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Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


A QUALIFIED, WELL-PREPARED TEACHER IN EVERY CLASSROOM: We must increase educator compensation and create incentives to enable low-wealth districts to attract and retain qualified and well-prepared teachers. As a means toward lifting North Carolina’s teachers to at a minimum the national average, let’s raise pay for teachers and instructional support staff by at least 5% this year. We must also reinstate retiree health benefits for teachers and all state employees — new employees hired after January 1, 2021 won’t retire with state-subsidized health care; and we must work to regain that important benefit. We must also work harder to significantly increase the racial and ethnic diversity of North Carolina’s qualified and well-prepared teacher workforce. We must provide high-quality mentoring and induction support for beginning teachers for their first three years to increase both their effectiveness and their retention.

Saturday News: Abominable


RALPH HISE IS TRYING TO SMOTHER RENTAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM: Hogshead said that H196, which passed the state House and Senate on Thursday, would essentially require the HOPE program to maintain 100 smaller rental programs — one in each county. “It will be chaos, which is the last thing we need in a program that folks are really counting on,” Hogshead said. “It’s about delivering these funds where the need is across the state, and yes, that’s going to require work,” Hise said in an interview with The N&O. Samuel Gunter, executive director of the N.C. Housing Coalition, a nonprofit affordable housing advocacy organization, opposes the provisions in H196. He told The N&O in a phone interview that the most important thing right now is speed. “When we come down with resources, we want to attach all of these strings and make it very difficult for individuals to access it,” Gunter said. “It becomes incredibly difficult for folks to access the help they need in a timely manner.”

Friday News: Making it harder


GOP RELIEF BILL PUTS SPENDING CAPS ON RENTAL ASSISTANCE: New rules written into a fast-moving spending bill this week will slow down a state rental assistance effort that has already struggled to get money out quickly, the program's director said Thursday. State lawmakers added spending caps for each of North Carolina's 100 counties to a $550 million program meant to help people struggling through the pandemic pay rent and utility bills. This "throws a wrench" into a federally funded program that the state's Office of Recovery and Resiliency has been working to open, office Chief Operating Officer Laura Hogshead said. "If we're having to hold back applicants ... in order to serve other applicants across the state and make sure that County Y has hit its number before we can serve more in County X, it is absolutely going to slow us down," Hogshead said. Republican lawmakers responsible for the new rules said they're meant to ensure equity.

Thursday News: Power Play


REPUBLICANS PUSH BILLS TO INCREASE SPECTATORS AT SPORTING EVENTS: High schools and colleges would be allowed to fill up their stands to half capacity during the coronavirus pandemic under a bill approved Wednesday by the state House. The state Senate has passed its own bill expanding capacity at school events. And both Republican-controlled chambers are pushing ahead with separate legislation that could bypass the Democratic governor. The House voted 77-42 to allow up to 50% capacity at indoor and outdoor sporting events and graduations at UNC System schools, community colleges and K-12 schools. The bill comes after Gov. Roy Cooper recently eased COVID-19 restrictions to allow up to 15% capacity at indoor venues and 30% capacity at outdoor venues.

Wednesday News: Finishing Group 3


GROCERY CLERKS AND OTHER FRONT-LINE ESSENTIAL WORKERS ELIGIBLE FOR VACCINE: Frontline essential workers — including grocery store workers, public transit drivers and emergency personnel — will be eligible for the coronavirus vaccine a week ahead of schedule, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday. The state will then move into Group 4 on March 24, starting with people with high-risk underlying conditions, The News & Observer reported. “Given the current rate of vaccination and increased supply, many frontline workers say they can move to the next phase of vaccinations,” Cooper said during a news conference Teachers and school support staff have been able to get the vaccine since Feb. 24. The remaining frontline workers classified under Group 3 will be eligible starting Wednesday.

Tuesday News: A mountain of lies


MADISON CAWTHORN EXPOSED FOR A LIFETIME OF FALSEHOODS: Cawthorn said a close friend had crashed the car in which he was a passenger and fled the scene, leaving him to die “in a fiery tomb.” Cawthorn was “declared dead,” he said in the 2017 speech at Patrick Henry College. He said he told doctors that he expected to recover and that he would “be at the Naval Academy by Christmas.” Key parts of Cawthorn’s talk, however, were not true. The friend, Bradley Ledford, who has not previously spoken publicly about the chapel speech, said in an interview that Cawthorn’s account was false and that he pulled Cawthorn from the wreckage. An accident report obtained by The Washington Post said Cawthorn was “incapacitated,” not that he was declared dead. Cawthorn himself said in a lawsuit deposition, first reported by the news outlet AVL Watchdog, that he had been rejected by the Naval Academy before the crash.

Monday News: Eleven thousand, two hundred twelve


COVID 19 POSITIVITY RATES AND HOSPITALIZATIONS ARE DOWN IN NC: At least 858,548 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the coronavirus and 11,212 have died since March, according to state health officials. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Saturday reported 2,643 new COVID-19 cases, down from 2,924 reported the day before. At least 1,414 people in North Carolina were reported hospitalized with the coronavirus as of Saturday, down from 1,465 on Friday. Saturday’s total is the lowest reported since mid-November. As of Thursday, the latest date for which data are available, 5.4% of COVID-19 tests came back positive, up from 4.7% on Wednesday. Wednesday was second day in a row the rate was below 5%, which health officials have said is the target rate to control the spread of the virus.

Sunday News: From the Editorial pages


BILL REQUIRING IN-PERSON LEARNING RELIES ON LUCK NOT REALITY: The leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly treat legislation like a wish to the genie in the lamp. The demands in legislation, like requiring in-person classroom instruction for most public schools will instantly happen because, poof, the bill becomes law. For this legislation to work, several assumptions that are far out of the control of mere mortals – even esteemed and powerful state legislators – must align. The reality, as legislators have been repeatedly shown over the years but refused to acknowledge, is that commands for action require understanding, planning, communication, resources and consensus. For some reason, legislators who often crow that local governance and decision-making is their strong bias, feel this one-size-fits-all solution is best. This legislation prevents communities from making their own assessment of local needs and conditions to make these sensitive decisions.

Saturday News: IOKIYAR


BUDD AND CAWTHORN USE PROXY VOTE TO ATTEND CPAC: Budd introduced a bill last year that would withhold pay from any lawmaker that voted remotely or by proxy, saying at the time that “outsourcing the duty of a member of Congress is unconstitutional and wrong.” In July, Cawthorn, then a candidate for U.S. House, tweeted that Democrats who vote by proxy are “cowards for hiding and not showing up to work.” But on Thursday and Friday this week, Budd and Cawthorn had Rep. Patrick McHenry, another North Carolina Republican, vote on their behalf. Both Budd and Cawthorn used standard language in their letters to the House assigning someone as their proxy, which are required. They both wrote they were “unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency.”

Friday News: Serve and protect whom?


POLICE "WHISTLEBLOWER" BILL GETS MIXED REVIEWS: A group that represents police officers, the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association, is pushing the bill with backing from GOP lawmakers. They say it will help stop people in power from retaliating against cops — or any other city government workers — who try to shine a light on corruption or abuse inside government. Democrats and a group that represents city governments, the League of Municipalities, oppose the bill, House Bill 7. They say it’s secretly intended to prevent bad cops or other government workers from ever being fired or even disciplined, since they could just claim to be whistleblowers. “My concern is that bad apples are going to be protected by this bill,” said Leo John, a lobbyist for the League of Municipalities.


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