Daily dose: Don't touch the door edition


NAACP-led protests resume at North Carolina Legislature (AP) — North Carolina's NAACP leader challenged new rules concerning public assembly in the State Legislative Building as part of protests on Wednesday targeting legislative policies by GOP leaders who control both chambers.


Lawmakers begin amid singing in the halls (Fayetteville Observer) -- Singing in the halls, the firing of legislative shots in the battle over gay marriage and calls for taxation to build and maintain roads marked the first day of this year's lawmaking in North Carolina. State legislators convened in the capital Wednesday to start about six months of legislating. This was two weeks after they met for a day to elect their leaders. Controversy got underway almost immediately.


NAACP: Legislative protests will continue if needed (WRAL-TV) -- Whether protests will be staged at the Legislative Building for a third straight year is up to lawmakers, state NAACP President Rev. William Barber said Wednesday.


Moral Monday Returns (Huffington Post) -- More than 100 faith leaders and protesters affiliated with the Moral Monday movement staged a protest at the North Carolina legislature Wednesday, continuing for a third straight year to pressure lawmakers on issues such as income inequality and voting rights.


Today @NCCapitol (Jan. 29): Lawmakers wind up short week with velvet ropes (WRAL-TV) -- No committee meetings, but abortion rights advocates will hold a news conference. Also, lawmakers have some new rules for those who want to catch them on the way to session.


NC Democratic lawmakers get out quickly on economy (AP) — Democrats at the General Assembly are trying to get out of the blocks quickly this year as lawmakers emphasize the economy and job creation.


As NC Legislature Begins, Gay Marriage Takes Center Stage (TWCN-TV) -- Gay marriage is front and center on this year's first real work day at the North Carolina General Assembly.


States Renew Fight to Stop Same-Sex Marriage (New York Times) -- As the nation waits for the Supreme Court to decide whether same-sex marriages should be legal nationwide, another, more mundane front has opened in the wedding wars: the offices of the state and local officials who perform civil marriages and issue licenses. In North Carolina, the president pro tempore of the State Senate, Phil Berger, a Republican, filed a bill Wednesday that would allow “magistrates and registers of deeds” to refuse same-sex couples marriages based on religious beliefs.


As NC legislature begins, gay marriage takes center stage (AP) — Gay marriage took center stage on Wednesday's first work day at the North Carolina General Assembly as the Senate's top leader pushed for religious exemptions for some court officials from marriage duties months after the state's same-sex marriage ban was struck down.


'Religious freedom' bill filed amid protest (WRAL-TV) -- The first Senate bill filed Wednesday would allow magistrates and employees of county registers of deeds offices to refuse to perform marriages or issue licenses due to religious objections. Some Democratic lawmakers and gay rights advocates say it would legitimize discrimination.


Berger’s bill offers marriage opt-out (Greensboro News & Record) -- Public employees with religious objections would be exempt from same-sex wedding duties.


Bill Would Allow Magistrates In N.C. To Choose Not To Marry Same-Sex Couples (WUNC-FM) -- At the North Carolina State Legislature, Senate Leader Phil Berger introduced a bill Wednesday that would allow magistrates across North Carolina to opt-out of performing same-sex marriages. He wants government officials such as magistrates and registers of deeds, who object to same-sex marriage, to receive protection.


Berger files bill to protect 1st Amendment rights, jobs of n.c. Magistrates, registers of deeds’ staff (N.C. Political News) -- Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) filed a bill Wednesday to protect the first amendment rights – and jobs – of magistrates and registers of deeds’ employees whose participation in same-sex marriage ceremonies would violate their core religious beliefs. Senate Bill 2 makes clear that those officials with religious objections to performing same-sex marriage ceremonies have the right to recuse themselves from performing marriages without fear of losing their jobs or facing criminal prosecution.


Dems: Lawmakers should leave abortion clinic rules alone (WRAL-TV) -- Abortion-rights groups want the Republican-led legislature to keep its hands off rules proposed by state regulators for how North Carolina abortion clinics must operate.


NC legislature could step in on clinic rule proposal (AP) -- Abortion-rights groups want the Republican-led legislature to keep its hands off rules proposed by state regulators for how North Carolina abortion clinics must operate.


'North Carolina Cannot Leave Rural Counties Behind' (WUNC-FM) -- The North Carolina Legislature is back in town and ready to get to work for the year. During this "long session" lawmakers will likely take up a number of important topics including Medicaid and teacher pay. But what do you do if you represent a county that is oftentimes overlooked? Representative Ken Goodman does just that. Goodman represents Scotland County which is in one of the poorest parts of the state.


Republican Lawmakers Slow The Pace (WFAE-FM) -- North Carolina lawmakers officially kicked off the new session two weeks ago, but the work of filing bills and committee meetings began in earnest today. Since gaining control in 2010, the Republican majority has pushed major legislation aggressively from the outset. But in their fifth year, the pace has slowed, intentionally.


Burr gets chairmanships in NC House this session after all (AP) — House Speaker Tim Moore keeps announcing more chairmanships for a fellow Republican rival for the chamber's top spot even after Rep. Justin Burr lost a big leadership role earlier this week. Burr was named one of four co-chairmen on the House Health Committee early Wednesday — a day after an initial list showed Burr without a full chairmanship or co-chairmanship.


Business leaders call for more NC transportation spending, but not for more taxes (Raleigh News & Observer) -- North Carolina business leaders on Wednesday called for the legislature to increase state transportation spending by billions of dollars over the coming decade – but they refused to discuss possible new taxes.


NC Chamber: State will fall behind if roads not improved (AP) — North Carolina will face serious problems such as increased joblessness, more highway deaths and further congestion if politicians don't develop a strategy for funding transportation needs, business leaders said Wednesday as the General Assembly met for the first day of a new session.


New bills would allow more leisurely breakfasts, end dues drafts for state employee groups (WRAL-TV) -- The first spate of bill filings for the new legislative session includes one to allow folks picking up a breakfast sandwich at the local convenience story to have a seat. Other bills would do away with automatic drafts for employee groups and resurrect a push to allow crowd funding.


1st day bills filed at the NC General Assembly at-a-glance (AP) — The first work day at the General Assembly usually brings an early flurry of bills.


NC lawmakers file dozens of bills, including controversial same-sex wedding exemption (Raleigh News & Observer) -- State legislators returned Wednesday from a two-week break and got straight to work, filing 28 bills that address hot topics ranging from same-sex marriage to political parties’ role in judicial elections. Most of the proposals won’t see any discussion until at least next week. Wednesday’s brief sessions were mostly ceremonial, including a quick visit from Gov. Pat McCrory. The first bills indicated that 2015 will bring robust debate.


Legislators file crowdfunding measure in Raleigh (Triangle Business Journal) -- Entrepreneurs, it's a line you've heard before: Soon, there may be a new avenue for funding your venture in North Carolina – crowdfunding.


UNC Journalism program wins $50,000 to increase transparency at legislature (WRAL-TV) -- Two UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communications faculty members were recently awarded $50,000 through the C. Felix Harvey Award for Institutional Priorities to help improve transparency at the N.C. General Assembly. John Clark and Sara Peach, who run UNC's Reese News Lab, received the award for Capitol Hound, a web application that allows paying subscribers to search General Assembly transcripts and get email alerts about specific topics being discussed.


McCrory to give State of the State on Feb. 4 (AP) -- Gov. Pat McCrory will deliver the biennial State of the State address to the North Carolina General Assembly next week. The House and Senate meeting Wednesday approved a resolution inviting McCrory to speak at 7 p.m. Feb. 4 in the House chamber.



Congressman buys out showing of 'Selma,' invites residents (Wilson Times) -- Congressman G.K. Butterfield has purchased tickets for 400 people to see a free screening of the movie “Selma” on Saturday morning at Carmike Cinemas at 1501 Ward Blvd.


NC not waiting on FAA to explore commercial drone use (Raleigh News & Observer) -- With experts saying new federal rules for civilian use of drones are still probably months or even years away, North Carolina’s nascent drone industry and state government agencies that are eager to use the aircraft aren’t waiting.


Mayor focused on reopening Pungo (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- After the Belhaven Town Council voted on Monday to allow Vidant Health to move forward with plans for its new multispecialty health care facility, the town’s mayor called the health provider’s actions legal but unethical.


North Carolinians, more than 467,000 strong, sign up in federal marketplace (Fayetteville Observer) -- With about three weeks left to enroll, more than 467,500 North Carolina residents have singed up for health insurance through the federal marketplace.


More States Lean Toward Medicaid Expansion (STATELINE) -- The federal government yesterday approved Indiana's plan to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, increasing the number of expansion states to 28, plus the District of Columbia. In accepting Indiana's plan, the Obama administration demonstrated its determination to increase the number of expansion states, even if it means waiving traditional Medicaid rules.


Agency works on NC Fast backlog (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- Pitt County Social Services is splitting up the job of processing Medicaid reviews in an effort to clear out a backlog of cases.


Attorney general nominee Lynch has Durham roots (WRAL-TV) -- Years before becoming a federal prosecutor and nominee for U.S. attorney general, Loretta Lynch went to school in Durham.


New Organization Aims To Redefine Film Incentives As Small Business Incentives (Wilmington Business Journal) -- A group of small business owners throughout the state is hoping to make its voice heard in the ongoing discussion of film incentives in North Carolina.


For sex or labor: N.C. ranks among top states for human trafficking (New Bern Sun Journal) -- North Carolina is on a top 10 list that is dubious at best, according to Pam Strickland. Namely, we are one of the top 10 states for human trafficking.


Huckabee signing books during trip through Carolinas (AP) -- Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is signing copies of his new book during stops in the Carolinas.


Elections chief McFadyen says claims in petition false (Wilmington Star-News) -- New Hanover elections director filed an official response to the petition seeking his removal.


Judge Erases Convictions of Nine S.C. Civil-Rights Protesters (Wall Street Journal) -- The convictions of nine South Carolina black men who integrated a whites-only lunch counter during the height of the American civil rights movement were tossed out during an emotional hearing before a packed courtroom.


Charlotte’s yearly car insurance costs among priciest in NC (Charlotte Observer) -- Though North Carolina is one of the cheapest states in which to insure a car, in Charlotte, annual rates are still well above the state average.


McCrory Announces Appointments (N.C. Political News) -- The Office of Governor Pat McCrory announced the following appointments:


Conservatives to Palin: We’re over you (Washington Post) -- Sarah Palin’s recent rambling speech has many influential voices on the right realizing that the romance has gone cold.



Rite Aid cuts 350 jobs in closing Charlotte distribution facility (Charlotte Observer) -- Rite Aid plans to close its Charlotte distribution facility, which employs about 350 workers, and open a new, $90 million facility in Spartanburg, S.C., the pharmacy company said Wednesday.


Fayetteville's Goodyear plant potentially laying off employees (Fayetteville Observer) -- The Ramsey Street plant potentially could be eliminating 30 to 40 salaried positions.


BB&T apologizes for problem that emptied customer accounts (AP) -- BB&T Corp. is apologizing for a processing problem that caused some customer accounts to show incorrect balances or zero funds.


California declares e-cigarettes a health threat (AP) -- The California Department of Public Health report says electronic cigarettes emit cancer-causing chemicals and get users hooked on nicotine.


Google Fiber plans frustrate residents outside Charlotte (Charlotte Observer) -- Amid the excitement over Google Fiber coming to Charlotte, residents outside the city are disappointed they’re not also in line for the superfast Internet service.


NASCAR Hall of Fame sponsorships fall to $110,000 from $1.5 million (Charlotte Observer) -- A review of the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s commitments for sponsorships shows projected revenue is declining significantly, dropping from $1.5million in 2012 to $110,000 for the fiscal year starting in July.


Reynolds American shareholders OK deal to buy Lorillard (AP) — Reynolds American Inc. shareholders have approved its planned $25 billion takeover of rival cigarette maker Lorillard Inc.



State Audit: NC Charter School Mismanaged Taxpayer Dollars (WUNC-FM) -- A failed charter school in Lenoir County mismanaged hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the state auditor’s office. Kinston Charter Academy received more than $600,000 of state money two months before it closed, even though it had received several citations for fiscal mismanagement over the years. The audit says the funds were inappropriately used to cover expenses from the previous year, instead of going toward other public schools that students transferred to after Kinston closed.


Audit: Kinston Charter Academy misled state to receive more than $300,000 (Kinston Free Press) -- Report from state auditor released Wednesday morning.


Audit: Failed NC charter school mismanaged taxpayer funds (AP) — A failed Kinston charter school that mismanaged money for years got $667,000 in taxpayer funds months before it shut down, then paid the couple who headed the school $11,000 while other employees were owed $370,000, state auditors said Wednesday.


NC audit finds financial mismanagement at closed charter school; ex-CEO disputes findings (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A closed Kinston charter school mismanaged state money, inflated its enrollment and hired the principal's unqualified relatives, according to a stinging state audit released Wednesday.


Televisions, tests and the Constitution (EdNC) -- While the General Assembly can limit the State Board’s authority in some ways, does this include limiting the State Board’s administration of tests that might be a measure of a constitutional right to education?


Conservatives hate Common Core. The rest of America? Who knows. (Washington Post) -- Support is all over the place. We look at why.


U.S. funding per pupil falls for second straight year (Washington Post) -- Downturn in 2011 and 2012 came amid recession-battered state budgets, waning stimulus funds.


Superintendent seeks air quality testing for Forsyth schools (AP) — The superintendent of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools is calling for immediate air quality testing at two middle schools located near a hazardous waste site.


Students want UNC to rename building named after KKK organizer (WRAL-TV) -- A building on the campus of the UNC-Chapel Hill was named after a Civil War colonel William Lawrence Saunders who went on to become North Carolina's secretary of state. But students are calling for the building to be renamed because he was also helped organize the local KKK.


Area universities report robust donations in 2014 (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Last year was a record year for fund raising at US universities, including Duke University, according to a new report.


Homeschool group celebrates service (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- In honor of National School Choice Week, a local homeschool group on Tuesday gathered with officials and first responders to celebrate public service and showcase some of the skills the students have learned throughout the year.


UNC-CH warns of two Internet scams aimed at students, employees (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is passing along two FBI warnings about Internet scams – one targeting students with job offers and the other targeting employees with a human resources gambit.



New details in federal coal ash probe (Greensboro News & Record) -- A federal grand jury looking into possible criminal charges linked to the Dan River coal ash spill subpoenaed additional documents this summer that are only now coming to public light. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina asked the N.C. Utilities Commission for all its “memos, emails, documents and correspondence” relating to engineering inspections of the Dan River Steam Station’s two coal ash ponds “from 1976 to the present.”


New subpoena disclosed in federal probe of Dan River spill (Greensboro News & Record) -- A federal grand jury looking into possible criminal charges linked to the Dan River coal ash spill.


Dan River cleanup a success (World Coal) -- The Dan River is recovering well after last year’s coal ash spill from the Dan River power plant, according to research from universities, regulators and industry experts presented in a new report from the power plant owner, Duke Energy. The report – entitled “The state of our rivers” – was released this week by Duke Energy N.C. President, Paul Newton at an event with local leaders from the affected Eden and Rockingham Counties.


EPA Officials: Dan River Thriving Nearly One Year After (TWCN-TV) -- It has been nearly a year since the massive coal ash spill in the Dan River, and many say the waterway is flourishing. A number of organizations hosted a 'state of our rivers' event on Tuesday, near the site of the spill. The EPA has done quarterly sampling tests on the Dan River's water since the spill and believe the river is thriving. “We've done two quarterly sampling events since July. And both have showed no human or eco system risks,” said Kenneth Rhame, of the EPA.


Dan River Coal Ash Spill rally set (Stokes News) -- Appalachian Voices and Residents for Coal Ash Cleanup are hosting an event this Saturday, Jan. 31, in remembrance of the Dan River coal ash spill and to remind the public and the state’s leaders about the 342 acres of coal ash at Duke Energy’s Belews Creek power plant. Protestors will meet at the Belews Lake boat launch on Pine Hall Rd. at 10:45 a.m.



Governor appoints four to coastal, energy panels (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The governor announced appointments Wednesday to environment and energy panels. To the Energy Policy Council, Gov. Pat McCrory appointed John Broadman, a Carteret County resident who was a deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Energy until he retired in 2006.


PSNC Energy cutting natural gas rate (Raleigh News & Observer) -- PSNC Energy in February will cut its natural gas rate to its lowest price in 13 years in response to low wholesale prices and strong national supplies.


Wilson Energy helps in Northeast after snow (Wilson Times) -- A crew of 20 Wilson Energy workers went to Massachusetts this week in an effort to help residents with power outages in the Northeast. The workers left Monday and arrived in Holyoke, Mass.


Landowners learn more about proposed pipeline (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- Dozens of Nash County landowners potentially affected by the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline showed up Monday night for an educational meeting at the Nash County Agriculture Center.


Groups sue EPA seeking livestock farm air quality standards (AP) — A coalition of environmental, animal rights and citizen action groups filed two lawsuits Wednesday alleging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is failing to address air pollution problems from large-scale livestock farms.


Why people use less energy on Super Bowl Sunday (Washington Post) -- People conserve during the big game – because they’re watching it together.


Duke Energy upgrading sirens at Catawba Nuclear Station (AP) — Duke Energy plans to upgrade the sirens around the Catawba Nuclear Station in York County in the next few months.


New Report Urges Western Governments to Reconsider Reliance on Biofuels (New York Times) -- An environmental think tank says turning plant matter into liquid fuel or electricity is so inefficient that the approach is unlikely ever to supply a substantial fraction of global energy demand.


Oysters Are Good for Business (Coastal Review) -- A two-day conference will stress the importance of oyster restoration projects to the coastal economy.


Tyrrell County woman found dead (Washington Daily News) -- Human remains found last week at a location in Tyrrell County are believed to be that of a wildlife activist and Tyrrell County woman. Kay Grayson, whose remains were believed to have been found last week, was known for spending a great deal of her time working to protect bears and other wildlife, according to Darryl Liverman, sheriff with the Tyrrell County Sheriff’s Office.


Duke scientists finds climate models inconsistent (Charlotte Observer) -- A Duke University-led study questions the reliability of the climate models used to project short-term swings in temperature and the future extent of warming. Patrick Brown, a Duke doctoral student in climatology, and two coauthors analyzed 34 models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its most recent report, completed in November.



Art Pope's North Carolina: School's Out (Esquire Magazine column) -- The empire building in places like Wisconsin and North Carolina by local oligarchs like Art Pope, abetted by the useful idiots they install in office, is the basic foundation for the politics of the new Gilded Age. Rarely, however, are things as blatant as this attempt to bring one of the country's finest systems of higher education forcibly into the theocracy of The Market. There are only two actual Koch Brothers, but there are dozens of distant cousins doing the same kind of damage.


Tillis could strike diplomacy (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- President Obama on Tuesday announced a plan to open parts of the southeastern U.S. coastline for oil and gas drilling, upsetting a significant portion of liberal Democrats. In responding to the announcement, Sen. Thom Tillis fell short on demonstrating the kind of diplomacy that could help shift the prevailing political polarization choking Congress and the country.


Google Fiber deal not in best interest of NC public (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- High-speed Internet doesn’t really improve the speed or, more importantly, the quality of how most of us do business –most of us don’t work for Netflix or engage in high-speed financial speculation. It also doesn’t make children learn faster or better – I somehow doubt that more HD streaming video will solve our education problems.


State shouldn't create barriers to public records (Burlington Times-News) -- Technology should make government records more accessible to the public, not less. But the price of access — long restricted to the actual cost of the materials used to copy documents — is going up under Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration. A lot.


Costly loophole for homeowners (Wilmington Star-News) -- Insurers are free to demand up to a 250 percent rate increase. Policyholders are told they must agree to pay the asking price if they wish to keep their policy.


The folly of 'religious freedom' to ignore the law in NC (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- Just how far should religious freedom go in North Carolina? Should a state employee be able to ignore the law, citing his religious beliefs? Where would that end?