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Friday Forward News Roundup

NC House Oversight Committee Questions Election Board's Decision on Ballot Exclusions

The North Carolina House Oversight and Reform Committee is demanding explanations from the NC State Board of Elections (NCSBE) regarding the exclusion of certain political party presidential candidates from the November 2024 ballot. The committee's co-chairs, Jake Johnson and Harry Warren, have requested information about the grounds for denying the petitions, with a follow-up planned after the NCSBE's July 9 meeting. This state-level inquiry coincides with a congressional probe led by U.S. Representatives Jim Jordan and Bryan Steil, who suspect political motivations behind the NCSBE's decision, which affects candidates like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Cornell West. (North State Journal)

Former NC Justice to Appeal Dismissal of Partisan Gerrymandering Lawsuit

Former state Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr plans to appeal a three-judge panel's dismissal of a lawsuit claiming partisan gerrymandering leads to unconstitutional elections, pending discussions with plaintiffs. The lawsuit, brought by 11 voters, was dismissed on grounds that partisan gerrymandering is a political issue not for courts to decide, echoing a 2023 NC Supreme Court decision. The dismissed case, which contested the fairness of district maps favoring Republicans, was the only redistricting lawsuit in state court. Federal lawsuits on racial gerrymandering are set for next year. (NC Newsline)

Gov. Cooper Signs Law Establishing Permanent Cancer Funding for Firefighters

On July 3, Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill creating permanent funding for cancer, the leading cause of death among firefighters. The law provides an initial benefit of $37,000 and a lump sum of $74,000 for firefighters with two instances of cancer. It also extends benefits to retirees within ten years, previously excluded from temporary legislation. Scott Mullins, president of the Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics Association of North Carolina, hailed the legislation as among the best presumptive cancer laws in the nation. (ABC 45)

Gov. Cooper Signs Law Defining Antisemitism in North Carolina

On July 3, Gov. Roy Cooper signed legislation defining antisemitism in North Carolina law, aiding law enforcement in hate crime charges related to race, religion, or nationality. The law, known as the "SHALOM Act," adopts the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition, which describes antisemitism as "a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews." Despite bipartisan support following nationwide campus protests over the Israel-Hamas conflict, civil liberties groups opposed the law, fearing it could suppress free speech critical of Israel. The measure is part of a broader effort to address rising antisemitism in the state. (WWAY 3)

NC Gov. Cooper Unveils Plan to Erase $4 Billion in Medical Debt

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced a plan on Monday to eliminate up to $4 billion in medical debt for low- and middle-income residents by incentivizing hospitals to forgive unpaid bills. The proposal, pending approval from federal Medicaid regulators, requires hospitals to clear debt from early 2014 for current Medicaid enrollees and non-enrollees with significant financial burdens. Participating hospitals will receive enhanced Medicaid reimbursement funds, which could total up to $6.5 billion next year. The initiative aims to assist 2 million residents and will include measures like automatic charity care enrollment and capping interest rates on medical debt. (ABC 45)

NC Launches Tailored Medicaid Managed Care for Behavioral Health and Disabilities

North Carolina has extended Medicaid managed care to over 210,000 enrollees requiring behavioral health or intellectual and developmental disability services, launching "tailored plans" on July 1. This initiative, part of a broader effort to enhance the state's behavioral health system, aligns enrollees with one of four geographically-based companies to manage their care. The tailored plans, initially delayed since December 2022, now integrate primary care with specialized services. As of now, nearly 3 million North Carolinians are enrolled in some form of Medicaid, with 587,000 still outside managed care, including those eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare. (WUNC)

NC Senator Jim Perry Resigns After Legislative Session Ends

Republican Sen. Jim Perry of Lenoir County resigned from the North Carolina Senate on Tuesday, following the conclusion of the General Assembly's primary work session. Perry, who was not seeking reelection this fall, served as co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and majority whip. Appointed in 2019, he represented Beaufort, Craven, and Lenoir counties. Republican activists will select a replacement to serve the remainder of his term, with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper required to appoint their choice. Republican Bob Brinson and Democrat Charles Dudley are running for Perry's seat in the upcoming election, in what will be the newly named 3rd District. (WRAL)

NC Gubernatorial Candidates Discuss Economy and Education at Power Breakfast

North Carolina gubernatorial candidates, Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson (Republican) and Attorney General Josh Stein (Democrat), addressed over 500 attendees at the Greater Wilmington Business Journal’s Power Breakfast. Stein emphasized the importance of broad economic opportunities and infrastructure investments, while Robinson highlighted the pillars of a strong economy, including public safety, education, healthcare, infrastructure, and housing. On education, both candidates agreed on its significance. Stein advocated for comprehensive education from early childhood to university, with a focus on career and technical education. Robinson criticized the state's education spending efficiency and called for better support and respect for teachers. (Carolina Journal)

Under-Enrolled Wake County Middle Schools Consider Calendar Switch for 2025

Two Wake County year-round middle schools, Pine Hollow Middle and Rolesville Middle, may switch to a traditional or track 4 only year-round calendar by 2025 due to under-enrollment. The Wake County school system faces financial strain from maintaining multi-track year-round calendars at these under-capacity schools. Pine Hollow Middle and Rolesville Middle are operating significantly below their intended capacities, with Rolesville projected to have only 883 students on a campus built for 1,664. Parents are being surveyed on their preferences, with a decision potentially coming this summer to prepare families for the 2025-26 school year. (News & Observer)

Wake County to Reduce High School Graduation Requirements Following State Mandate

Wake County will lower its high school graduation requirements from 26 to 22 credits, aligning with state mandates that prevent districts from exceeding the State Board of Education's requirements. The change, influenced by a new state law promoting a three-year graduation option, will take effect in the 2024-25 school year. The first affected students are this fall’s rising juniors. While Wake will still recommend completing 26 credits over four years, students now have the option to graduate with 22 credits. This adjustment responds to the legislative move that removed waivers allowing higher local graduation requirements and aims to reduce student stress and workload. (News & Observer)

NC Child Care Centers Face Funding Crisis as Pandemic Aid Ends

Child care centers in North Carolina are grappling with financial uncertainty as they await nearly $68 million in emergency funding to replace expired COVID-era aid. Advocates, like Quality Care Child Care owner Kim Jant, emphasize the critical role of child care in supporting families, businesses, and the economy. With the end of federal funding, facilities are cutting budgets and struggling to maintain operations. Early childhood education advocates call for long-term investment to keep child care affordable and ensure qualified staff. A $67.5 million stopgap funding bill is pending, which advocates hope will bridge the gap until more sustainable solutions are found. (WCNC)

17 New Citizens Take Oath at Charlotte Museum of History’s Independence Day Ceremony

During today's Independence Day celebrations, the Charlotte Museum of History hosted its annual naturalization ceremony, where 17 individuals from countries like Kenya, Peru, and Finland became U.S. citizens. The event featured a children's choir singing the national anthem in a room adorned with American flags. Among the new citizens, Davis Guzman from Belize emphasized the importance of employment opportunities and participating in the political process. Alexandre Pinheiro Mourao from Brazil, accompanied by his family, expressed his excitement about voting and contributing to the nation's future. This ceremony is part of a series by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, welcoming about 11,000 new citizens in 195 ceremonies between June 28 and July 5. (WFAE)

Buttigieg Joins Groundbreaking for Raleigh-to-Wake Forest Passenger Rail Project

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg attended a groundbreaking ceremony in North Raleigh for a new bridge on Durant Road, part of a $1.3 billion project to establish passenger rail service between downtown Raleigh and Wake Forest by 2030. The initiative is the first phase of a high-speed rail connection linking Raleigh, Richmond, Virginia, and the Northeast, funded by the 2021 infrastructure law. The project will eliminate four rail crossings in Raleigh and Wake Forest and build new stations. Gov. Roy Cooper emphasized the growing demand for rail travel, while Buttigieg highlighted the administration's commitment to improving transportation infrastructure. The project promises job security for local businesses and improved safety and traffic flow. (News & Observer)

NC's First Recreational Marijuana Sales Begin for Tribal Members on Fourth of July

North Carolina saw its first recreational marijuana sales on the Fourth of July, exclusively for Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) tribal members and other federally recognized tribe members. The Great Smoky Cannabis Company, located on the Qualla Boundary where marijuana use is legal, initiated these sales despite marijuana remaining illegal statewide. The dispensary, which opened in April for medical marijuana, expanded to recreational sales following the EBCI Tribal Council's approval in June. Forrest Parker, Executive Director of Qualla Enterprises LLC, emphasized their commitment to producing high-quality, regulated cannabis. (ABC 13)

Biden Nominates NC Solicitor General Ryan Park to 4th Circuit Court of Appeals

President Joe Biden has nominated North Carolina Solicitor General Ryan Y. Park to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. Despite opposition from North Carolina Republican Senators Thom Tillis and Ted Budd, the Democratic-controlled Senate may confirm Park without their support. Park, who has served as Solicitor General since 2020 and has clerked for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is highly regarded across political and law enforcement circles. If confirmed, he would be the first Asian American, Native American, or Pacific Islander on the 4th Circuit. His nomination follows the retirement announcement of Judge James Wynn Jr. (Charlotte Observer)

Gov. Cooper to Join Virtual Meeting with Biden Amid Debate Fallout

Gov. Roy Cooper will attend a virtual meeting with President Joe Biden and other Democratic governors on Wednesday, following Biden's recent debate performance. Despite not traveling to Washington, Cooper remains a crucial figure in North Carolina, a battleground state for the Biden campaign. The meeting occurs as the White House dismisses rumors about Biden reconsidering his candidacy. Recent polls show a slight shift in battleground states favoring Trump, prompting discussions about the long-term effects. The Biden campaign is focusing on recent Supreme Court decisions and Biden's commitment to the rule of law in new ads airing in key states. (FOX 8)

Saluda Issues Stage 1 Water Shortage Advisory Amid Western Carolina Drought

On July 3, the City of Saluda issued a Stage 1 water shortage advisory, urging residents to voluntarily reduce water use and improve efficiency due to potential water supply shortages amid moderate drought conditions in Henderson, Buncombe, and Macon counties, as reported by the U.S. Drought Monitor. The advisory, which carries no penalties, includes measures such as minimizing lawn and garden watering, avoiding washing down outdoor areas, reducing car washing, using household water for shrubbery, turning off faucets while shaving, brushing teeth, or rinsing dishes, limiting toilet flushing, operating clothes washers and dishwashers only when fully loaded, taking shorter showers, using disposable and biodegradable dishes, installing flow-restrictive and water-saving devices, and limiting the use of water-cooled air conditioners. (ABC 13)

North Carolina Crops Suffer as Drought Conditions Intensify

North Carolina's major crops, including corn, tobacco, soybeans, and cotton, are experiencing significant damage due to a severe drought affecting 99 out of 100 counties. As of late June, 34% of the corn crop was rated 'poor' or 'very poor,' a substantial increase from earlier in the month. The drought, exacerbated by high temperatures and low precipitation, threatens to reduce farm income by several percent, with potential losses in sales reaching several hundred million dollars. (Carolina Journal)

Heat-Related Illnesses: Symptoms and Treatments

Heat advisories are often issued during prolonged high temperatures and humidity, as these conditions increase the risk of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke, the more severe condition, is characterized by hot, dry skin, confusion, loss of consciousness, a fast, strong pulse, and a body temperature of 103 degrees or higher. Immediate treatment involves calling 911, moving the person to a cooler place, removing outer clothing, and rapidly cooling the body. Heat exhaustion, on the other hand, results from excessive water and salt loss through sweating and presents with symptoms like heavy sweating, nausea, dizziness, headache, a fast, weak pulse, thirst, irritability, and weakness. Treatment includes moving to a cooler place, loosening clothing, drinking water, applying cold, wet cloths, and taking a cool bath or shower. (CBS 17)

Durham's Plan to Tap Jordan Lake for Water Supply

At the Jordan Lake Dam in Chatham County, an osprey skillfully catches a fish while a heron looks on enviously. This scene is emblematic of the growing competition for resources as the City of Durham plans to draw water from Jordan Lake by 2029 to meet increasing demand. Durham, alongside Chatham County, Orange County, and the Town of Pittsboro, aims to build a water intake and treatment plant to supplement its current reservoirs. While local planners, like Sydney Miller from Durham, assure that this plan will not impact the lake’s recreational and existing water uses, environmentalists express concerns about future droughts and overuse. Despite these challenges, Durham has historically maintained stable water usage through conservation efforts and technological advancements, and continues to advocate for sustainable growth and resource management. (Indy Week)

Shibumi Shades are Transforming North Carolina's Beach Experience

Sandra Parker and her sisters, seeking respite from the intense sun at Wrightsville Beach, discovered the Shibumi Shade—a lightweight and easy-to-use beach canopy. Initially trying it out in 2020 after a beach incident involving her husband, Parker now swears by the convenience of Shibumi, contrasting it with cumbersome traditional beach tents. The Shibumi Shade, a product designed by UNC-Chapel Hill graduates to simplify beach setups, has quickly become a staple along the North Carolina coastline, with over 300,000 units sold. Despite some resistance from regions like Myrtle Beach due to visibility and safety concerns, Shibumi continues to expand its market, backed by substantial investments and a dedicated customer base. The brand's success is attributed to its innovative design and strong intellectual property protection, although it faces challenges from imitators. Shibumi's growth strategy includes introducing new product variants and exploring international markets, solidifying its presence on American beaches first. (The Assembly)

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