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Friday News: Making it harder


GOP RELIEF BILL PUTS SPENDING CAPS ON RENTAL ASSISTANCE: New rules written into a fast-moving spending bill this week will slow down a state rental assistance effort that has already struggled to get money out quickly, the program's director said Thursday. State lawmakers added spending caps for each of North Carolina's 100 counties to a $550 million program meant to help people struggling through the pandemic pay rent and utility bills. This "throws a wrench" into a federally funded program that the state's Office of Recovery and Resiliency has been working to open, office Chief Operating Officer Laura Hogshead said. "If we're having to hold back applicants ... in order to serve other applicants across the state and make sure that County Y has hit its number before we can serve more in County X, it is absolutely going to slow us down," Hogshead said. Republican lawmakers responsible for the new rules said they're meant to ensure equity.

Thursday News: Power Play


REPUBLICANS PUSH BILLS TO INCREASE SPECTATORS AT SPORTING EVENTS: High schools and colleges would be allowed to fill up their stands to half capacity during the coronavirus pandemic under a bill approved Wednesday by the state House. The state Senate has passed its own bill expanding capacity at school events. And both Republican-controlled chambers are pushing ahead with separate legislation that could bypass the Democratic governor. The House voted 77-42 to allow up to 50% capacity at indoor and outdoor sporting events and graduations at UNC System schools, community colleges and K-12 schools. The bill comes after Gov. Roy Cooper recently eased COVID-19 restrictions to allow up to 15% capacity at indoor venues and 30% capacity at outdoor venues.

Wednesday News: Finishing Group 3


GROCERY CLERKS AND OTHER FRONT-LINE ESSENTIAL WORKERS ELIGIBLE FOR VACCINE: Frontline essential workers — including grocery store workers, public transit drivers and emergency personnel — will be eligible for the coronavirus vaccine a week ahead of schedule, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday. The state will then move into Group 4 on March 24, starting with people with high-risk underlying conditions, The News & Observer reported. “Given the current rate of vaccination and increased supply, many frontline workers say they can move to the next phase of vaccinations,” Cooper said during a news conference Teachers and school support staff have been able to get the vaccine since Feb. 24. The remaining frontline workers classified under Group 3 will be eligible starting Wednesday.

Tuesday News: A mountain of lies


MADISON CAWTHORN EXPOSED FOR A LIFETIME OF FALSEHOODS: Cawthorn said a close friend had crashed the car in which he was a passenger and fled the scene, leaving him to die “in a fiery tomb.” Cawthorn was “declared dead,” he said in the 2017 speech at Patrick Henry College. He said he told doctors that he expected to recover and that he would “be at the Naval Academy by Christmas.” Key parts of Cawthorn’s talk, however, were not true. The friend, Bradley Ledford, who has not previously spoken publicly about the chapel speech, said in an interview that Cawthorn’s account was false and that he pulled Cawthorn from the wreckage. An accident report obtained by The Washington Post said Cawthorn was “incapacitated,” not that he was declared dead. Cawthorn himself said in a lawsuit deposition, first reported by the news outlet AVL Watchdog, that he had been rejected by the Naval Academy before the crash.

Monday News: Eleven thousand, two hundred twelve


COVID 19 POSITIVITY RATES AND HOSPITALIZATIONS ARE DOWN IN NC: At least 858,548 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 11,212 have died since March, according to state health officials. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Saturday reported 2,643 new COVID-19 cases, down from 2,924 reported the day before. At least 1,414 people in North Carolina were reported hospitalized with the coronavirus as of Saturday, down from 1,465 on Friday. Saturday’s total is the lowest reported since mid-November. As of Thursday, the latest date for which data are available, 5.4% of COVID-19 tests came back positive, up from 4.7% on Wednesday. Wednesday was second day in a row the rate was below 5%, which health officials have said is the target rate to control the spread of the virus.

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


BILL REQUIRING IN-PERSON LEARNING RELIES ON LUCK NOT REALITY: The leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly treat legislation like a wish to the genie in the lamp. The demands in legislation, like requiring in-person classroom instruction for most public schools will instantly happen because, poof, the bill becomes law. For this legislation to work, several assumptions that are far out of the control of mere mortals – even esteemed and powerful state legislators – must align. The reality, as legislators have been repeatedly shown over the years but refused to acknowledge, is that commands for action require understanding, planning, communication, resources and consensus. For some reason, legislators who often crow that local governance and decision-making is their strong bias, feel this one-size-fits-all solution is best. This legislation prevents communities from making their own assessment of local needs and conditions to make these sensitive decisions.

Saturday News: IOKIYAR


BUDD AND CAWTHORN USE PROXY VOTE TO ATTEND CPAC: Budd introduced a bill last year that would withhold pay from any lawmaker that voted remotely or by proxy, saying at the time that “outsourcing the duty of a member of Congress is unconstitutional and wrong.” In July, Cawthorn, then a candidate for U.S. House, tweeted that Democrats who vote by proxy are “cowards for hiding and not showing up to work.” But on Thursday and Friday this week, Budd and Cawthorn had Rep. Patrick McHenry, another North Carolina Republican, vote on their behalf. Both Budd and Cawthorn used standard language in their letters to the House assigning someone as their proxy, which are required. They both wrote they were “unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency.”

Friday News: Serve and protect whom?


POLICE "WHISTLEBLOWER" BILL GETS MIXED REVIEWS: A group that represents police officers, the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association, is pushing the bill with backing from GOP lawmakers. They say it will help stop people in power from retaliating against cops — or any other city government workers — who try to shine a light on corruption or abuse inside government. Democrats and a group that represents city governments, the League of Municipalities, oppose the bill, House Bill 7. They say it’s secretly intended to prevent bad cops or other government workers from ever being fired or even disciplined, since they could just claim to be whistleblowers. “My concern is that bad apples are going to be protected by this bill,” said Leo John, a lobbyist for the League of Municipalities.

Thursday News: Happy hour?

NC BARS CAN NOW SERVE PATRONS INDOORS, AT 30% CAPACITY: For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic nearly one year ago, bars will be able to serve drinks indoors. Starting Friday, Feb. 26, bars can open up inside at 30% capacity. Patrons will still need to stay socially distanced, remaining seated at a table or counter, and will need to wear a mask when not actively eating or drinking. Technically, bars have been open since October 2020, but that only allowed outdoor service and limited capacity to 30%, which in some cases meant only one or two tables. With those limits, many bars remained closed through winter. Bar owners have lobbied for months to reopen and even filed multiple lawsuits against the state, each one unsuccessful. The new alcohol curfew is 11 p.m., pushed back from 9 p.m., where it’s been since December.

Wednesday News: Broken promises


NC REPUBLICANS FACE CLASS-ACTION LAWSUIT OVER RETIREE HEALTH PLAN PREMIUMS: More than 200,000 retired state workers might soon receive hundreds or even thousands of dollars, if a class action lawsuit goes in their favor at the North Carolina Supreme Court. The fight started in 2011, when Republican legislators took control of the North Carolina General Assembly and quickly passed a law introducing the premiums, plus other changes. The new retiree premiums started at around $22 a month and have more than doubled since then. The governor at the time, Democrat Bev Perdue, vetoed the bill at first. But after lawmakers compromised by not also eliminating a no-premium option for current state workers, The News & Observer reported, she allowed the changes to become law.


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