Getting closer to that sweet, sweet, holiday weekend. News for you:
1. N.C. Senate close to approving budget. WRAL notes:
Senators on Tuesday took the first of two votes needed to approve a $22.34 billion state budget for the fiscal year that starts Friday. The bill passed 33-16, and a final vote is set for Wednesday.
The final budget adopts a Senate plan to expand the personal exemption, income on which North Carolinians pay no taxes. For a married couple filing jointly, that personal exemption expands from $15,500 to $16,500 for the current tax year and then to $17,500 for the next tax year.
Average teacher salaries will rise about 4.7 percent, lawmakers said. Counting local supplements, the average teacher salary in North Carolina will rise to more than $50,000 this year and top $54,000 over the next three years. According to a salary schedule provided by budget writers, every teacher in the state would get a raise under the bill.
The second Senate vote is expected today, with the House likely holding votes Thursday and Friday.
2. Fletchall indicted over campaign finance reports. Senator Fletcher Hartsell (R-Concord), the longest-serving legislator currently in the Senate, was indicted yesterday by a Wake County grand jury on three counts of knowingly certifying incorrect campaign finance documents. The News & Observer has the scoop:
Indictments allege that he charged to his campaign expenses for maintenance work and utility bills for a former church building that he and his wife own in Concord. They also allege that while he reported that disbursements from his campaign to his law firm and several credit card companies were for campaign expenses, they actually were “payment for goods and services that ultimately benefited the defendant financially.”
If convicted of the low-level felonies, Hartsell – a licensed attorney in North Carolina since 1972 – could face trouble with the N.C. State Bar, too.
Fletchall turned himself in at the Wake County magistrate’s office yesterday afternoon, then returned to the Senate for votes in the evening. He’s not running for re-election.
3. Nobody seems to know what’s going on with HB 2, but it is probably not going to change in any significant way. Some lawmakers are evidently attempting to tinker with HB 2 in such a way where it can appease the conservatives who supported it but also not alienate the NBA, which has said it might pull the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte unless it’s repealed. A couple of drafts are being passed around, and the Charlotte Observer tries to sort out this mess:
…some lawmakers acknowledged that changes to HB2 could be considered before the General Assembly adjourns this week or next.
…The draft bill would not change a key part of HB2 – the prohibition on transgender persons using the bathroom or locker room of their gender identity in public facilities.
It would restore the right to sue for gender discrimination in state court, a right removed by HB2 but sought by Gov. Pat McCrory.
And it would use federal anti-discrimination standards in determining discrimination, not the standards in HB2. That could extend protections to sexual orientation, according to a lawyer familiar with the legislation.
The N.C. Values Coalition says not so fast:
“We’d be opposed to any changes in the bill,” said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the N.C. Values Coalition. “We believe the people of North Carolina have already spoken through their elected representatives.”
She criticized the NBA for “bullying the state and the legislature” and said it was “outrageous” for a sports organization to try to brow-beat the state on an issue that should be decided by the people who live here.
Chris Sgro (D-Guilford), who is also the executive director of Equality NC, noted that the “once more leadership has not consulted with us or discussed with us a piece of legislation that will have deep impacts for our community”:
“Unless (a bill) substantially repeals HB2, the equality community is going to come out strongly in opposition,” he said.
And Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative counsel to the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, called the draft bill a “joke.”
“It is the legislative equivalent of throwing a glass of water on a burning building,” she said at a news conference.
4. Shooting at Durham apartment complex overnight leaves one dead. From WNCN:
Detectives tell CBS North Carolina they were called to 3513 Century Oaks Drive. This is in the Amber Oaks apartment complex.
They found a man with a gunshot wound outside of that address. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The death is being investigated as a homicide. Tips, call Investigator Ortiz at (919) 560-4440, ext. 29337 or CrimeStoppers at (919) 683-1200.
5. Death toll in Istanbul continues to climb. Yesterday’s attack on the Istanbul airport is getting far less media play than, for example, the attack on Brussels that it so closely mirrors. CNN reports the count is now at 41 dead and 231 wounded. WRAL has a piece on local Turks’ reaction here.
Enjoy the rest of your day.