Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. EDT
Lawmakers debate fix after conservation fund lapses
WASHINGTON (AP) – A popular program that supports conservation and outdoor recreation projects across the country has expired after Congress couldn’t agree on language to extend it.
Lawmakers from both parties back the Land and Water Conservation Fund, but the program lapsed Monday amid a dispute over whether its renewal should be part of a broader package of land-use bills.
A Senate panel is set to vote Tuesday on a bipartisan bill to permanently reauthorize the fund and ensure it’s fully paid for.
The top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state, sponsored the bill. She calls the conservation fund “the key tool” Congress uses to help preserve recreation opportunities and make cost-effective use of public lands.
Cantwell’s bill has 47 co-sponsors, including six Republicans.
NC high court to decide if lawmakers OK governor’s top aides
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s highest court will decide whether legislators can reject a governor’s choices for important jobs like collecting taxes or registering automobiles.
The state Supreme Court hears oral arguments Tuesday into whether a law unconstitutionally limits which top aides carry out the governor’s plans.
The Republican-led legislature passed the law in 2016, weeks after Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper defeated former GOP Gov. Pat McCrory.
Cooper’s lawyers agree the General Assembly can shape state agencies Cooper oversees, but possibly vetoing his management choices interferes with how the governor carries out duties.
Lawyers defending the law say it doesn’t violate the separation of powers principle because legislators who create agencies have a right to advise who runs them. Legislative lawyers say the governor can still supervise and remove the appointees.
N Carolina lawmakers take first crack at Florence recovery
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The first of several anticipated attempts by legislators to address the damage and displacement Hurricane Florence caused in North Carolina begins two weeks after the storm’s rains finally left the state.
The General Assembly is reconvening Tuesday for a special session called by Gov. Roy Cooper.
The legislature is expected to pass laws focusing on immediate needs of affected residents and school districts, some of which still haven’t re-opened their doors. Republican legislators also want to set aside money to cover anticipated matching funds necessary to spend federal recovery dollars.
The session is expected to last one day, with lawmakers likely to return next week to consider requests from Cooper’s state agencies. And lawmakers already are planning to come back to Raleigh in November and January.
AIRPORT UPGRADE FUNDING
Eastern North Carolina airport to get significant upgrades
PLYMOUTH, N.C. (AP) – A new federal program is helping an airport in eastern North Carolina make significant upgrades.
A Monday release by the N.C. Department of Transportation says the Federal Aviation Administration is providing $7 million for a project at Plymouth Municipal Airport in Washington County. It says the money will fund all of the construction of a full-length parallel taxiway.
The money is part of a $205 million federal award to the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program to be used primarily to benefit smaller airports in rural areas.
Plymouth Municipal Airport averages 42 operations per day, but that number can approach 600 during certain seasons with agricultural flights. Aircraft must back-taxi along the runway to take off, meaning that other aircraft are unable to land. A full parallel taxiway eliminates that conflict.
INTERSTATE 95 WIDENING
Public input sought for Interstate 95 widening project
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – State transportation officials would like the residents in two North Carolina counties to review plans to widen Interstate 95.
The N.C. Department of Transportation will award a contract next spring to widen I-95 from four lanes to eight lanes between exit 56 in Cumberland County and exit 71 in Harnett County. In 2020, the department is scheduled to award another contract for another expansion between exit 71 and exit 81, where I-95 and Interstate 40 converge.
The public meetings are scheduled for Oct. 11 in Benson and Oct. 18 in Falcon.
The same information will be presented at both open houses, which are informal and designed to let people examine maps, talk with NCDOT representatives and provide feedback. The department will accept comments on the projects through Nov. 2.
North Carolina lighthouse reopens to public after hurricane
HARKERS ISLAND, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina lighthouse is going to reopen to allow a last weekend of climbing for the year after its schedule was interrupted by Hurricane Florence.
The Cape Lookout Lighthouse at the southern end of the Outer Banks will reopen for climbing Oct. 5 through Oct. 8. The structure’s 207 steps are comparable to climbing a 12-story building.
Ticket fees will be waived to show support and appreciation for recovery from the hurricane that hit in September.
Tickets can only be obtained in person on first-come, first-served basis.
It will be the last chance to climb the lighthouse in 2018. Originally, public climbing was scheduled to end on Sept. 16, but the schedule was interrupted by the hurricane.
SWIMMER DIES OFF COAST
New York man dies while swimming of North Carolina coast
(Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com)
RODANTHE, N.C. (AP) – A national seashore says a New York man has died while swimming of the coast of North Carolina near Rodanthe.
The News & Observer quotes a Cape Hatteras National Seashore statement as saying the 63-year-old man died Monday. His identity hasn’t been released. The release says two distressed swimmers were reported in the area to 911 at about 10 a.m. It says first responders and the man’s friend attempted CPR, but neither could revive him.
It says this death is the fifth swimming-related death off the seashore this year. There were seven last year and eight in 2016. It says there’s been a high risk of rip currents in the area, and the man wasn’t wearing a flotation device. It’s unclear if the man was caught in a rip current.
Republican convention set for August 2020 in Charlotte
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – The Republican National Convention will be held in North Carolina’s largest city in August 2020 and party leaders say they’ll gather with an eye on nominating President Donald Trump for a second term.
Party chairwoman Ronna McDaniel announced at a news conference Monday that the convention will be held in Charlotte on Aug. 24-27.
Mayor Vi Lyles says she looks forward to showcasing the city, adding Charlotte has a chance to show it can host both major political parties. Charlotte hosted the Democratic National Convention in 2012.
A divided Charlotte City Council voted 6-5 in July to approve a bid to host the Republican convention. Charlotte had been considered a front-runner, although published reports showed several cities thought to be up for the convention didn’t actually submit bids.