Archive

Insider for September 29, 2021

YOU DON’T SAY

“Hmm. @SenThomTillis has the carcass of a dead bear pinned to his wall. In 2021. What a throwback. 0/10”

Twitter account Room Rater — which provides snarky commentary on virtual meeting backgrounds, on the office of U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis. (THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 9/28/21)



Leandro Funding

T. Keung Hui, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 9/28/21

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper pushed Tuesday for a multi-billion dollar plan to increase school funding as a state judge is considering whether to try to force lawmakers to fund the proposal. State Superior Court Judge David Lee has given state lawmakers an Oct. 18 deadline to fully fund the next two years of a plan that calls for at least $5.6 billion in new education funding by 2028. Republican lawmakers have balked at the court order, but Cooper said major new state investments in education funding are needed now.

“We have a comprehensive plan,” Cooper told the Governor’s Commission on Access To A Sound Basic Education. “We have the support of the majority of the people of this state, and we have a court order. So now it’s time for us to work to implement that plan.” Cooper said he will seek “strong investments in this plan” as he enters budget negotiations this week with the state’s top two Republican lawmakers: Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore. Both legislators have criticized the plan and said Lee has no authority to make them provide the money. Berger’s office tweeted Tuesday that school districts should be using their federal COVID aid first before asking state lawmakers for such a big funding increase.

The long-running Leandro school funding case was initially filed in 1994 by low-wealth school districts to get more state funding. The case is named after a student from Hoke County who has since graduated from college.

Over the years, the state Supreme Court has ruled that the state Constitution guarantees every child “an opportunity to receive a sound basic education” and that the state was failing to meet that obligation. In June, Lee approved a 7-year plan agreed to by the State Board of Education, the Cooper Administration and the plaintiffs. The $5.6 billion plan includes things such as a 5% pay raise for teachers, more funding for low-wealth school districts and expansion of the NC Pre-K program.

The General Assembly isn’t officially a party in the lawsuit. But Lee has said that the legislative branch is also bound to follow the state Constitutional mandate to provide students a sound, basic education.

The Leandro plan calls for $690.7 million in new education funding this year and $1.06 billion next year. “We must increase funding for our public schools,” said Cooper, who fully funds the first two years of the plan in his budget proposal. “Don’t let anybody tell you that we can fix things without doing that. We’ve got to invest more.”

The Senate budget proposal included $191.6 million this year and $213.7 million next year for the Leandro plan. The House budget proposal had $370 million this year and $382.1 million next year. At a court hearing earlier this month, Lee said he was “very disheartened” by the legislative budgets and said what lawmakers are providing is “woefully short of what is necessary to fund the constitutionally mandated requirement.”

Berger’s office has said Lee didn’t take into account how much the legislature has invested in the past decade as well as all the federal COVID aid that is now available to schools. Lee said at the hearing that if lawmakers don’t act that he’ll consider what judges have done in other states to force action to increase school funding. Those actions have included fining lawmakers and holding them in contempt of court. [Source]



Public Safety Head

Will Doran, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 9/28/21

The new head of the N.C. Department of Public Safety, announced Tuesday by Gov. Roy Cooper, is a police chief who’s recently been in the national spotlight. Eddie Buffaloe will replace Erik Hooks as head of DPS — which oversees the prison system, State Bureau of Investigation, Highway Patrol and N.C. National Guard.

In a news release, Buffaloe said he was humbled by the decision and noted that he has previously worked in several of the agencies he will now be commanding, including the National Guard and the prison system. “As a former correctional officer, NC Guardsman, and current law enforcement executive I am excited to rejoin the DPS Correctional staff, members of the National Guard family, and other stakeholders along with our state law enforcement agencies in order to work and collaborate with our local law enforcement partners across the state to keep North Carolina safe,” he said.

Most recently, Buffaloe was the interim city manager and police chief in Elizabeth City — where earlier this year a team of Pasquotank County sheriff’s deputies killed Andrew Brown in a shooting that made national news. Although it was sheriff’s deputies and not police officers who killed Brown, it was the police under Buffaloe who were then largely responsible for handling the ensuing wave of protests that lasted for days. Unlike protests in places like Raleigh and Charlotte after the George Floyd killing, which at times turned violent, the protests in Elizabeth City did not.

The News & Observer reported at the time that city leaders credited Buffaloe for that, as a result of his building good community relations long before the protests ever began. Cooper referenced that on Tuesday, too. “Eddie Buffaloe’s experience, vision, leadership, management skills and strong law enforcement credentials make him ready for this critically important role and I’m grateful he is willing to take it on,” he said. “As an officer, he has walked the beat on our streets and in our prisons and as a Chief of Police his leadership has shown that he understands the importance of building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

Cooper’s appointment of Buffaloe is subject to confirmation by the state Senate. [Source]



Budd Endorsements

Brian Murphy, THE INSIDER, 9/28/21

Republican Ted Budd announced endorsements from 25 current Republican state lawmakers and eight former lawmakers in his U.S. Senate bid. And that doesn’t include Senate leader Phil Berger who has not endorsed in the race but is hosting a fundraiser for Budd in October. Budd, a third-term U.S. representative from Davie County, is backed by former President Donald Trump in his Republican primary race against former Gov. Pat McCrory, former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker and several others.

Those who endorsed Budd:

Senators (9): Ted Alexander, Danny Britt, Jr., Jim Burgin, Warren Daniel, Carl Ford, Joyce Krawiec, Michael Lazzara, Tom McInnis, and Paul Newton

Representatives (16): Kristin Baker, James Boles, Jr., Julia Howard, Frank Iler, Jake Johnson, Keith Kidwell, Jeffrey McNeely, Grey Mills, Ray Pickett, Larry Pittman, Larry Potts, Jason Saine, Mitchell Setzer, Harry Warren, Sam Watford, and Jeff Zenger

Former lawmakers (8): Sen. John Alexander, Sen. Patrick Ballantine, Sen. Tom Apodaca, Rep. Rayne Brown, Sen. Holly Grange, Sen. Bob Rucho, Sen. Fred Smith, and Sen. Jeff Tarte

“Ted Budd takes his Davie County values to Washington, D.C., to fight against out of control, big government,” Howard, who represents Davie County, said in a statement. “Unless you’re accusing him of being a Davie County insider, it’s laughable for anyone to try to label Ted a ‘DC insider.’” Howard ran for the U.S. House in 2016 against Budd in a 17-person Republican primary. Howard finished fourth. Budd won races for Congress in 2016, 2018 and 2020.

“Even in the face of the pandemic and our Governor’s shutdown policies, North Carolina’s economy has grown, and I know that our legislators deserve all of the credit for that. Their vision and their commitment to conservative principles have created more jobs for individual North Carolinians and more opportunities for all North Carolinians,” Budd said in a statement.

Berger and NASCAR team owner Richard Childress and his wife, Judy, are hosting a GOP barbecue in Lexington on October 7. NASCAR driver Austin Dillon and his wife, Whitney, will be special guests. The event is at Childress Vineyards. Berger was Senate leader when McCrory was governor, and the two butted heads on a number of issues. Walker defeated Berger’s son in a bitter U.S. House Republican primary runoff in 2014.

Longtime Republican political strategist Karl Rove, best known for his leading role in George W. Bush’s successful presidential bids, sent a fundraising appeal on behalf of former Gov. Pat McCrory’s Senate campaign Tuesday. Rove listed a number of McCrory’s accomplishments and outlined his case for why McCrory is the best-positioned to win the general election. “There’s only one Republican running for the Senate with a proven record of building such a winning coalition – Pat McCrory,” Rove wrote.



Mask Meetings

Travis Fain, WRAL NEWS, 9/28/21

House Democrats tried Tuesday to undo a recently passed law that requires school boards across the state to hold public votes every month on their masking policies. But House Republicans blocked the move in committee. Most systems have a mask requirement in place to help stem transmission of coronavirus. The monthly voting requirement once had bipartisan support, albeit as part of a much broader state education bill that authorized a number of school responses to the pandemic. It passed nearly unanimously last month, and Gov. Roy Cooper signed it, but people angry over mask mandates are attending school board meetings in large numbers, in some cases hurling threats.

The North Carolina School Boards Association asked Cooper and lawmakers to change the rule, EdNC reported this week.

“A disturbing trend is occurring across the State over COVID-19 mitigation measures,” the group said in its letter, EdNC reported. “There are increasing numbers of disruptions and cases of verbal abuse by protestors. Boards chairs have been forced to recess or adjourn meetings. There were accusations of one attendee bringing a weapon to a school board meeting. Property has been damaged. School board members and staff have received threats. Security has been significantly increased at board meetings. Rallies and protests are organized by people who don’t even live in the district. Board members and staff fear it’s just a matter of time before it escalates to serious violence.”

The weapon reference may be to western North Carolina Congressman Madison Cawthorn, who reportedly brought a knife to a Henderson County school board meeting. Cawthorn also traveled to the Triangle earlier this month for a Johnston County school board meeting.

When NCSBA President Amy Churchill expressed concerns earlier this month with the tenor of meetings, House Speaker Tim Moore said he believed the policy should stay. “I believe it’s a good idea to make sure that that process is done on a monthly basis,” said Moore, R-Cleveland. “It allows parents, teachers, everyone else to really have transparency to see what’s happening, and, of course, we left it up to their school boards to take whatever action they deem appropriate.”

Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, asked House Rules committee members to vote against the proposed change during Tuesday’s evening’s meeting. “They’re presuming an outcome without having a board meeting,” Torbett said.

The request came from Rep. Amos Quick, D-Guilford, who said school boards should have to hold a vote only if they plan to change the policy. “If the policy’s not being changed … it would forego the school board having to meet,” he said. Quick’s attempt to tack that into Senate Bill 695, an unrelated education bill expected on the House floor Wednesday, was voted down in a 5-4 party-line vote. The committee has 24 members and was sparsely attended, starting well after its announced 6 p.m. time.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt, State Board of Education Chairman Eric Davis and Vice Chairman Alan Duncan issued a joint statement Tuesday, calling for responsible behavior at school meetings, but they stopped short of asking lawmakers to undo the meeting requirement.

“The increased hostility and threats of force that we have seen across the state are not reflective of what we expect and ask of our own students: treating others with kindness and respect,” the officials said. “As educators, as parents and as concerned citizens, we respect the rights of our fellow citizens to share their concerns and voice their opinions. However, this must be done without the use of intimidation or intentionally inspiring fear.” [Source]



NC Prosecutors

Brian Murphy, THE INSIDER, Bryan Lowry, McCLATCHY and Michael Gordon, THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/28/21

Two Black women with the chance to break barriers in North Carolina and the son of a former governor are President Joe Biden’s picks to serve as the top federal prosecutors in the state. Biden announced his nominations for North Carolina’s three U.S. attorney positions Tuesday, nearly seven months after the resignation of President Donald Trump’s appointees at Biden’s request. The three North Carolina nominations were among nine made by Biden on Tuesday. He tapped Dena King for the Western District, Sandra Hairston for the Middle District and Michael Easley Jr. for the Eastern District.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, King — a graduate of South Mecklenburg High School — would be the first Black person or person of color to be the top official in the Western District, which includes Charlotte and 32 counties. “She will be someone who would bring fairness and skill and sensitivity to that position,” Charlotte attorney James Ferguson, one of the state’s most prominent civil rights lawyers, told The Charlotte Observer earlier this year.

Hairston, who has been the acting U.S. attorney for the Middle District since March 1, would be the first Black woman in the job if confirmed. The Middle District serves Greensboro and 24 counties in the middle of the state, including Durham, Orange and Chatham.

Easley Jr., the son of former Democratic Governor Mike Easley, is a partner at the McGuire Woods law firm, where he’s been since 2010. The Eastern District includes Raleigh and stretches to the coast, covering 44 counties. Easley’s father was governor for two terms from 2001 to 2009.

“These individuals were chosen for their devotion to enforcing the law, their professionalism, their experience and credentials in this field, their dedication to pursuing equal justice for all, and their commitment to the independence of the Department of Justice,” the White House said in a statement announcing the nine new nominations.

U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, North Carolina Republicans, met with all three nominees as part of their interview process and support the choices, Tillis’ office confirmed, easing the way for confirmation in the divided Senate. All three were among candidates included in a letter sent from the senators to the White House. [Source]

POLICY COVERAGE IN NORTH CAROLINA SUPPORTED BY

This summer, Medicaid beneficiaries gained more control over their health care decisions. Now, three months into the transition, Medicaid beneficiaries have another opportunity to determine the direction of their care: September 30 is the last day for them to change health care plans. With Medicaid Managed Care, patients across the state gained access to a diverse provider network. The switch to Managed Care also gives beneficiaries improved access to wellness and preventive care programs. With a stronger focus on whole-person care, Medicaid Managed Care continues to demonstrate its benefits both for patients and providers, ensuring coordinated care and better health outcomes across the state. Learn more about why North Carolinians support Managed Care.



COVID-19 Cases

Ben Sessoms, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 9/28/21

New COVID-19 cases in North Carolina continue to decrease on average as the state has started to come down from the peak of the delta variant, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services data show. DHHS reported just under 3,500 new cases on Tuesday. Over the last week, the state has average 5,000 new cases per day. At the beginning of September, that average was over 6,900.

The state reported that 3,073 people are hospitalized statewide with the virus. Of those, 865 are being treated in intensive care units. On Sept. 1, those numbers were at 3,802 and 937, respectively. Cases and hospitalizations spiked over August and much of September due to the delta variant, a mutation of the coronavirus that’s more than twice as contagious as the original strain, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recent CDC data show that more than 97% of sequenced virus in North Carolina is delta.

And the variant has caused immense damage. Over 2,500 people in North Carolina have died due to COVID-19 since Aug. 1. September is now the third deadliest month of the pandemic with a death toll of 1,341 so far, The News & Observer reported Monday. In all of June and July combined, 379 people in North Carolina died due to the virus.

The vaccine remains the best protection against severe COVID-19. A DHHS analysis from late August found that those unvaccinated are more than four times as likely to contract COVID-19 and 15 times more likely to die due to the disease, The N&O reported.

As of Tuesday, 53% of all North Carolinians and 62% of those eligible, ages 12 and up, are fully vaccinated. Nationally those rates are 55% and 65% respectively. [Source]



Cawthorn Claims

Joel Burgess, ASHEVILLE CITIZEN-TIMES, 9/28/21

U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn used profanity to criticize laws confiscating guns from people deemed dangerous and in the same social media post made an unsubstantiated claim that dishonorable discharges were already underway for military personnel refusing to get vaccinated. Cawthorn made the statements in a Sept. 25 Instagram video defending his support for a defense budget bill that includes a military “red flag” law.

In the video, the Republican congressman representing most of Western North Carolina repeated the false claim the election was stolen, despite having himself said it was not. He also said he was “armed every single day,” a statement that comes a week after a top law enforcement officer said he confronted Cawthorn after he appeared to have a fixed-blade dagger at a school board meeting.

Cawthorn posted the video in response to gun rights supporters’ criticism of his votes for the National Defense Authorization Act and its red flag provision. Red flag rules typically allow family or police to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from a person thought to be dangerous to themselves or others. There had been 24 roll call votes for the NDAA as of Sept. 27, including one on Sept. 23 in which Cawthorn voted “yea.” Cawthorn said he voted for the bill because it included legislation added by Sen. Ted Cruz to stop dishonorable discharges of military personnel refusing COVID-19 vaccination.

Cawthorn said the red flag portion would be “stripped” and would not be part of the final legislation. “I promise you this red flag b******t is not going into law. The reason we had to vote for this is because so many of our active duty military who are refusing to take the vaccine are being dishonorably discharged and that basically makes them a felon in our society,” he said.

None of the vaccination deadlines for military personnel to comply with President Joe Biden’s order have arrived, Defense Department spokesperson Charlie Dietz said Sept. 27. “We are not aware of any discharges at this time,” Dietz told the Citizen-Times, though he said individual armed services branches could have more information. Cawthorn spokesperson Luke Ball said discharges are “a process” but offered no evidence they were underway. [Source]



Ambulance Aid

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 9/28/21

Nine North Carolina counties are benefiting from 25 ambulances and their crews provided by the federal government to help locals struggling to respond to the spikes in calls during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Division of Emergency Management says the two-person ambulance crews are ready to work after receiving personal protective gear and communications gear on Monday. The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent the “advanced life support” ambulances after the state requested 40 such ambulances and 10 “basic life support” models.

“While it’s not the full complement we requested, we know medical resources are extremely limited across the nation right now, and we are grateful for this assistance from our federal partners,” state Emergency Management Director Will Ray said in a news release. The crews are assigned to Brunswick, Franklin, Graham, Guilford, Macon, Mecklenburg, New Hanover, Pender and Robeson counties. The ambulances could be assigned elsewhere after 10 days. [Source]



Inmate Death

Danielle Battaglia, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 9/28/21

A Forsyth County sheriff’s captain handed paramedics a note as they wheeled an unresponsive John Elliot Neville out of the county jail after deputies had held him against the floor while he was having a medical emergency. “Call if and when there is a time of death and if an autopsy is performed,” Captain C. Warren wrote on sheriff’s office stationary. “We need to know yes or no. Thank you.” The note is detailed in a lawsuit filed Tuesday by Sean Neville, whose father died Dec. 4, 2019, two days after being taken from the jail to a Winston-Salem hospital.

“The callousness of this note demonstrates that correctional defendants were more concerned with the potential fallout from their treatment of Mr. Neville, than they were for Mr. Neville’s wellbeing,” attorneys wrote in the lawsuit. The lawsuit also details the seriousness of Neville’s condition as he left the jail and that if he wasn’t completely brain dead, he was close to it.

The 56-year-old Black man had fought for his life for two hours and 37 minutes at the jail while suffering from a medical emergency. But medical examiners said it was not his own health problems that killed him, but the way he was held down at the jail during the emergency. Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill charged five deputies and a nurse with involuntary manslaughter as a result.

Sean Neville said in a written statement to The News & Observer that he is grateful to O’Neill for showing patience and keen attention to his family. He also extended sympathy to those charged in his father’s death for what they’re going through now. However, the family is suing the six people who have been charged as well as Forsyth County, the county’s Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough and Wellpath, the medical company that served the jail when Neville died. [Source]



School Clusters

T. Keung Hui, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 9/28/21

More than two dozen Triangle public and private schools are reporting COVID-19 clusters, as children continue to account for some of the highest rates of new cases in North Carolina. Twenty-six schools have active COVID-19 clusters, according to the latest state Department of Health and Human Services’ report released Tuesday. The report lists clusters at 12 schools in Wake County, five in Durham and two schools each in Franklin, Granville and Orange counties. Chatham, Harnett and Johnston counties each had one active cluster listed.

Six schools statewide reported 40 or more COVID cases in the latest report, up from three schools last week. Person County, which is about 60 miles north of Raleigh, had three schools with more than 30 cases: Southern Middle (48), Person High (40) and Northern Middle (34). Schools are dealing with the delta variant, a mutation of the coronavirus that’s more than twice as contagious as the original strain, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There’s a time lag between when cases are identified and when they are listed on the state report. Schools may currently have more or less COVID cases than are shown by DHHS. A cluster is defined as five or more linked cases in a 14-day period. [Source]



Vaccine Wristbands

Brandon Hamilton, WBTV NEWS, 9/27/21

Some Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office employees are wearing a wristband to say they are vaccinated against COVID-19. It’s an effort to not only increase vaccination numbers in the sheriff’s office - but to make sure residents are comfortable when they need emergency assistance. ”We had to think of the best way to recognize who’s vaccinated and who’s not,” said Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden. The wristband says “MCSO vaccinated.”

The wristbands have already caught the attention of county commissioner Leigh Altman. ”I think it’s meaningful to see our officers in uniform wearing that band and showing they got vaccinated to protect themselves and to protect the community members whom they are engaging,” she said. She also posted on social media Sunday, “This is a great way to help promote vaccine acceptance throughout the community.”

The sheriff’s office says 64 percent of the 1,027 full-time employees are vaccinated. Right now, getting vaccinated is not required. [Source]



COVID Transit

CARTERET COUNTY NEWS-TIMES, 9/28/21

COVID-19 booster shots have now been recommended for thousands of eligible North Carolinians, and an initiative supported by the N.C. Department of Transportation and the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is making sure everyone who needs it can get their shot. State residents that need transportation assistance to vaccine sites can contact their local transit agency to help shuttle them to and from the location. The state-administered program has already helped transit services statewide pay for more than 10,000 people needing transportation to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We are working hard to ensure that transportation is never a barrier for anyone looking to get their vaccine shot, whether that be their first, second or a booster,” state transportation secretary Eric Boyette said in a Friday release from NCDOT about the program. “If you need assistance receiving your shot, please contact your local transit agency.”

Since January, NCDOT and NCDHHS have been administering $2.5 million in funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act. The funds are being used to offset the operating costs associated with transit rides to and from vaccination sites for people who are receiving or assisting someone in receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. The initiative will continue until the funds are exhausted. [Source]



Cyber Attack

Zachery Eanes, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 9/28/21

Raleigh technology company Bandwidth, which makes software for internet-based voice and text communication, is experiencing outages after it was hit by a cyber attack over the weekend, the company said Tuesday. Bandwidth — along with several other voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) providers, like the Canadian company Voip.ms — said a DDoS attack has caused intermittent disruptions to its service over the past three days.

A DDoS attack, or distributed denial-of-service, is a flood of fake requests and traffic to a company’s website or service. The requests can overwhelm a company, leading to normal users being unable to access its services, according to CompTIA, a nonprofit trade association for the information and technology profession.

Bandwidth is one of the country’s largest providers of VoIP technology, which helps companies connect phones and messaging to customers over the internet. The company provides key services that make phone calls possible on platforms like RingCentral, Google and Zoom. It also helps many 911 emergency services handle call traffic. The attack, which began on Sept. 25, is causing some phone calls and messages to fail. A status page on Bandwidth’s website showed partial outages for its inbound and outbound call services — though most of its services are operational again, including its 911 services.

“While we have mitigated much intended harm, we know some of you have been significantly impacted by this event. For that I am truly sorry,” Bandwidth CEO David Morken said in a statement. “You trust us with your mission-critical communications. There is nothing this team takes more seriously. We are working around the clock to support your teams and minimize the impact of this attack.” Bandwidth declined to comment on the incident beyond Morken’s statement, and it is unclear how many customers have experienced outages. [Source]



Business Expansion

NEWS RELEASE, 9/28/21

Vantaca, a software-as-a-service provider, will add 104 new jobs in New Hanover County, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday. The company will invest more than $4.9 million to expand its operations in Wilmington. “North Carolina is one of the fastest-growing technology hubs in the nation,” said Governor Cooper. “When combined with our reputation for financial technology, a talented workforce and premier quality of life, it’s great news that Vantaca is expanding right here in its hometown of Wilmington.” Headquartered in Wilmington, Vantaca provides software-as-a-service through its cloud-based platform for homeowner associations and community management organizations. The company’s system automates workflows and accounting functions to offer an integrated solution that streamlines communications and user activity while facilitating financial operations in real-time.

This expansion by Vantaca will be facilitated, in part, by a Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) approved by the state’s Economic Investment Committee. Over the course of the 12-year term of the grant, economists in the Department of Commerce estimate the project will grow the state’s economy by more than $204 million. The JDIG agreement authorizes the potential reimbursement to the company of up to $1,418,400 spread over 12 years. Because Vantaca is expanding in New Hanover County, classified by the state’s economic tier system as Tier 2, the company’s JDIG agreement also calls for moving as much as $157,600 into the state’s Industrial Development Fund – Utility Account.

Cooper also announced that Corning Incorporated will invest $150 million to expand operations in Catawba County, creating 200 jobs in Hickory. “As we celebrate Manufacturing Week in our state, it’s exciting to see a global manufacturer like Corning expand yet again in a great rural county like Catawba,” said Cooper. “Corning understands North Carolina’s strengths as a business location, thanks to their firsthand experience with our skilled workforce, customized training programs and great quality of life.”

Corning’s Optical Communications business operates cable facilities in Hickory, Newton and Winston-Salem, and optical fiber facilities in Wilmington and Concord. Its Optical Communications headquarters is in Charlotte. Corning’s project will be facilitated by a Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) approved by the state’s Economic Investment Committee.



COVID Death

Avi Bajpai and Mark Price, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 9/28/21

A 20-year-old college student in eastern North Carolina has died of COVID-19 related issues after deciding he was too healthy to need the vaccine. Tyler Gilreath, who lived in Cary, contracted the virus just days after moving to the coast to attend classes at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, his mother, Tamra Demello, told The News & Observer in a phone interview Tuesday. Gilreath was not vaccinated, Demello said, and had resisted getting the shot, often telling his mother he was young, healthy, and didn’t have any pre-existing conditions, and therefore didn’t need the vaccine’s protection.

“When they’re 20, you can’t make them do what they don’t want to do anymore,” Demello said. Demello urged parents of children who haven’t yet been vaccinated to get their kids to do so immediately.

UNC Wilmington confirmed to The News & Observer Tuesday that Gilreath was enrolled for the fall semester and was a sophomore majoring in computer science. UNC Wilmington has adopted a series of protocols during the pandemic, including requiring masks while students are indoors. Positive COVID-19 tests on campus have been trending down and the university credits that to an “upward trend in vaccinations among students.” [Source]



Tillis Office

Julian Shen-Berro, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 9/28/21

Politicians in North Carolina are no strangers to controversy, but for U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, the source of his latest social media heat may come as a surprise. Zero out of 10. That’s the rating viral Twitter account Room Rater — which provides snarky commentary on the backgrounds of interviewees in the age of work-from-home — gave Tillis on Tuesday. “@ThomTillis has the carcass of a dead bear pinned to his wall. In 2021,” the account wrote. “What a throwback.” The photo of Tillis and his office was initially tweeted by an anchor for Yahoo Finance.

The News & Observer has asked the senator’s office for more information about the room, which is his congressional office in Washington, D.C. The bear has been spotted in photos before, including on Tillis’ own Twitter account in 2017, where he is photographed with student leaders from the American Legion Boys Nation and Girls Nation. Also in 2017, he was photographed in front of the bear for a USA Today story. [Source]



Gun Theft

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, 9/28/21

A former North Carolina police officer has been accused of stealing guns from the police department where he worked, authorities said Tuesday. In a news release, the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation said former North Topsail Beach police officer Mark William Ray Jr., 41, is charged with 15 counts of obtaining property by false pretense, embezzlement, and felony conversion, according to an agency news release.

The SBI said the North Topsail police chief asked the agency in March to investigate suspected thefts of several firearms being held as evidence at the police department. Agents determined that the guns were sold or pawned at local pawn shops. Ray turned himself in at the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office. on Monday, the SBI said. He was given a $75,000 unsecured bond and his status couldn’t be determined on Tuesday, including whether he has an attorney. The town said Ray was a 12-year veteran of the department who was placed on administrative leave in March before he resigned. [Source]



Proud Boys Leader

Michael Hewlett, WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL, 9/28/21

A federal appellate court has upheld a decision to keep Kernersville Proud Boys leader Charles Donohoe in custody until his trial on charges connected to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. issued its ruling on Monday. The court considered written briefs submitted by both parties but heard no oral arguments.

Donohoe, 33, of Kernersville, is facing a six-count indictment alleging that he played a role in planning and participating in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. On that day, hundreds of people, fueled by false claims that former president Donald Trump won the election and that there was rampant election fraud, stormed the U.S. Capitol, assaulted law-enforcement officers and damaged property in an attempt to stop the U.S. Congress from certifying the presidential election. Three other men are facing the same charges — Ethan Nordean of Auburn, Wash., Joseph Biggs of Ormond, Fla. and Zachary Rehl of Philadelphia.

As noted in the ruling, four of the charges are felonies, one of which carries a potential 20-year sentence and one designated as a federal crime of terrorism. Donohoe’s trial is scheduled for May 18, 2022. [Source]



E-Cigarette Settlement

Ariana-Jasmine Castrellon, THE FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER, 9/28/21

A $40 million settlement will help fund research into how to stop the use of electronic cigarettes among young people, a Cumberland County health official said. North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced the settlement with American electronic cigarette company JUUL Labs in June. JUUL Labs, Inc. was sued by Stein for dramatically increasing underage tobacco use and addiction to electronic cigarettes.

Travis Greer, regional tobacco control manager for the Cumberland County Health Department, talked to the Board of Health about the vaping issue at its meeting last month. North Carolina is currently experiencing a youth vaping epidemic, he said. JUUL Labs, Inc. will pay North Carolina $13 million the first year, $8 million the second year, $7.5 million the third year, $7 million the fourth year and $2.25 million the fifth and sixth year, Greer said. The money is set to fund programs conducting research and prevention of electronic cigarettes, Greer said. [Source]



RDU Incident

Avi Bajpai, THE NEWS & OBSERVER, 9/28/21

A parking deck at Raleigh-Durham International Airport has re-opened after officials responded to a report of an attempted carjacking Tuesday evening, the airport said. The parking deck was closed for nearly two hours after law enforcement with the RDU Airport Authority responded to a call in the parking garage shortly before 5 p.m., the airport said in a statement. No one was injured, and no suspects were identified or detained, airport officials said. The garage was cleared for reopening around 7 p.m., airport officials said. Passengers were told to stay inside the terminals, and travelers arriving at the airport were redirected to a nearby parking lot, during the search. [Source]



Officer Fired

WBTV NEWS, 9/28/21

A Mecklenburg County Detention Officier was fired after he was arrest and charged with felony assault, Sheriff’ Garry McFadden said Tuesday. Former Detention Officer Branden Williamson was arrested and charged on felony assault charges stemming from an aggravated assault incident on September 27 in Richland County, South Carolina.

“After I received the call from Sheriff Leon Lott, I was extremely embarrassed as well as infuriated,” McFadden said. “After speaking with the arresting officer and hearing the circumstances, I was more infuriated. As a former homicide detective, I have witnessed too many of these domestic disturbances. This will not be tolerated in this agency.” Williamson’s employment with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office started June 5, 2019. He was delivered a notice of termination in Columbia on Tuesday. [Source]



Legislative Data

House Bills Filed

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

  • HB 975 (None) CONFIRM KAREN KEMERAIT, UTILITIES COMMISSION

Senate Bills Filed

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

What Happened in the House

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

  • Cal Pursuant Rule 36(b)
    • SB 85 (Corbin) ALLOW VISION SERVICE PLANS
    • SB 183 (Britt) BEGIN MODERNIZING IGNITION INTERLOCK LAWS
    • SB 695 (Jarvis) VARIOUS EDUCATION CHANGES
  • Filed
    • HB 975 (None) CONFIRM KAREN KEMERAIT, UTILITIES COMMISSION
  • Placed On Cal For 09/29/2021
    • SB 85 (Corbin) ALLOW VISION SERVICE PLANS
    • SB 183 (Britt) BEGIN MODERNIZING IGNITION INTERLOCK LAWS
    • SB 695 (Jarvis) VARIOUS EDUCATION CHANGES
  • Pres. To Gov. 9/28/2021
    • HB 218 (Zenger) STREAMLINE PERMITS/REDEVELOPMENT OF PROPERTY
    • HB 531 (Howard) TIMESHARE ACT CHANGES/ED. PROV. BOND REPEAL
  • Reptd Fav
    • SB 85 (Corbin) ALLOW VISION SERVICE PLANS
    • SB 183 (Britt) BEGIN MODERNIZING IGNITION INTERLOCK LAWS
  • Reptd Fav Com Substitute
    • SB 695 (Jarvis) VARIOUS EDUCATION CHANGES
  • Reptd Fav. For Introduction
    • HB 975 (None) CONFIRM KAREN KEMERAIT, UTILITIES COMMISSION

What Happened in the Senate

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

  • All Senate Committees

What Happened in House Committees

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

  • All House Committees
    • Reptd Fav
      • SB 85 (Corbin) ALLOW VISION SERVICE PLANS
      • SB 183 (Britt) BEGIN MODERNIZING IGNITION INTERLOCK LAWS
    • Reptd Fav Com Substitute
      • SB 695 (Jarvis) VARIOUS EDUCATION CHANGES
    • Reptd Fav. For Introduction
      • HB 975 (None) CONFIRM KAREN KEMERAIT, UTILITIES COMMISSION

What Happened in Senate Committees

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

  • No Senate Committee happenings

House Calendar

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

House Convenes at 10:00 a.m.

Senate Calendar

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Senate Convenes at 9:30 a.m.

House Committee Meetings

Wednesday, September 29

  • 11:00 a.m.
    • House Committee On Alcoholic Beverage Control, Auditorium LB
      • HB 669 (Moffitt) DISTRIBUTE ALCOHOL WITHOUT DISCRIMINATION
    • Cancelled -- House Committee On Judiciary 2, 423 LOB
      • HB 64 (Sauls) GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY ACT OF 2021
      • SB 552 (Sanderson) LIMIT WHO MAY ADVERTISE/ADOPTION LAWS
      • SB 593 (Jackson, B.) SPECIAL EDUCATION DUE PROCESS HEARINGS

Senate Committee Meetings

Wednesday, September 29

  • 5:00 p.m.
    • Senate Committee On Redistricting and Elections, Fisher Student Center - Lumina Theater, Wilmington

Thursday, September 30

  • 6:00 p.m.
    • Senate Committee On Redistricting and Elections, Fayetteville Tech Community College


N.C. Government Meetings and Hearings

Items in RED are new listings.

Monday, Oct. 4

  • 1 p.m. | The Board Development Committee of The North Carolina Partnership for Children meet virtually via Zoom.

Tuesday, Oct. 12

  • 8:30 a.m. | The Fund Development and Communications Committee of The North Carolina Partnership for Children meet virtually via Zoom.

Wednesday, Oct. 13

  • 1 p.m. | The Finance and Audit Committee of The North Carolina Partnership for Children meet virtually via Zoom.

Thursday, Oct. 15

Monday, Oct. 18

  • 2 p.m. | The Executive Committee of The North Carolina Partnership for Children meet virtually via Zoom.

Thursday, Nov.19

Thursday, Dec. 17



UNC Board of Governors

UNC Center for School Leadership Development, 140 Friday Center Drive, Chapel Hill.

Thursday, Nov. 18

  • 9 a.m. | The UNC Board of Governors, N.C. State, Raleigh.

Thursday, Dec. 16

  • 9 a.m. | The UNC Board of Governors, C.S.L.D. Building, Chapel Hill.


N.C. Utilities Commission Hearing Schedule

Dobbs Building, 430 North Salisbury Street, Raleigh.

Monday, Oct. 4

  • Staff Conference

Monday, Oct. 11

  • Staff Conference

Monday, Oct. 18

  • Staff Conference

Monday, Oct. 25

  • Staff Conference


Other Meetings and Events of Interest

Items in RED are new listings.

Monday, Oct. 25

  • TBA | The N.C. Bankers Association host 2021 Fusion Forum, The Grandover Resort, Greensboro.

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This story was originally published September 28, 2021 10:22 PM.

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