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SESSION RECONVENES-THE LATEST
The Latest: Energized Democrats promote Medicaid expansion
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Larger and energized Democratic blocs in the North Carolina House and Senate say finally expanding Medicaid in the state is their top priority during this year’s legislative session.
Dozens of Democratic legislators held a Legislative Building news conference to discuss bills they filed Wednesday that would provide health coverage to hundreds of thousands of additional low-income people. They say it would help rural economies and hospitals in addition to making people healthier and treating opioid addiction.
Legislative Republicans essentially blocked expansion in 2013. GOP majorities are now narrower following the November elections, giving Gov. Roy Cooper and other Democrats negotiating power.
The bills filed Wednesday contain neither work requirements nor co-payments for the additional covered people. House Minority Leader Darren Jackson says the stripped-down bill would be the quickest way to begin expansion next fall and avoid delays.
North Carolina city plans to move Confederate statue
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) – Officials in a North Carolina city say they’ll move a Confederate monument for safety reasons and won’t go to court to do so.
In a letter Wednesday to the lawyer for the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Winston-Salem’s attorney said the city will remove the Confederate statue sometime after Thursday and eventually will relocate it to a cemetery.
The letter from city attorney Angela Carmon says the presence of the statue in its current location jeopardizes the preservation of the statue and is harmful to public safety. The statue has been vandalized twice in less than 1 1/2 years.
The UDC had sought a 60-day delay on filing legal action to resolve who owns the statue and whether the state’s monument protection law applies.
UDC attorney James Davis was in court Wednesday and couldn’t be reached for comment.
This story corrects the spelling of attorney’s name to Carmon instead of Cameron.
PRISON SAFETY-NORTH CAROLINA
After slayings, N Carolina prison workers want pay raised
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina needs to spend millions to sharply raise pay for prison guards to more than a fast-food restaurant manager’s salary and attract applicants to fill hundreds of vacant positions, a problem outside experts say contributed to the slayings of five workers in 2017.
The State Employees Association of North Carolina and legislative supporters said Wednesday higher pay is a top priority among several changes they want from lawmakers just starting their two-year session.
The labor organization says North Carolina prison workers were paid an average of $37,000 in 2017, about 22 percent less than the national average.
Corrections workers say the low pay is a big reason 20 percent or more of the positions in some prisons are vacant, forcing remaining employees to work mandatory overtime.
Court of Appeals judge Inman plans to run for Supreme Court
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Another North Carolina Court of Appeals judge is interested in moving up to the Supreme Court with the approaching resignation of Chief Justice Mark Martin.
Court of Appeals Judge Lucy Inman announced Wednesday she planned to run for a vacant Supreme Court seat in 2020. In a news release, Inman anticipates that will be the seat currently held by Associate Justice Paul Newby.
Newby’s associate seat already was on the 2020 ballot. But since Martin announced last week he was leaving Feb. 28 for a Virginia law school. A top state Republican Party leader and a news outlet said Newby told them he now intends to run for chief justice.
Court of Appeals Judge Phil Berger Jr. said earlier this week he was interested in running for Newby’s current seat.
ELECTION 2018-NORTH CAROLINA
North Carolina Democrats also must provide new board choices
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina Democrats also are having a hard time picking eligible people for a reconstituted state elections board.
Gov. Roy Cooper’s office wrote the state Democratic Party this week saying two of its four nominees don’t appear to comply with the new law creating a five-member board this Thursday. Republicans received a similar letter last week about two GOP nominees.
The letters cite a portion of the law preventing people associated with “electioneering” in the past four years from serving. The Democratic Party gave Cooper two new names Wednesday in former Durham Mayor Bill Bell and Durham attorney Jeff Carmon.
Cooper will choose three Democrats and two Republicans from a slate of four candidates per party. The board’s most pressing work will be examining the unresolved 9th Congressional District race.
NORTH CAROLINA DRIVER LICENSES-GENDER CHANGE
North Carolina updates gender change process for licenses
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles is issuing a new application form making it easier for some transgender people to list their gender on their driver’s licenses and identification cards.
The left-leaning news outlet NC Policy Watch first reported the change, saying the new form replaces a requirement for a surgeon’s letter when changing the gender marker on the cards. The release says while it still requires authorization from medical providers, it allows for a broader range of providers.
The new form still calls for “male” or “female,” which doesn’t acknowledge people who identify as neither, but LGBTQ advocates call the new form a step in the right direction.
N.C. Department of Transportation spokesman Jamie Kritzer says the policy is similar to that of 13 other states.
McCrory, McIntyre next UNC politics institute participants
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) – Former Gov. Pat McCrory and ex-U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre will be teaching about politics and leadership starting next month at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The school’s student-led Institute of Politics announced Wednesday the Republican McCrory and Democrat McIntyre are serving as institute fellows during the semester. They’ll lead not-for-credit seminars and hold weekly office hours.
McCrory was governor for four years through the end of 2016 and was Charlotte’s longest-serving mayor. McIntyre served nine terms in the 9th Congressional District through 2014.
According to a course syllabus on the institute’s web site, McCrory’s seminars have such titles as “The Allure Of Power,” “No Winners on Social Issues,” and “Prepare to be Eviscerated.” The syllabus says his seminars are limited to those with UNC identification.
Lawsuits: At least 3 abused at camp for chronically ill kids
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – Lawsuits against Duke University allege counselors at a camp for sick children negligently left campers unattended and that at least one child coerced others into sex acts.
The lawsuits from 2017 and 2019 were filed by guardians of two children who say they were abused by another camper at Camp Kaleidoscope, and one child who says he was psychologically harmed by seeing the acts. The lawsuits were first reported Tuesday by Indy Week .
Duke University spokesman Michael Schoenfeld said that the university was declining to comment.
The lawsuits allege the sex acts happened in a cabin housing five boys between the ages 7 and 10 when adults left them unsupervised while attending meetings. The lawsuits allege that at least one of the bunkmates had a pre-existing sexually transmittable disease.