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Friday Forward News Roundup

North Carolina Elections Board Dismisses Voter Fraud Claims

In North Carolina, the State Board of Elections, comprising both Democratic and Republican members, unanimously rejected claims by Carol Snow of the NC Audit Force, who alleged violations of the Help America Vote Act through unupdated voter lists and duplicate voters. The board's investigation, led by their chief lawyer, found no evidence of these claims, attributing the allegations to misinterpretations or Snow's lack of access to confidential voter data. Despite dismissing the claims, the board recognized the need for improvement in managing voter lists and suggested exploring data cleanup initiatives. (WRAL)

Temporary Pause in Lawsuit Against North Carolina Election Law Changes

The Democratic National Committee and North Carolina Democratic Party have agreed to temporarily halt their lawsuit against changes in North Carolina's election laws, following a court order by US District Judge Thomas Schroeder. The pause comes as the State Board of Elections has implemented temporary measures to address issues with same-day voter registration and rules on partisan poll observers, and there is potential for new legislation that could impact the lawsuit's claims. Judge Schroeder has called for a progress report by the end of the year, and the parties involved have expressed readiness to resume litigation if necessary changes arise or enforcement issues occur. (Carolina Journal)

North Carolina Supreme Court Hears Defamation Case Stemming from 2016 Election Fraud Claims

The North Carolina Supreme Court is deliberating on Bouvier v. Porter, a defamation lawsuit involving voters accused of fraud during the 2016 election by supporters of former Governor Pat McCrory. The case, heard by an all-Republican panel after two Democratic justices recused themselves, challenges whether defendants had immunities typically granted in judicial proceedings for making these allegations. Previously, lower courts found mixed results on whether these privileges applied, leading to the current appeal. The decision, pending before the 2024 elections, could set significant precedents on the extent of legal protections for political operatives in election-related disputes. (ABC 11)

North Carolina GOP to Appeal Court Decision on Election Board Appointments

North Carolina Republican leaders, Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, have announced their intention to appeal a recent court ruling that found GOP-led changes to the State Board of Elections' appointment process unconstitutional. The changes, which shifted appointment powers from the Democratic Governor Roy Cooper to the legislature, were struck down by a unanimous decision from three Superior Court judges. The ruling maintained the governor's significant role in appointing members to the State Board of Elections and county election boards, aligning with previous state Supreme Court decisions favoring executive control over such appointments. The case may escalate to the state Supreme Court, where a Republican majority could influence the outcome. (WWAY 3)

North Carolina Seeks to Expand Private School Vouchers Amid High Demand

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore has proposed an additional $300 million in funding for the state's "Opportunity Scholarship" program due to unexpectedly high demand. The program, recently expanded to include families of all income levels, received applications from over 72,000 individuals but currently only has the capacity to grant about 13,500 vouchers, primarily to lower-income families. The suggested increase aims to ensure broader access to vouchers, especially as the program is set to receive escalating funding annually until 2032. Critics, including Governor Roy Cooper, argue that the expansion could divert essential funds from public schools. (WUNC)

North Carolina Supreme Court to Address Judicial Deference in Agency Interpretations

Justice Richard Dietz of the North Carolina Supreme Court has sparked a significant legal debate about the judiciary's role in deferring to government agency interpretations of their own rules. This issue came to the forefront in a case involving Alvin Mitchell, a fired Winston-Salem State University professor, who contends that the university improperly interpreted its procedures leading to his dismissal. Mitchell's legal team is challenging the substantial deference that courts often grant to agencies, arguing that it contradicts the duty of the courts to independently interpret laws and could lead to agencies creating vague regulations that they can manipulate. The case, now accepted by the state Supreme Court, may redefine the extent of judicial deference toward agency decisions under North Carolina law. (Carolina Journal)

UNC System Proposes Civics Education Requirement Amid Legislative Pressures

The UNC System Board of Governors is poised to approve a new policy requiring students at North Carolina's public universities to engage with foundational American democracy documents during their undergraduate education. This initiative, led by UNC System President Peter Hans, aims to bolster civics knowledge amid concerns about eroding trust in democratic institutions. The policy development, influenced by the stalled REACH Act in the General Assembly, involved a small group of faculty and emphasizes flexibility in course content across the system's universities. While there is consensus on the educational value, there are concerns about the development process and the precedent it sets for legislative interference in academic curriculum planning. The policy will likely be approved in the upcoming board meeting in Winston-Salem. (News & Observer)

UNC-Chapel Hill Trustees Consider Eliminating DEI Funding Amid Political Debate

Two trustees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have indicated that they will push to remove all Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) funding from the university's budget. Trustee Dave Boliek, chair of the Budget, Finance, and Infrastructure committee, and trustee Marty Kotis, vice-chair, have voiced concerns that DEI programs increase divisiveness and are counterproductive. The trustees' proposal precedes expected legislative actions similar to those in other states like Florida, aiming to restrict DEI activities in public universities. The UNC Board of Governors will likely review this proposal in their upcoming meetings, as the trustees seek to preemptively address legislative pressures. (Indy Week)

Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies Plans $1 Billion Expansion in North Carolina

Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies is set to announce a significant expansion with over 600 new jobs in North Carolina, marking a continued growth in the state's biotech sector. This $1 billion expansion aligns with a visit from Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, highlighting the strong economic ties between North Carolina and Japan. The announcement is expected at a special meeting coinciding with economic incentive discussions and will further augment Fujifilm's extensive biopharmaceutical manufacturing operations in Holly Springs. The expansion is part of broader Japanese investments in North Carolina, emphasizing the state's appeal due to its skilled biotech workforce and strategic economic partnerships. (WRAL)

North Carolina Ranked Fourth for Economic Outlook in ALEC Report

North Carolina has been ranked fourth for economic outlook in the latest "Rich States, Poor States" report by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), due to its favorable tax and economic policies. The state's position reflects a strong performance in areas such as low personal and business tax burdens and its Right-to-Work status, which supports worker freedom and business flexibility. Although North Carolina has slightly slipped from second place in previous years, ongoing tax reforms are expected to continue enhancing its economic environment. Additionally, the state is a popular destination for domestic migration, contributing to its positive economic performance ranking of eleventh nationally. (Carolina Journal)

North Carolina Clears Backlog of Untested Rape Kits

North Carolina has successfully eliminated its backlog of untested rape kits, a significant milestone announced by Attorney General Josh Stein. This achievement follows a six-year bipartisan effort and substantial legislative action, including the 2019 Survivor Act, which mandated the testing of sexual assault kits and provided funding for additional forensic scientists at the State Crime Lab. The initiative has aided in solving cold cases, some decades old, and has increased annual kit submissions significantly. Moving forward, the state will implement a barcode system for each kit to enhance tracking and ensure that such a backlog does not recur. (NC Newsline)

Raleigh Police Officers Rally for Higher Salaries Amid Recruitment and Retention Challenges

Police officers and their supporters rallied outside Raleigh City Hall to demand a 15% salary increase, addressing recruitment and retention issues within the Raleigh Police Department. Spokesperson Rick Armstrong highlighted the department's 100 vacancies and the competition from nearby departments offering higher wages. The Raleigh Police Protective Association (RPPA) organized the rally to coincide with a city council meeting, advocating for pay parity with surrounding areas to prevent officer attrition. Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin expressed support for a significant pay raise for public safety employees, with the city planning to conduct a compensation study to be ready for the 2025-26 budget. (News & Observer)

North Carolina Prison Population Exceeds Projections, Straining Resources

North Carolina's prison population has reached levels not anticipated until 2027, putting significant pressure on resources and correctional staff, according to Todd Ishee, Secretary of the Department of Adult Correction. Currently housing 31,642 inmates, the system faces challenges such as an aging workforce, leadership turnover, and the need for advanced security measures against contraband delivery via drones. The department has implemented salary increases and invested in recruitment, while also expanding treatment programs for opioid addiction to comply with new DOJ guidelines under the ADA. Efforts to secure federal funding for these initiatives are ongoing, highlighting the state's proactive approach to managing its burgeoning prison system. (Carolina Journal)

Biden Administration Finalizes Rule to Close Gun Show Loophole

The Biden administration has announced a new federal rule requiring all gun sellers, including those at gun shows, online, or via mail, to obtain a federal license and conduct background checks, effectively closing the "gun show loophole." This regulation, which builds on the bipartisan gun safety legislation passed in 2022, aims to ensure that all gun sellers adhere to the same standards as traditional gun stores. The rule is expected to bring an additional 20,000 sellers under federal oversight, with the potential to significantly impact thousands of gun sales. Despite anticipated legal challenges, the administration is confident that the rule aligns with the Second Amendment and will enhance public safety by regulating the source of illegal guns. (NC Newsline)

Former NC Governor Pat McCrory Discusses Disappointment with No Labels

Former Charlotte Mayor and North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory expressed disappointment in a recent interview over the failure of the No Labels group to launch a third-party presidential bid. McCrory, a former national co-chair for No Labels, described the group's inability to secure a viable candidate for a unity ticket as "extremely discouraging," especially after gaining ballot access in multiple states. The group faced significant opposition, particularly from Democrats who feared it could inadvertently aid Donald Trump by splitting the vote. No Labels has since canceled its planned convention and McCrory has stepped down to focus on hosting a new political TV show on PBS Charlotte. (WFAE)

Recycling Solar Eclipse Glasses for Global Use

After a solar eclipse, most eclipse glasses may not be reusable in the U.S. for decades due to the infrequency of eclipses and a recommended usage limit of three years for the glasses. However, the nonprofit organization Astronomers Without Borders is collecting these glasses to redistribute them to people around the world for future eclipses, providing a sustainable way to extend their usefulness. (WUNC)

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