PRE News

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

North Carolina's unemployment rate is continuing on its downward arc. The state Commerce Department said on Friday that the seasonally adjusted rate fell from 4.1% in October to 3.9% in November. North Carolina hasn’t logged a rising monthly unemployment rate since September 2020, after the state’s economy shook off the tightest COVID-19 lockdown and commerce restrictions from the first half of last year. The number of people employed in the state grew in November by over 18,100 to more than 4.84 million, while those unemployed fell by about 10,200.

A North Carolina school board has adopted a policy which will allow principals to search a student’s cellphone. The Wilson Times reports that the policy adopted this week by the Wilson County Board of Education allows phone searches “whenever a school official has reason to believe the search will provide evidence that a student has violated or is violating the law, board policy, the code of student conduct or a school rule.” Superintendent Lane Mills said principals who cited safety concerns and also said they don’t search cellphones often.

North Carolina Judicial Branch

Plaintiffs in long-running North Carolina school funding litigation have asked the state’s highest court to decide whether a trial judge’s directive to send $1.75 billion from government coffers to state agencies to address inequities is lawful. Lawyers representing school districts and parents on behalf of their children filed separate appeal notices this week with the state Supreme Court. They are unhappy with last month’s decision by a Court of Appeals panel that blocked Superior Court Judge David Lee’s order to send the money from being enforced.

A prominent U.S. Senate candidate in North Carolina has withdrawn from next year’s race for the Democratic nomination. State Sen. Jeff Jackson of Charlotte endorsed former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley in a video released Thursday. Jackson got in the race nearly a year ago and had held town hall meetings in all 100 counties. Jackson says Beasley was leading him in the polls and that party unity is needed to win the seat held by the retiring Republican Sen. Richard Burr. The March primary was delayed to mid-May last week due to pending redistricting litigation.

NCDHHS

Pitt County’s Health Director Dr. John Silvernail was notified by Vidant Medical Center of Pitt County’s first Omicron variant case of the COVID-19 virus. This variant was identified through the Vidant / Brody School of Medicine’s COVID-19 Sequencing Laboratory. 

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has started its Swine and Dairy Assistance Program. The application period for phase one of the program, which focuses on providing funds to farmers quickly to pay bills, is open now.  

Crystal Coast Stargazers / Alex Gu

Cape Lookout National Seashore has been certified as an International Dark Sky Park. The designation recognizes the park’s quality of starry nights and the opportunities for star-gazing and other astronomy-based activities for visitors.  Cape Lookout is the first East Coast Dark Sky Place in the National Park Service to receive the certification. 

CDC

State health officials on Tuesday reported the first influenza-related death of the 2021-2022 flu season.  An adult in the western part of the state died during the second week of December due to complications from the respiratory illness.  The individual tested positive for the flu and negative for COVID-19. According to a news release, influenza cases and deaths in the state were at a historic low last season.

Onslow County Government

The Onslow County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to support an affordable housing project which proposed up to 180 new units in Jacksonville.  Commissioners decided to allocate up to $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding for the project.  Seven proposals were submitted and ultimately Carolina Statewide Development LLC was awarded the funding to build an 82-unit development in Jacksonville Commons with the potential to increase the number of units to 180.  According to a news release, there is an estimated 2,100-unit deficit in affordable housing in Onslow County.

NC Ferry Division

Some ferry routes will make fewer runs during the upcoming Christmas holiday.  The North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division said the Hatteras-Ocracoke, Cherry Branch-Minnesott Beach, Southport-Fort Fisher and Currituck-Knotts Island ferry routes will operate on an alternate schedule on Dec. 24-25.  According to a news release, COVID-19 precautions remain in place for passengers traveling on a ferry, including wearing face coverings and social distancing when outside of their vehicle. 

Cherry Branch-Minnesott Beach:

 

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has been formally chosen to lead the Democratic Governors Association next year. Association members elected Cooper to the job on Saturday at the group's meeting in New Orleans. He's been vice chair and chair-elect in 2021. Now he'll spearhead efforts to help party nominees win more in a big gubernatorial year ahead. Thirty-six governorships are on the ballot in 2022. Republican governors currently lead 27 of the 50 states. Cooper is succeeding Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico. The association also elected New Jersey Gov.

Former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and ex-Rep. Mark Walker are urging U.S. Rep. Ted Budd to agree to participate in a U.S. Senate debate. Budd's campaign says it considers any conversations premature and “foolish” since candidate filing was recently suspended. The state Supreme Court this week decided to push back the primary from March 8 to May 17. The move gives Walker more time to make a decision on whether to follow former President Donald Trump's push for him to bow out and instead run for a U.S. House seat.

NCDHHS

Health officials in North Carolina are reporting the state's first case of the omicron variant of the coronavirus. Mecklenburg County health officials reported Friday that a student at University of North Carolina Charlotte tested positive for the variant. Officials say the case was identified though the university’s sequencing program. The student was isolated and has recovered. Officials say exposure was limited with only one known contact.

US Drought Monitor of North Carolina

More than half of North Carolina is in severe drought, including nearly all of the counties in the eastern part of the state.  The U.S. Drought Monitor released its updated report for North Carolina on Thursday which classified 56 counties in severe drought, 22 counties in moderate drought, and 22 counties as abnormally dry. 

Assistant state climatologist Corey Davis said in a release that the dryness started in early October. He added less than one inch of rain fell in most areas last month, making it the driest November in North Carolina in 90 years.

NCDHHS

Almost 300 confirmed COVID-19 cases were reported in Onslow County in the past week, causing the positivity rate to jump by over three points from last Thursday’s report to 7.7%. Onslow also reported two additional COVID-19 related deaths. Both individuals were over 65 and had underlying health conditions. According to a news release, the number of active cases is at 388, and the fatality count has risen to 276. Onslow County’s percentage of population with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine continues to outpace the statewide trend.

NCDPS

Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed Republican legislation that would bar North Carolina election boards and officials in counties from accepting private money to run elections. The bill responded to the funds distributed nationwide by outside groups to administer the 2020 elections, particularly to address COVID-19-related challenges. GOP bill sponsors said outside donations to government agencies create the impression of undue influence in elections.

Former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker says he plans to remain in North Carolina's U.S. Senate race through the end of the year. But the Republican is also considering returning to the U.S. House. He said he met with former President Donald Trump over the weekend, where Trump encouraged him to bow out of the race and run instead in the state's 7th Congressional District. Trump is backing U.S. Rep. Ted Budd for the GOP Senate primary. Budd and Walker are Trump loyalists competing for his base of supporters, while former Gov.

North Carolina authorities say a high school student has been taken into custody after he was found carrying a rifle with a loaded magazine on a school bus. According to The Daily Advance of Elizabeth City, Pasquotank County Sheriff Tommy Wooten said the juvenile student was carrying a pistol-grip AK-47 with a loaded 30-round magazine Wednesday morning. Wooten says the bus driver called an assistant principal after smelling marijuana on the student. Wooten says a school resource officer searched the student and found the rifle and marijuana before taking the student into custody.

NC Forest Service

The North Carolina Forest Service has rescinded the restriction on open burning for 67 counties, including those in Eastern NC. 

  

North Carolina Judicial Branch

North Carolina’s highest court has delayed the state’s planned March 8 primary until May so state courts can review lawsuits claiming illegal gerrymandering. Wednesday's decision by the state Supreme Court comes after a state Court of Appeals panel initially blocked filing for legislative and congressional candidates on Monday, only to have the decision reversed by the full intermediate-level appeals court. The order by the justices means candidate filing is now suspended until the litigation is resolved.

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

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is gathering public comment on its environmental review of wind leasing options off the coast of the Carolinas.  In August, BOEM began preparing a supplemental environmental assessment to consider additional wind leasing sites, specifically a lease sale for the Wilmington East Wind Energy Area, located in the Carolina Long Bay area.  On Wednesday, BOEM posted a draft of the supplemental EA to its website for review and comment.  It includes new information that was no

Getting a driver license in North Carolina may soon get a little easier. The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles says it has added 41 new driver license examiner graduates to 32 offices statewide. A news release from the agency says the new employees recently graduated from its Basic Examiner Training School and participated in a recognition ceremony on Tuesday.

NCDMF

The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries is asking local anglers and people on the water to report any cold stunned spotted seatrout they may find along the North Carolina coast. Cold stunning occurs when water temperatures drop rapidly or during periods of prolonged cold weather.

“The fish will get sluggish, they’re really actually stunned”, said Patricia Smith, public information officer for the NCDMF.  Sometimes, many of the fish will die either from the cold or they will fall prey to the birds or other predators.”

U.S. Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard says four men were rescued from a fishing vessel off the North Carolina coast on Tuesday morning.  The vessel, named Bald Eagle II, became disabled and was drifting towards the shore when they contacted Coast Guard Sector North Carolina.  A helicopter crew and boat crew were deployed to rescue the men from the cold, 56-degree water.  The four men were wearing survival suits to prevent hypothermia when the rescue helicopter arrived and hoisted them to safety.  The men were transported to Elizabeth City. No injuries were reported.  

The start of North Carolina candidate filing for U.S. House and legislative seats was blocked by an appeals court panel. But it was restored hours later. A three-judge panel of the intermediate level appeals court issued a ruling on Monday morning telling officials not to begin accepting candidates for those seats due to pending redistricting litigation that alleges the maps are illegal partisan gerrymanders. But lawyers for the GOP legislators who helped draw the maps asked the entire 15-judge Court of Appeals to get involved. A majority of those judges agreed late Monday.

North Carolina Senate Majority Leader Kathy Harrington says she won’t seek reelection to her legislative seat next year. She's the first woman to hold the job since it was created over 40 years ago. The Gaston County Republican is now in her sixth two-year Senate term. While the chamber’s most powerful position belongs to Sen. Phil Berger as president pro tempore, Harrington’s elevation to majority leader still marked a historic moment. Harrington said on Monday she felt like it was the right time to retire after looking at her Senate accomplishments.

Toyota says it plans to build a $1.3 billion electric vehicle battery plant near Greensboro, North Carolina, that will employ at least 1,750 people. The Japanese auto giant joined Gov. Roy Cooper and other officials in making the announcement Monday at a site in Randolph County. Toyota says the U.S. factory will make batteries for hybrid and fully electric vehicles. The plant would start making batteries in 2025. Initially Toyota will or could receive well over $430 million in government incentives if it meets job creation and investment goals.

A North Carolina appeals court has halted for now candidate filing for U.S. House and state legislative seats while judges consider whether to block district boundaries that lawsuit filers claim are illegal partisan gerrymanders. A Court of Appeals order directed officials not to  accept candidates for those seats just before filing began at noon Monday. Filing for other positions are continuing. The temporary stay was sought by and granted to the plaintiffs in a lawsuit led by by the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters.

Candidate filing for 2022 elections in North Carolina is starting as scheduled. The State Board of Elections and election offices in all 100 counties begin accepting candidate documents and filing fees at noon Monday. Filing ends at midday Dec. 17. Judges last week rejected requests in redistricting lawsuits to delay the primary date and thus candidate filing. Candidates to run in the March 8 primary for the U.S. Senate and House and for judicial offices file with the state board in Raleigh. There are also March primaries for legislative seats and county offices.

A panel of North Carolina judges has refused to block the latest legislative and congressional maps from being used for the 2022 elections. The three judges on Friday denied preliminary injunctions in a pair of lawsuits challenging  boundaries that the Republican-controlled legislature passed last month. The decision means candidate filing for the March 8 primary should begin at noon Monday as scheduled. The decision can be appealed.

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