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Weekend reads: A GOP surprise, clarifying school suspensions, and NC's snowballing gambling mess • NC Newsline

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Weekend reads: A GOP surprise, clarifying school suspensions, and NC's snowballing gambling mess • NC Newsline


NC House Republicans advance a proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit non-citizen voting

The North Carolina Legislative Building in downtown Raleigh (Photo: Clayton Henkel)

By Lynn Bonner 

Republicans in the state House are moving to put a question on the November ballot that would write a prohibition on non-citizen voting into the state constitution, even though non-citizen voting is already illegal.

Asking voters to add another prohibition to non-citizen voting to the constitution could help boost turnout from voters who have illegal voting as a top concern and help Republican candidates highlight southern border crossings. [Read more...]

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Surprise GOP campaign finance law proposal prompts walkout by Democratic senators

Senate Democrats hold a press conference
State Senate Democratic Whip Jay Chaudhuri of Wake County addresses the news media along with several Democratic colleagues in front of the state Legislative Building after they staged a walkout in response to a surprise GOP campaign finance law proposal. (Photo: Ahmed Jallow)

By Rob Schofield and Ahmed Jallow 

In a surprise move that caught most Legislative Building watchers off-guard, Republican lawmakers unveiled legislation on Thursday that would make significant changes to state campaign finance law. The sudden move prompted all 20 Senate Democrats to walk out of the chamber in protest when the bill was quickly brought to a vote. It was approved 28-0 by the Republicans who remained on the Senate floor. The House is expected to take up the measure next week.

The proposed law changes, which were appended to a conference committee report on a controversial and much-debated bill dealing with punishment for unlawful protests and the wearing of masks (see the box below), would make it easier for big dollar donors to funnel large sums of cash in relative anonymity to support North Carolina political candidates.[Read more…]

For a two-month delay in delivering driver’s licenses, the DMV and its contractor blame each other

Wayne Goodwin and Lisa Shoemaker (Screenshot)
DMV Commissioner Wayne Goodwin and Idemia executive testify at a House Committee hearing Thursday (Photo: NCGA Screenshot)

By Lynn Bonner

Two adversaries sat side-by-side at a North Carolina hearing Thursday as House members tried to find the cause of a driver’s license backlog that delayed delivery of permanent IDs to hundreds of thousands of residents.

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DMV Commissioner Wayne Goodwin said that what started as a problem with 2,150 licenses  ballooned to a 354,697 backlog, where customers had to wait up to eight weeks for permanent licenses.  He blamed the state’s longtime contractor, Idemia, for the backlog and a lack of communication about the growing problem. An Idemia vice president said DMV should have gone along with the company’s recommendations for a quicker resolution. [Read more...]

Legislation to clarify NC school suspensions finds initial bipartisan support

Leah McGhee speaks to state senators
Leah McGhee tells state senators that her son was wrongfully suspended for mentioning ‘illegal aliens’ in a class. (Photo: NCGA video stream)

By Clayton Henkel 

Tens of thousands of students are suspended each year; bill would expand due process rights

Leah McGhee said when her son was suspended from Central Davidson High School, she could not appeal the punishment because it was less than 10 days.

According to McGhee, her 16-year-old son was only seeking clarification when his teacher used the word aliens in class, and he asked whether that reference was to “space aliens or illegal aliens who need green cards.”

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The student received a three day out-of-school suspension for what was deemed a racially motivated comment which disrupted the class.[Read more…]

A push to keep NC autopsy reports secret ends — for now

Sen. Danny Britt
Sen. Danny Britt said the provision to keep autopsy reports secret had been removed from House Bill 250, but it might come back up again. (File photo)

By Lynn Bonner

Republican senators have dropped immediate plans to prevent the public and family members from seeing autopsy reports that are connected to criminal cases.

Last month, Sen. Danny Britt, a Robeson County Republican, presented a proposal to keep secret from the public autopsy reports in criminal cases until those cases were resolved. [Read more…]

After federal court hearing, use of toxic algaecide at Lake Mattamuskeet on hold

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The waters of Lake Mattamuskeet sparkle like diamonds on a sunny day. A clump of green reeds extends into the lake.
Lake Mattamuskeet (Photo: Lisa Sorg)

By Lisa Sorg 

Young Kang, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, had not even finished announcing his last name when Judge Terence Boyle cut him off.

“Why are you doing this?” Boyle, who was appointed to the federal bench by President Reagan in 1984, barked at Kang. “This is a drastic approach.” [Read more…]

Advocates for people experiencing homelessness anxiously await U.S. Supreme Court decision

Homeless rights activists hold a rally outside of the U.S. Supreme Court
Homeless rights activists hold a rally outside of the U.S. Supreme Court on April 22, 2024 in Washington, D.C. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson and Smith v. Spizzirri, a dispute over the constitutionality of ordinances that bar people who are homeless from camping on city streets. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

By Greg Childress

Latonya Agard, executive director of NC Coalition to End Homelessness, is anxiously awaiting the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Grants Pass v. Johnson, an Oregon case testing a city ordinance that prohibits people experiencing homelessness from sleeping in public.

An unfavorable ruling in the case, which is expected to be decided by the end of the month, could have severe consequences for the nearly 10,000 people in North Carolina who are experiencing homelessness, Agard said this week during a statewide conference where advocates gathered to discuss topics impacting people experiencing homelessness. [Read more.…]

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Bonus read: Veteran journalist and housing advocate: We must change the narrative about homelessness

 

North Carolina abortion pill restrictions struck down by federal judge

Abortion rights demonstrators
Abortion-rights supporters rallied outside of the U.S. Supreme Court in March as justices heard arguments about abortion medication. North Carolina regulations that made doctors dispense mifepristone in-person and required patients to go to follow-up appointments overstep the federal government’s authority, a judge ruled Monday. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

By Elisha Brown

A federal judge on Monday blocked parts of North Carolina’s law on medication abortions.

Under the ruling by U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles any health care provider — not just physicians — and pharmacists who are certified can prescribe abortion pills, patients can take mifepristone at home and they no longer have to make three-in person visits to a doctor.[Read more...]

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North Carolina’s rapidly snowballing gambling mess (commentary)

Young man sitting on the sofa at home using a smartphone for sports betting. (Photo: Getty Images/bluecinema)
The author says North Carolina’s foray into sports gambling has led to predictably bad results. (Photo: Getty Images/bluecinema)

By Rob Schofield

The physical therapy facility was a beehive of activity at 8:00 a.m. on a Tuesday. In a big and well-lit room, dozens of patients – most of them aging and trying their best to stave off various ravages of time – stretched awkwardly on tables or did their best to make use of exercise machines and various props, as busy therapists and assistants offered encouragement, and pecked away at laptops.

It was a mostly friendly and positive environment in which privacy was relatively minimal and conversations sometimes overlapped. [Read more…]

 

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UGASports – Rivals 4-star WR Je'rel Bolder makes the call for NC State

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UGASports  –  Rivals 4-star WR Je'rel Bolder makes the call for NC State


Rivals four-star Je’rel Bolder is off the board.

After official visits to Virginia, Georgia and N.C. State, the Pack sealed the deal with one of the nation’s top pass-catchers out of their backyard.

Bolder, ranked as a four-star by Rivals and the No. 47 WR in the country from Marshville (N.C.) Forest Hills High, committed to NC State over the Dawgs on Sunday.

“It was definitely an easy choice,” Bolder told Rivals. “It felt like if I was walking on my front doorstep and being at home.”

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The Wolfpack have been a mainstay in Bolder’s recruitment dating back to last season.

National programs like Ohio State and Georgia kicked the tires with the 6-foot-1, 190-pound playmaker from North Carolina. The Dawgs hosted Bolder for G-Day and moved the needle during his recent official visit to Athens.

Returning to Raleigh, however, reaffirmed a theme of Bolder’s recruitment — the longevity of his connections to the Wolfpack coaches.

“The coaching staff over there has been recruiting me for a long time and they’ve always made me feel like I’m a top priority,” Bolder explained. “From just talking to Coach (Joker) Philips and hearing him talk ball, I loved his philosophy.”

Ahead of official visits this summer, Bolder identified N.C. State as the team pursuing him the hardest.

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“They have been recruiting me since my freshman year and I’m a top guy on their board,” he told Rivals this spring.

Bolder is the No. 8 overall player in the state of North Carolina for the 2025 cycle. He’s the No. 47 wideout in America heading into his senior season.



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North Carolina coast starts summer with 150 rip current rescues, alligator scare and shark bite report

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North Carolina coast starts summer with 150 rip current rescues, alligator scare and shark bite report


SUNSET BEACH, N.C. (WNCN) — Just as the first week of summer gets underway, things have been busy at the North Carolina coast — with a reported shark bite, an alligator scare and more than 150 water rescues amid dangerous rip currents.

Summer began on Thursday and since then much of the coast has been under a red flag warning for a high risk of rip currents. There were 152 rip current rescues along New Hanover County and Carteret County beaches starting Wednesday and continuing through Saturday — with more than 80 at Carolina Beach, the National Weather Service said.

But the activity at the coast wasn’t limited to rip current water rescues. On Tuesday a man was sent to an area hospital after a “shark bite” at an island beach in Brunswick County, near the South Carolina border.

Photo by Sunset Beach Police

The incident, which was initially reported as a shark bite, happened just before 11:25 a.m. Tuesday in the surf at Sunset Beach.

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A 20-year-old man was swimming on the eastern side of the island near 11th Street when he was bitten on the lower leg and was “immediately” taken by Brunswick County Emergency Medical Services to a hospital, according to Sunset Beach Police Department.

Police later said a cut on the man’s leg was caused by “some sort of sea life” but could not confirm it was a shark bite.

On Wednesday — nearly a half mile off the coast of Oak Island — crews had to rescue two youths on a paddle board who had drifted out to sea, officials said.

Oak Island Water Rescue and the U.S Coast Guard were involved in the rescue around 3:35 p.m. which involved getting the pair back to the Brunswick County island. East to West longshore currents and offshore winds forced the pair about 2,000 feet off the beach, according to the Oak Island Fire Department.

A drone flew out to the pair who were far off Barbee Boulevard. The youths communicated with the device using the camera and a speaker on the drone, the Oak Island Fire Department said.

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On Thursday — also at Sunset Beach — an alligator lurking under a car frightened folks at a Mexican restaurant, police said.

The alligator was only 5 feet long but the animal’s head looked menacing sticking out under a car, according to the Sunset Beach Police Department.

Photo courtesy: Oak Island Fire Department

Wildlife crews and police were called Thursday afternoon to Las Palmeras Mexican Restaurant on Chandlers Lane, near the Food Lion in Sunset Beach.

“When the officers arrived, the alligator was tucked under the vehicle with his head peering out from the driver’s side door, blocking access to the vehicle,” police said.

Crews and police managed to get control of the gator “out of concern for the safety of the vehicle owner” and move it to a nearby pond, according to police.

“Never approach an alligator or allow children near them. Alligators can move very quickly over short distances,” Sunset Beach Police said.

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Photo by Sunset Beach Police

As the weekend was underway, red flag and high rip current warnings continued along many North Carolina beaches on Saturday. There were 152 rip current rescues from Thursday through Saturday in New Hanover and Carteret counties, the National Weather Service reported.

The total water rescues for Wednesday and Thursday in New Hanover County was 20 at Kure Beach, 14 at Wrightsville Beach and 35 at Carolina Beach, the National Weather Service reported. Four total rip current rescues were reported at Atlantic Beach in Carteret County on Thursday and Saturday.

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On Friday and Saturday, there were 38 water rescues at Carolina Beach, 21 at Kure Beach and 10 at Wrightsville Beach, the National Weather Service told CBS 17 Saturday.

Oak Island Water Rescue photo

Dangerous rip currents were reported Saturday from Cape Hatteras to Surf City. The National Weather Service also reported rip currents in Pender and New Hanover counties.

Saturday, the National Weather Service in Wilmington told CBS 17 that the forecast for dangerous rip currents in New Hanover County and Brunswick County was likely to diminish for the rest of the weekend.

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Leland and NC Wildlife Commission unveil eco-blueprint for future growth | Port City Daily

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Leland and NC Wildlife Commission unveil eco-blueprint for future growth | Port City Daily


An environmental framework guide was approved by the Leland town council at their last meeting. (Port City Daily File)

LELAND — A partnership between the Town of Leland and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission achieved its anticipated results with the development of an environmental conservation framework.

READ MORE: Leland receives $1M in grant money for flood mitigation on critical route 

The Green Network Master Plan Framework Guide details a strategy for conserving Leland’s terrestrial and aquatic natural habitats and connecting them through functional corridors. It has been in the works since the town and commission’s partnership was formed in 2022 and is included in the Leland 2045 Comprehensive Plan, adopted in 2021 as part of the town’s objectives to protect natural and cultural resources and to create connected neighborhoods. 

The guide received unanimous approval from the council at their June 20 meeting. 

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The Green Network Master Plan Framework Guide will influence development processes, as it will be adopted to support local government planning projects. This includes incorporating wildlife and natural resource conservation into land use and development planning, initiatives, and ordinances.

It directs the creation of greenways, blueways, and trails to establish a Green Network. This network will connect new and existing neighborhoods throughout the town, integrating them with surrounding natural environments and recreational resources. 

Additionally, the guide offers recommendations from the NCWRC on managing growth and implementing best practices to preserve environmental integrity. 

The NCWRC recommends strategies to protect natural habitats in Leland’s planning areas that could potentially be harmed by development. The recommendations include standards for environmentally friendly development and design; rules for protecting habitats and wildlife; plans to improve transportation systems; and strategies for creating and maintaining parks and open space. 

Included in their recommendations, particularly concerning the development process, are:

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  • Requiring developers to designate natural areas for permanent conservation.
  • Requiring developers to create management plans for these conserved natural areas.
  • Ensuring developments incorporate Best Management Practices (BMPs) to mitigate stormwater runoff and preserve water quality. This includes strategies like limiting grading and land alteration, maintaining natural contour and drainage patterns where possible, and encouraging the use of Low Impact Development (LID) techniques such as permeable paving and green roofs.
  • Implementing setbacks to act as buffers, reducing the impact of developments on nearby environmentally sensitive natural areas.
  • Exclude invasive and exotic species from the list of approved landscaping options.

“Certainly, NCWRC has provided their recommendations, but they can be curtailed and massaged into what we prefer, or how we see fit, within our code of ordinances,”  Griffee said during his presentation to council on Thursday. 

Currently the planning department requires developmental plans to align with the goals stated in the Leland 2045 Comprehensive Plan. 

The Leland 2045 comprehensive plan outlines goals and policies for Leland’s anticipated land and population growth. It emphasizes protecting natural resources, creating diverse neighborhoods that accommodate growth, and creating infrastructure that supports connected community life. 

Grifee mentioned that the guide already has plans to create a blueway, hitting the comprehensive plan’s goal of connectivity. A blueway is a designated waterway route intended for recreational use, particularly by non-motorized watercraft such as canoes and kayaks, and often serves to protect the environment.

“If you know there is another kayak launch or boat ramp in X amount of miles, then you could just plop it from one end and take it out on the other,” he said. 

Right now, there are designated canoe or kayak launches at Cypress Cove Park and Brunswick Nature Park. 

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Maps included in the report show the addition of two water access points, one in Leland’s planning boundaries and the other near Old Fayetteville Road. 

The NCWRC also provided maps depicting the Leland planning area, highlighting endangered and threatened species, as well as parcels under conservation easements from local, state, federal, and private owners. 

The map relies on guidance from the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program to identify areas of significant environmental value. According to the NCHP, seven areas in Leland are classified as very high or exceptionally high in terms of natural importance. Specifically, the Brunswick River and Cape Fear River marshes, Town Creek marshes and swamp, and Town Creek Aquatic Habitat are considered exceptionally high. 

Goose Pond Limesinks, Rabontown Limesinks, Pleasant Oaks and Goose Landing Plantations, and the Lower Cape Fear River Aquatic Habitat are classified as very high.

Criteria for the scale considered the presence of endangered species, rare terrestrial or aquatic communities, unique ecological types, and significant biological or ecological phenomena. The assessment also takes into account the natural diversity of the surrounding area. 

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During the meeting, one council member raised questions about the guides implementation.

“I see a lot of this bleeding over into parks, trails, and development, and so I guess [my question] is more of the implementation: When do we—how do we—-bring these elements into those plans?” council member, Veronica Carter, said at the meeting.

Community development Planner Julian Griffee told Port City Daily in an interview Friday that, as of right now, the plan stands more as guidance. 

“It doesn’t per se, have teeth, it’s not something we can enforce,” he said. “However, similar to Leland 2045, it provides insight on regulations or policies we might want to adopt or incorporate into our code of ordinances, that we can actually enforce.”

Council did not give any direction on how it would move forward with the plan and whether they would propose any ordinance changes as a result.

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“The next step would be to take a look at: ‘How do we incorporate some of these themes into our regulations to accommodate the growth that balances environmental preservation with the development of the need to accommodate the growing population?” Planning Director Benjamin Andrea said. 


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