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Friday Forward News Roundup

NC Forward Party Chair Discusses the Need for Third Parties and Integrity in Politics

NC Forward Party Chair Pat Newton was interviewed by Russ Bowen of CBS17 regarding the emergence of third parties in the state and why they are needed. "Things like character really are important," said Newton. "Certainly, policy positions are what impact the voters’ opinions. But we’re finding more and more people are really just disappointed in the way our elected officials are conducting themselves and frankly that we deserve better." (CBS 17)

North Carolina House District 27 Primary Election Controversy and Political Dynamics

In North Carolina, House incumbent Michael Wray, a Democrat from Northampton, lost his primary election to Rodney Pierce by a narrow margin of 35 votes, leading to election protests and a scheduled recount. Wray's defeat amidst claims of irregularities highlights internal party challenges, as he and fellow Democrat Cecil Brockman faced opposition from within their party and support from a PAC with Republican ties due to their bipartisan voting records. The situation underscores tensions within the Democratic Party and raises questions about political tribalism, the role of PACs in elections, and the importance of allowing politicians to vote based on their conscience and constituency rather than strict party lines. (Carolina Journal)

Urgent Need for Legislation to Protect Election Workers and Democracy

Surveys and reports highlight the escalating threats faced by election workers in the United States, with a significant portion feeling unsafe due to their jobs and experiencing increased threats in recent years, exacerbated by false claims of election fraud. In North Carolina, the resignation of 45 county election directors between 2019 and 2022 underscores the urgent need for legislative protection. Despite these challenges, efforts are being made nationwide to pass legislation aimed at safeguarding election officials and the democratic process, emphasizing the critical role of community support and legal reforms in addressing these threats and ensuring the security of our elections. (NC Newsline)

Impact of Voter ID and Absentee Ballot Changes on North Carolina's Primary Election

North Carolina's March 5 primary election introduced significant voting changes, including voter ID requirements and stricter mail-in ballot deadlines. Over 1.8 million people voted, with nearly 1,200 casting provisional ballots due to lack of ID—473 of these were rejected for not returning with an ID. The new law resulted in 1,128 mail-in ballots being disqualified for missing the Election Day deadline, a change from previous grace periods. Voter turnout was notably low at around 24%, compared to 31% in the 2020 primaries. The final election certification is expected on March 26. (News & Observer)

Intense Political Spotlight on North Carolina's State Superintendent Race

The race for North Carolina's state superintendent of public instruction has become a focal point in national politics, reflecting the broader trend of educational issues becoming political battlegrounds. The position, responsible for overseeing the education of 1.3 million students, gained additional attention after Michele Morrow, known for her controversial online comments and presence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, won the Republican primary. The role itself, while significant in shaping public perceptions and policies around education, operates within a broader ecosystem where the state legislature and board of education hold substantial power. (Axios Charlotte)

Durham County Implements Gag Order on Child Welfare Cases

Durham County, in response to investigative reporting, has enacted a rule preventing anyone involved in child welfare cases from discussing these cases with the media, with potential penalties including jail time. This measure, issued by Chief District Court Judge Clayton Jones Jr., aims to protect the identities of children and families but significantly restricts public scrutiny and raises serious legal and constitutional concerns. The rule was seemingly introduced after a series revealing the county's low rates of family reunification, particularly among poor and black families, and the overall lack of transparency in the child welfare court system. (The Assembly)

Constitution Party Nears Ballot Access in North Carolina for November Elections

The Constitution Party is close to securing a spot on North Carolina's ballot for the upcoming November elections after collecting over 14,000 verified signatures, surpassing the state requirement of 13,865. The State Board of Elections is set to certify these results, allowing the party to nominate candidates for various offices. The party, which lost its ballot access in 2020 after failing to secure 2% of the vote, aims to offer candidates from local school boards to congressional seats. (WUNC)

Federal Reserve Holds Interest Rates Steady Amid Inflation Concerns

The Federal Reserve has chosen not to lower interest rates, citing insufficient evidence that inflation is slowing sufficiently to warrant a reduction. Despite some indicators of long-term inflation slowing, with the Fed's preferred inflation measure showing a decrease in its annual growth rate, concerns remain about premature easing of policy restraint. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell emphasized the importance of waiting for more certainty that inflation is on track towards the Fed's 2% target before considering rate cuts. This decision has sparked debate among economists, with some warning that delaying rate cuts could harm the economy, particularly given the imprecise nature of rate adjustments and their lagging effects. Housing affordability and supply issues are highlighted as being exacerbated by high interest rates, contributing to inflation pressures and the rise in homelessness. (NC Newsline)

Rising Gas Prices Amidst Federal Reserve Considerations

Gas prices in the United States have risen for the third consecutive week, with the national average reaching $3.52, and North Carolina's average price at $3.31. This increase is attributed to seasonal factors such as higher demand, the transition to more expensive summer gasoline, and ongoing refinery maintenance. Additionally, disruptions in Russian energy infrastructure due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict have impacted prices. However, there are indications that refinery output is increasing, suggesting that the peak of maintenance season may be nearing its end. (WRAL)

Greensboro City Council Approves Controversial Housing Development

The Greensboro City Council unanimously approved the annexation and rezoning of a 24-acre property for a 70-plus unit housing development, valued at $500,000 or more per home, despite opposition from neighboring residents. The development, led by attorney Marc Isaacson for developer William Yearns of Granville Homes, aims for a lower density (R-3 zoning) on a smaller lot size to preserve natural land, despite being approved for a higher density (R-7 zoning). Concerns were raised about potential environmental impacts on the watershed area, but city officials and developers have taken steps to minimize these through specific construction and zoning strategies. The decision underscores the city's urgent need to address a housing crisis by increasing housing density. (News & Record)

North Carolina Moves Towards Alternative Crisis Response for Behavioral Health

In North Carolina, the common practice of using law enforcement to transport individuals in behavioral health crises, often under involuntary commitment, is being reevaluated due to its traumatic impact on patients. Despite legal allowances for alternative transportation methods, the default has been involuntary transport by law enforcement, consuming significant resources and law enforcement time. Recognizing the need for change, North Carolina communities like Durham and Wake County are exploring innovative crisis response services, and the state legislature has allocated $10 million annually to develop alternatives to law enforcement transport. This shift aims to offer more humane and respectful crisis response options, emphasizing the importance of reorienting towards person-centered approaches. (NC Newsline)

First Lady Jill Biden Advocates for Advancements in Women's Health Research in North Carolina Visit

During a visit to Durham, North Carolina, as part of the White House Initiative on Women's Health Research, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden emphasized the administration's commitment to transforming women's health research in the U.S. She highlighted the longstanding issue of women's health research being underfunded and often based on male-centric studies. The initiative, launched last November, aims to change the nation's approach to funding and conducting research on women's health, with an additional $200 million in NIH funding promised through a recent executive order. Dr. Biden's speech at Research Triangle Park underscored the critical need for tailored healthcare solutions for women, advocating for research that addresses the unique healthcare needs and disease manifestations in women. (ABC 45)

North Carolina Ranked Among Top States for Retirement Affordability

North Carolina has been identified as the 14th best state for retirees seeking affordability, with Asheville leading as the top city within the state for retirement. Factors contributing to the ranking include a 3.2% cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security beneficiaries starting in 2024, an annual home value growth rate of 18.4%, and other cost of living factors such as electricity, groceries, and Medicare spending. Despite an increase in the poverty rate among Americans 65 and older, from 9.5% in 2020 to 14.1% in 2022, North Carolina's favorable rankings in housing, healthcare spending, and overall cost of living, alongside its cultural and natural amenities, make it an attractive option for retirees. (Carolina Journal)

Challenges Facing North Carolina Shrimpers Amid Declining Industry

North Carolina's shrimp industry has seen a significant decline, with dockside values dropping from about $30 million in the 1980s and 1990s to approximately $10 million in 2022. The reduction in value has led to a historic low in the number of licensed shrimpers. A significant factor behind this decline is the influx of cheaper, imported shrimp from countries like India and Ecuador, which face less stringent regulations and receive more substantial subsidies. The Davis family, long-time shrimpers in North Carolina, represents the struggles and resilience of local shrimpers facing financial unfairness, ethical concerns, and cultural shifts towards imported seafood. Efforts to support domestic shrimping include proposed legislation for tariff revenue sharing and improved inspection programs, yet the future of this industry remains uncertain as it battles with global competition and consumer awareness issues. (WFAE)



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