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Friday Forward News Roundup

Young Voters and the 2024 Elections in North Carolina

Amani Jones, a sophomore at North Carolina Central University, highlights the importance of young people's involvement in elections, particularly with issues like abortion rights at stake. Despite her enthusiasm, she discovered she was not registered to vote but has time to rectify this before the general election. College students represent a crucial but challenging demographic for political engagement due to frequent relocations and changing contact information. In 2020, 60% of North Carolina's 18-25 age group voted, a significant factor given the state's narrow electoral margins. Various students across North Carolina colleges express a range of engagement levels and motivations for voting, including concerns over women's rights, climate change, and economic justice. The sentiment of identifying with issues rather than parties is common, reflecting a nuanced voter base that could influence the state's political landscape in upcoming tight races. (WUNC)

North Carolina's Lt. Governor Race and the Impact of Abortion

In the race for North Carolina's next Lt. Governor, neither Republican candidates Hal Weatherman nor Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neil secured the necessary 30% plus one vote in the March primary, leading to a second primary on May 14. Democratic state Senator Rachel Hunt won her primary decisively with 70.35% of the vote. Abortion emerges as a pivotal issue, with a Public Policy Polling survey indicating Hunt gains a significant advantage when voters are informed of the candidates' stances on reproductive rights. The survey also reveals that North Carolina voters oppose the state's new 12-week abortion ban by a 13-point margin and are more likely to support a candidate who is against such restrictions. The Democratic Lt. Governors Association plans a $2,000,000 investment in the gubernatorial race, underscoring its significance. (Queen City News)

Biden and Harris Promote Healthcare in North Carolina Amid Campaign Trail

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris visited North Carolina to advocate for their healthcare policies, targeting a state they aim to win from Republicans in the upcoming elections. Their visit emphasized healthcare as a key campaign issue, against a backdrop of Republican opposition to their health initiatives and attempts to limit abortion rights. The visit also coincided with a significant Supreme Court case on access to mifepristone, highlighting the administration's efforts to protect abortion access. With healthcare being a strong point for Democrats according to polls, the Biden administration continues to focus on policies like reducing prescription drug costs and expanding Medicaid, leveraging these as part of their reelection strategy. (ABC 11)

North Carolina Republican Primary Leads to Run-off Elections

Following the North Carolina Republican primary, run-off elections are set for the state auditor, lieutenant governor, and the 13th congressional district due to none of the top candidates achieving the required 30% threshold. Key matchups include Hal Weatherman vs. Jim O’Neil for lieutenant governor, Dave Boliek vs. Jack Clark for state auditor, and Kelly Daughtry vs. Brad Knott for Congressional District 13. The run-off elections are scheduled for May 14, with early voting beginning on April 25. (Carolina Journal)

North Carolina's Primary Election Results are Officially in

North Carolina's State Board of Elections officially certified the results of the primary elections held on March 5, highlighting a few key incumbent losses, the advancement of winners to general elections, and the scheduling of runoffs for several U.S. House and statewide nominee races due to no candidates receiving over 30% of the votes in their respective primaries. The primaries were notable for being the first statewide election enforcing a photo identification requirement and an advanced deadline for absentee ballots, resulting in more than 1,600 ballots being uncounted. Additionally, voter turnout was 24.1%, a decrease from the March 2020 primary turnout of 31.2%, amidst concerns over the potential disenfranchisement effects of the new laws. (ABC 11)

High Turnover Among North Carolina County Elections Directors

Over the past five years, North Carolina has seen 58 changes in county elections directors, with seven changes occurring in 2024 alone. The North Carolina State Board of Elections has highlighted concerns over the departure of numerous directors, attributing the turnover to retirements, resignations, and the challenging nature of the job amidst increasing hostility and responsibilities. The state and county boards are grappling with the loss of institutional knowledge and the complexities of election administration, especially in a presidential election year, amidst a backdrop of heightened security expectations and public scrutiny. (WFAE)

Federal Court Upholds North Carolina Senate Districts Amid Voting Rights Dispute

A federal appeals court rejected a lawsuit by two voters in North Carolina, maintaining the current state Senate districts without requiring redraws. The plaintiffs argued that the GOP's redrawing of districts in the "Black Belt" region violated the Voting Rights Act by diluting black voters' influence, but the court, in a 2-1 decision, found insufficient evidence of racial polarization and noted the proximity to elections as a reason against changing district lines. (ABC 13)

Rep. Jon Hardister Resigns from North Carolina House

Rep. Jon Hardister, a Republican from Guilford, announced his resignation from the North Carolina House after serving six terms, with his resignation effective April 8 at 5pm. During his tenure, Hardister focused on reducing taxes, paying off debt, creating a budget surplus, and supporting pro-business policies leading to job creation and economic growth in North Carolina. Despite his recent unsuccessful run for NC Labor Commissioner, Hardister leaves with a record of conservative achievements and does not rule out a future return to public service. His term was set to end on December 31, 2024, and the Guilford County Republican Party will appoint his replacement. (Carolina Journal)

Mako Medical to Pay $2.1 Million for Unnecessary Medicaid Billings

Mako Medical, a Raleigh-based lab-testing company, has agreed to pay $2.1 million to the state of North Carolina after an investigation revealed unnecessary Medicaid billing for urine drug tests. The state Attorney General Josh Stein announced that between January 2018 and December 2022, Mako Medical offered healthcare providers the option to order two urine drug tests on the same sample, where only one was medically necessary according to Medicaid policies. This settlement reflects the state's commitment to safeguard taxpayer dollars and ensure responsible management of Medicaid funds. The investigation into these billings is separate from another Medicaid investigation related to Mako Medical reported in 2020. (News & Observer)

North Carolina Lawmakers Urge Boost in Teacher Pay and Education Reform

A bipartisan committee of North Carolina state lawmakers is pushing for increased teacher compensation and educational reforms. The report highlights that teacher pay has not kept up with living costs, affecting recruitment and retention. It proposes reassessing teacher compensation, especially for hard-to-staff positions, and includes recommendations for changing school grading systems and enhancing math education. Despite recent raises, including a base salary increase for beginning teachers and an average raise of 7% over two years, the committee finds the efforts insufficient in addressing the growing pay gap and educational challenges. (News & Observer)

Raleigh Among Top 25 U.S. Cities Requiring Highest Income for Comfortable Living

According to a study by CNBC and SmartAsset, Raleigh ranks as the 23rd city in the U.S. where the highest income is required to live comfortably, with a single adult needing an average salary of $102,752. This figure is more than double the median income for residents of Raleigh, which stands at $47,003 for single women and $50,955 for single men. The concept of "comfortable living" is defined by the ability to allocate 50% of income to essentials, 30% to wants, and 20% to savings and investments. In contrast, Winston-Salem is listed as the 11th most affordable city, needing an average salary of $81,869 for a comfortable life. The findings highlight the growing concern over the affordability of living in Raleigh, especially in the face of rising inflation. (WRAL)

North Carolina Achieves Zero-Emission Vehicle Goal Early

North Carolina has met its ambitious target of registering 80,000 zero-emission vehicles two years ahead of the 2025 deadline set by Governor Roy Cooper in 2018. This achievement is part of Executive Order 80, aimed at preparing the state for a clean transportation future by enhancing policy, infrastructure, and consumer readiness for electric vehicles (EVs). Governor Cooper attributes the success to efforts in making EVs more affordable and expanding the charging network, with public charging ports increasing from 1,400 in 2019 to nearly 4,000 today. Building on this momentum, Executive Order 246 aims for 1.25 million zero-emission vehicles by 2030, supported by investments in charging infrastructure through the North Carolina Volkswagen Settlement Grant Program and the upcoming National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure program. (CBS 17)

Forsyth County's Opioid Crisis Campaign Features Personal Stories to Raise Awareness

Forsyth County government has launched a public awareness campaign addressing the opioid crisis, featuring personal stories like that of Stephanie Lynch, who lost her son Evan to fentanyl poisoning in 2020. The campaign aims to humanize the crisis beyond statistics, emphasizing that each number represents a loved one lost. It includes initiatives funded by opioid settlements, such as distributing free Narcan via vending machines at locations like the Forsyth County Detention Center. This effort, underscored by the stark reality that Forsyth County first responders attended over 4,000 overdose calls from 2021-2023, aims to save lives by making life-saving Narcan more accessible and sharing impactful stories to prevent opioid misuse. (ABC 45)

North Carolina Sees Strong Start in Statewide Sports Wagering

North Carolina's statewide mobile sports wagering, initiated two weeks ago, has seen a robust beginning, particularly with bets placed on college basketball. In the first 12 hours alone, over $23.9 million was wagered, including almost $12.4 million in promotional bets. By the end of the first week, total bets exceeded $198.1 million, with the state poised to earn from the $42.7 million in gross wagering revenue, thanks to an 18% tax rate. This early success mirrors Massachusetts' launch last year and is bolstered by popular events like the men's Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournament. Additionally, the recent launch of "digital instants" by the North Carolina Education Lottery has significantly boosted online gaming revenue, showcasing a growing digital engagement among players. (WCNC)

Long-Awaited Black Mountain I-40 Interchange Project Set for 2025 Start

The Interstate 40 and Blue Ridge Road interchange project in Black Mountain, North Carolina, is finally set to begin construction in September 2025, after over two decades of planning and development. With an anticipated completion time of three years and an estimated cost of $32 million funded by the NCDOT, the project aims to enhance connectivity, access, and mobility in the area. It will include widening Blue Ridge Road, constructing a new roundabout at the intersection with N.C. 9, and converting the current grade separation into an interchange. The project seeks to alleviate congestion in downtown Black Mountain and at the N.C. 9 interchange, accommodating future traffic volumes and growth trends. Currently in the planning and design phase since December 2018, the project will soon move into right-of-way negotiations and utility relocations, marking a significant milestone in its long-awaited execution. (Citizen Times)

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