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Requests for NC Public Records Results in Long Waits, Fees

Mar 16, 2015
AP Photo

In July 2013, the office of Gov. Pat McCrory announced the sudden resignation of his public safety secretary after only six months on the job.

The statement said Kieran Shanahan was leaving to spend more time with his wife and focus on his law firm, but persistent whispers around the state capital suggested there was more to the story.

In response, The Associated Press filed a public records request that September for emails Shanahan sent or received while secretary.

Nearly 19 months later, AP is still waiting.

nchousespeaker.com

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis says he thinks the prison at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should stay open after traveling to the site.

Tillis said he visited the base this week with four other freshmen Republican senators. For 13 years, the base has been a detention camp to hold terrorism suspects after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Tillis says Guantanamo holds some of the most heinous and evil criminals of our time and still plays a key role in protecting America from terrorism.

Tillis vowed to make sure the base stays open.

Kirk Ross/Carolina Public Press

Bills that rework district boundaries and representation on two large North Carolina local governments are heading to the House after their final OKs by the Senate.

Senators voted Thursday for the two measures filed by Republicans that change the structure of the Wake County board of commissioners and Greensboro city council. There was no floor debate Thursday compared to intense discussion Wednesday, when the bills passed initially on party-line votes.

Angie Newsome via carolinapublicpress.org

 North Carolina Republican senators have entered again into affairs of local governments without being asked to do so, this time in Wake County and Greensboro.

The Senate planned Wednesday to debate and vote on measures that would rework the districts for Wake's commissioners and Greensboro's city council.

America's largest electric company is settling a lawsuit that claimed shareholders lost millions of dollars when Duke Energy surprised investors by ousting its CEO hours after completing a long-anticipated buyout of its smaller neighbor.

Charlotte-based Duke Energy said Tuesday that it is settling for $146 million and that its insurers would cover most of the cost, with shareholders instead of customers paying the rest. The company set aside $26 million for the amount not covered by insurance.

Matt Rourke/AP

The General Assembly is one vote away from finalizing a bill giving a state panel more leeway directing how air pollution from future fracking operations in North Carolina is restricted.

The Senate gave tentative approval Thursday to a House bill that in part would no longer require the Environmental Management Commission to create air-toxic rules for the natural gas drilling if it determines federal or state regulations are adequate.

Erik Reyna/KUT News

It looks like legislation adjusting North Carolina's gasoline tax is heading to negotiations, but it's unclear when a House bill giving expanded tools to Governor Pat McCrory to recruit companies gets heard in the Senate.

Senators formally rejected Monday night the House version of a tax measure that would lower the gas tax immediately, but not as much as current law mandates this summer. The Senate passed different gas tax changes last month. Final agreement is important soon because the bill also contains income tax law changes for April 15 filers.

Dave DeWitt; North Carolina Public Radio WUNC

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is seeking public comment on its proposed 10-year, $15 billion State Transportation Improvement Program.

The agency website notes that the plan unveiled in December envisions more than a thousand transportation projects with projects in all 100 North Carolina counties.

The department said in a release that residents can comment on the plan through the agency's Mindmixer computer portal.

Associated Press

Duke Energy could legally leak pollutants from some of its coal ash dumps under new wastewater permits proposed by North Carolina regulators.

On Friday, just days after federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against Duke over the leaks, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued new draft permits for three of Duke's coal ash sites. More are to follow.

AP Photo

Highlights of Gov. Pat McCrory's $21.5 billion spending plan released Thursday for the 2015-16 fiscal year. Unless otherwise noted, the dollars amounts are for the 2015-16 year only. For spending changes, figures are for amount spent or saved compared to what was projected or needed to keep operating at current levels.

PUBLIC EDUCATION:

— locate $111 million to increase the floor for early-career teacher salaries from $33,000 to $35,000 and to give experienced-based raises.

Tom Bullock/WFAE News

Updated Thursday 7:17 am

Clergy and advocates differ whether judicial officials are obligated by law to carry out civil same-sex marriages in North Carolina even if they object to gay marriage based on religious grounds.

Several people addressed Wednesday a House judiciary panel considering a Senate bill approved last week that would allow a magistrate or assistant or deputy register of deeds to refuse to carry out marriage duties.

Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer via Associated Press/NY Times

Prosecutors plan to seek the death sentence for a man accused of killing three Muslim students in Chapel Hill last month.

Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols filed papers in court that show he plans to seek the death sentence if Craig Stephen Hicks is convicted of first-degree murder.

Hicks has been charged with killing 23-year-old Deah Shaddy Barakat; his wife, 21-year-old Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha; and her sister, 19-year-old Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, on Feb. 10.

AP/Gerry Broome

Updated Thursday 7:24 am

An economic recruitment package sought by Gov. Pat McCrory and anchored by renewed funding for North Carolina's chief incentives tool has received initial approval by the full House.

The chamber voted 87-32 for the measure Wednesday, one day after it cleared the House's two largest committees.

McCrory's administration has said the Job Development Investment Grant was essentially out of money, and an influx is needed for North Carolina to compete with other states as corporations consider expanding.

David Schaper NPR

Updated Friday 7:10 am

The North Carolina House has agreed to restrain an impending cut in the state's gasoline tax to keep money flowing to road and bridge projects.

House lawmakers on Thursday approved letting the gas tax fall from the current 37.5 cents per gallon rate to 36 cents for the rest of 2015. Doing nothing would have meant the tax pegged to wholesale gas prices would likely drop below 30 cents per gallon, according to legislative analysts.

Some Democrats branded the legislation a tax increase.

Tom Bullock/WFAE News

Charlotte has rejected a measure protecting people from discrimination because of their sexual orientation.

City Council voted Monday night against expanding the city's nondiscrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity to a list of protected groups. It also would have prohibited discrimination based on someone's marital and familial status.

Bob Geary via indyweek.com

The head of North Carolina's NAACP says Gov. Pat McCrory's plan to wait until at least summer before deciding whether to propose expanding health coverage to more uninsured people is a bad excuse not to act.

The Rev. William Barber said Monday that McCrory and legislative leaders keep "stonewalling" on Medicaid expansion.

Students at North Carolina's public universities will pay higher tuition and fees in the next couple of years after a one-year tuition freeze this year.

The governing board of the 16-campus University of North Carolina system on Friday approved requests by schools to raise the core cost of attendance.

North Carolina State University undergraduate students would see tuition rise next fall by $182 to $6,220, followed by another $187 increase the following year. UNC-Chapel Hill could charge an extra $225 in undergraduate tuition next fall to almost $6,650.

UNC Law School via WUNC

North Carolina's public university board is thinking about eliminating an anti-poverty center headed up by an outspoken critic of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and other Republican lawmakers he accuses of doing too little to help the poor.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will investigate whether lenient regulation by North Carolina's environmental agency of industrial hog operations harmed minority neighbors.

The Waterkeeper Alliance and other groups released a letter Wednesday stating the EPA will launch a civil rights investigation of North Carolina's Department of Environment and Natural Resources. DENR spokesman Drew Elliot says the state agency will provide any information EPA needs to investigate the complaint.

Jeremy Loeb

Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency as North Carolinians batten down for the third snowstorm to hit the region in little more than a week.

McCrory issued the declaration Wednesday as officials prepared for a winter blast expected to deliver nearly a foot of additional snow to sections of the state overnight. Many parts of North Carolina received 1 to 3 inches of snow on Tuesday, though much of that melted Wednesday during a period of sunshine and above-freezing temperatures.

raumedic.com

A German company that makes medical equipment is building a plant in Henderson County that will employ nearly 140 people.

Raumedic Inc. announced Tuesday it will spend more than $26 million and create about 138 jobs in Mills River over the next five years.

The company makes tubing, molded parts, catheters and modules for the medical and pharmaceutical industries.

A statement from Gov. Pat McCrory's office said the average annual salary for the operation in Henderson County will be more than $55,000.

The county's average wage is about $34,000.

National Wildlife Federation

Several animal welfare advocacy groups have signed a letter to federal wildlife officials supporting efforts to restore the endangered red wolf to the wild.

The only wild population of the red wolf is in several counties in eastern North Carolina and the federal government is currently considering whether to modify or continue the program. A decision by federal officials is expected in the coming weeks.

The letter dated Tuesday to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asks federal officials to oppose recent resolutions from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

Alicia Funderburk/Carolina Public Press

N.C. Transportation Secretary Tony Tata was in Chicago touting a book as his department's work crews scrambled to treat roads covered by a surprise snowfall.

WRAL-TV in Raleigh reports Tata appeared on CNN Tuesday to talk about his new military thriller.

AP Photo

House Republicans have rolled out an economic development package they hope will help Governor Pat McCrory recruit more companies and jobs to North Carolina.

The long-awaited measure filed Tuesday would increase the cap on what's now called the Job Development Investment Grant program, which makes payments to qualifying companies based on a portion of income taxes paid by hired workers.

AP/Gerry Broome

Some North Carolina court officials could opt out of marriage duties — including same-sex marriages — under legislation given the state Senate's approval.

The Senate voted 32-16 Wednesday for a bill giving magistrates and some register of deeds workers the ability to remove themselves from the process because of religious objections. The bill comes after federal judges' in October overturned North Carolina's same-sex marriage ban.

Associated Press

Federal prosecutors have filed multiple criminal charges against Duke Energy over years of illegal pollution from coal ash dumps at five North Carolina power plants.

The three U.S. Attorney's Offices covering the state on Friday charged Duke with nine criminal violations of the Clean Water Act. The prosecutors say the nation's largest electricity company engaged in unlawful dumping at coal-fired power plants in Eden, Moncure, Asheville, Goldsboro and Mt. Holly.

brevard.edu

Brevard College is pulling all of the school's investments out of fossil fuels to make a public statement that something has to be done about climate change.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reports that trustees voted Friday to get rid of any investment in fossil fuels from the college's $25 million endowment. Officials estimate about 4 percent of the Transylvania County school's portfolio is in fossil fuels like coal.

UNC Law School via WUNC

A panel at the University of North Carolina is recommending the elimination of three university centers, including one whose director has been an outspoken critic of Gov. Pat McCrory and GOP lawmakers.

Multiple media outlets report the UNC Board of Governors panel discussed its recommendations Wednesday. For months, it has been reviewing all 240 centers and institutes that conduct research and policy analysis in the UNC system.

UNC-Chapel Hill's Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity is one of the three centers recommended for closure.

Durham County Sherriff's Office/AP via NPR

A grand jury in North Carolina has indicted a man on three counts of murder in the shootings of three young Muslims in what authorities have said was a dispute over parking spaces.

Television stations WRAL and WTVD reported a grand jury in Durham County handed up the indictments Monday for 46-year-old Craig Hicks.

No one answered a phone call from The Associated Press at the courthouse, which closed midday for impending ice and snowstorm.

Jeremy Loeb/WCQS

North Carolina's first major winter storm brought snow and ice to western N.C.  The combination of precipitation and cold weather made for a dangerous accumulation of ice on roads and sidewalks.  Walking was treacherous in downtown Asheville, with ice-coated sidewalks offering no grip.  Roads were similarly dangerous. 

*Update: Wednesday 7:02am

Governor Pat McCrory is warning motorists in North Carolina of treacherous road conditions later this week as extremely cold temperatures would freeze or re-freeze what has already fallen.

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