Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. EDT
North Carolina budget fast-track squeezes out amendments
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Republicans at the North Carolina legislature are fast-tracking this year’s budget adjustments so quickly they’re preventing rank-and-file members – particularly Democrats – from formally offering their own changes.
House and Senate GOP leaders have been meeting privately for weeks on adjusting the second year of the two-year government spending plan approved last summer.
House Republicans announced Wednesday a not yet released plan will be voted on next week. Leaders will use a procedural method preventing amendments in committee or during floor debate.
Democratic Rep. Billy Richardson said Republicans want to avoid votes that could be used against them in fall campaigns.
GOP Rep. Chuck McGrady is a top budget-writer. He says he wouldn’t have necessarily wanted it this way but says the budgeting process has been efficient.
Former N Carolina SBI director Beatty nominated for bench
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A longtime state government veteran is among those nominated by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper to become special trial court judges, who often are brought in to handle complex cases or to perform fill-in duties on the bench.
Cooper announced late Wednesday that Bryan Beatty is his choice for one of three special Superior Court judge vacancies. The former State Bureau of Investigation director and public safety secretary recently wrapped up nearly a decade on the North Carolina Utilities Commission.
Cooper’s other two choices are Robeson County Chief District Court Judge J. Stanley Carmical and Chief District Court Judge Athena Brooks, serving Henderson, Polk and Transylvania counties.
All three are subject to state House and Senate confirmation to serve five-year terms.
Democrat: School safety campaign issue if gun ideas ignored
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Democratic legislative candidates plan to make school safety a fall campaign issue if Republicans won’t consider legislation that includes gun-control provisions backed by the Democratic governor.
Rep. Graig Meyer of Orange County made the comment during a Wednesday news conference where several House and Senate Democrats promoted legislation mirroring Gov. Roy Cooper’s proposals. Meyer recruited many House Democratic candidates.
Cooper and other Democrats want to raise the age to purchase assault-style rifles from 18 to 21 and to ban “bump stocks,” which allow guns to mimic fully automatic fire. They also want judges to be able to force people considered physical threats to themselves or others to surrender weapons temporarily.
Legislative Republicans have avoided gun restrictions, focusing instead on improving building safety and hiring more school psychologists and police officers.
CAR INTO RESTAURANT-DEATHS
Family apologizes to community for man who drove into eatery
GASTONIA, N.C. (AP) – Relatives of a North Carolina man accused of driving into a restaurant, killing two loved ones, are thanking authorities and apologizing to the community.
Monty Self read a statement Wednesday to reporters in Gaston County west of Charlotte. He’s the brother of Roger Self, who faces two first-degree murder counts after authorities say he rammed a sport utility vehicle into a restaurant where his family was eating.
The statement says the family is “sorry for this moment” and what it’s brought to Gaston County. The family’s pastor has said Roger Self was suffering from depression. The crash killed his daughter and daughter-in-law and critically injured two other relatives.
The family started a GoFundMe page for funeral and hospital expenses, but says it won’t be used for any legal defense costs.
Special dive team seeking man missing at bottom of waterfall
BANNER ELK, N.C. (AP) – Authorities have called in a special dive team to the North Carolina mountains to search for an Ohio man believed drowned in the pool at the bottom of a waterfall.
Avery County Sheriff Kevin Frye says divers from Charlotte are helping locate the man who disappeared Sunday at Elk River Falls in the Pisgah National Forest. Frye says the man was at the base of the 50-foot (15-meter) falls when he fell into the water and currents strengthened by excessive rains pulled him away from people trying to rescue him.
Frye told media outlets the 26-year-old man was visiting for a wedding. The sheriff didn’t release his name.
Frye says the water is 70 feet (20 meters) deep and the churning river keeps pulling the body back under.
US government set to release hurricane season outlook
MIAMI (AP) – U.S. government forecasters are set to release their prediction for how many hurricanes and tropical storms they expect to form over Atlantic and Caribbean waters in the next six months.
The six-month Atlantic hurricane season officially starts June 1.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters will release their storm season outlook Thursday at the agency’s aircraft operations center in Lakeland, Florida. That facility is the base for NOAA’s “hurricane hunter” aircraft that fly into storms to collect data used in storm forecasts.
NOAA predicted that 2017 would be an above-average season, and it certainly was: A trio of devastating hurricanes – Harvey, Irma and Maria – ravaged Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and many Caribbean islands. Overall, last year saw 17 named storms, including 10 hurricanes.
GENE THERAPY JOBS
Gene therapy company to create 200 jobs in North Carolina
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) – A gene therapy company says it will create 200 jobs in North Carolina.
AveXis on Tuesday agreed to set up operations in Durham County, after getting a state incentive package worth up to $3 million.
AveXis makes treatments for spinal muscular atrophy.
The company is expected to create engineering, manufacturing and supply chain jobs. The company expects to spend about $55 million in construction and setting up the facility.
Operations are expected to begin in next year.
Suspect arrested in chase that killed North Carolina trooper
ELKIN, N.C. (AP) – Authorities have arrested a man wanted in a chase that led to the death of a North Carolina Highway Patrol trooper in a wreck.
First Sgt. Michael Baker said in a news release that 22-year-old Dakota Kape Whitt of Elkin around 3:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Whitt is charged with murder, fleeing to elude arrest and driving with a revoked license.
Twenty-four-year-old Trooper Samuel Newton Bullard was killed when he and a second trooper were chasing a suspect who fled a driver’s license checkpoint.
The other trooper was leading the chase when he noticed Bullard was no longer behind him. Bullard’s patrol car had hit a bridge support along Interstate 77 in Yadkin County.
Whitt is in the Wilkes County jail. It was not known if he has an attorney yet.