Daily dose

Clergy to lead sixth week of NC NAACP protests (AP) -- The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP announced Friday the sixth week in a series of protests that have led to the arrests of more than 300 people. Chapter president the Rev. William Barber said clergy from across the state will lead the group's latest demonstration against policies of the Republican-controlled legislature Monday. The group's demonstrations have grown in size every week since they started in April, most recently drawing more than 1,600 by some estimates. The number of arrests has grown too. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People will follow up the protest with an event Wednesday to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers. The group will also announce details of a voter registration tour.


Butterfield to participate in Moral Monday protest (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Democratic Congressman G. K. Butterfield of Wilson will join the Moral Monday protests at the Legislative Building to voice his opposition of the GOP-led legislature. Butterfield, a former N.C. Supreme Court Justice, said “I've been deeply troubled by the severe and unilateral cuts being made by the Republican-led legislature in North Carolina. The cuts to health care, education and unemployment to name a few, disproportionately target low-income people, many of whom I represent in the U.S House of Representatives.''


Protests to expand despite objections from Republican leaders (WRAL-TV) -- NAACP leaders say they will continue with "Moral Monday" protests at the General Assembly and will add new events, such as "Witness Wednesday," to call attention to GOP policies.


Clergy seeks meeting with McCrory on Moral Monday (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Rep. Garland Pierce, the chairman of the black legislative caucus, has asked that Gov. Pat McCrory meet with representatives of the clergy during the Moral Monday protests. Pierce, who is a Baptist minister, said a significant number of clergy are expected to attend the protest money to express their unhappiness with certain legislative action such as the decision not to extend Medicaid benefits to and shorten the period a person can receive unemployment.


House works overtime on big issues (WRAL-TV) -- In a rare Friday session, House members tackle the budget, tax reform and natural gas drilling.


House, Senate budgets have big differences on education (WRAL-TV) -- Two years ago, the House and Senate were so much in sync that they didn't even need to have a formal conference committee to settle differences over the budget. This year? Not so much. State House leaders rolled out big pieces of their budget proposal Friday morning, and there are major differences between the two chambers. The education budget provides a good example of the type of battle lines being drawn. When the Senate passed its budget, it included language that would end career status for teachers. Senators have proposed changing the so-called "teacher tenure" system to one that would see teachers sign contracts of between one and three years. Educator groups have objected to that system, saying it gives teachers too little certainty about their long-term prospects. A House proposal takes a different approach, creating a system of probationary and non-probationary status for teachers that is viewed more favorably by teacher groups.


House and Senate miles apart on state spending (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The House budget proposal shows that its members differ significantly from their Senate colleagues on when it comes to education spending.


NC House starts public debate over budget proposal (AP) -- Seven N.C. GOP-dominated House subcommittees signaled wide differences with Republican counterparts in the Senate as they voted Friday for portions of their state government budget for the next two years.


House gives tentative approval to tax reform bill (WRAL-TV) -- Income taxes would drop slightly under the Republican-crafted plan but liberal groups say the measure would amount to a tax increase on most North Carolinians.


NC House gives initial nod to tax overhaul (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A landmark tax bill that Republicans portray as a boon for everybody - but Democrats contend would mostly help the rich - won preliminary approval in the state House on Friday following a testy 90-minute debate.


A blow to racial justice in North Carolina (Facing South) -- North Carolina lawmakers this week voted to repeal the Racial Justice Act, a groundbreaking state law that allows death row inmates to have their sentences commuted to life without parole if they can prove racial bias played a role in their cases.


House OKs 'fracking' changes (WRAL-TV) -- State House lawmakers agreed Friday to set a March 2015 date to start issuing natural gas drilling permits in North Carolina.


NC House approves bill that keeps fracking moratorium in place (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The state House approved a fracking policy Friday that keeps in place a moratorium on shale gas exploration until at least March 2015, and includes a number of public protections and environmental safeguards.


Council members condemn legislative 'extortion' (Asheville Citizen-Times) -- State legislators are trying to intimidate Asheville City Council into dropping its lawsuit to retain city control of its water system, some council members say.


House Budget Seeks To Eliminate Child Fatality Task Force (N.C. Health News) – North Carolina lawmakers nearly eliminated the child Fatality Task Force, but an amendment to the House budget bill Friday afternoon reinstates it until July 2014. Legislators decided to study the effectiveness of the task force for a year. The amendment was offered by Rep. Jim Fulghum (R-Raleigh), a retired neurosurgeon. “Most of our task forces have a deadline,” said Rep. Marilyn Avila (R-Raleigh). “We need to take a look at this and see if it’s still effective.” Children’s-health advocates got a jolt Friday morning when they learned the long-running legislative Child Fatality Task Force was eliminated from the House budget introduced during legislative committee meetings. The proposed budget changes the make-up of the task force – which includes legislators and has the ability to propose statutory language – from a task force to a “state team” structure that lacks the task force’s current influence.


No SBI move in the House budget (WRAL-TV) -- House budget writers leaves the State Bureau of Investigation under the control of the Attorney General.


N.C. lawmakers approve bill opening private campus police records (Fayetteville Observer) -- The General Assembly has approved a bill that would open police records on all private school campuses to the public.


N.C. Racks Up New Clean-Energy Jobs Amid Anti-Renewables Assault (Facing South) -- Though some politicians are trying to repeal the state's renewable energy standard, the policy continues to help make North Carolina a national leader in creating clean-energy jobs.


Grace named state’s banking commissioner (Winston-Salem Journal) -- The General Assembly ratified the appointment of Ray Grace as the state’s banking commissioner. His term will run through March 31, 2015. Grace has been serving as acting commissioner since February 2012, which is when Joseph Smith was chosen by President Barack Obama to oversee the federal and state settlement with the five largest mortgage-loan servicers – Ally Financial, Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Wells Fargo & Co.



Jury returns guilty verdicts in LaRoque trial (AP) -- A federal jury convicted former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque Friday on charges that he took money loaned to his company through a federal program and gave it to another company he owned for transactions that helped family members. The jury returned its guilty verdict after deliberations that spanned three days. LaRoque was calm and emotionless as the verdict was read in a Greenville courtroom. LaRoque was released on $50,000 bond. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 10.


LaRoque guilty on all counts (Kinston Free Press) -- According to his attorney, former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque believes he’s innocent. The jury in his trial thought otherwise. Friday morning, jurors unanimously voted that LaRoque was guilty of illegally taking money from his economic development nonprofit — East Carolina Development Company — using that money, concealing the theft, knowingly lying to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and committing tax fraud by not properly reporting the money.


Former NC lawmaker guilty of fraud (WRAL-TV) -- A federal jury on Friday found former Rep. Stephen LaRoque guilty of fraud and misappropriation of funds.


Former N.C. lawmaker LaRoque convicted of fraud (Triangle Business Journal) -- A federal jury on Friday convicted former State Rep. Stephen LaRoque of Kinston on theft, money laundering and other charges.


Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque convicted (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A jury convicted former state lawmaker Stephen LaRoque on 12 counts of federal charges that he enriched himself on federal money that was supposed to go to small business owners.


Hagan: VA official to investigate backlog in Winston-Salem office (Winston-Salem Journal) -- U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan said Friday that a high-level Veterans Affairs official will be coming to Winston-Salem soon to look into a backlog that has some veterans waiting more than two years for a ruling on their claims.


Hagan Challenger Builds Campaign Team | Shop Talk (Roll Call) -- State Speaker Thom Tillis has started to build his campaign team for his Senate bid in North Carolina, one of the top targeted races of the 2014 cycle. Tillis announced his challenge to Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., last week. He’s the first well-known Republican to enter the race. His team includes: Media: Brad Todd of OnMessage Inc.; Pollster: Glen Bolger, Public Opinion Strategies; General consultant: Paul Shumaker, Capitol Communications Inc. A Tillis source notes that Shumaker and Bolger have worked together in the past for Sen. Richard M. Burr, R-N.C. Other Republicans considering a bid include former Ambassador Jim Cain, state Senate President Phil Berger, Reps. Renee Ellmers and Virginia Foxx, former Charlotte City Councilman Lynn Wheeler and the Rev. Mark Harris. Tea party activist Greg Brannon and two other Republicans are already in the race. Hagan began building her team earlier this year.


Tillis Begins 'Invisible Primary' For U.S. Senate (WFAE-FM) -- North Carolina’s 2014 U.S. Senate race is starting to shape up as most had expected—one of the closest fought in the nation. And when early punditry call it “a close fight,” voters can usually expect an ugly, knock-down drag out battle. House Speaker Thom Tillis of Cornelius could be one of several candidates seeking the GOP nomination to take on the sitting Democratic incumbent. But many could be curious why the speaker decided to announce his bid nearly a year before the voters have their say on who will face Kay Hagan. In today’s modern campaigning, early bidders have to begin a significant campaign that most (well, 98%) of the people rarely will see. Dubbed the “invisible primary” campaign, candidates begin a quiet phase of several key components: organizing a staff, making a name for themselves, and not just rounding up supporters, but also rounding up the most important type of support: money.


North Carolina’s tug-of-war (American Prospect) -- What happens when a state becomes more progressive and more conservative at the same time? Is it possible for a state to grow both more conservative and more progressive at the same time? That is exactly what's happening in North Carolina -- and it's a creating an especially turbulent moment in the state's political history. On one hand, Republicans have gained the upper hand in North Carolina politics, holding the state legislature and the governor's mansion for the first time in more than a century. This happened for many reasons, including the national Republican upsurge after 2008 and troubles within the state Democratic Party. N.C. Republicans also benefited from a surge in election spending, especially outside money flowing from groups tied to GOP donor and Koch brother ally Art Pope. In the critical year of 2010, outside groups backed by Pope accounted for 75 percent of the independent spending that flooded into state legislative races, helping fuel the GOP's historic victories. But in the long term, the demographics of North Carolina are undeniably trending blue. We got a glimpse of the new emerging majority -- African Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, young and urban whites -- when Obama narrowly carried the state in 2008, and it points to larger trends that will help Democrats in the coming years.


Middling Jobs Numbers Signal Long Path to Healthy Payrolls (New York Times) -- Almost every state has cut its unemployment insurance benefits as a result of the sequestration, according to the National Employment Law Project, a labor-oriented research and advocacy organization. Some states, like Florida and Maine, are cutting the number of weeks for which jobless workers will continue receiving benefits, and others, like Illinois, are reducing the size of the weekly benefit checks. Some states, like Washington and Idaho, are also laying off employees who work in the labor agencies that help workers apply for benefits and find jobs. North Carolina is ending its federally funded extended unemployment benefits on July 1 because reductions in its state benefits left it ineligible for the federal money. “I’m having a hard time finding somebody who will give a 50-year-old with a few health problems a chance,” said Dwayne Fields of Goldsboro, N.C. He was let go from his warehouse manager job of 12 years last October for “poor job performance” after he told his boss about some health problems, including a diagnosis of cardiomyopathy, hypertension and sleep apnea. He said he had since received treatment that has put him back into good working shape, but no one responds to his job applications. His $212 weekly jobless benefit checks are about to end. “I’m probably too old to flip burgers and deliver pizzas,” he said. “But if worse comes to worst, I’ll do it. I’ve got an old lady and an 11-year-old kid to support.”


N.C. High School Grad Rates Dip (WUNC-FM) -- North Carolina’s high-school graduation rate is headed in the wrong direction. In the past two years, the state’s rate has dropped by about one percent. Two years ago, North Carolina beat the national graduation rate average for the first time. Two years later, the state is back below the national average, as rates have gone up across the country and North Carolina’s have dipped.


State GOP leaders slated to meet in Charlotte (AP) -- Gov. Pat McCrory and other Republican Party leaders are in North Carolina's largest city this weekend for the state GOP convention.


Peacock’s race important to state GOP (Charlotte Observer) --For Edwin Peacock, it was a welcome plug at Friday’s opening of the North Carolina Republican Convention.


News of Surveillance Effort Met With Some Concern but Little Surprise (New York Times) -- The string of revelations over the past 48 hours about sweeping government surveillance of American telephone records and Internet activity by foreigners, including e-mail, stirred expressions of concern across the country on Friday — along with something of a collective national shrug. It was not that people were not upset to learn that the government might be tracking their telephone calls, Facebook posts and Yahoo accounts. It was that in this age of “Homeland,” and in a culture that encourages people to share photos and minute-by-minute activities and opinions on public Web sites, the news that the government might be looking in too was often something short of a surprise. “It stinks,” said Steve Talley, 64, a retired state worker in Mount Airy, N.C., a small, conservative town near the border with Virginia. “I don’t mean to be cynical, but this is nothing new,” Mr. Talley said. “If people think the government hasn’t been monitoring whatever they want to, whenever they want to they are sorely mistaken.”


States with the most and least government benefits (24-7 Wall Street) -- The Great Recession left many families in need of greater economic security. Although federal programs provide some safety net, the states supply much of the security. A new report rated Washington as the state providing the most economic security for families. Based on WOW’s report “The Economic Security Scorecard: Policy and Security in the States,” 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the states that provide the most government benefits. Based on Wider Opportunities for Women’s report “The Economic Security Scorecard: Policy and Security in the States,” 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the states that provide the most government benefits. Each state received a letter grade based on how well it helped residents in the following categories: (1) low-income family support, (2) employment benefits, (3) public support, (4) education and training, and (5) savings to ensure economic stability. Wider Opportunities for Women graded the states in each of the five categories based on policies and practices. For further context, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2011 tax collections per capita provided by the Tax Foundation and expenditures per capita and median household income data provided by the Census Bureau for 2011. These are the states with the most and least government benefits: 10 with the most benefits: Massachusetts; Iowa, New York, Maine, New Jersey, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Vermont and Washington. 10 with the least benefits: Missouri, North Dakota, Indiana, South Dakota, Arizona, Idaho, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Utah.


NC infrastructure gets mostly C grades from engineers (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A new report card from the American Society for Civil Engineers gives North Carolina mediocre grades for its efforts to maintain aging bridges, roads, schools and water systems.


Funds available to help owners avoid foreclosure (Triangle Business Journal) -- The N.C. Housing Finance Agency has resources remaining to assist another 9,000 jobless homeowners avoid foreclosure on their homes. The agency oversees the NC. Foreclosure Prevention Fund, which, to date, has made zero interest loans to 12,000 residents in the state. The program “has already kept $1.8 billion in property out of foreclosure, shoring up local tax bases and property values,” says authority Director Robert Kucab. The fund offers two types of loan packages. The first consists of a deferred loan of up to $36,000 that can be used for mortgage payments and related costs for up to 36 months while the borrowing homeowner completes job training or looks for work. If the owner continues to live in the home for at least 10 years, the loan is considered satisfied and no repayment is required. The second package consists of a zero-interest loan of up to $30,000 that is used to pay off a second mortgage. The program is aimed at helping homeowners who find new jobs at reduced incomes reduce their total monthly payments to an affordable level. Homeowners do not need to be behind on their mortgage payments to apply for assistance, according to the agency.


McIntyre, Jones weigh in on NSA data-gathering controversy (Port City Daily) -- Southeastern North Carolina’s members of Congress are speaking out following revelations over the National Security Agency’s (NSA) data-gathering activities


Ex Catawba sheriff, GOP activist, to lead Gov's Crime Comm (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Former Republican Catawba County Sheriff David Huffman was named executive director of the Governor's Crime Commission by Gov. Pat McCrory. Huffman retired as sheriff in 2010 after 28 years. He will replace Gwendolyn W. Burell. Huffman has long been involved in GOP politics, having served as a county commissioner. In 2004, he was defeated in a GOP runoff for Congress to Patrick McHenry by a 50.2 to 49.8 percent margin.


Buying insurance in coastal areas is getting more expensive (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot) -- Hurricane deductibles are now as high as 5 percent of the value of your home - which could cost homeowners thousands of dollars.


McCrory appoints Raleigh attorney to N.C. Ports Authority (Triangle Business Journal) -- Gov. Pat McCrory has appointed Raleigh attorney Robert A. Sar to a seat on the N.C. Ports Authority.


NC insurance investigators helping in Oklahoma (Raleigh News & Observer) -- The N.C. Department of Insurance has sent five fraud insurance investigators to Oklahoma to help with the tornado damage, commissioner Wayne Goodwin says. Goodwin says the investigators are helping the victims of the giant tornado that swept through the Oklahoma City area last month killing 20 people avoid becoming victims of fraud.


Cursive writing instruction coming back (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- Cursive writing instruction is making a comeback. In the fall, Pitt County Schools will institute cursive writing for elementary school students.



'Impressive' Andrea leaves rain-soaked NC behind (WRAL-TV) -- Tropical Storm Andrea swept out of North Carolina Friday evening, bringing an end to a chaotic day of flash flooding, power outages, downed trees and more than 5 inches of rain.

US military all-star baseball team to play in NC (AP) -- A baseball team comprised of active duty and retired U.S. military is scheduled to make stops in North Carolina as part of its Red, White and Blue Tour.


‘The Lost Colony’ to receive a Tony Honors Award Saturday (Raleigh News & Observer) -- “The Lost Colony,” the nation’s longest running symphonic outdoor drama, will receive a Tony Honors Award this weekend. The award is given in recognition for excellence in American theatre.


Gun found by police when UNC player arrested (AP) -- A police report shows officers seized a 9mm handgun and ammunition when North Carolina basketball player P.J. Hairston was arrested on a marijuana possession charge.



House OKs 'fracking' changes (WRAL-TV) -- State House lawmakers agreed Friday to set a March 2015 date to start issuing natural gas drilling permits in North Carolina.


N.C. Racks Up New Clean-Energy Jobs Amid Anti-Renewables Assault (Facing South) -- Though some politicians are trying to repeal the state's renewable energy standard, the policy continues to help make North Carolina a national leader in creating clean-energy jobs.


To save $45 a year, NCDOT Removes EV Charging Stations From Rest Stops (WUNC-FM) -- The North Carolina DOT says it had to remove four electric vehicle charging stations from rest areas due to conflicting state and federal laws. Transportation officials collected the stations before a state law took effect in March. The law directed the DOT to find a way to charge drivers for using the stations. But a federal law says states can only collect money from rest areas if it comes from vending machines. The stations were in place for 14 months and the DOT says 146 vehicles used them during that time.


Domtar unveils new technology at Plymouth facility (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Domtar Corp. unveiled a new plant in Plymouth on Friday that turns a key byproduct of paper production into what the Canadian company hopes will be a valuable commodity.


Clean Energy for When the Cows Come Home (Endeavors – UNC) -- UNC undergraduate Ann Soltan wants to put that solar energy to work while saving farmers a bit of cash. During the summer of 2012, Soltan was interning for the EPA in San Francisco when she learned that converting cow manure into methane for energy production on dairy farms isn’t the no-brainer many people had thought it would be. “The technology is cumbersome,” Soltan says, “and farmers have to give up some land for these huge digesters.” Most importantly, the financial return isn’t so good for farmers, many of whom operate on tight budgets. Many have soured on the idea. Soltan wondered whether the EPA had considered other renewable forms of energy for farms. It hadn’t. But her EPA colleague Cara Peck told Soltan that solar might be worth a look. Later that day, Soltan grabbed a notepad and scribbled down two questions: “What are milking-barn roofs made of? Can the roofs of dairy-farm barns sustain the weight of solar panels?”


Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway about to hit 100 (AP) -- Happy Birthday, Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. You're looking awfully good for your age.


Utilities must embrace technology to deal with hurricanes, storms (WRAL-TV) -- North Carolina is no stranger to hurricanes and their aftermath. With forecasters estimating nine named hurricanes and five major storms, we need to prepare for what is likely to be an active season in our warm ocean waters. The start of the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane season should serve as a call to action for communities to deploy technology that can help utilities mitigate issues before, during and after a storm. A two-way communication network with sensors that collect real-time data provides a pervasive view of an area’s utility infrastructure. The critical information gathered helps utilities more quickly restore services, avoid additional damage to the system and improve the safety of working conditions for repair crews.


McCrory, Senate at odds over jetties bill (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Among the differences between Gov. Pat McCrory and the Senate leadership is over the question of the building of jetties and terminal groins to stop beach erosion. The Republican legislature in 2011 year passed a compromise bill ending a 25 year ban on jetties and groins, allowing for four pilot projects – in Ocean Isle Beach, Figure Eight Island, Bald Head Island, and Holden Beach. Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue allowed the bill, which was opposed by environmentalists to become law without signing it. The Senate this year has passed a bill, sponsored by Senators Bill Rabon and Harry Brown, that would scrap the compromise and jetties and groins to be built all along the coast. It would also remove the taxpayer safeguards in the bill. But McCrory and the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources is opposing the new bill and supports the compromise passed two years ago. The governor's position has won kudos from environmental groups such as the N.C. Coastal Federation.


Dwane Powell: Blind and deaf to the Moral Monday protesters –



Take our Bad Bill quiz, if you dare (Charlotte Observer) -- Every state legislature, no matter which party is in charge, has its share of bad bills. Each year, without fail, lawmakers overreach and underthink. They try to ban things they don’t like or are overprotective of things they do. It happens. It’s politics.


Racial Injustice in North Carolina (New York Times) -- The North Carolina Legislature repealed the state’s Racial Justice Act this week, and the Republican governor, Pat McCrory, is expected to sign the bill. But the state cannot erase the detailed and irrefutable proof of ugly racial bias that led a state trial judge to resentence four death row inmates to life without parole because of this statute.


Why I joined Moral Monday (Facing South) -- North Carolina leaders are dismissing demonstrations that have brought thousands to Raleigh and resulted in more than 300 arrests for peaceful civil disobedience. But the concerns that are fueling the Moral Monday movement won't go away anytime soon.


State line separates Brunswick County from its new metropolitan ‘partner’ (Wilmington Star-News) -- The federal bureaucrats who determine the nation’s metropolitan areas are in need of a lesson in geography.


Wired up (Raleigh News & Observer) -- It’s not every day the president of the United States comes to a middle school in North Carolina. But President Obama on Thursday offered some exciting news.


The failure of quick mental health fixes in NC (Raleigh News & Observer column) --NC should consider investing in more local beds in regular hospitals, not in another psychiatric hospital.


‘Sharia’ bill hardly harmless (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- House Bill 695 is more than just an attack on the Muslim community. It will also create a series of damaging, unintended consequences for North Carolinians of all faiths.