Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 a.m. EDT
TEACHER PROTESTS-NORTH CAROLINA
Thousands of North Carolina teachers marched. Now what?
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina politicians and the public are waiting to see what happens next after thousands of teachers rallied to demand increased spending on public schools.
An estimated 19,000 people marched through the state’s capital city. Previous strikes, walkouts and protests in West Virginia, Arizona, Kentucky, Colorado and Oklahoma have led legislators to improve education funding.
The state’s teacher advocacy group wants the Republican-dominated legislature to stop tax cuts on upper-income households and corporations taking effect in January.
Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper says the money should go for an average 8 percent teacher pay raise this year, plus money for textbooks and help for teachers who shell out for classroom supplies.
Legislative leaders have promised an average 6 percent pay raise for educators, which would be the fifth in five years.
SESSION OPENS-THE LATEST
The Latest: Legislative session gaveled in among teachers
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The North Carolina General Assembly has opened its annual session as thousands of teachers descended on the Legislative Building in support of public school funding and teacher pay increases.
Speaker Tim Moore and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest gaveled in the House and Senate floor meetings shortly after noon Wednesday and legislators finished their work before 1 p.m. Moore welcomed teachers in the gallery. Over in the Senate gallery, four women were led away by police when they chanted loudly. No arrests were made.
The Senate seated a new member Wednesday – Sen. Toby Fitch of Wilson was appointed to fill the term of Sen. Angela Bryant, who resigned recently to join the parole commission.
The House Health Committee met briefly Wednesday afternoon and approved a bill designed to make it easier for out-of-state school psychologists to take similar jobs in North Carolina schools.
TEACHER PROTESTS-NORTH CAROLINA-THE LATEST
The Latest: N Carolina governor speaks to thousands at rally
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s Democratic governor is telling the thousands of teachers who came to Raleigh demanding higher pay and more education funding that if Republican lawmakers won’t support them, they should be voted out of office.
Gov. Roy Cooper spoke at Wednesday’s “Rally for Respect,” put on by the North Carolina Association of Educators. He promoted his budget proposal, which works toward bringing teacher pay up to the national average in four years by blocking tax cuts that GOP lawmakers already approved for corporations and high wage-earners.
Cooper is working to overturn Republican super-majorities in the state legislature. He says voters have to decide to back incumbents or candidates “who truly support public education.”
Republican lawmakers say they’re raising teacher pay for the fifth straight year, raising average salaries by thousands of dollars since the Great Recession.
But teachers say that with inflation, they’re still making 9 percent less than they did nine years ago.
ATLANTIC COAST PIPELINE-THE LATEST
Latest: Regulator won’t stop work on Atlantic Coast Pipeline
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – Federal regulators are not immediately stopping work on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, even though a federal appeals court invalidated a key permit for the project.
Environmental groups suing over the permit say Tuesday’s court order means construction or any associated activity on the multistate pipeline must stop.
Instead, an official with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a letter Wednesday directing the pipeline to simply file documentation within five days explaining how it will avoid harming threatened or endangered species. The letter notes that developers informed the commission they will not proceed with construction in areas where such sensitive wildlife might be affected.
D.J. Gerken is an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. He says the commission staff appears to be “skipping lightly” over the requirement that a valid permit be in place.
Gerken says it’s too soon to comment on next steps.
ALGAE BLOOM-FISH DEATHS
N Carolina: Algae bloom, not chemical killed fish in lake
(Information from: The Charlotte Observer, http://www.charlotteobserver.com)
WHITE LAKE, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina officials have concluded an algae bloom killed fish in a swimming and fishing lake, not the chemical used to treat the outbreak.
The Charlotte Observer reported Wednesday that officials concluded the bloom caused high pH levels that led to the May deaths in White Lake after studying the brains of some of the dead fish and reviewing water samples.
Town of White Lake officials say Algae blooms often cause a drop in dissolved oxygen levels, and that is what can kill all kinds of fish.
The town halted a treatment to lower the lake’s pH levels and improve water clarity after residents found the dead fish.
White Lake later completed the treatment and said it’s continuing its partnerships with scientists and environmental leaders to find solutions to the situation.
State auditor: More than 1,900 computers unaccounted for
(Information from: The Charlotte Observer, http://www.charlotteobserver.com)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – A report from the state auditor says more than 1,900 computers bought by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety over two years ago are unaccounted for.
The Charlotte Observer reports State Auditor Beth Wood said it’s unclear where the computers are and whether any were stolen. Wood said while DPS was able to track down most of the 8,600 desktop and laptop computers purchased in 2014 and 2015, many are still missing.
According to the audit, the department distributed the computers to users but didn’t track and account for them. The audit also said the department didn’t conduct an inventory of computer equipment for more than five years.
DPS Secretary Erik Hooks said his agency would follow the auditor’s recommendations for preventing loss and theft.
POLICE SHOOTING-NORTH CAROLINA
North Carolina police shoot man accused in father’s death
HIGH POINT, N.C. (AP) – Police in North Carolina shot and wounded a man who they say killed his father.
High Point police tell local news outlets a woman called saying her brother showed up at her apartment Wednesday covered in blood, adding that her brother said he killed their father.
The woman sent police to her grandparents’ house to do a welfare check, and when they arrived, a man with a shotgun started firing at them from the roof. The wounded man was taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, where police said he is listed stable position.
The N.C. State Bureau of Investigation is looking into the shooting. The four unidentified officers involved were placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure following a shooting.
Former mental health agency CEO files countersuit over pay
(Information from: Winston-Salem Journal, http://www.journalnow.com)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – The former CEO of North Carolina’s largest regional mental health agency has filed a countersuit to fight efforts to recover $1.7 million in severance pay which a new board of directors said he used for himself and other executives.
The Winston-Salem Journal reports Richard Topping, the former head of Cardinal Innovations, filed his countersuit Tuesday in Mecklenburg County Superior Court.
Last May, State Auditor Beth Wood ripped Cardinal for lavish spending on CEO pay and “questionable” credit card purchases, among other items. In October, a 17-page report from the Department of Health and Human Services criticized the severance packages Cardinal offered Topping and his team.
The next month, DHHS took over the agency and fired the board for approving a $3.8 million severance package for Topping and other executives.