MAJOR FUNDING FOR NC BROADBAND EXPANSION IN THE WORKS: House leaders put their plan on the table Thursday to spend roughly $750 million on expansions, most of it through grants paying companies to expand in unserved areas. Gov. Roy Cooper dropped his own plan on Wednesday, coming in at about $1.2 billion. The House plan focuses almost entirely on infrastructure, while Cooper's plan also includes subsidies to help low-income families pay for monthly internet subscriptions and, for 96,000 households, to buy them a computer. Lawmakers will eventually bridge the gap between the proposals, and the process will also include the state Senate, which may have its own ideas. But both chambers and the Cooper administration have been in agreement on the concept: use public money to expand internet access around the state. And now they have billions in federal stimulus funding to help do it.
GOP BILL WOULD GIVE UNEMPLOYED $1,500 TO GO BACK TO WORK: Getting off unemployment and back to work might soon earn North Carolinians as much as an extra $1,500, under a proposal Republican lawmakers introduced Thursday to pay people to get a job. “It goes against the grain to me that we got to pay people to go to work,” said Republican Sen. Tom McInnis of Ellerbe, between Charlotte and Pinehurst. “But we don’t have a choice.” The idea was introduced by Sen. Chuck Edwards, a Hendersonville Republican who owns several McDonald’s restaurants and is the co-chair of a joint committee on unemployment issues. His proposal would redirect federal unemployment money to instead be used for these signing bonuses, which would be $1,500 for unemployed people who start a new job by June 1, or $800 for people who start a new job between June 2 and July 1. People would get half the money after their first 20 to 30 days on the job, and the second half after 60 days.
BISHOP BARBER WILL SEEK MERRICK GARLAND'S HELP IN ANDREW BROWN CASE: On Friday, civil rights leaders will respond to a District Attorney's decision to clear deputies who shot and killed Andrew Brown Jr. in Elizabeth City in April. They'll also announce their next steps in what they feel is a just resolution in the case. Rev. William Barber III and members of the NAACP will announce plans to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to prioritize the federal civil rights investigation into Brown's death. The group will travel to Washington, D.C. to deliver the message to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. Friday marks one month since Brown, 42, died. On Tuesday, Pasquotank County DA Andrew Womble said the deputies' actions were justified in their use of force, after Brown ignored commands and drove toward a deputy as he tried to escape arrest. Womble said Brown used his car as a weapon when deputies tried to serve him with warrants related to drug charges.
GREATER IDAHO? CONSERVATIVE PARTS OF OREGON WANT TO BE PART OF ANOTHER STATE: Five rural counties in Oregon voted this week to press forward with a plan to leave the state and merge with neighboring Idaho, the latest move in a long-shot campaign by conservatives who say they’re fed up with Oregon’s left-leaning politics. Voters in Baker, Grant, Lake, Malheur and Sherman counties — sparsely populated areas in the state’s eastern half — approved ballot measures Tuesday requiring local officials to consider redrawing the border to make them Idahoans. Behind the push is a nonprofit called Citizens for Greater Idaho that argues the predominantly Republican parts of Oregon would be better served if Idaho incorporated them. The group’s president, Mike McCarter, says the expanded state he envisions would become the country’s third-largest in terms of landmass. But while the proposal to ditch Oregon for Idaho may be popular in the Beaver State’s right-leaning enclaves, the chances of it actually becoming a reality are slim. Lawmakers in Oregon and Idaho would have to enact bills to redefine the states’ boundaries and redistrict their legislatures. They’d also have to muster the votes to override a potential veto from their respective governors. And then Congress would have to sign off on the move. “Given the number of entities whose approval would be required, I just don’t think it will happen,” Norman Williams, a constitutional law professor at Willamette University in Salem, Ore., said in an email.
CEASE-FIRE IN GAZA SEEMS TO BE HOLDING, PRESSURE FROM BIDEN LIKELY THE CAUSE: President Biden spoke to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel six times in recent days — turning increasingly blunt as the crisis stretched on. He warned the Israeli leader that he could not withstand mounting international criticism of the Gaza strikes for long. The president’s advisers said he believed he could quietly push Mr. Netanyahu, whom he has known for 40 years, to bring an end to the violence. And in the hours before the cease-fire announcement, Mr. Biden also held a call with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt to discuss the possibility of brokering a deal. After the agreement was announced, Mr. Biden offered praised what he described as a “mutual, unconditional” cease-fire. Diplomats from Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations worked intensively to broker the deal between Hamas and Israel, which do not talk to each other directly. The final details were hammered out late Thursday, and Mr. Netanyahu’s office security cabinet voted unanimously to accept the Egyptian proposal. Around the same time, Hamas officials confirmed that they, too, had accepted. Each side cautioned that its compliance could depend on the other’s actions. No immediate violations were reported after the cease-fire began officially at 2 a.m. local time Friday. Past deals between Israel and Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, have often fallen apart. But the agreements can offer periods of calm to allow time for negotiating a longer-term deal. They also give civilians a chance to regroup and allow displaced people to return to their homes.