large house party. Police responded Friday to a report of a shooting in which a man was wounded and died at a local hospital. Federal marshals and investigators arrested a suspect a short time later. Winston-Salem police later found four people near an intersection with gunshot wounds. One of the four died.


Authorities say two Army paratroopers were found dead in their barracks at Fort Bragg and illicit drugs may have been a factor. Army officials said in a news release Monday that the 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers were found unresponsive Friday and declared dead at the scene. A cause of death hasn’t been released, but Criminal Investigation Command spokesman Chris Grey says investigators have “credible information” drugs were involved. The soldiers were identified as Spc. Joshua Diamond of Plymouth, Massachusetts, and Pfc. Matthew Disney of Aberdeen, Maryland.

North Carolina's highest court says the state constitution can be used to let individual students seek help from the courts when access to a sound basic education is denied due to harassment or unsafe schools. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Friday in favor of a mother and her three children, who were subjected to bullying and harassment at a Pitt County elementary school. The mother says school personnel were largely unresponsive to her concerns and she ultimately sued.


North Carolinians in airports, buses and train stations will need to remain masked at all times until at least July 30 under a new executive order updated on Friday. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper extended the state of emergency, which the state has been under since March 2020. While COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have plummeted as more people have gotten vaccinated, the governor said residents must remain safe and that his directive will help the state turn the corner on the pandemic. Cooper also moved to extend his mask wearing requirement at schools and health care settings.

A trial judge has backed a plan from Gov. Roy Cooper and the State Board of Education on how to comply with North Carolina constitutional requirements in public education. Superior Court Judge David Lee signed a court order this week approving the proposal that calls on at least $5.6 billion in new education funding through 2028. But it can’t be carried out without funding from the legislature, and some Republicans aren't interesting in deferring to a judge on spending matters.


Vaccinated North Carolinians are now eligible to win a $1 million prize. Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday that those who've gotten at least one COVID-19 shot are automatically entered in each of four upcoming contests. Residents between the ages of 12 and 17 can get a $125,000 scholarship to the college of their choice. There will be four drawings. A $1 million prize and $125,000 scholarship will given away at each of the contests scheduled to be held on June 23, July 7, July 21 and Aug. 4.

A plan by North Carolina Senate Republicans to cut taxes by $2 billion over two years and give $1 billion in federal COVID-19 aid to business and nonprofits has cleared the chamber. Seven Democrats joined all Republicans present in voting 34-13 for the bill on Thursday. The bill received initial Senate approval on Wednesday. The bill now heads to the House. The two chambers are likely to work out a tax deal in budget negotiations this summer. The Senate plan would reduce the individual income tax rate and increase deductions.

A man has been sentenced to 17 months in prison for accepting bribes in exchange for military contracts at a North Carolina Army base. A news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina says Morris Cooper pleaded guilty to the charges on Wednesday. According to an indictment, Cooper used his position as a purchasing agent at Fort Bragg to receive cash and gifts for both him and his wife, Beverley Cooper, from vendors in return for steering contracts for supplies to those vendors.

US Drought Monitor of North Carolina

The recent rains have improved drought conditions across the region, although most of Eastern North Carolina still remains abnormally dry.  According to the latest North Carolina Drought Advisory released Thursday, Columbus County is the only county in severe drought.  Nearly 30 counties in southeastern North Carolina and the Piedmont region are in a moderate drought. Those counties include Johnston, Onslow, Pender, Robeson and New Hanover counties. 

Wikimedia Commons

A proposed coronavirus relief fund and policy bill for North Carolina’s K-12 schools also would delay by one year the implementation of new social studies standards. The measure approved in the House on Wednesday also would push back details to carry out a personal finance class that will be a graduation requirement. The State Board of Education approved social studies standards in February. They tell teachers to discuss racism and the perspectives of historically marginalized groups more explicitly. Conservative critics called the standards overly negative.


The official autopsy of the unarmed Black man who was fatally shot in April by sheriff’s deputies in North Carolina says he died from a penetrating gunshot wound to the head. Andrew Brown Jr. also was shot in the right arm and suffered lacerations. He had a low level of methamphetamine in his bloodstream. But the report says it likely did not play a role in Brown’s death. The examination offers few new details about the shooting in Elizabeth City that continues to reverberate through the community.

North Carolina's Senate approved a measure on Thursday to prohibit doctors from performing abortions if a woman is seeking it because of race, sex or a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is not expected to approve the bill. Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion advocates say the proposal ensures equality by protecting fetuses that could have disabilities when they are born. Abortion rights groups say it would interfere with a woman's privacy, preventing them from having open conversations with their doctors and violating their constitutional rights.


The North Carolina legislature appears close to passing a bill that would see elections in three dozen municipalities this fall delayed until early 2022 due to redistricting delays. The House voted unanimously Wednesday for a bill that would apply to towns and cities with residents separated into wards or districts who elect specific council members. They won't get the 2020 Census data in time to redraw boundaries. The municipalities would have elections next March, with more in April or May in some cities.

The tax-cut package endorsed by North Carolina Senate Republicans has received initial approval with the support of some Democrats. Eight Democrats joined all Republicans in voting for the measure Wednesday. The bill would reduce the individual income tax rate, increase the standard and per-child deductions and phase out the corporate income tax by 2028. And there would be $1 billion in federal aid for businesses and nonprofits that struggled during the pandemic. Some Democrats opposing the measure say it would still help out-of-state corporations and the highest wage earners.

"Wind turbine blades" by vaxomatic is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Gov. Roy Cooper has unveiled more efforts to boost development of generating wind turbine energy off the North Carolina coast over the next two decades. The governor issued an executive order Wednesday setting electric production goals for 2030 and 2040 that if met would be the equivalent of powering over 2 million homes. He also directed the Commerce Department to create a task force that would seek to advance projects and boost their economic benefits. The state’s military affairs and environmental departments also have roles to play.

NWS Newport

The National Weather Service confirmed a tornado touched down over a small farm in Duplin County last Wednesday. Ashlyn DeLoughy has the details.