Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 11:20 a.m. EST
ELECTION 2020-LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR-JOHNSON
North Carolina schools chief running for lieutenant governor
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s state schools superintendent has decided he’ll run for lieutenant governor next year, instead of seeking re-election.
Republican Mark Johnson announced on Tuesday he wants a different office than superintendent of public instruction, which he won in 2016.
Johnson had hinted that he was considering an executive branch position. Now he’ll join a crowded March GOP primary field with at least six other announced candidates.
Power to the superintendent’s position actually increased during Johnson’s term after a 2016 law shifted responsibilities away from the state education board. And Johnson has certainly raised the profile of the superintendent’s post.
But Johnson said in a release that he’s received pushback from establishment Republicans and Democrats and bureaucrats. He says citizens deserve someone committed to more accountable, efficient and transparent state government.
N Carolina lawmakers still shaping US House map proposals
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina legislators are still shaping proposals for the state’s congressional map as the General Assembly reconvenes in response to a judicial ruling encouraging approval of replacement lines.
A joint House-Senate committee will meet on Tuesday after holding lengthy mapmaking meetings last week. Committee-room computers where lawmakers tried to carve the state into 13 U.S. House districts should be running again.
State judges last month blocked the current map’s use in the 2020 elections, saying it was likely plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging extreme partisan bias in the lines would win. But they stopped short of demanding new lines.
The full legislature returns to Raleigh on Wednesday. A public hearing on redistricting is also expected that day, but it’s unclear when there will be actual votes on a replacement.
Sheriff: NC inmate dies after apparent suicide attempt
(Information from: The Asheville Citizen-Times, http://www.citizen-times.com)
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – Authorities in North Carolina say an inmate has died after injuring himself in an apparent suicide attempt.
Citing a Buncombe County sheriff’s statement, The Asheville Citizen-Times reports 45-year-old Eric Grogan died Sunday. The statement says Grogan “injured himself” Friday and was immediately treated and hospitalized, but later succumbed to his wounds.
Sheriff’s spokesman Aaron Sarver declined to detail the nature of Grogan’s wounds, citing medical confidentiality. He says the Buncombe County Detention Facility inmate was not on suicide watch at the time. An investigation into the death is ongoing. The cause of death is pending an autopsy set for Wednesday.
Sarver says Grogan was wanted on a fugitive warrant out of Georgia when he was apprehended by Asheville police last month. The underlying charges weren’t immediately available.
Officials: Google search for schools include explicit images
(Information from: The News & Observer, http://www.newsobserver.com)
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Officials in a North Carolina school system had to warn parents not to use Google to search for two schools because the results included explicit images.
The News & Observer of Raleigh reports searches for Four Oaks Middle School and South Johnston High School over the weekend returned an “explicit image” in the top results. The newspaper described the image as “graphic and overtly sexual.”
A search of the two websites on Monday showed the offending images appear to have been removed.
Johnston County Schools said it was working with the schools, law enforcement and Google to get the images taken down, and asked faculty and staff to help remove the image by reporting it as inappropriate to Google.
N Carolina officials vote to reopen island damaged by Dorian
OCRACOKE, N.C. (AP) – County commissioners on the North Carolina coast have moved to reopen an island ravaged by Hurricane Dorian.
Acting on a recommendation from the Ocracoke Control Group, the Hyde County Commissioners on Monday adopted the proposal to open the island to visitors on Nov. 22, or when N.C. Highway 12 is reopened to traffic.
An evacuation order has been in effect since Sept. 4, when Dorian approached the North Carolina coast.
According to a news release, once the evacuation order is lifted, visitors will have immediate access to Ocracoke. Ferry operations will return to the paid reservation system.
Debris removal and reconstruction will continue, and visitors are warned to be wary of obstacles during their visit. Officials also note that food service, gas availability and lodging are limited on the island.
Bill retooling North Carolina school takeover path now law
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Legislation that retools the process by which repeatedly academic low-performing North Carolina public schools can be taken over by outside operators has become law.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper provided neither his signature nor veto stamp to the bill by late Sunday, so the state constitution says it’s now law.
Cooper says while the bill improved the Innovative School District concept, he’s still “fundamentally opposed” to the idea and to giving control of a school over to a private charter school operator.
Cooper’s office said on Monday he wrote State Board of Education Chairman Eric Davis asking that the board seek more General Assembly spending next year to help the lowest-performing schools get better.
A Robeson County elementary school became the first to be operated through the concept last year.
STATE BUDGET-RATING AGENCY
Credit agency concerned about North Carolina budget impasse
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s lengthy budget impasse is getting attention from a leading credit-rating agency, whose top score for the state allows it to borrow very cheaply.
Moody’s Investors Service writes the lack of a final two-year budget agreement between Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and the Republican-controlled legislature “reflects governance weakness and is credit negative.” The state still holds Moody’s triple-A rating.
Moody’s analysts pointed out last week that state law and several approved “mini-budgets” alleviate most spending limitations for now, but the standoff during healthy economic times doesn’t bode well for when revenues and the economy stagnate or decline.
Cooper vetoed the budget in June. His veto has not been overridden.
North Carolina’s top rating from the top three credit agencies is considered the gold standard for a state’s fiscal health.
LAWYER-FALSE TAX RETURN
North Carolina lawyer admits filing false tax return
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Federal prosecutors say a North Carolina attorney has pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return.
The U.S. Department of Justice says in a news release that 70-year-old John Francis Hanzel, from at least 2011 through 2014, Hanzel reported minimal income on his returns, fraudulently reporting total income of less than $73,000 for those four years and paying total federal income tax of less than $5,500 during that time period.
Prosecutors also accused Hanzel of fraudulently deducting personal expenses paid out of his law firm bank account as business expenses.
Hanzel, who entered his plea last Friday, faces up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced. A sentencing date has not been scheduled.