Latest North Carolina news, sports, business and entertainment at 6:20 a.m. EDT
As deadline nears, N Carolina governor wants to talk budget
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – By law Gov. Roy Cooper has until early next week to decide what to do about the North Carolina budget adjustments on his desk, but he’s apparently ready to talk about them in public.
Cooper scheduled a Raleigh news conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss the budget.
The Republican-controlled General Assembly gave its final approval late last week to a nearly $24 billion plan for the year starting July 1. The Democratic governor has until next Monday to sign it, veto it or let it become law without his signature.
Cooper and his allies haven’t been happy with what the GOP put inside the plan and what it left out. Cooper wanted more money for teacher raises and recommended some income tax breaks taking place in 2019 be blocked.
North Carolina gets $147M grant for highway improvements
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina’s senators say the U.S. Department of Transportation will award nearly $150 million for infrastructure projects across highway corridors in eastern parts of the state.
U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, and Gov. Roy Cooper, told news outlets in statements Tuesday that the $147 million grant will help widen up to 25 miles (40 kilometers) of Interstate 95 and upgrade parts U.S. Route 70 to make it Interstate 42. It’s unclear when construction will begin.
Parts of I-95 will be widened near Fayetteville. U.S. 70 will become I-42 with upgrades from I-40 to Morehead City.
The projects will decrease traffic congestion, improve emergency preparedness during natural disasters and enhance access to four military bases. 300 miles (480 kilometers) of fiber optic cable will also be installed along both highways.
N Carolina election rule changes gets final legislative OK
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Legislation containing several election administration changes has cleared the North Carolina General Assembly and is now at Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk.
The Senate voted 30-12 Tuesday for the legislation, which would require many state and county election board workers to receive criminal background checks.
The measure would extend the state’s current prohibitions on losing primary candidates from running again in the fall for the same office as a write-in or independent candidate. This “sore loser” provision would now also apply to new political parties choosing their candidates by convention. The Green Party and possibly the Constitution Party will be on ballots this November.
The measure also says candidates in this year’s free-for-all trial and appellate court races will have their registered party affiliation or unaffiliated status beside their names.
Judicial remap in 2 largest North Carolina counties approved
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A judicial remapping plan in which District Court judges in North Carolina’s two most-populated counties will no longer be elected by all county residents has quickly passed the General Assembly and is heading to Gov. Roy Cooper.
The Senate agreed 28-14 Tuesday to House changes to a bill that allocated District Court seats in Mecklenburg County to eight election districts, which also formed new Superior Court districts. The House decided Wake County District Court judges also would be voted on from election districts as well, not countywide.
The bill in part addressed population imbalances in Mecklenburg Superior Court districts that Republicans worried were unconstitutional. Democrats say the measure diminishes powers of Wake and Mecklenburg voters and narrows residency requirements for candidates.
Cooper has been critical of recent judicial redistricting efforts.
Sexual-assault kit tracking bill OK’d by Senate committee
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A bill establishing a statewide tracking system for sexual assault evidence kits so victims can follow them through the process has approval from one North Carolina legislative committee. But some legislators are asking where’s the money.
A state Senate committee gave a favorable report to a new version of the bill Tuesday and sent it another committee.
The bill also orders creation of a working group to determine priority for the testing of rape kits that have languished for too long.
Sen. Shirley Randleman told senators who questioned the lack of funding in the bill that officials need to know the precise extent of the problem before appropriating money.
The action follows an audit which showed North Carolina has about 15,000 untested rape kits. Officials say about one-third are untestable.
Up to $3B in transportation debt possible in legislation
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina Republican legislative leaders support a proposal from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s administration to maintain the increased pace of road construction by authorizing debt, paid back using projected highway-building revenues.
Both the Senate Finance Committee and House Transportation Committee debated and voted Tuesday for similar measures to allow up to $3 billion in what’s called “special indebtedness” through 2028. The debt could be issued without a referendum.
The N.C. Department of Transportation wants road spending kept at current levels after cash balances dwindle. Debt would be repaid from a trust fund that receives gasoline and vehicle sales taxes and Division of Motor Vehicles fees.
The bills passed after Republican members got assurances state borrowing would remain within self-imposed debt limits and projects on the transportation blueprint would be built.
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The Latest: Flurry of 911 calls help find missing baby
NORFOLK, Va. (AP) – Three different people called 911 within five minutes of each other to report seeing the North Carolina sex offender who police say kidnapped his 7-month-old daughter from a Virginia gas station.
Two 911 calls released Tuesday hours after the baby was found safe came from a North Carolina woman who said Carl Kennedy called her to help get diapers and formula.
A third came from a man who saw him changing a tire on a car spray-painted black on the side of the road and the fourth 911 call was from a friend of a neighbor who saw the 51-year-old man and child.
The tips led Randolph County deputies to a home in Randleman where Kennedy was arrested and the baby was found safe.
The baby’s aunt, Amy Wyatt Metzger, says the mother and daughter were reunited at the hospital and doctors said the girl was fine.
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Court restores lawsuit against North Carolina “ag-gag” law
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – A federal appeals court is resurrecting a lawsuit by animal-rights groups against a North Carolina law that discourages undercover investigations into conditions at farms and other workplaces.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday reversed a North Carolina federal judge’s decision dismissing the lawsuit.
A three-judge appeals panel said People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals and other groups have alleged a reasonable fear that the law sought to punish undercover exposes uncovering illegal and unethical conduct.
North Carolina was among about a half-dozen states passing laws targeting surreptitious recordings in agricultural settings. North Carolina’s law extends to other types of businesses.
Federal courts have struck down so-called “ag-gag” laws in Utah and Idaho in the past year as violations of the U.S. Constitution’s free speech guarantee.