Donations From GOP-Leaning Groups payoff as legislator leaves Democratic Party (Follow N.C. Money) -- A North Carolina lawmaker recently elected as a Democrat has switched to unaffiliated and will caucus with the GOP. Given the outside money that's supported his campaign, the move is not entirely surprising.
NC House Republicans agree to bring Rep. Paul Tine into fold (AP) — North Carolina House Republicans have accepted into their fold a Democratic lawmaker switching his voter registration to unaffiliated.
Asheville-area lawmakers reflect partisan split on Medicaid move (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- Area legislators disagreed Friday on expanding Medicaid in the state but supported replenishing a state fund used to lure new businesses or industrial expansions to the state. State Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Haywood, told about 175 people attending the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce's legislative luncheon on the Biltmore Estate that accepting federal funds to extend Medicaid coverage would increase jobs in the state and address the imbalance between what North Carolinians send to Washington and what they get back. But state Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, said he and his colleagues "are not here to chase the federal dollar, the federal money that's coming forward" as Medicaid is currently structured.
Fresh off election wins, Ager, Turner talk business (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- Democrats John Ager and Brian Turner have had little time for victory laps after their Election Day wins. Amid calls from interest groups, the new legislators have spent time in Raleigh learning how a bill gets drafted and how to speak on the floor of the House. There have been personal and business affairs to attend to before the General Assembly's long session begins Jan. 14, and one, Ager, spent a few days in the hospital with a blood disorder. Both men said concerns they expressed during their campaigns about education funding and environmental issues continue. They are among the reasons voters chose Ager, of Fairview, over Nathan Ramsey, and Turner, of Biltmore Forest, over Tim Moffitt.
Ager and Turner both support using federal funds to expand Medicaid to cover more North Carolinians despite opposition from Republican leaders in the General Assembly.
Advocates For Historic Tax Credits Hope To Convince Legislators (WUNC-FM) -- A program giving developers tax credits to restore old buildings expired on January first. But advocates have launched a campaign asking lawmakers to restore the program. The North Carolina Metropolitan Mayors Coalition has launched an online petition drive to ask state lawmakers to restore the historic tax credit. So far it has more than 1,700 signatures.
Economic incentives, film credits will be back up for debate in NC legislative session (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The debate over economic incentives that wasn’t settled last year is expected to resume quickly when the General Assembly gets to work this month. Gov. Pat McCrory said recently that passing an incentives bill must be a priority when lawmakers return for the long legislative session.
Legislator speaks to community leaders (Jacksonville Daily News) -- When state legislators head back to Raleigh, all of the top issues they face will share one thing in common: They’ll all be competing for funding.
Blaine completes revolving door 360, returns as Berger staffer (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Jim Blaine said this week he is returning to his job on Senate leader Phil Berger’s legislative staff. Blaine left his job as Berger’s chief of staff after the legislative session ended to work as a consultant on campaigns for Berger and the state Senate GOP caucus. Another top Berger aide, Amy Auth, has been filling in. Blaine is getting into a pattern of rotating between campaign consulting and government work. He’s completed the circuit a few times while working for Berger.
N.C. lawmakers ask Supreme Court to hear appeal in same-sex marriage case (Washington Post) -- The U.S. Supreme Court might decide to hear same-sex marriage cases today.
NC Rep. Jason Saine: Ranked most effective freshman (Raleigh News & Observer) -- While he didn’t succeed in his recent bid for House majority leader, Lincolnton Republican Jason Saine was the runner-up among five contenders and enters the 2015 session as a legislator on the rise.
7 to watch; Rep. Charles Jeter (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Rep. Charles Jeter spent his first two years in office sitting in the back of the House chamber. That’s typically the place people with no power are relegated, but the Republican from Huntersville says he likes it back there. Jeter is not what you’d call a typical back-bencher. He begins his second term with a significant role for House Republicans. He is their conference chairman, responsible for organizing political fundraising, helping recruit candidates for House races in 2016, and helping decide where and how much money should go to various House races in the next election.
POLICIES & POLITICS
Mercedes snub may give McCrory’s push for economic incentives, film credits, a lift (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The debate over economic incentives that wasn’t settled last year is expected to resume quickly when the General Assembly gets to work this month. Gov. Pat McCrory said recently that passing an incentives bill must be a priority when lawmakers return. McCrory has said the state is courting potential job creators and that the lack of available incentives could be hurting its chances at landing them. He received ammunition in his fight last week when Mercedes-Benz USA chose to relocate its corporate headquarters from New Jersey to Atlanta, after reportedly considering sites in the Triangle.
Feds praise state for cutting Medicaid backlog (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The US Department of Health and Human Services said North Carolina's handling of a backlog of Medicaid applications could be a model for other states.
Fayetteville lottery players take home more than $2 million (AP) — Fayetteville has cornered the market on winning lottery games, at least for one week.
Civilians welcomed at Fort Bragg homes as Army ranks thin (AP) — As the Army thins its ranks, competition to fill rental homes around and even on Fort Bragg is heating up.
Orange County schedules training to help with tax returns (AP) — An Orange County volunteer program is looking for people to help low and middle-income clients prepare their tax returns.
Richmond Fed head: US economic growth likely to continue (AP) — Recent growth in the U.S. economy is likely to continue, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond told a joint Virginia Bankers Association and Virginia Chamber of Commerce event in Richmond on Friday.
Off-duty NC trooper rescues mother, 2 kids from icy creek (AP) — An off-duty state trooper is being credited with saving a mother and her two children after their car skidded off a North Carolina road and flipped into a freezing creek.
Off Duty State Trooper Saves Three from Freezing Water (Jacksonville Daily News) -- Choosing to be a law enforcement officer, on occasion, can require those making that choice to place their own life in danger so that others may be saved.
Two Major Retailers Announce Downsizings That’ll Impact NC (TWCN-TV) -- Analysts say the cuts at both Macy's and J.C. Penney come as sales continue to grow
Brewery supplier opening plant in Buncombe (Hendersonville Lightning) -- A leading brewery supplier will invest $8.1 million in a new facility that will add 56 new jobs in Buncombe County, Gov. Pat McCrory, state Commerce Secretary John Skvarla and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina announced on Friday.
Hoke County manager asked to resign by three commissioners (Fayetteville Observer) -- Three of the five Hoke County commissioners have asked County Manager Tim Johnson to resign, a commissioner who supports Johnson said.
Clinton lawyer named District Court judge (Fayetteville Observer) -- Gov. Pat McCrory appointed William B. Sutton Jr. to be a District Court judge for the 4th Judicial District, which covers Sampson, Duplin, Onslow and Jones counties, McCrory's office announced today. Sutton fills a vacancy made by the retirement of Chief District Court Judge Leonard Thagard, the announcement says.
Weekend Talk: Burr on Sunday’s ABC’s 'This Week’' (LA Times) -- This Week With George Stephanopoulos -- Paris terrorist attack; international response: Attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr.; Sen. Richard M. Burr (R-N.C.).
N.C.’s Adams is counting on Panthers (Greensboro News & Record) -- New Congresswoman Alma Adams is busy making friends in D.C.
Clodfelter antes up with Seattle mayor (Charlotte Observer) -- Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter on Friday made a bet with the mayor of Seattle, Ed Murray, over Saturday’s NFC divisional playoff between the Carolina Panthers and the Seattle Seahawks.
Freshman Tillis begins to fit in on Capitol Hill (McClatchy Newspapers) -- The new job is just a few days old but newly installed Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican of North Carolina, says he’s already running hard and likes it that way. By Thursday, Tillis had attended his first Senate Armed Services Committee classified briefing, spoken with new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other veteran senators in meeting after meeting, and shaken hands and carried on cordial chats with Democratic colleagues on the Senate floor.
Tillis profiled as 'Face of Inequality' in new Congress (Q Notes) -- The nation’s leading LGBT civil rights organization has included newly-installed U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis among its new “Faces of Inequality” in the 114th Congress, a campaign they say is designed to highlight those “who have gone out of their way to stop equality, inspiring and propagating lies and hatred toward LGBT people across the country.”
F.B.I. and Justice Dept. Said to Seek Charges for Petraeus (New York Times) -- The F.B.I. and Justice Department prosecutors suggested bringing felony charges against the retired general for providing classified information to his former mistress, Paula Broadwell of Charlotte, while he was director of the C.I.A., officials said.
Federal prosecutors recommend charges for ex-CIA chief Petraeus (Washington Post) -- David Petraeus could face criminal proceedings for providing classified documents to his Charlotte N.C. biographer.
Prosecutors Weigh Petraeus Charges (Wall Street Journal) -- The Justice Department is weighing whether to file criminal charges against retired Gen. David Petraeus for allegedly providing classified information to his former mistress, according to people close to the case.
Orange sheriff says his office isn’t guilty of racial profiling (Raleigh News & Observer) -- New Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood told a gathering sponsored by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP last weekend that his office isn’t guilty of racial profiling. Not everyone was convinced.
Tryon Palace director to retire (New Bern Sun Journal) -- Tryon Palace Director Philippe Lafargue will retire March 1.
Set In N.C., 'The World Made Straight', Premieres (WUNC-FM) -- A new movie set in Western North Carolina opens in select theaters tonight. The World Made Straight is based on a novel by North Carolina native Ron Rash. It follows a legacy of violence dating back to the Civil War. The main character, Travis Shelton, is seventeen when he discovers a grove of marijuana in the woods ... and then he steps into the jaws of a bear trap. Injured, he is discovered by the pot farmer who set the trap, Carlton Toomey.
NC Military Business Center celebrates 10 years (Fayetteville Observer) -- As far as investments go, local and state leaders believe the North Carolina Military Business Center has been a pretty good one.
Woman shoots breakfast-delivering husband when home alarm is triggered (AP) — A woman mistakenly shot her Ft. Bragg soldier husband in the chest after he triggered the burglar alarm at their home. The husband was treated for his wounds and released at a local hospital.
Fayetteville soldier mistakenly shot by wife after triggering burglar alarm (Fayetteville Observer) -- A woman mistakenly shot her husband in the chest this morning after he triggered the burglar alarm at their home in west Fayetteville, police say.
Grandfather hospitalized after being shot by 3-year-old (AP) — The Davidson County Sheriff's Office says a 46-year-old man is hospitalized after he was shot by his 3-year-old grandson.
WCNC fires high-profile, long-time investigative reporter (Charlotte Observer) -- Friday was Stuart Watson's last day at WCNC (Channel 36), fired after 16 years and some of the biggest scoops in Charlotte. He collected 10 regional Emmy Awards during his career and is nominated for five more at this year's ceremony later this month. He's also won two duPont-Columbia awards, three Peabodies, two National Headliner awards and an Edward R. Morrow award each year since 2011.
GateHouse Media parent closes on deal for StarNews, Halifax (Wilmington Star-News) -- StarNews Publisher Bob Gruber says the same team here will continue to cover the news locally.
Daily News changes ownership (Jacksonville Daily News) -- New Media Investment Group Inc. completed its purchase Friday of Halifax Media Group, which owned The Daily News in Jacksonville and 35 other newspapers across the country.
Charges being filed in crime spree that killed NC couple (AP) — Murder charges are being filed against a father and son accused of killing a North Carolina couple as part of a multistate crime spree that ended in a police shootout in West Virginia, authorities said Friday.
SCHOOLS & UNIVERSITIES
Baker Mitchell sues Pruden over criticism of charter schools (Wilmington Star-News) -- Lawsuit claims the former Brunswick County schools chief made knowingly false statements.
Raleigh charter school vows to stay open despite financial woes (WRAL-TV) -- Administrators at a Raleigh charter school that focuses on children with developmental and intellectual disabilities will go before the state's Charter School Advisory Board on Monday to show that they have fixed issues with its budget and curriculum.
School connected to Phil Berger’s son surrenders charter (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A charter school affiliated with the son of state Senate leader Phil Berger is closing even before it ever opened its doors.
Charter high school in Rockingham won’t open (Greensboro News & Record) -- Providence High’s board gives up its charter, cites trouble finding money and site.
3 new Charlotte charter schools approved to open this fall (Charlotte Observer) -- The three Charlotte charter schools were among 11 to be approved statewide at this week’s meeting of the State Board of Education. They’ll still have to submit a “ready to open” report in May.
Obama, in Tennessee, Begins Selling His Community College Tuition Plan (New York Times) -- The president urged Congress to allocate an estimated $60 billion over 10 years for an initiative that would be based in part on a Tennessee program.
Obama’s College Proposal Is Also a Bid to Rev the Economy (New York Times) -- Rising education levels were a crucial factor in America’s economic growth. The president hopes they can be again.
Green: College proposal is part of move to K-14 education (Winston-Salem Journal) -- With employers needing more highly skilled workers, President Barack Obama’s push for two years of free community college education can be seen as part of a trend toward seeing public education as a K-14 concept, said Gary Green, president of Forsyth Technical Community College. Obama picked Tennessee to make his announcement of the proposal, which would have the federal government pay 75 percent of the tuition cost for the first two years of community college, with the state’s picking up the balance.
Free community college? Obama proposal excites some, worries others (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The president’s dramatic idea for free community college for Americans was met with both excitement and criticism Friday.
NC leaders embrace free tuition idea but question cost, capacity (WRAL-TV) – Scott Ralls, president of North Carolina Community College System, which includes 58 schools serving about 850,000 students each year, said President Obama’s focus on moving students to bachelor’s degrees or in-demand fields are already top priorities in the state. “The area’s he’s focused on happen to be the sweet spots for us, so we’ll be very intrigued to see how those details fit with where we are in North Carolina,” he said. Gov. Pat McCrory weighed in Friday on the president’s plan, saying his administration has already put an emphasis on working with community colleges and closing the skills gap. “We look forward to reviewing any proposals that help achieve this goal,” he said. “However, one thing we’ve learned in working with government is nothing is for free.” Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., said he'd prefer the federal government use the money needed for the president's plan to shore up Pell Grant finances to help needy students.
Mixed reaction to Obama's community college proposal (WNCT-TV) -- President Obama unveiled his plan Friday to use federal and state funds to pay for community college students' tuition. In the east, community colleges play an important role in preparing many to enter the workforce or a four year institution. Beaufort County Community College (BCCC) President Barbara Tansey says she supports the plan. "If we can enable more people to get that ticket to get out of poverty or to expand our economic development, that's huge," Tansey said. The proposal is also good news for county schools. Beaufort County Schools Superintendent Don Phipps says the proposal would aid students during and after high school.
State task force recommends ending end-of-grade testing (Winston-Salem Journal) -- North Carolina students could face fewer tests as early as next year.
NC grading changes give some high school students a boost over others (Raleigh News & Observer) -- For the next three years, current North Carolina high school students will get a bigger boost on their grades from taking Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and Honors courses than those coming after them.
STEM Conference Exemplifies UNCW Community Efforts (TWCN-TV) -- UNC Wilmington's Watson College of Education hosted the inaugural K-12 STEM Education Conference. Teachers from across Southeastern North Carolina learned about different opportunities to incorporate STEM into their lesson plans.
DPS ponders plight of unpaid custodial workers (Durham Herald-Sun) -- Durham Public Schools custodians not paid by bankrupt Integrity Custodial Services could know as soon as Monday whether the school district will step up to cover paychecks for two weeks of work they are owed by the now-defunct company.
Custodians Seek $200,000 Backpay From Durham Public Schools (TWCN-TV) -- The sub-contracting company that hired and paid the custodians went bankrupt last year.
Barton names new president (Wilson Times) -- Douglas N. Searcy is the new president of Barton College. Barton trustees and Searcy finalized the deal on Wednesday and Searcy along with his wife, Beth, made their first official appearances on campus Friday.
ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT
Solar power arrives in Cumberland County (AP) — Growth of solar farms in North Carolina has been abundant.
How Georgia became the biggest electric vehicle market in the U.S. (The Guardian) -- During the last year, new car sales grew more than sevenfold Georgia, with electric cars accounting for one of every 60 new cars sold, according to data firm Statista. That’s a higher percentage than the second-largest market, California, where the figure was one in 70. So how did Georgia, not exactly a bastion of progressive politics and lifestyles, overtake the so-called Left Coast in adopting this green technology? And are there lessons to be learned from this boom for other sustainable businesses?
GM Readies Electric Rival to Tesla (Wall Street Journal) -- General Motors plans to launch a $30,000 electric family-sized vehicle called the Chevrolet Bolt that would be capable of driving 200 miles on a charge by 2017 in a plan to challenge Tesla.
Duke Energy Progress reports record for winter power usage (AP) — Duke Energy Progress says its customers set a record for winter power use on Thursday, Jan. 8.
Duke Energy's Donations Pay Off In Florida Gov's Race: With money from corporations like Duke Energy, the Republican Governors Association funded tens of thousands of ads that helped GOP gubernatorial candidates in 2014. But in Florida, where Duke does business, the RGA instead bankrolled the independent political committee of GOP Gov. Rick Scott, a friend of big energy, to the tune of $9 million. (1/7/2015)
Obama administration announces new manufacturing innovation institute at U. Tennessee (DOE News Release) -- the Obama Administration announced that the University of Tennessee will lead the Energy Department’s new Manufacturing Innovation Institute for Advanced Composites. Headquartered in Knoxville, this innovation hub will focus on driving down the cost and reducing the energy used to make advanced composites, while also making them easier to recycle.
Farming is challenging, but key for Wilson (Wilson Times) -- It can be easy at times for those of us who are “city folk” to forget the importance of agriculture in Wilson County.
A License to Say Anything? (New York Times column) -- SPECIALTY license plates — which bear the logo of a college or a sports team, or a slogan like “Save Our Seas” or “Stop Child Abuse” — bring in lots of money for state governments, as well as the schools, nonprofit groups, professional organizations and other entities that sponsor them. But these vehicular tags have also become a new frontier in debates over freedom of speech. The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing a lawsuit by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. It wants Texas to issue a specialty plate showing the Confederate battle flag, which a state panel rejected. The group argues that if Texas allows plates that express some opinions, it also must allow the battle flag, even if the symbol offends many people. Anything less, the group says, amounts to discrimination against its viewpoint, in violation of the First Amendment. A similar case from North Carolina might also go up to the Supreme Court. In 2011, the State Legislature approved a specialty plate with the slogan “Choose Life.” Those who seek this specialized plate pay $25, $10 of which goes to the state’s highway fund and $15 of which goes to a pregnancy counseling organization. But when the Legislature refused to issue an abortion-rights plate, the American Civil Liberties Union sued. So, oddly, liberal supporters of abortion rights are allied, on this issue, with the conservative descendants of Confederate veterans. Both argue that license plates are private, not state, messages and are therefore protected.
Remembering the many gifts of historian John Hope Franklin (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- One of America’s preeminent historians, John Hope Franklin would have celebrated his 100th birthday on Jan. 2.
Time has run out (Greensboro News & Record) -- Greensboro police will enforce state law banning electronic sweepstakes games, which have gone on too long.