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SUPREME COURT-FINAL DAY
Census, redistricting decisions due on high court’s last day
WASHINGTON (AP) – Two issues that could determine the distribution of political power for the next decade await resolution on the Supreme Court’s final day of decisions before a long summer break.
Chief Justice John Roberts could well be the author of decisions on both politically charged topics Thursday, whether to allow a citizenship question on the 2020 census and place limits on drawing electoral districts for partisan gain. The census results and the rules by which political districts will be redrawn following the next population count help determine how districts are drawn and where.
Decisions in those cases, which pit five conservative justices appointed by Republican presidents against four liberals appointed by Democrats, could amplify criticism of the court as a political institution, despite Roberts’ repeated efforts to combat that perception.
GOP’s final budget gets initial approval from legislature
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina legislators have given initial approval to a final budget agreement between Republican leaders. It fails to address big-picture items that Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has repeatedly asked to be put in or left out.
The House and Senate voted separately Wednesday to approve a spending plan for the next two years. GOP leaders are highlighting large amounts spent on school construction and state employee salary raises. There’s over $700 million set aside to plan for the next recession or disaster. There are tax cuts for business and individuals.
Cooper has insisted that Medicaid be expanded and doesn’t support corporate tax breaks.
Final budget votes are expected Thursday. Cooper is likely to veto the measure. Democratic legislators can uphold that veto if they remain united.
HOTEL DEATHS-CARBON MONOXIDE
Police suspect carbon monoxide poisoning in 2 hotel deaths
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – Police say carbon monoxide poisoning may be the cause of two deaths at a North Carolina hotel.
News outlets report investigators say 28-year-old Jacob Galloway and 39-year-old James Landreth were found dead in a room on June 9 at the Best Western hotel in Asheville. They were in town for a rugby tournament.
A search warrant says Asheville Fire Chief Shane Mackey determined a utility room at the hotel was directly behind and below the men’s room, and said an exhaust pipe wasn’t vented to the outside. Mackey said carbon monoxide could have seeped from the utility closet to their room.
The Office of the State Medical Examiner has performed autopsies on the men, but police say toxicology reports could take up to eight months to complete.
Last call delay at 2020 RNC stopped by North Carolina House
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – An effort to delay last calls at restaurants and watering holes in and around Charlotte during next year’s Republican National Convention has been shut down by the North Carolina House.
A bill debated on the House floor on Wednesday would have extended alcoholic drink sales in Mecklenburg County from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. around the convention. Drinking could have continued until 4:30 a.m.
The provision was removed after House Democratic leader Darren Jackson of Wake County said it could lead to more impaired-driving crashes and set a poor precedent for other major in-state events. There was no such extension at the 2012 Democratic convention in Charlotte.
The scaled-back bill that returned to the Senate after a floor vote still allows out-of-state police officers to work at the convention.
No retrial for man freed after serving 40 years for murder
WILSON, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina man who was once on death row for a shopkeeper’s slaying won’t be retried in the case that put him behind bars for more than 40 years.
The prosecutor has filed a dismissal notice in the case of 81-year-old Charles Ray Finch of Wilson, who was released last month from Greene Correctional Institution.
In the notice dated June 14, Wilson County District Attorney Robert Evans writes that a retrial of the 1976 case is “impractical/impossible” because witnesses are dead, retired or relocated.
An attorney at the Duke Wrongful Convictions Clinic said his lawyers learned of the dismissal of charges Tuesday.
Finch was sentenced to die for the murder of a shopkeeper during an attempted robbery of a Wilson grocery store. He was resentenced to life in prison.
House approves lawsuit option against ‘sanctuary’ policies
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The North Carolina House wants to give individuals the ability to sue North Carolina local governments that enact policies blocking enforcement of federal immigration laws or preventing their officers from gathering information about someone’s immigration status.
State law already prohibits “sanctuary” policies, but the measure approved Wednesday by the chamber goes further by allowing anyone to file a lawsuit to halt such a policy should a city or county initiate one.
The bill’s chief sponsor is Republican Rep. George Cleveland of Onslow County. A previous version of his bill would have directed the Attorney General to investigate claims that such policies exist and suspend the distribution of revenues to local government found to be in violation.
The latest edition advanced to the Senate following a largely party-line vote of 65-52.
FORMER COUNSELOR-SEX ABUSE
Former YMCA counselor pleads guilty to sex abuse charges
(Information from: Winston-Salem Journal, http://www.journalnow.com)
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) – A former YMCA counselor and volunteer firefighter in North Carolina has entered a guilty plea after prosecutors say he used his position to sexually assault young boys between 1991 and 2001.
The Winston-Salem Journal reports a Forsyth County judge consolidated most of the charges against Michael Todd Pegram on Wednesday into consecutive sentences totaling up to 30 years in prison.
Assistant District Attorney Kia Chavious said Pegram invited boys to his home, made them watch pornography and forced them to perform sex acts, and in some cases threatened to kill some of the boys’ parents or accuse the boys of bad behavior if they told.
In 2017, one of the boys now in his 30s filed a report with the Kernersville Police Department, prompting an investigation which led to charges.
Flight makes emergency landing in Tennessee; smoke reported
BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Authorities say an American Airlines plane flying from North Carolina to Kentucky made an emergency landing in Tennessee because crew members reported smoke in the cockpit.
News outlets report the plane landed safely Wednesday morning in Blountville. Tri-Cities Airport says 52 passengers and four crew members were on board. First responders had already arrived by the time the plane landed. No injuries were reported.
Flight 4890 was traveling from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Lexington, Kentucky.
American Airlines says it rebooked passengers because of a “mechanical issue.” Neither the airline nor the airport gave further details on what caused the smoke.