CARL FORD PUSHES FOR BIGGER RALLIES, SPONSORS ANTI-COOPER BILL: In a May 6 interview with Sen. Carl Ford, R-Rowan, ReOpenNC founder Ashley Smith credited Ford with helping to inspire her to start the group and asked him whether the rallies are working to put pressure on Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper to speed up the reopening process. Ford said the rallies are helping, "but I'd like to see us have 10,000 or 20,000 in Raleigh. That would really get the message across." Ford is one of three primary sponsors of a Senate bill that would dismiss criminal penalties for any business owner who violates the governor's emergency closure orders and protect business owners who have to be licensed from any potential disciplinary action by the relevant licensing authority. "I’m sure there’ll be a long and very exciting debate, including the Democrats trying to talk through their masks," Ford told Smith.
BOARD OF EDUCATION UPHOLDS EARLIER DECISION TO GIVE SENIORS PASS/WITHDRAW GRADES: The vote came after seniors and their parents sent many emails asking state board members to reconsider their March decision. They wanted the same option being given to students in grades 9-11 to choose regular grades or the pass/withdrawal grades. Yvonne Honza, whose daughter is a senior at Perquimans County High School, expressed disappointment Thursday and said she’s considering seeking legal action. She said awards that high schools give won’t be an accurate representation since they’ll only be based on how seniors were doing through the fall semester. “Who’s to say my daughter, or any other student, wouldn’t have earned a high enough GPA to earn certain honors after their spring semester classes were calculated?” Honza said in an email Thursday. Seniors will get a passing grade for a course if they were passing as of March 13 — the last day before schools were closed to try to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
PHASE 1 OF GOVERNOR'S REOPEN PLAN BEGINS LATER TODAY: North Carolina residents will be able to frequent reopening businesses and parks as Gov. Roy Cooper's modified statewide stay-at-home order to address COVID-19 takes effect. Starting late Friday afternoon, more North Carolina businesses can be open as long as they limit customer occupancy, usually to 50% of what the fire code allows. Patrons and workers also must practice social distancing and are encouraged to wear masks. All but one state park will be open starting Saturday, and despite a 10-person limit on mass assemblies, church services can be held outdoors if worshipers remain apart. Restaurants are still barred from offering dine-in options for at least another two weeks, while barber shops, gyms and movie theaters will remain closed. North Carolina has recorded over 13,000 positive virus cases and more than 500 related deaths.
ONLY 200 INMATES OF NC PRISONS HAVE BEEN RELEASED TO PROTECT THEM FROM COVID 19: Nearly 200 inmates within North Carolina’s prison system have been allowed to serve the rest of their sentences outside of prison to discourage the spread of COVID-19, state officials said Thursday. The Department of Public Safety released figures showing how it is carrying out an initiative announced last month to allow some prisoners, including those at higher risk for the virus, to finish their punishments in local communities. Department Secretary Erik Hooks had said about 500 prisoners would be considered for the sentencing modification. He said those convicted of violent crimes wouldn’t qualify. The modification was among several Division of Prisons directives aimed at controlling the spread of the virus in what can be congested living facilities. The directives have resulted in several hundred prisoners being released sooner than originally planned. Several prisoners and civil rights groups have sued to force the division to release more at-risk inmates. A judge gave the prison system until Friday to provide more information about how it’s keeping prisoners safe and what options they are pursuing to move more into the community.
TRUMP'S DOJ DROPS CHARGES AGAINST MICHAEL FLYNN, WHO ALREADY PLEADED GUILTY: The Justice Department moved Thursday to drop charges against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a stunning reversal that prompted fresh accusations from law enforcement officials and Democrats that the criminal justice system was caving to political pressure from the administration. The unraveling of Flynn’s guilty plea for lying to the FBI came after senior political appointees in the Justice Department determined lower-level prosecutors and agents erred egregiously in the course of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. In court documents filed Thursday, the Justice Department said that “after a considered review of all the facts and circumstances of this case, including newly discovered and disclosed information . . . the government has concluded that [Flynn’s interview by the FBI in January 2017] was untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn,” and that it was “conducted without any legitimate investigative basis.” The Justice Department’s abandonment of the Flynn case is a political windfall for Trump, who had already declared that he was considering a pardon for his former adviser. The Justice Department’s decision means he won’t have to become personally involved in the Flynn case. Trump forced out Flynn in February 2017, and when he pleaded guilty, the president tweeted: “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!”