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Friday Forward News Roundup

Democrats Accuse New Party of Misleading Voters in Repeat Ballot Access Dispute

A Democratic group, Clear Choice Action, has accused the Justice For All Party (JFA) of misleading North Carolina voters to gain party recognition, potentially to harm Joe Biden’s reelection campaign. This is the second time Democrats have charged those seeking ballot access with misleading voters. The first instance involved the Green Party, which ultimately went to court and resulted in the Democrats losing, leading to the Green Party gaining access and the Democrats paying the Green Party's legal fees. Clear Choice claims thousands of signatures on JFA's petition are deficient and possibly linked to Republican efforts, urging the State Board of Elections to investigate. JFA denies these allegations, stating their petition is valid and criticizing the challenge as politically motivated. (News & Observer)

North Carolina Voter Registration Trends Indicate Republican Momentum

With five months until Election Day, North Carolina Republicans are seeing a surge in voter registrations. From June 2020 to June 2024, Republican registrations increased by 156,000, while Democrats lost 126,000 registrants. Unaffiliated voters grew by 450,000, indicating a significant shift in the state's political landscape. This trend suggests a more conservative electorate compared to 2020. Notably, Democrats have historically relied on unaffiliated voters, which continue to grow, and registered Democrats remain numerous in urban areas, though rural counties show steep declines. These changes could impact the upcoming elections significantly. (WFAE)

North Carolina Lawmakers Face Budget Stalemate

North Carolina lawmakers are poised for a hiatus as Republicans in the House and Senate clash over adjusting the two-year state budget, with each chamber uninterested in the other's $31.7 billion and $31.4 billion proposals, respectively. The impasse risks delaying key provisions, including $487 million for K-12 private school scholarships and $135 million to replace expiring federal child care center grants. Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore both expressed frustration with the current negotiation tactics, signaling a prolonged stalemate as the new fiscal year approaches on July 1. (WRAL)

North Carolina House Proposes Budget with Raises for Teachers and State Employees

The North Carolina House has unveiled a budget proposal aiming to allocate a projected $1 billion surplus. It includes additional raises for teachers and state employees: a 1% pay increase for state employees on top of an existing 3%, and an average 4.4% raise for teachers, increasing starting salaries from $41,000 to $44,000. The proposal also funds private school vouchers with $250 million, child care centers with $135 million, and infrastructure projects like renovations at N.C. State University. However, the Senate has not agreed to this plan, criticizing it for local earmarks and reserve fund usage. (WUNC)

North Carolina Senate Advances Election-Related Measures

The North Carolina Senate is advancing several election-related bills, including three proposed constitutional amendments on citizens-only voting, voter ID laws, and income tax caps. The amendments, which require supermajorities to get on the ballot, will allow voters to decide on these issues in November. Additionally, the Senate is proposing changes to political advertising laws, absentee ballot challenges, and signature verification for absentee ballots. (WRAL)

North Carolina Senate Pushes Election Integrity Bill Amid Criticism

The North Carolina Senate Committee on Redistricting and Elections advanced a bill aimed at strengthening election integrity by requiring counties to invalidate votes cast by registrants who die or are convicted of a felony after voting. The bill also mandates statewide implementation of signature verification for absentee ballots next year, despite delays in a pilot program. Critics argue the measures could wrongfully disqualify valid voters and caution against premature statewide rollout of signature verification. Additionally, the bill includes a requirement for political ads to disclose the use of AI-generated content. (WFAE)

North Carolina House Proposes New Engineering Program at UNC-Chapel Hill

The North Carolina House budget includes creating a College of Applied Science and Technology at UNC-Chapel Hill, with an $8 million allocation to start the program. The proposal also provides additional raises for teachers and state employees, funds private school vouchers and child care centers, and allocates millions for contamination cleanup at N.C. State's Poe Hall. Senate leader Phil Berger criticized the House for excessive spending, particularly from reserve funds, and warned that negotiations might not result in a budget agreement before the legislative session ends. (WFAE)

North Carolina Senate Attempts to Pass Medical Marijuana Legislation Through Amendment

North Carolina state senators have added language from the NC Compassionate Care Act to House Bill 563, which regulates hemp and bans other drugs. The amendment, introduced by Sen. Michael Lazzara, aims to legalize medical marijuana for conditions such as cancer, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and PTSD, and establishes a licensing system. Previous attempts to pass similar legislation have failed in the House. House Bill 563 also prohibits the sale and purchase of hemp products by individuals under 21 and adds kratom, xylazine, and tianeptine to the controlled substances list. The move comes amidst ongoing budget negotiations between House and Senate Republicans. (News & Observer)

NC Chamber and Farm Bureau Support Professor in Legal Battle Over Administrative Deference

The NC Chamber Legal Institute and NC Farm Bureau Federation have filed a joint brief with the North Carolina Supreme Court in support of professor Alvin Mitchell, who was fired by Winston-Salem State University. The case, which questions the practice of "administrative deference" where courts often side with government agencies' interpretations of their own rules, is seen by the Chamber and Farm Bureau as a key opportunity to address this issue. They argue that excessive deference undermines the judiciary's role and can unfairly burden regulated entities. The Supreme Court's decision could have significant implications for the balance of power between state agencies and the judicial system. (Carolina Journal)

Buncombe County Seeks Poll Workers for Upcoming Elections

Buncombe County is recruiting poll workers for the 2024 early voting period and Election Day, offering free training and pay for those interested. An information session on June 13 outlined the responsibilities, emphasizing the crucial role poll workers play in ensuring smooth election operations. Karen Rae from Buncombe County Election Services highlighted their importance, calling poll workers "the backbone of the precincts and early voting sites." Interested individuals can apply to help support the election process. (ABC 13)

Durham City Council Passes $668 Million Budget with Emphasis on Public Wages and Services

Durham city council unanimously passed the 2024-25 fiscal year budget totaling $668 million, a 9.5% increase from the previous year. Key allocations include higher wages for public employees, fare-free buses for GoDurham routes, $1 million for the Guaranteed Income program, and funding for an Office of Survivor Care. To support these initiatives, the property tax rate was raised to 59.62 cents per $100 of property value. The budget's passage was smooth, contrasting with last year’s contentious vote, and was met with praise for balancing diverse council priorities. (Indy Week)

Greensboro Allocates $9.9 Million for Affordable Housing in New Budget

Greensboro has adopted an $802 million budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year, with $9.9 million dedicated to supporting the Housing GSO plan. This funding includes $3.6 million for emergency housing assistance, aiming to address the city's high eviction and rental rate increases. The Housing GSO plan, a 10-year initiative launched in 2020, focuses on affordable rental housing, neighborhood reinvestment, homeownership access, and supportive housing. Key projects include the redevelopment of the Regency Inn and the Summit Executive Center to provide housing for people facing homelessness. (FOX 8)

Over 800 New Jobs Coming to Rural North Carolina Through $8 Million in Grants

Governor Roy Cooper announced the approval of 20 grant requests by the Rural Infrastructure Authority, totaling over $8 million, to create 802 jobs in rural North Carolina. This funding will aid in repurposing buildings, downtown development, and industrial projects, attracting over $474 million in additional public and private investment. Notable projects include a $500,000 grant for the reuse of a building in Lexington occupied by US Foods, Inc., a $2 million grant for a substation in Pitt County to support Boviet Solar Technology, and a $537,500 grant for the Depot Platform Project in Spring Hope. (ABC 11)

Shift in Charlotte Housing Trends and Local Business Developments

The number of permits for new townhomes in Charlotte surpassed single-family home permits for the first time last year, with townhome permits nearly doubling since 2020 while single-family permits dropped by a third. The median home price in Charlotte rose to $457,000, indicating continued demand for single-family homes despite limited land. Additionally, Novant Health's $320 million bid to acquire two Iredell County hospitals was blocked by a federal appeals court, and rising costs are forcing organizers to scale back local music and arts festivals. (WFAE)

Regulatory Challenges Hinder Housing Development in North Carolina

North Carolina faces a housing affordability crisis, but home builders encounter significant obstacles due to complex regulations, delaying projects and increasing costs. A current example is in Carteret County, where a subdivision development in Cedar Point halted after discovering Native American artifacts and human remains, illustrating the bureaucratic confusion and jurisdictional issues. House Bill 385 aims to clarify agency authorities and streamline regulations, but debates continue over its implications for both development and preservation. The proposed changes highlight the tension between protecting cultural heritage and addressing housing shortages. (Carolina Journal)

Protecting Morehead City and Restoring Sugarloaf Island

Morehead City is undertaking a $6.6 million project to restore Sugarloaf Island, which has eroded by the length of a football field over recent decades. The restoration involves installing wave attenuation devices (WADs) and oyster reefs to prevent erosion and rebuild the island, essential for protecting the downtown waterfront from storm surges. The project, managed by the North Carolina Coastal Federation, East Carolina University, and Sea and Shoreline, aims to secure at least 50 years of protection for the city's waterfront. (WUNC)

North Carolina State Parks Face Staffing Shortages Leading to Partial Closures

North Carolina state parks are experiencing significant staffing shortages, with 140 out of 575 full-time positions vacant. This has led to the partial closure of Cliffs of the Neuse State Park's lake and Dismal Swamp State Park's visitor center on Mondays and Tuesdays. The pandemic has exacerbated these shortages, resulting in safety concerns and disappointing visitors like Donna Cox, who has frequented the parks for over 50 years. The state parks aim to prioritize safety despite the challenges in maintaining operations. (WRAL)

North Carolina Ranks 9th Among Best Hiking States in 2024

North Carolina ranks ninth in KURU's 2024 list of the best states for hiking, thanks to its renowned trails such as the American Tobacco Trail and the Appalachian Trail. This ranking, maintained for the second consecutive year, is based on metrics like the number of trail reviews, trail quality, and ease of trails. Despite its high annual rainfall of 50.3 inches—the highest among the top 10 states—North Carolina excels in offering highly rated and accessible hiking adventures. (CBS 17)

Community School of Davidson Settles Antisemitic Bullying Investigation

The Community School of Davidson has settled a U.S. Department of Education investigation into severe antisemitic bullying of an eighth-grade student perceived as Jewish. The complaint, filed by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, detailed relentless harassment and physical abuse over two years. Despite being aware, school officials failed to act, violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. As part of the settlement, the school must implement policy changes, staff training, and compliance audits. The Department of Education will monitor adherence to federal antidiscrimination laws. (North State Journal)


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