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May 21, 2019
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Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. EDT



Opponents mobilize against easing Duke Energy rate increases
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Opponents want North Carolina lawmakers to reject Duke Energy Corp.’s push to line up profitable infrastructure projects years into the future and bypass lengthy regulatory battles.
Energy Justice NC, NC WARN and other environmental advocates are organizing citizens on Tuesday who want to lobby legislators and voice opposition to Senate Bill 559.
The change would allow Duke Energy or Virginia-based Dominion Energy to set a key component of electricity rates for up to five years without the companies having to justify their reasons in multiple, trial-like hearings.
The measure surfaced after state utilities regulators last year wouldn’t approve a $13 billion, 10-year Duke Energy proposal on electricity grid updates with profit margins tacked on. The country’s largest electricity company also sees coal ash cleanup costing up to $10 billion.



Raleigh-Durham Airports adds gates, security lanes
MORRISVILLE, N.C. (AP) – Raleigh-Durham International Airport is expanding both gates and security lanes as the airport copes with a record-breaking number of passengers.
The News & Observer of Raleigh reports three budget airlines will join Southwest in Terminal 1 by April 1, 2020. The move by Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit Airlines will free space in Terminal 2.
To make room for the new airlines, four unused gates in Terminal 1 will be activated.
In addition, Terminal 2 now has two more security lanes for a total of 12.
Traffic continues to grow at RDU, where a record 6.4 million passengers flew last year. RDU officials say nearly 572,000 passengers boarded flights in April, a 6.2% increase compared to the same month last year.



Report: North Carolina hurricane funds delayed
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina government watchdog agency says administrative mistakes and a lack of expertise caused delays in the state’s distribution of certain federal long-term recovery funds following Hurricane Matthew.
The report released Monday by the non-partisan Program Evaluation Division also found $3.7 million in unnecessary state spending.
The state received a federal block grant of $199 million in December 2016, which was later increased to $237 million. But as of December 2018- over two years after Matthew made landfall – only 1% of it had been spent. South Carolina spent 22% of a similar award during the same time period.
The report says North Carolina was inexperienced with this type of grant.
In response, state recovery leaders acknowledged their inexperience led to a delay, but disagreed with some of the report’s conclusions.



South Carolina: Tax break for Carolina Panthers near passage
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – South Carolina legislators are expected to clear the final hurdle to giving the Carolina Panthers up to $120 million in tax breaks to move their practice fields and team headquarters out of North Carolina.
The Senate voted 23-16 on Monday to approve a compromise smoothing over small differences in the bill. A few hours later, the House passed the bill 88-18. Gov. Henry McMaster is expected to quickly sign it into law.
The bill exempts the Panthers from paying state income taxes for players, coaches and other employees for 15 years as long as they use the money to build their new complex near Rock Hill.
Opponents say the state shouldn’t help a billionaire NFL owner.
The team would continue to play games in Charlotte, North Carolina.



Trump DOJ wants role in lawsuit over pay at 2 NC med schools
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A federal lawsuit in North Carolina accusing neighboring research universities of conspiring to depress wages for medical professionals is nearing a settlement, and the Trump Administration wants to enforce the deal.
The U.S. Justice Department said in a court filing Monday that it should join the pending settlement because it enforces federal antitrust laws barring anti-competitive “no-poach” agreements. Former Duke University physician Dr. Danielle Seaman’s lawsuit claims the universities illegally agreed against hiring medical professors away from each other.
Duke and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill denied that top administrators promised not to hire away staff for similar roles.
About 5,500 faculty at Duke and UNC are covered by Seaman’s a class-action lawsuit. UNC was dropped as a defendant after turning over internal documents.



Craft beer legislation completes round, heads to governor
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Small breweries in North Carolina could soon be toasting a new law that would give growing beer-makers in the state more time to sell their products on their own without third-party distributors.
By a 38-3 vote, the Senate gave final legislative approval Monday night to a measure that represents a compromise between alcohol wholesalers and craft brewers hammered out over years of negotiation and litigation. The bill already cleared the House and now goes to Gov. Roy Cooper – a craft brewing booster – for his signature.
The bipartisan bill would allow breweries to sell up to 50,000 barrels of beer annually on their own. The current limit is 25,000 barrels. Craft breweries in the state have grown this decade from 45 to over 200.



Marine Corps Harrier jet crashes in North Carolina
CHERRY POINT, N.C. (AP) – Officials say a Marine jet has crashed in a wooded area in North Carolina, but the pilot ejected from the aircraft and was taken to a hospital.
A statement posted to Facebook from the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point says the AV-8B Harrier crashed Monday night near Havelock. There were no reports of injuries on the ground or property damage.
The pilot’s condition was not immediately known. The crash site was cordoned off by military officials.
The cause of the crash is currently under investigation.



UNC System seeks to halt how medical center picks board
GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) – The UNC System has filed a motion seeking to halt changes to who appoints members to a North Carolina medical center board.
System spokesman Josh Ellis says in a statement that attorneys for the system filed documents in Orange County Superior Court on Monday seeking to temporarily halt Vidant Medical Center and return the selection process to its former status.
Originally, Pitt County appointed 11 members to the county-owned hospital and the UNC Board of Governors appointed the other nine, following creation of the Brody School of Medicine in 1975. In April, a change eliminated the UNC appointments and gave them to Vidant.

Ellis said Vidant was asked to refrain from the change, but refused.
WITN-TV in Greenville reports Pitt County declined comment because it just learned of the action.