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Friday Forward News Roundup

North Carolina's Early Voting Opens Ahead of Super Tuesday

North Carolina's early voting period for the March 2024 primary election has begun, lasting until March 2nd. Voters can participate in selecting candidates for various key races, including the U.S. House of Representatives, Governor, and more, with early voting offering flexibility in casting ballots. Unaffiliated voters have the option to choose which party's primary ballot to vote in, adding to the significance of this early voting period. The largest voting block in North Carolina is Unaffiliated voters. As of Feb. 10, there were 2,415,335 registered Democrats, 2,241,040 registered Republicans and 2,748,390 registered Unaffiliated. (ABC 11)

NC Senators Split Over $95B Foreign Aid Bill

North Carolina's two Republican senators, Thom Tillis and Ted Budd, took opposing stances on a $95 billion military aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan, with Tillis supporting it for the sake of international stability, while Budd opposed it, prioritizing securing the U.S. border. Tillis faced criticism from some North Carolina Republicans for his support but emphasized the importance of aiding allies like Ukraine. The bill's passage in the Senate faced uncertainty about its fate in the House, with Speaker Mike Johnson expressing reluctance. (News & Observer)

Trump Endorses Whatley for RNC Chair, Amid Leadership Transition Speculation

Former President Donald Trump officially endorsed NCGOP Chairman Michael Whatley to lead the Republican National Committee, while also recommending Lara Trump as co-chair and Chris LaCivita as chief operating officer. Whatley's potential transition to RNC leadership was not discussed at a recent meeting of the North Carolina Republican Party Central Committee, but members expressed confidence in Whatley's leadership and infrastructure. (Carolina Journal)

Attorney General Appeals Duke Energy Rate Hikes, Citing Affordability Concerns

Attorney General Josh Stein has filed an appeal against Duke Energy Carolinas' approved rate hikes, arguing they are too burdensome for North Carolina families. Duke Energy defends the hikes, citing the need for power grid upgrades, but critics like CleanAIRE NC express concerns about affordability and the company's use of fossil fuels. The appeal now awaits a decision from the North Carolina Supreme Court. (WCNC)

North Carolina Casino Expansion Plans Tempered, Focus Shifts to Video Gambling Machines

Despite previous consideration of authorizing additional casinos in North Carolina, top General Assembly leaders indicate a subdued interest in pursuing such legislation during the upcoming session. Instead, there's potential for renewed efforts to regulate video gambling machines, favored by some lawmakers, as a means of generating revenue. However, opposition from various groups concerned about gambling addiction persists, while the state continues to explore other gambling avenues such as online games and legalized sports betting. (WUNC)

Appeals Court Debates NC Senate Districts Amid Voting Rights Concerns

An appeals court is considering a request to halt the use of two new North Carolina state Senate districts, with arguments focusing on claims that the districts weaken the voting power of black voters. While the court appeared hesitant to reverse a previous ruling denying an injunction, concerns remain about potential electoral disruption and the need to ensure voting rights are protected. The outcome could have significant implications for the balance of power in the North Carolina Senate. (WRAL)

Guilford County Board of Commissioners GOP Candidates Focus on Tax Cuts

Maritza Gomez and Demetria Carter, vying for the Republican nomination for the District 6 seat on the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, prioritize tax cuts if elected. Early voting for the March 5 primary is underway, with both candidates aiming to address what they perceive as unsustainable taxes in the county while emphasizing their respective backgrounds and experiences. (News & Record)

FIRE Report Shows Increase in Restrictive Speech Codes at U.S. Colleges

The 2024 Spotlight on Speech Codes report by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) reveals a concerning trend of colleges and universities adopting harsher speech codes for the second consecutive year. With 85% of leading institutions possessing policies that could limit student expression, the report highlights the growing threat to free speech on campuses, although some schools in North Carolina have maintained favorable ratings. (North State Journal)

Faculty "No Confidence" Votes Reflect Growing Tensions in UNC System

N.C. State University's College of Education faculty's historic vote of "no confidence" in the university's chancellor and provost signifies broader tensions within the UNC System, as faculty feel marginalized in high-level decision-making processes. This symbolic vote highlights concerns about academic freedom, shared governance, and the direction of the system, reflecting a trend of increasing faculty discontent across various campuses. Despite the largely symbolic nature of such votes, they underscore the growing divide between faculty and administration, particularly in chancellor searches and decision-making processes heavily influenced by political appointees. (NC Newsline)

myFutureNC's Collaborative Efforts to Bridge Post-Secondary Attainment Gap

myFutureNC, a Raleigh-based initiative, continues its five-year mission to address the post-secondary attainment gap by bringing together local stakeholders, schools, and businesses. The "Two Million by 2030" program aims to increase the number of individuals obtaining degrees and certifications, with a focus on collaboration across eight regions in North Carolina, including Western North Carolina. Through targeted programs and partnerships, progress has been made, but efforts persist to ensure workforce needs are met and educational opportunities are accessible statewide. (ABC 13)

Buncombe County Advances Affordable Housing Development Amidst Concerns

Mountain Housing Opportunities (MHO) gains approval for the Pentland Hills development, aiming to offer 75% of its 69 units at affordable rates. Despite addressing a critical need for affordable housing, the project faces scrutiny over safety and density concerns from the Buncombe County Board of Adjustment, eventually receiving approval with a narrow vote margin. (Citizen Times)

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