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Friday Forward News Roundup

WWII Veteran Reflects on Legacy

Henry Arrowood, a 101-year-old WWII veteran and the last surviving member of the Gaston County WWII Last Man Club, shares his reflections on his wartime experiences and the enduring impact of those who served. Only 1% of the 16.4 million Americans who served in WWII are still alive, highlighting the importance of remembering their sacrifices. Arrowood's story is a poignant reminder of the legacy and patriotism of the Greatest Generation. (FOX 8)

Shelane Etchison Joins 9th Congressional District Race

Shelane Etchison, the first person in North Carolina to qualify as an Independent for a congressional general election, will compete against six-term incumbent Richard Hudson and Democrat Nigel Bristow in the newly drawn 9th Congressional District. The district encompasses parts of Cumberland, Hoke, Moore, Randolph, Chatham, Guilford, and Alamance counties. Etchison, a former US Army member, discussed her motivations, congressional division, the Trump verdict, and abortion rights with CBS 17's Russ Bowen. (CBS 17)

New Political Parties Aim for North Carolina Ballot Access

North Carolina voters may see new options on the fall ballot as three aspiring political parties—We The People Party, Justice For All Party of NC, and the Constitution Party of North Carolina—have submitted over 13,865 required signatures to gain ballot access. While the State Board of Elections reviews the petitions, these parties could influence the presidential election, with the Constitution Party drawing conservative voters, the Justice for All Party supporting Cornel West, and the We the People Party backing Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Recent polling suggests these third-party entries might have a balanced impact on both major parties. (Carolina Journal)

Organization Linked to Democrats Targets Third-Party Petitions in North Carolina

North Carolina voters who signed petitions to support third-party presidential candidates Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Cornel West received text messages from Clear Choice Action, questioning their decision and asking them to complete a survey. These texts have raised concerns among the parties' supporters about efforts to disqualify them from the ballot. Clear Choice Action, linked to Democratic interests, claims to ensure accountability in the petition process. Similar tactics were used against the Green Party in 2022, which led to legal battles and eventual ballot recognition. The State Board of Elections is reviewing the petitions for the new parties. (News & Observer)

North Carolina Advances Constitutional Amendment to Limit Voting to U.S. Citizens

North Carolina Republican legislators are pushing a constitutional amendment to ensure only U.S. citizens can vote in state elections, altering existing language that already restricts voting to U.S.-born or naturalized citizens aged 18 and older. The proposal, which follows similar moves in at least six other states, needs approval from the House and Senate before going to voters in November. Critics argue the measure is unnecessary, pointing to existing laws and a lack of significant evidence of noncitizen voting. (ABC 11)

NC Democrats Propose Constitutional Amendment for Public Records Access

North Carolina Democrats introduced House Bill 1075 and Senate Bill 911 to amend the state constitution, ensuring the public's right to access government records and meetings. This move aims to overturn a Republican-backed rule allowing lawmakers to control and potentially destroy their records. The bill seeks to prevent restrictions on public access unless justified by a compelling public interest. Despite bipartisan public support, Republican leaders have so far declined to back the proposal. If passed by a three-fifths majority in the legislature, the amendment will be on the ballot in November 2024. (Carolina Journal)

NC House Committee Moves to Repeal Automatic Expunction Law

A North Carolina House committee approved legislation to repeal a 2020 law enabling automatic expunction of dismissed criminal charges and not guilty verdicts, a process that had eliminated over 500,000 records in eight months before being suspended in August 2022 due to operational challenges. The proposed repeal, supported by GOP Rep. Sarah Stevens, cites unresolved technical and legal issues, suggesting a return to petition-based expunctions. Critics, including civil liberties advocates, argue that repealing the law breaks a promise to remove barriers for reintegration into society. The bill now heads to another committee before a full House vote. (WWAY 3)

NC Republicans Revise Mask Legislation, Allowing Health-Related Mask Use

North Carolina Republicans have reached a compromise on House Bill 237, permitting people to wear medical-grade masks to prevent disease while enhancing penalties for mask-wearing during crimes and protests. This revision follows a Senate-passed version that eliminated health exemptions, sparking backlash from disability and free speech advocates. The new proposal aims to balance public health needs with law enforcement concerns, although civil rights groups argue it could lead to discriminatory policing. The Senate approved the bill 28-0, with Democrats absent in protest, and the House is set to vote on Tuesday. (WRAL)

Sen. Thom Tillis Proposes Medicare GME Reforms to Address Physician Shortages

Senator Thom Tillis and bipartisan Senate Finance Committee members proposed reforms to the Medicare Graduate Medical Education (GME) Program to address national physician shortages, particularly in primary care and psychiatry, and in underserved rural areas. The proposal seeks to increase Medicare-supported residency positions and improve data collection for sustained workforce planning. With a projected shortage of 139,940 physicians by 2036, including 68,020 primary care doctors and 42,130 psychiatrists, these changes aim to bolster the healthcare workforce. In North Carolina, the current shortage is acute, with only 7.42 primary care physicians and 1.41 psychiatrists per 10,000 residents. (Carolina Journal)

Federal Judge Blocks Key Parts of North Carolina Medication Abortion Law

U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles blocked parts of North Carolina's medication abortion law, allowing certified healthcare providers and pharmacists to prescribe abortion pills, patients to take mifepristone at home, and eliminating the requirement for three in-person doctor visits. This decision, celebrated by reproductive rights advocates, follows a lawsuit by Dr. Amy Bryant. Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein supported the ruling, while GOP leaders Phil Berger and Tim Moore defended the law. Eagles maintained some state requirements, like in-person exams and ultrasounds, arguing they support care standards. The ruling coincides with a broader national debate on medication abortion regulations. (NC Newsline)

NC Insurance Commissioner Highlights Spike in Fraud Targeting Seniors

North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey reported a rise in insurance fraud since the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasizing online scams targeting seniors at a recent Council of State meeting. Scammers are convincing seniors to withdraw money from annuities or savings accounts under false pretenses. Causey also highlighted door-to-door scams in the Piedmont area and fraudulent online medical prescriptions. The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud estimates that Americans pay over $300 billion annually due to fraud. To combat this, the state has a fraud hotline: 888-680-7684. (Carolina Journal)

NC Lawmakers Support Bill Allowing High School Students to Appeal Short-Term Suspensions

North Carolina lawmakers proposed a bill to allow high school students to appeal short-term suspensions, prompted by a case where a 16-year-old was suspended for using the term "illegal alien." Currently, only long-term suspensions (10 days or more) can be appealed. The new bill would enable appeals for suspensions of five days or longer and mandate schools to accept eyewitness reports. It also includes provisions for expunging short-term suspensions from students' records under specific conditions. Bipartisan support emerged during the committee discussion, with further consideration expected next week. (Carolina Journal)

NC School Districts Defy State Law on Start Dates Amid Legal Battles

Twenty-nine of North Carolina's 115 school boards have decided to defy state law mandating school start dates at the end of August, aiming to start earlier in August for the 2024-25 academic year. This rebellion, which began two years ago, saw a judge recently rule against Carteret County's plan to start on August 13 after residents sued. Despite the legal setbacks, other districts continue to ignore the law without facing penalties. Enforcement relies on private lawsuits, with no state penalties currently applied. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger has not indicated support for changing the existing calendar law, despite multiple legislative attempts for greater flexibility. (WFAE)

CMS Plans Affordable Housing for Teachers with "Teacher Village" Complexes

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) is developing a plan to build four "Teacher Village" affordable housing complexes, costing between $120 million and $160 million, to help teachers afford to live in the area. The project, requiring partnerships with private investors, developers, and local government, aims to address the high housing costs in Charlotte. The first village, set to open in 2027, will feature 100 units with affordable rents for teachers earning 60% to 100% of the area's median income. CMS is also seeking additional housing subsidies and support for teachers in securing affordable homes. The first site is expected to be approved by the school board this month. (WFAE)

NC Judge Voids Carteret County School District's Early Start Calendar

A North Carolina superior court judge ruled that Carteret County's proposed academic calendar for the next school year is void, as it defies state law mandating public schools to start no earlier than August 25. The school board had voted to begin on August 13, prompting a lawsuit from local business owners and parents. Judge William Wolfe nullified the early start calendar, emphasizing adherence to the law. The decision underscores the ongoing conflict between school boards, advocating for educational benefits, and the tourism industry, which favors later school starts to boost summer business. The Carteret County school board plans to meet to discuss a potential appeal and adopt a compliant calendar. (WUNC)

NC DMV and Contractor Idemia Blame Each Other for License Backlog

At a North Carolina hearing, DMV Commissioner Wayne Goodwin and Idemia VP Lisa Shoemaker debated the cause of a backlog delaying permanent driver’s licenses for hundreds of thousands of residents. Goodwin blamed Idemia for poor communication and production delays, while Shoemaker argued DMV ignored efficient solutions. This issue coincides with North Carolina’s voter ID law, amplifying the need for valid licenses. Additional problems included poor photo quality and incorrect state labels on licenses. DMV plans to switch to Canadian Bank Note Secure Technologies starting July 1, amid controversy over the contracting process. (NC Newsline)

Buncombe County Teachers Rally for Increased Education Funding Amid Looming Budget Cuts

Buncombe County education workers rallied in Asheville, calling for increased county funds as federal post-COVID education funding declines. The upcoming County Commission vote on the 2024 fiscal budget will significantly impact education funding. Teachers, like 4th grade teacher Codi Edenfield-Estes and special education teacher Vanessa Gregor, voiced concerns over insufficient pay and resources, with some struggling to meet personal and classroom needs. The rally emphasized the critical need for local funding to bridge the gap and support the functioning of schools in the face of budget cuts. (ABC 13)

NCInnovation Awards $5.2 Million to University Research Projects in Initial Grant Round

NCInnovation (NCI) has awarded $5.2 million to eight research projects across seven North Carolina public universities in its first round of pilot program grants. Funded by a $500 million state endowment, NCI aims to commercialize university research to drive job creation and economic growth. The selected projects range from lithium refining to mosquito disease tracking. NCI employs a rigorous review process to ensure projects have significant commercial potential. Grant recipients must keep their headquarters in North Carolina for at least five years. The initiative has drawn interest from other states and criticism from conservative think tanks, which NCI rebuffs, emphasizing long-term state benefits. (North State Journal)

PFAS Contamination Affects 2.5 Million North Carolinians; Governor Urges Action

A recent report revealed that over 2.5 million North Carolinians have drinking water contaminated with harmful PFAS chemicals, known for serious health risks and environmental persistence. Governor Roy Cooper emphasized the need for polluters to finance cleanup efforts. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set new PFAS limits, which many state water systems exceed. Key affected areas include Durham, Greensboro, and Robeson County. Despite EPA guidelines, local regulatory action faces delays, partly due to opposition from business groups. Cooper advocates for immediate upgrades to water systems and stricter pollution controls to ensure clean water. (WRAL)

High Point Police to Enhance Crime Scene Analysis with New Ballistics Kit

High Point's Interim Chief of Police Curtis Cheeks III and Council Member Britt Moore announced the purchase of a new ballistic evidence kit, including an FS C microscope by Leica, to improve crime scene investigations. This investment, costing approximately $100,000 with taxes, aims to expedite the analysis of ballistic evidence, such as shell casings, which previously required transportation to other labs. The new equipment allows side-by-side comparison of crime scene evidence, helping to quickly link firearms to multiple incidents. Both officials emphasized the importance of this purchase in enhancing public safety and efficient use of taxpayer dollars. (ABC 45)

East Coast Cities See Influx as West Coast Residents Relocate

A recent report from PODS, a moving and storage company, reveals a significant migration trend with Americans favoring the East Coast over the West Coast. Myrtle Beach, SC, and Wilmington, NC, are tied as the top destinations, while Los Angeles and San Francisco lead in outbound moves. The South Appalachian region, including North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, is particularly attractive due to its low cost of living, quality of life, and vibrant metro areas. Conversely, high costs, housing struggles, and overcrowding are driving people away from major California cities and other high-cost areas. (WBTV 3)

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