Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. EDT
Republican budget on course to soon reach Gov. Cooper
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Republican adjustments to next year’s North Carolina state budget remain on course to wind up on Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk as soon as the end of the week.
Both the House and Senate scheduled debate and votes Thursday on the nearly $24 billion plan altering the second year of the two-year budget approved last year. The Senate already gave tentative approval to the changes Wednesday on a nearly party-line vote. The House will stick around until Friday to complete its debate.
Cooper hasn’t said publicly what he’ll do with the bill, but the Democrat has criticized GOP leaders for failing to accept his ideas on blocking tax breaks and how to raise teacher pay and improve school safety. He vetoed the two-year measure last year, but Republicans quickly overrode it.
Senate Oks judicial remap of N Carolina’s largest county
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Election districts for Superior Court judges in North Carolina’s largest county would be retooled in response to a decade-old legal ruling in legislation that cleared one General Assembly chamber.
The Senate agreed in a party-line vote Wednesday to create eight Superior Court districts in Mecklenburg County, up from the current three. People in each district would vote for one judge. District Court judgeships would fall into those same eight districts. Currently all 21 District Court judges are elected countywide. Voters would chose two or three of those judges.
Republicans says they’re worried current Mecklenburg Superior Court districts are unconstitutional because they are so unequal in population. The state Supreme Court struck down Wake County districts for that reason in 2009.
The measure next goes to the House for consideration.
OFFICERS CHARGED-NORTH CAROLINA
Video shows officers tackle, punch North Carolina man
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Newly released law enforcement video shows officers tackling and punching a man in an altercation that led to assault charges against two North Carolina state troopers and a sheriff’s deputy.
Dashboard camera video from one of the first troopers to arrive shows Kyron Hinton standing alone on April 3, moaning and gesturing on a Raleigh street. Officers from multiple agencies then surround him.
Eventually a canine handler approaches, and the dog lunges and gets a mouthful of Hinton’s clothing. The canine handler then tackles Hinton. While Hinton is on the ground, at least one officer can be seen punching him.
The videos were released Wednesday to media outlets who went to court to request they be made public.
Two troopers and a deputy were charged with assault earlier this month.
Pork giant makes case that penned hogs are good neighbors
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – The world’s largest pork producer is putting its best case before jurors to debunk claims its waste emits stenches so foul and attracts so many flies that life for rural neighbors is miserable.
Smithfield Foods’ lawyers hand-picked the two plaintiffs and the neighboring 4,700-hog operation in the second in a series of nuisance lawsuits that opened Wednesday.
Plaintiffs’ lawyers picked the first case and won a nearly $51 million jury verdict last month. That was cut to about $3 million because a state law limits punishment for corporate misdeeds.
Neighbors say for decades they’ve put up with livestock sewage sprayed over crops that also drifts and coats their homes and cars.
Smithfield Foods lawyers say jurors should forget the company’s size and focus on how one grower treats his neighbors.
This story has been corrected to say Wednesday instead of Tuesday.
DRIVING WHILE POOR
Lawsuit: The poor shouldn’t lose licenses over traffic fines
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A federal lawsuit filed in North Carolina says low-income people shouldn’t lose their drivers’ licenses when they can’t afford to pay traffic fines and court costs.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center are among the groups that filed the lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of two named plaintiffs. They say they can’t afford to pay their traffic tickets, so they have to decide between driving with a revoked license or not supporting their families.
The lawsuit says the practice violates the right to due process under the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution because the state doesn’t offer drivers a hearing to explain why they haven’t paid.
DMV Commissioner Torre Jessup is named as the defendant.
A spokeswoman says the state is reviewing the lawsuit.
Alberto’s last gasp: Mudslides and flooding in Appalachia
As the remnants of Subtropical Storm Alberto spin into the Great Lakes region, people hundreds of miles away in the U.S. Southeast are keeping a weary watch on dams and hillsides.
Alberto’s rains caused floods and mudslides in the Appalachian mountains of the Carolinas.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says four dams are being closely watched by a state team of special engineers and so far the dams are holding up.
But Cooper went ahead and declared a state of emergency for his mountain counties, saying the forecast for the rest of the week calls for isolated heavy rain storms that could instantly cause flooding in areas already soaked by heavy rain in the past 15 days.
GOP legislators back higher fee to expand newborn screening
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Republican legislators say raising the fee North Carolina health officials charge to test newborns for additional genetic disorders is outweighed by the health benefits of early diagnosis and lower overall health care costs.
Budget-writers held a news conference Wednesday to discuss an item in this week’s budget adjustments that would increase the state’s newborn screening fee from $44 to $128
Federal health regulators have added three disorders to the recommended screening list. Increased revenues will help pay for staff, equipment and supplies at the state public health lab to perform the tests.
Rep. Nelson Dollar of Cary says Medicaid will pay for expanded screening tests for covered families. Legislators say many health plans are required to cover the entire costs of a screening.
Panel OKs letting 4 N Carolina towns operate charter schools
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Legislation allowing four communities close to North Carolina’s largest city to apply for and operate their own charter schools has cleared a General Assembly hurdle.
A closely divided Senate Education Committee voted Wednesday to recommend the measure, which would apply only to the Charlotte-area towns of Matthews, Mint Hill, Huntersville and Cornelius.
Municipalities currently can’t operate charter schools, but bill sponsor Rep. Bill Brawley of Matthews says these communities are unhappy with overcrowding in traditional public schools and student assignment plans by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system.
Senators opposing the option say it would accelerate school re-segregation and could set a precedent other communities will seek. The measure must clear two more Senate committees before a floor vote. A House version passed last year contained just Matthew and Mint Hill.