Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. EDT
‘Flash drought’ brings dust and dread to southern farmers
CARTERSVILLE, Ga. (AP) – Across a vast expanse of the South spanning from Texas to Maryland, there are growing concerns for the cattle, cotton and corn amid a worsening drought that has been fueled this past summer by record hot temperatures.
One of the bullseyes marking the nation’s driest areas is Bartow County, Georgia, where extreme drought conditions have kicked up buckets of dust and left cattle pastures bare.
The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor report shows the county is among the hardest-hit areas in more than 12 Southern states where more than 45 million residents are living in some type of drought conditions.
Now, farmers are concerned about the long-term outlook as late October is typically among the driest periods in the South.
A new drought report is expected later Thursday showing how far it has spread.
Less prison time for some drug offenders in First Step bill
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Some drug offenders in North Carolina could get lower prison sentences and fines in narrow circumstances in legislation advancing again at the General Assembly.
The Senate scheduled floor debate on Thursday on the “First Step Act.” Supporters say it would give a break to people with drug addictions who face long mandatory sentences only because they possessed levels of illegal drugs that meet trafficking definitions.
A judge would have to determine several factors were met, including that there’s no substantial evidence a defendant has ever sold or delivered drugs. Courts currently have some discretion to reduce sentences when defendants assist law enforcement in an investigation.
The measure has been worked on extensively, and bill supporter Sen. Floyd McKissick of Durham said groups representing sheriffs and district attorneys now support it.
SMOLDERING CHROMEBOOK EVACUATION-RECALL
Smoldering laptop causes NC school evacuation, recall
LEWISVILLE, N.C. (AP) – Officials say an overheated and smoldering Chromebook caused about 600 children to be evacuated from a North Carolina school, whose district is now recalling about $4.2 million dollars’ worth of district-issued laptops.
Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools’ chief technology officer, Kevin Sherrill, told reporters at a Wednesday news conference that the children were evacuated that morning after the 2015 laptop began to smoke.
District spokesman Brent Campbell said a Lewisville Elementary third grader reported the laptop was getting hot, and it then started to smoke. He says the classroom and building were evacuated, and the laptop was sprayed with a fire extinguisher.
Sherrill says the laptop likely suffered a battery-related issue. The district is now recalling all 20,000 of its 2015 Chromebooks, which Sherrill says are each valued at about $210.
North Carolina seeks input on pedestrian safety
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A state agency in North Carolina wants to find ways to improve pedestrian safety across the state, beginning with downtown Raleigh.
The Office of State Human Resources began the “WalkSmartNC” initiative on Thursday with the help of the Governor’s Highway Safety Program and other agencies.
The initiative will start with the collection of public feedback from pedestrians, with a focus on a 60-block area in the center of Raleigh. Feedback will be collected for the next 30 days through an online safety study that includes a mobile app and interactive map.
The human resources office says the study’s findings will be used to create a pilot safety-awareness campaign and a best practices guide that could be used by other communities and organizations.
FEMA denies Dorian individual assistance in 4 NC counties
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s governor says the federal government has denied individual assistance for residents in four counties hit by Hurricane Dorian.
Gov. Roy Cooper had sought the federal help for households in Carteret, Dare, Hyde, and New Hanover counties. He said the assistance would have included funds for temporary housing, repairs and storm damage.
But his office released a letter from FEMA dated Tuesday denying the individual assistance request. The letter signed by FEMA Associate Administrator Jeff Byard said that joint federal and local assessments determined the impact to households didn’t warrant the individual assistance. The denial can be appealed.
The letter notes that other federal funds for public assistance and hazard mitigation were approved.
Cooper’s office issued a statement saying the decision is disappointing for families who still need help.
3 more stand-alone spending measures head to NC governor
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Three more spending measures gleaned from the vetoed North Carolina state budget bill have cleared the General Assembly and next go to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk.
The House voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday for legislation that funds transportation projects and the community college system. And the Senate gave final approval to fund new prosecutor positions and judgeships as more young offenders enter the juvenile system starting Dec. 1.
The bills are the latest stand-alone measures Republicans created by copying portions of the larger budget Cooper vetoed in June. While the Democratic governor and GOP lawmakers have been in a stalemate over the larger budget, Cooper has signed all but one of the “mini-budgets” to date.
After the Senate meets on Thursday, legislators don’t plan more votes until at least Oct. 21.
ELECTION 2019-RALEIGH MAYOR
Mayoral runoff likely in North Carolina’s capital city
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Voters in North Carolina’s capital city are expected to get another chance to choose their next mayor in a runoff.
Former Raleigh city council member Mary-Ann Baldwin was the top vote-getter in Tuesday’s election but didn’t get the more than 50 percent necessary to win outright. Attorney and 2017 mayoral candidate Charles Francis finished second in the six-candidate field and can request a runoff with Baldwin for Nov. 5. News outlets report Francis is planning for a runoff.
Francis lost a runoff two years ago to Mayor Nancy McFarlane, who decided not to seek re-election after eight years in the job.
McFarlane endorsed former Wake County commissioner Caroline Sullivan, who finished third.
Managing growth and rising taxes were among the campaign topics in North Carolina’s second largest city.
Bill named for North Carolina trooper killed is now law
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Gov. Roy Cooper has signed legislation which raises criminal penalties against those who assault on-duty officers with a gun and is named for a slain state trooper.
Cooper signed on Wednesday the measure named for Trooper Kevin Conner after it was approved last week by the General Assembly. Conner was fatally shot last year after stopping a vehicle on a Columbus County road for speeding. Two people await trial in Conner’s death.
Cooper said he called Conner’s widow to tell her he signed the measure.
The measure also increases penalties when emergency service workers who are seriously attacked and provides an additional $100,000 death benefit to the survivors of slain public safety employees.
Cooper said the law will deter future violence against people who work to keep communities safe.