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Over the past five years, North Carolina’s economy has continued steady growth, despite all the obstacles that have been put before us, including ongoing workforce shortage needs. To keep growing and thriving, we need to ensure we’re supporting our workforce and building toward the future. For business owners and leaders like me, this means updating our immigration system — which has not been substantially updated in more than three decades — or facing the consequences of inaction, which are creeping closer and closer. Read moreBilly Sewell: Lawmakers must protect DACA recipients, all dreamers

A rising force in state politics, Carolina Forward — a center-left policy organization to which I am also a contributor — held a recent post-election discussion forum that yielded provocative insights about the state of North Carolina’s political field. If I could distill a single message from the panel, it would be: “Democrats, don’t stop fighting.” The party has certainly struggled recently to surmount North Carolina’s conservative rut, but our state is not beyond the reach of a progressive renaissance. Read moreAlexander H. Jones: Don't quit, Dems — N.C. remains purple

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State AP Stories

North Carolina government is appealing a judge’s order that demands by certain dates many more community services for people with intellectual and development disabilities who otherwise live at institutions. Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley announced the formal challenge on Wednesday. He says his agency has grave concerns about some directives issued four weeks ago by Judge Allen Baddour. One in particular says new admissions to new admissions for people with such disabilities in state-run development centers, privately intermediate care facilities and certain adult care homes must end by January 2028. Kinsley says the decision could shutter small facilities and leave clients without accommodations.

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Incoming and returning Republicans to the North Carolina Senate have chosen a key lawmaker on tax, voting and energy issues to become majority leader for the next two years. The Senate Republican Caucus on Monday elected Sen. Paul Newton of Cabarrus County to the post. Newton succeeds Sen. Kathy Harrington, who didn't seek reelection this fall to her Gaston County seat. The caucus also agreed to nominate Phil Berger to a seventh term as president pro tempore when the session convenes in January. He has held the job since 2011. Senate Democrats meeting separately Monday reelected Sen. Dan Blue of Wake County as minority leader.

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A memorial service will be held this weekend for Betty Ray McCain. She was a longtime North Carolina Democratic Party activist and counselor to former four-time Gov. Jim Hunt who died last week at age 91. McCain was the first woman to chair the state Democratic Party in the 1970s. Hunt named McCain secretary of the Department of Cultural Resources in 1993. She also served multiple terms on the University of North Carolina Board of Governors and on many boards and commissions. Current Gov. Roy Cooper called McCain a “trailblazer for women and a powerful force for good in the arts, education and public service."

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Democrats celebrated winning North Carolina's lone toss-up race for the U.S. House this month as Wiley Nickel won the 13th District seat. The victory creates a 7-7 split in the state’s delegation — the best showing for Democrats in a decade. But there’s a good chance Nickel’s district and others will be altered for the 2024 elections, returning the advantage to Republicans. The current lines are only being used for these elections. New lines will be drawn by Republicans, who still control the General Assembly. And a new GOP majority on the state Supreme Court likely will be more skeptical of legal challenges that scuttled previous boundaries.

National & World AP Stories

A Hong Kong court postponed the trial of a pro-democracy newspaper publisher on Thursday after the territory’s leader asked China to effectively block him from hiring a British defense lawyer. Jimmy Lai, 74, faces a possible life sentence if convicted under a national security law imposed by Beijing. The government objected after judges on Monday approved Lai’s plan to hire Timothy Owen, a veteran human rights lawyer. Chief Executive John Lee asked Beijing to decide whether foreign lawyers who didn’t normally practice in Hong Kong could be rejected for national security cases. If Beijing intervenes, that would mark the sixth time the Communist-ruled government has stepped into the city’s legal affairs.

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Rose Bowl game organizers have cleared the way for the College Football Playoff to expand to 12 teams starting in the 2024 season. They've told CFP officials they are willing to alter agreements for the first two years of the larger playoff. A person with knowledge of the discussions between game organizers and CFP officials told The Associated Press that the Rose Bowl is prepared to be flexible and wants to continue to be part of the College Football Playoff beyond 2025. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the presidents and chancellors who oversee the playoff still needed to give final approval on expansion plans.

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The Prince and Princess of Wales are making their first overseas trip since the death of Queen Elizabeth II in September. The trip that began Wednesday is an occasion for Prince William and his wife, Kate, to show the world as much about who they are not as who they are. With their three-day visit to Boston, the couple hope to demonstrate that they aren’t the last remnants of a dying institution. Their foray is focused on William’s initiative to find the next generation of environmental entrepreneurs and will be supplemented with trips to an anti-poverty program, child development researchers and local flood defenses.

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A judge has declared a mistrial at the rape trial of “That ’70s Show” actor Danny Masterson. Jurors told Los Angeles Judge Charlaine Olmedo that they were hopelessly deadlocked and could not come to unanimous verdicts on any counts.  The judge declared a mistrial Wednesday afternoon. Masterson is charged with the rape of three women, including a former girlfriend, between 2001 and 2003, when he was at the height of his fame as a star of the Fox sitcom “That ’70s Show.” Masterson pleaded not guilty. His attorney argued that the acts were consensual. A retrial is scheduled for March, but Masterson's lawyer says he will seek to dismiss the case before then.