Daily dose: Little Lord Fauntleroy falls into deep, dark hole

Former Powerful GOP State Rep. LaRoque Confesses to Theft From Non-Profit (FBI News Release) – Former Republican state Rep. Stephen A. LaRoque of Kinston, pleaded guilty to the theft of $150,000 from a federally-funded nonprofit organization in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 666, U.S. Attorney Thomas G. Walker announced today Monday. LaRoque also agreed to pay $300,000.00 in full restitution to East Carolina Development Company, which is a nonprofit organization based in Kinston. The non-profit was originally created to provide loans to small rural businesses using federal funds provided to East Carolina Development by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Rural Development Division’s Intermediary Relending Program.

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LEGISLATURE 2015

From power broker to prison (Kinston Free Press) -- A promising political and business career may well end in federal prison. Former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court on Monday to one count of theft from a program receiving federal funds. Prosecutors alleged LaRoque took upwards of $300,000 from the East Carolina Development Company, a nonprofit designed to receive and administer federal rural business loans to qualifying area companies.

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Former GOP lawmaker pleads guilty to federal charge (AP) — A former North Carolina lawmaker who was convicted on federal charges involving theft and diverting funds and faced a retrial next month on two counts has pleaded guilty to a single count.

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Ex-GOP lawmaker pleads guilty to federal charge (WRAL-TV) -- After fighting federal charges for more than two years, former state Rep. Stephen LaRoque quietly pleaded guilty Monday as part of a deal to get the rest of the case against him dismissed.

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Former N.C. GOP lawmaker LaRoque pleads guilty to stealing $150K (Triangle Business Journal) -- Former State Rep. Stephen LaRoque of Kinston has pleaded guilty to stealing $150,000 from a federally-funded nonprofit organization, Kinston-based East Carolina Development Company.

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Howard loses leadership posts as new speaker consolidates power (Winston-Salem Journal) -- Rep. Julia Howard will enter the 2015-16 legislative term, which begins Wednesday, after being removed from her second key committee leadership position in a week. Howard, R-Davie, confirmed Monday that she will no longer serve as senior chairwoman of the House Finance committee, though she said she believes she will remain a member of the panel. Howard said she’s been told that House Speaker Tim Moore has replaced her with a representative more supportive of Moore’s agenda. Last week, Howard was removed from the joint Program Evaluation Oversight Committee, of which she was co-chairwoman.

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Berger, Moore say McCrory doesn’t have power to control appointments (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Gov. Pat McCrory doesn't have the legal authority to control the majority of appointments to commissions that the General Assembly creates, attorneys for legislative leaders argue in a court document filed Monday. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore are asking a three-judge panel to rule against a lawsuit filed by the governor, who wants control of a new Coal Ash Management Commission and others like it. McCrory and former governors Jim Hunt and Jim Martin sued in November to unseat the state legislature's appointments to the coal ash commission and prevent future appointments controlled by the General Assembly that encroach on what they contend are executive branch functions.

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Courts, revenues could alter legislature's school agenda (AP) — The minimum salary for a North Carolina public school teacher almost assuredly will rise next fall.

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Lawmakers to cities, ‘Drop Dead’-- No relief coming from Raleigh (Winston-Salem Journal) -- State lawmakers held out little hope Monday that the General Assembly will do anything to make up for revenue Winston-Salem and other cities are losing because of the repeal of local privilege taxing authority and other financial measures. Winston-Salem City Council members met with their local legislative delegation Monday morning to talk about legislative priorities for the city.

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Legislators Will Look At Education Issues This Session
(WFDD-FM) -- When the North Carolina General Assembly meets Wednesday, the public school agenda will be among the issues debated. Discussion points will almost certainly include areas such as raising minimum salaries for teachers and considering what merit pay should look like in North Carolina.

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Two new NC legislators will be selected this week (Raleigh News & Observer) -- County-level political parties will select two new state legislators this week after Republican House member Edgar Starnes and Democratic Sen. Earline Parmon ator resigned to take new jobs. The Caldwell Republican Party will meet Thursday to select Starnes’ replacement possibly former Rep. George Robinson or Starnes’ wife Marilyn. The Forsyth County Democratic Party also meets Thursday with Paul Lowe, a Winston-Salem Baptist pastor and. Rep. Ed Hanes among those considered for the post.

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Lawmakers ready for another look at moped insurance rules (WRAL-TV) -- Lawmakers plan to push again for moped drivers to carry insurance, an idea that has been controversial. A report from the Division of Motor Vehicles recommends that drivers who lost their licenses on alcohol-related charges not be allowed to drive mopeds either.

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POLICY & POLITICS

Cooper speaking to NC Democratic activists on session's eve (AP) — The elected Democrat with the highest profile in North Carolina politics is speaking out the day before the Republican-led General Assembly begins its work in earnest for the year.

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NC Attorney General Roy Cooper takes swipe at GOP policies (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Attorney General Roy Cooper outlined the basics of what could become his economic development platform in his yet-unannounced run for governor in 2016 as keynote speaker at the Rocky Mount Chamber of Commerce last week.

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For Rep. Ellmers, abortion vote not an ‘honor’ she’ll likely treasure (McClatchy Newspapers) -- Perhaps the best thing that can be said now about the abortion bill revolt last week led by Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-NC, is that she was trying to look at the big picture for her party as it tries to polish its image and attract new voters.

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Burr announces staff, events for 2016 campaign (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Richard announced Monday he would hold campaign events in several North Carolina cities over the next few months. He also plans events in Washington, the first of which will occur Wednesday. Key members of Burr's previous campaigns are working again for him — general consultant Paul Shumaker, pollster Glen Bolger and media consultant Doug McAuliffe. Fundraising chiefs Jonathan Brooks and Jim McCray worked for recently elected U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis' campaign.

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Koch Brothers’ Budget of $889 Million for 2016 Is on Par With Both Parties’ Spending (New York Times) -- The goal, announced at the billionaire brothers’ annual winter retreat, is an unparalleled effort by outside groups to shape a presidential election.

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Koch-backed groups plan to spend nearly $1 billion on 2016 election (Washington Post) -- The massive goal of $889 million is more than double what the network raised during the 2012 campaign.

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Governor's rep. want to know ‘what’s going on’ in Alamance (Burlington Times-News) -- A representative from Gov. Pat McCrory’s office is scheduled to visit Alamance County Tuesday to meet with county government and local municipal leaders. In an email Jan. 20 from Clay Ruff, Office of Governor Pat McCrory Piedmont director, to Alamance County, Ruff said the goal of his visit is to establish a working relationship with individuals and their respective governments and businesses. “I would like to hear what is going on in Alamance County and what ways we can work together,” Ruff said.

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NC Film Office opens enrollment for new $10 million grant program (Wilmington Star-News) -- The program has a $5 million cap on potential rewards, a $5 million minimum spend for feature films and a $250,000 minimum spend for series and commercials.

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Ex-Army prosecutor found guilty of rape at court-martial (AP) — A former U.S. Army prosecutor who handled sexual-assault cases has been found guilty on rape charges following a six-day court-martial at Fort Bragg.

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Duke's Califf takes FDA job, talks fraudulent Potti research (Triangle Business Journal) -- ​After 33 years with Duke University, Dr. Robert Califf will take a leave of absence to become deputy commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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Califf Named FDA Deputy Commissioner For Medical Products And Tobacco (Duke U. News) -- Robert Califf, vice chancellor of clinical and translational research at Duke University School of Medicine and a global leader in cardiovascular medicine, clinical and translational research and medical economics, has been named deputy commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco at the Food and Drug Administration.

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Part of Bonner Bridge to be closed for repairs to concrete (AP) — A portion of one lane of the Bonner Bridge will be closed to traffic to allow work crews to repair concrete on the underside of the bridge deck.

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N.C. has the lowest union membership in the U.S. – again (Triangle Business Journal) -- The Tar Heel State once again claims the 50th spot in labor union membership.

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Jones agrees 'crimes worthy of prosecution' detailed in 9/11 report (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Republican U.S. Rep. Walter Jones has told the group NC Stop Torture Now that he thinks there are "many crimes worthy of prosecution" detailed in the Senate report on the CIA's use of waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other harsh treatment of detainees after 9/11.

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Former Jesse Helms staffers to lead Rep. David Rouzer’s new Smithfield office (Raleigh News & Observer) -- U.S. Rep. David Rouzer opened a district office in the Johnston County Agriculture Center in Smithfield on Monday.

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Charges dismissed against Nags Head police chief (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot) -- Assault charges against Nags Head Police Chief Kevin Brinkley and his wife were dismissed in Currituck County District Court on Monday. Brinkley and his wife, Rochelle, were each charged with simple assault after a domestic dispute in their home in late November. Brinkley was placed on paid leave and returned to duty two weeks after the incident.

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House to vote on Mark Walker’s first bill (Greensboro News & Record) -- Known as the Human Trafficking Detection Act of 2015, the legislation — house bill H.R. 460 — aims to better train and inform Department of Homeland Security workers for detecting and intercepting human traffickers and their victims.

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Friends recall lawyer's dedication (Greenville Daily Reflector) -- Judge Randy Doub was remembered as a man dedicated to helping the community and helping people struggling to repair their finances, said two friends and former colleagues.

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GENERAL NEWS

Google schedules press conference today with McCrory (WRAL-TV) -- Google will host a press conference to discuss "what's in store for our community" in Raleigh on Tuesday afternoon. Gov. Pat McCrory is scheduled to be there. But Google won't discuss specifics about what the news is.

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Google Fiber Possibly Coming to Triangle, Charlotte (TWCN-TV) -- Google is expected to make a major announcement this week, but company representatives are not saying what it is. Insiders believe the company will reveal bringing Google Fiber to the Triangle and Charlotte.

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Credit union displays highlight NC foster children in need of homes (Raleigh News & Observer) -- For the next seven months, visitors to State Employees Credit Union branches across the state will see small displays featuring the photos of children in foster care in North Carolina who are looking for permanent homes.

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Our Coast's Food: Pimento Cheese (Coastal Review) -- Or "pamena" cheese, as true Southerners might say. The recipe has gotten downright uppity at some restaurants, but this one is a true N.C. classic.

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UNIVERSITIES & SCHOOLS

Small business Centers Face Budget Cuts, Elimination (Southern Pines Pilot) -- The North Carolina Community College System is on the verge of eliminating its Small Business Center Network. The proposed move comes in response to a request from the General Assembly for NCCCS to trim its budget by 2 percent, or about $26 million.

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Courts, revenues could alter legislature's school agenda (AP) — The minimum salary for a North Carolina public school teacher almost assuredly will rise next fall.

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Petition seeks reinstatement of Tom Ross (Raleigh News & Observer) -- As UNC Board of Governors members convene this week to discuss the process to find the next UNC system president, an online petition is calling for the reinstatement of Tom Ross.

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Petitioners want to keep Ross at UNC (Greensboro News & Record) -- Want Tom Ross to stay on as UNC system president? There’s a petition for that. A group calling itself United for UNC launched a petition drive online atwww.change.org this weekend.

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Howard Maniloff: A GOP ploy at UNC (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- The UNC-CH faculty who protested the as yet unexplained firing of the UNC system president deserve praise for their courage.

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Online charter schools would have to provide equipment, connections (Raleigh News & Observer) -- A contract with virtual public charter schools under consideration by the State Board of Education would have one of the online charter applicants reconfiguring its budget. A State Board committee on Monday approved draft contract language that would require the online charters provide computer equipment and internet connections to students who could not afford them.

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Commission weighs options for common core in N.C. (Wilmington Star-News) -- Will North Carolina keep, revise or toss the Common Core State Standards?

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Triangle HBCU leaders cautious of Obama's community college plan (WRAL-TV) -- Leaders at the Triangle's historically black colleges and universities have a "wait-and-see" attitude regarding the impact of President Barack Obama's plan of two years of free community college on their bottom lines.

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A Long Shot (Inside Higher Ed) -- More than three-quarters of men's Division I basketball players think they will play professionally, but less than 2 percent make it to the NBA.

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Hostesses? In 2015? (Inside Higher Ed) -- Rape trial involving former Vanderbilt U. football players revives debate over the use of attractive women to rope in athletic recruits.

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UNCW officials begin to narrow list of chancellor candidates (Port City Daily) -- UNC-Wilmington is edging closer to a permanent campus leader. University officials are slated to begin reviewing resumes and narrowing the pool of candidates for chancellor.

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Excluding veteran teachers from significant pay raises a brilliant move by NC lawmakers (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- Despite the feelings of most veteran North Carolina teachers, last year’s pay raise was a brilliant piece of legislation and one of the best things to happen to education in a long time.

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$100,000 donated for UNCC women’s leadership program (Charlotte Observer) -- The MetLife Foundation has contributed $100,000 to launch the Women in Business Leadership Program at UNC Charlotte’s Belk College of Business.

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Kenan Fellows: Making real world connections for our students (EdNC) -- Last summer, middle school science teacher Jaime Mosley rode in a bucket truck, hung a transformer and set a power pole. Sound like an atypical experience for a K-12 educator? Not so for teachers who are chosen to become Kenan Fellows.

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Why did CFCC's Spring ‘resign'? (Wilmington Star-News editorial) -- The abrupt resignation of Cape Fear Community College President Ted Spring demands more of an explanation.

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N.C. public education and the muddled history of “parental choice” (EdNC) -- This week, January 25-31, is National School Choice Week. It is a good opportunity to think about school choice as it relates to having access to a high quality education in our public schools.

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THE SPILL

Lee residents rally to oppose Duke coal ash disposal in county (Fayetteville Observer) -- About 100 homeowners gathered Monday night less than a mile from where Duke Energy anticipates storing coal ash in the Colon community. The meeting, at least the third held since November, was largely a rallying cry to discuss ways to fight the utility company's plan. "We're working on this all across the state," said Therese Vick, a Raleigh-based community organizer for the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. "It is not a done deal.”

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In South Carolina, Coal Ash Clean-Up Ahead Of Schedule (WFAE-FM) -- While North Carolina is ramping up to close coal ash ponds around the state, removal is already underway in South Carolina, and—at one site—ahead of schedule. South Carolina electric utility Santee Cooper entered a settlement with environmental groups in 2013, to get its coal ash—which can contain arsenic and lead—out of storage ponds near public waters.

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Berger, Moore say McCrory doesn’t have power to control appointments (Raleigh News & Observer) -- Gov. Pat McCrory doesn't have the legal authority to control the majority of appointments to commissions that the General Assembly creates, attorneys for legislative leaders argue in a court document filed Monday. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore are asking a three-judge panel to rule against a lawsuit filed by the governor, who wants control of a new Coal Ash Management Commission and others like it. McCrory and former governors Jim Hunt and Jim Martin sued in November to unseat the state legislature's appointments to the coal ash commission and prevent future appointments controlled by the General Assembly that encroach on what they contend are executive branch functions.

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ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

White House to Propose Allowing Oil Drilling Off Atlantic Coast (New York Times) -- Opening the Eastern Seaboard to oil companies is a prize the industry has sought for decades and would be a blow to environmental groups.

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White House to Propose New Offshore Areas for Oil, Gas Drilling (Wall Street Journal) -- The Obama administration is planning to propose opening up new areas of the nation’s federally owned waters to oil and natural gas drilling, including areas along the Atlantic Coast.

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Obama administration opens door to Atlantic drilling (Fuel Fix) -- The Obama administration is poised to unveil a draft plan for selling offshore oil and gas leases that is expected to rule out auctioning drilling rights in parts of the Atlantic Ocean as well as in some Arctic waters and along the West Coast between 2017 and 2022.

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Offshore wind power means better business, better beaches (The Hill) -- Offshore wind development creates more jobs than offshore drilling.

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Coal Ash, Climate Change, And Zoo: Challenges Await New DENR Secretary (WUNC-FM) -- From the state zoo to coal ash, from aquariums to climate change, the DENR secretary has plenty to worry about. “I consider being the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources the second-toughest job in state government,” says Bill Holman, who served as Secretary of DENR in the early 2000s, under Governor Jim Hunt. For the record, he says leading the Department of Health and Human Services is the toughest job, but DENR Secretary is a close second. Last month, Gov. Pat McCrory appointed Donald van der Vaart to the position. He comes to the top job with a Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Cambridge in England, a law degree from N.C. Central. He spent nearly two decades in DENR’s Division of Air Quality before becoming the Energy Policy Advisor a year ago. Many in the environmental community wonder just how different DENR will be under new leadership. About 150 DENR managers have had their job protections removed, and dozens of regulators in the field have been laid off or left their positions.

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Nebraska Power Plant Awards Contract To GE Nuclear Fuel Unit (Wilmington Business Journal) -- A Wilmington-based GE joint venture has secured an energy-related contract worth more than $100 million, company officials announced Monday.

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Stallion from Shackleford Banks joins Corolla wild horses. (AP) — The Corolla Wild Horse Fund has added a 4-year-old stallion from another herd in hopes of diversifying the herd and ending an increased number of birth defects.

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Park Service holds meetings about pumping sand in Buxton (AP) — The National Park Service is holding two open houses this week to learn what the public thinks of a proposal to pump sand along the eroding beach in Buxton.

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EDITORIALS

Jane Ruffin: Not-so-grand coverage (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- Regarding the coverage of Coach K’s 1,000th win: Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s grand victory was legitimate news, but have your editors lost their minds? On Jan. 26, you devoted 45 percent of your news pages (not counting ads, comics and opinion) and three of four section fronts to Krzyzewski coverage.

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Freedom -- to ignore the law (Charlotte Observer) -- 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?

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Economy tops General Assembly's agenda (Fayetteville Observer) -- When Republicans took over the General Assembly in 2011, lawmakers arriving for opening day were given red rubber bracelets emblazoned with "JOBS-JOBS-JOBS." Four years later, as a new session opens Wednesday, the bracelets may be gone but the agenda is the same. Revival of North Carolina's economy will be a top issue when the legislature goes back to work.

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Time for micro-managing to stop (Rocky Mount Telegram) -- It’s past time for the General Assembly to abandon its agenda of micro-managing local school systems and other issues better left for local governments to manage. We’ve lost too many jobs already.

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Departure will leave UNC system in flux (Wilson Times) -- The School of Government at UNC-Chapel Hill is going to get a top-notch addition to its faculty.

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DG Martin: Will Tom Ross run for the US Senate? (Winston-Salem Journal column) -- Now that the UNC Board of Governors has given President Tom Ross notice, will he fulfill the prediction and run for governor? Probably not. Democrats already have two candidates headed for a Democratic primary next year. But the U.S. Senate? Maybe.

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ABLE Act will help disabled children (Winston-Salem Journal) -- Parents of disabled children often have many worries, including two prominent ones: how to pay for the things their children need now and how to pay for the things the children will need after the parents are gone.

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Triangle’s interbasin water transfer plan still a bad idea (Raleigh News & Observer column) -- The following editorial appeared in the Fayetteville Observer: Triangle officials were the only ones testifying in favor of the interbasin transfer at the Fayetteville hearing on their request.

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