Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. EDT
Dire prison conditions described 2 years after NC slayings
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina officials are warning that conditions in dozens of prisons are as dire as they’ve ever been as low pay and more violent inmates are pushing more guards to leave, making surroundings riskier for those remaining.
State Prisons Commissioner Todd Ishee said Wednesday a correction officer who escaped serious injury after being stabbed in the head earlier this month is among the average of two prison employees being assaulted every day.
Ishee says about a quarter of the corrections officers needed to run the state’s prisons have left jobs vacant. Mandatory overtime on top of 12-hour days means some guards are only getting a couple of days off per month.
A prison reform advisory board recommended improving pay and benefits for guards so they’re comparable with outside law officers.
North Carolina 2020 congressional districts go before court
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina judges are listening to a request to order a new state congressional map for next year’s elections even before a trial is held on whether district lines were drawn by Republicans with extreme intent to favor the GOP.
A three-judge panel set a hearing for Thursday to consider the legal motion by Democratic and independent voters who sued to overturn the map. Their lawyers say evidence is overwhelming that partisan gerrymandering occurred when boundaries for 13 U.S. House districts were drawn in 2016.
Republican legislators say ordering a remap would create electoral disorder for races set to begin with candidate filing in December and primaries in March.
The plaintiffs are emboldened by a September ruling from the same three judges ordering changes to dozens of state legislative districts.
North Carolina authorities seize 50 pounds of pot in bust
WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) – A North Carolina sheriff’s office says investigators seized about 50 pounds (23 kilograms) of marijuana during an investigation that also led to two arrests.
A news release Wednesday from the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office says the two-month probe began when it received information from another sheriff’s office.
The release says deputies arrested Anthony Colon and Bailey Deoliveira on Tuesday and charged them with multiple marijuana trafficking counts.
It says Colon was arrested with a pound of marijuana in his car. Detectives then executed warrants at two apartments where they found more marijuana along with THC vape cartridges.
Sheriff’s spokesman Lt. J.J. Brewer said investigators didn’t know if the men had attorneys who could speak on their behalf.
NC principal accused of assaulting high school student
GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) – A principal of a North Carolina high school is accused of assaulting a 15-year-old student.
News outlets report North Pitt High School principal Maurice Harris was arrested Wednesday and charged with simple assault. An arrest warrant says the 43-year-old grabbed the teen by “the collar” on Oct. 1 and took him to the floor, where he struck the teen’s upper body and face with his knee.
Pitt County Schools says Harris is now on paid administrative leave. Harris has since posted bail and been released from custody. It’s unclear if Harris has a lawyer who can comment on his behalf.
Days dwindling to bring Medicaid managed care online on time
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Time is running out for a massive change in administering North Carolina’s Medicaid program to begin as now scheduled because of a budget stalemate that legislators from both parties sound skeptical will be soon alleviated.
The shift to managed care benefits for 1.6 million Medicaid recipients begins Feb. 1, but final funding and details are hung up. Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed bills that would solve the problem in large part because he also wants Medicaid expansion to be addressed.
Health department secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen told legislators on Wednesday that a budget deal must be reached by mid-November or the managed care shift will be delayed. Cohen expressed optimism about a solution. But Republican Rep. Donny Lambeth was skeptical, and suggested the rollout be delayed until next summer.
Experience-based increases for NC teachers in Senate bill
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina teachers would get their usual experience-based pay increase but little else in legislation that Senate Republicans are now advancing as the GOP and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper remain at odds over the state budget.
A Senate committee approved a measure on Wednesday that addresses teacher and principal pay. The state budget Cooper vetoed in June would have raised teacher pay on average by nearly 4% over two years. Cooper seeks twice that increase.
In Wednesday’s measure, teachers simply would get the pay on the current salary scale reflecting their additional year of experience.
Two committees moved another bill on Wednesday to set aside money for raises to University of North Carolina and community college system workers. State retirees also would get small one-time bonuses this year and next.
ELECTION 2020-SENATE FUNDRAISING
While Trump rakes in cash, some Senate Republicans lagging
WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump is raising record amounts of cash for his 2020 reelection bid. But it’s not spilling over to the most vulnerable Republicans fighting to hold onto their seats in a narrowly divided Senate.
Democrats outraised Republicans in key battlegrounds like Arizona and Maine. In Colorado, the Republican incumbent was nearly outraised by a former governor who had been in the race only five weeks. And even in states where the GOP is on firmer footing, such as Iowa and North Carolina, candidates posted lackluster sums.
The lagging numbers suggest that much of the enthusiasm among the GOP base is focused on Trump and doesn’t necessarily translate to Republicans running for other offices.
The dynamic could complicate the GOP’s effort to maintain its 53-47 grip on the Senate.
Holley named to fill UNC Board of Governors vacancy
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A state government lobbyist will fill a seat on the University of North Carolina system’s governing board that became vacant when a member got appointed to the General Assembly.
The state House voted unanimously on Wednesday for Reginald Holley of Brunswick County to join the UNC Board of Governors.
Holley leads The Longmire Group in Raleigh. He’s served on the board of the UNC-Chapel Hill school of the environment and previously worked for then-U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole.
The chamber’s Republican majority pushed for Holley’s election, leading some Democrats to complain they were shut out of the candidate process.
Holley fills the remaining two years of the term previously held by now-state Sen. Rob Bryan.
The legislature elects the board’s 24 voting members – 12 each from the House and Senate.