Associated Press

NC Blue Cross: Tax Cut Helps Charities, Rate Hikes Lessened

North Carolina’s largest health insurer said Thursday its windfall from the new federal tax cut will hold down rate increases in the future, but this year it will use it to give charities $40 million and pay employees a $1,000 bonus. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina said it will give away millions this year for health initiatives and give bonuses to about 4,700 employees. The company said premiums are expected to keep rising, but by less than they would have after tax savings are applied to most policies in 2019. Most 2018 rates were set by...

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Special Session Arguments Focus on Notice, Instruction

Arguments over the legitimacy of a December 2016 special legislative session called by North Carolina Republicans centered Wednesday on what “adequate notice” and the constitutional right for state residents to “instruct” their legislators mean. A panel of three Superior Court judges heard from lawyers for government reform group Common Cause and 10 state residents who argue the session was illegal. The judges also heard from state attorneys who said GOP legislative leaders followed the rules in calling themselves to work. The panel didn’t immediately rule after a two-hour hearing on a request to declare the session unconstitutional, voiding the...

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Rebuffed Elsewhere, Advocacy Group Sue to Alter House Lines

Several election advocacy groups have sued to try again to block legislative districts in one North Carolina county from being used in this year’s elections. Democracy North Carolina, the state NAACP and League of Women Voters are among plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit Wednesday in a Wake County court. At issue are four state House districts in Wake County redrawn by the Republican-controlled General Assembly last August after a previous federal court order threw out other districts elsewhere. The plaintiffs argue changing the four districts violated a mid-decade prohibition on redistricting in the state constitution and want them returned...

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Evangelist Billy Graham, Who Reached Millions, Dies at 99

The Rev. Billy Graham, who transformed American religious life through his preaching and activism, becoming a counselor to presidents and the most widely heard Christian evangelist in history, died Wednesday. He was 99. Graham, who long suffered from cancer, pneumonia and other ailments, died at his home in North Carolina, spokesman Mark DeMoss told The Associated Press. More than anyone else, Graham built evangelicalism into a force that rivaled liberal Protestantism and Roman Catholicism in the United States. His leadership summits and crusades in more than 185 countries and territories forged powerful global links among conservative Christians, and threw...

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North Carolina House School Safety Panel Details Released

North Carolina House members with education, law enforcement and mental health policy backgrounds will serve on a special committee to examine K-12 school safety standards and recommend any changes. House Speaker Tim Moore announced Tuesday the more than 40 members to serve on the House Select Committee on School Safety. Moore and other legislators discussed committee details at a news conference in Shelby. The committee’s creation comes after a school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead. Moore says it’s the duty of lawmakers to provide the highest level of physical security for classrooms. The committee announcement came...

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Confederate Statue Toppling Cases Start with a Dismissal

Problems identifying protesters on video hindered North Carolina prosecutors on Monday as they sought to hold demonstrators responsible for toppling a Confederate statue last summer. A judge dismissed the criminal cases against the first two defendants to appear in a series of individual trials, and he found a third not guilty. Trials for five others are to be held at a later date. Prosecutors showed videos of protesters bringing out a ladder, attaching a rope and yanking down the statue in front of a Durham County government building in August 2017. But defense attorneys successfully argued through a series...

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North Carolina Legislators Cautious on More Online Sales

Legislators sounded cautious and divided Thursday about the North Carolina lottery’s latest pitch to expand online sales, with some worried it could cannibalize ticket sales at convenience stores and complicate flushing out illegal video sweepstakes parlors. The North Carolina Education Lottery has been examining “digital instants” already being offered by lotteries in three other states. They are essentially electronic scratch-off tickets in which players can win cash prizes from their computers or smartphones. Players pay for tickets from debit cards or checking accounts. An outside performance audit the lottery paid for says online games could generate another $130 million...

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North Carolina Health Officials Report 17 New Flu Deaths

State health officials said Thursday 17 more people have died from the flu in North Carolina, the fifth straight week in which more than 10 people have died from the virus. There were no pediatric deaths in the latest report issued by the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services. The death toll for the 2017-18 season is 165, including 132 deaths in the last five weeks. Experts say this season nationwide is now as bad as the swine flu epidemic nine years ago. According to a government report released last Friday, 1 of every 13 visits to the...

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North Carolina School-Choice Advocate Joining National Group

The founding president of a North Carolina group that successfully lobbied legislators to authorize more charter schools and create three taxpayer-funded scholarship or grant school-choice programs for K-12 children is leaving his job. Darrell Allison with Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina said Thursday he would leave at the end of the month to become a director and political strategist at the national school-choice group the American Federation for Children. Allison became the North Carolina group’s president in 2005. He said he’s proud of North Carolina implementing so many education reform initiatives since 2011. That’s when Republicans took...

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Cooper Unveils North Carolina Workforce Development Plans

Gov. Roy Cooper says upgrading North Carolina’s workforce is a big deal for his administration, so he’s laying out how he wants to make citizens ready for jobs today and prepared for future industries. Cooper laid out his “NC Job Ready” initiative Tuesday while speaking at a career and technical education high school in Raleigh. Some of his workforce priorities overlap his public education efforts to raise the graduation rate and increase the number of residents with post-secondary education or credentials. He wants easier access for training in high-demand fields, better internet and expanded workplace and employer-led learning opportunities....

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