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Early Voting Starts Today: High Turnout Expected at Polls

Jackson County Board of Elections is open for voters today. Photo by Heather L Hyatt

Jackson County Board of Elections is open for voters today. Photo by Heather L Hyatt

It’s a sprint and not a marathon for North Carolina voters this election season. Early voting starts today and runs until November 1st – seven days shorter than in previous years. Boards of Elections are ready for the high turnout expected – as voters try to make sure their vote counts in this midterm election, where several high-profile offices are at stake.

Trena Parker, director of elections in Buncombe County says her staff is ready, “It will just be more condensed. The State Board of Elections has been preparing all of the counties accordingly. We feel like we’re ready. We trained the workers.”

Every county offers Saturday early voting, and some offer Sunday voting. More information on voting and the candidates is available at ncvoterguide.org. Unlike Election Day on November 4th, you can vote at any precinct location in your county for early voting. You are not required to have a photo ID for this election.

Brent Laurenz with the North Carolina Center for Voter Education encourages people to vote early because you can’t always predict what might happen with your schedule on Election Day. He adds the hotly contested US Senate race may increase crowds at the polls, “The U.S. Senate race between Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis is drawing a lot of attention. I think that’s going to attract a lot of voters, probably more so than maybe last midterm election in 2010.”

Parker says polling locations will have extra staff to accommodate crowds, but it’s also important for voters to come prepared – with some knowledge of the races, “Voters should try to treat voting just as they would a doctor’s appointment. You need to prepare for ‘OK, where it is I go? What do I need to know before I go?’ A little bit more preparation this time might be to their benefit.”

Unlike prior years, there is no straight-party voting on the ballot, so voters must select each candidate choice for each race, even if they are voting party line. If you wait until Election Day, it’s important to verify your precinct location, since because of the new state voting Law, no provisional ballots will be accepted

NCDMV, NCSBOE Partner to Validate Voter Registration Applications in Advance of Election

The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles is supporting the N.C. State Board of Elections in its efforts to confirm the validity of voter registration applications. NCDMV is using the U.S. Department of Homeland Security database to assist in this proactive process.

“This is an example of the continued partnership between NCDMV and the State Board of Elections,” said NCDMV Commissioner Kelly Thomas. “Through this team approach, we will do all we can to help the Board of Elections ensure the security and accuracy of voter registration applications.”

Through the research to date, NCDMV has found that 11 people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) issuances were also registered to vote through NCDMV.

Three of those people were registered in error and SBOE is working to remove them from voter registration rolls. The remaining eight people were registered to vote through NCDMV prior to March 2013 when DACA went into effect and were already registered voters when they received their DACA issuance. As of Oct.18, NCDMV had 15,250 total DACA records in its database. The State BOE has the responsibility to remove any ineligible individuals from voter rolls.

NCDMV will continue to cross-check and verify the database to reinforce this data process moving forward. NCDMV information is provided to SBOE in an effort to ensure that only valid voters are allowed to cast ballots. SBOE currently receives an update of the NCDMV database weekly.

“We appreciate the continued partnership with NCDMV and we will continue to working through this process as quickly as possible to ensure the integrity of the election for all North Carolina voters,” said Kim Strach, SBOE executive director.

The Airwaves: For Public TV or Internet Interests?

gr-42407-1-1As the song goes, “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Will wireless kill some free public TV? That’s the latest media question. The FCC is holding an auction in which wireless companies such as Verizon and A-T-and-T will bid on parts of the nation’s airwaves currently being used by television stations. It’s called a spectrum auction.

Todd O’Boyle of Common Cause says there are billions at stake, “On the one hand, the broadcasters are looking at a big payday, potentially. And on the other hand, the cellular folks are looking at making lots of money building next-generation networks.”

But some observers are concerned that, given the incentive to sell spectrum, the owners of some public television stations that serve diverse communities in many cities will give in. Minority voices would be muffled and the T-V industry, virtually bereft of any minority ownership to begin with, would be further “mainstreamed.”

Public broadcasting advocate John Schwartz, director and founder of the Voqal companies, says the government doesn’t seem sympathetic to pleas on behalf of public TV, “The FCC is strongly influenced not only by the lobbying power of the big carriers – because obviously that’s massive – but also out of the concern that the most important and most valuable use of spectrum now is for wireless broadband and not for broadcast.”

According to one estimate, the auction could generate 45 billion dollars, and another forecast says nearly 35-hundred low-power television stations could be affected by the spectrum changes. The government also intends to use some of the money raised to build a next-generation public safety communications system. The auction is set to start on the 13th of next month.

Time to Escape a Home Fire? 2 Minutes, Says Red Cross

 In addition to checking the batteries in your smoke detectors, the American Red Cross recommends going over your home escape plan in the event of a fire. Photo credit: S. Carson.

In addition to checking the batteries in your smoke detectors, the American Red Cross recommends going over your home escape plan in the event of a fire. Photo credit: S. Carson.

More than 2,300 people die nationwide and another nearly 13,000 are injured in home fires. This month, the American Red Cross is kicking off a national campaign to reduce deaths and injuries from house fires by as much as 25% over the next five years.

While installing smoke detectors and changing their batteries is an important part of fire safety, the group’s Anne Marie Borrego says your family’s escape plan is just as important, “I would say if there’s one thing that you can do today it’s to go home and really practice that escape plan. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to sit down and talk with your family and actually see how long it’s going to take you to get out of your home.”

A recent Red Cross survey found that people believe they have more time than they do to escape a burning home. Fire experts estimate people have as little as two minutes to escape, while 62% of respondents believe they have at least five minutes.

According to the survey, nearly seven in 10 parents believed their children knew what to do if their house caught on fire, but less than one in five families with children have practiced home fire drills and less than half of them have talked with their children about fire safety.

Borrego says fire safety is a conversation worth having with your kids, “My advice would be to do it in a very matter-of-fact manner. It’s important to talk with them about the need to prepare just in case and to reassure them that mom and dad are doing this just so everyone stays safe.”

The National Fire Protection Association recommends smoke alarms installed inside of every bedroom and on every level of your home.

Farmland Preservation workshops to be held across the state

The N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund will hold six workshops across the state for those interested in protecting local agricultural lands. The ADFP Trust Fund will be collaborating with the state USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service staff to host these workshops.

The Farmland Preservation workshops target non-profit conservation organizations and county agencies. Farmers, landowners and others interested in the preservation of working lands are also encouraged to attend. The workshops are highly recommended for all past, present or potential recipients of federal and/or state grants associated with farmland preservation. The workshops are free and open to the public.
Workshops will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the following dates:

Oct. 28 – Haywood County Center, 589 Raccoon Road, Waynesville;
Oct. 29 – Catawba County Center, 1175 S. Brady Ave., Newton;
Nov. 5 – Guilford County Center, 3309 Burlington Road, Greensboro;
Nov. 6 – Richmond County Center, 123 Caroline St., Rockingham;
Nov. 12 – Sen. Bob Martin Eastern Agricultural Center, 2900 N.C. Highway 125 South, Williamston;
Nov. 13 – Lois G. Britt Agribusiness Center, University of Mount Olive, 652 R.B. Butler Drive, Mount Olive;
For more information and to register, go to www.ncadfp.org/FarmlandPreservationWorkshops.htm.

October 16th Earthquake Preparedness Day

Governor Pat McCrory has proclaimed October 16 as Earthquake Preparedness Day and is encouraging North Carolina families, business and schools to practice how to protect themselves in an earthquake by using three simple steps: drop, cover and hold.
An estimated 100 million people felt the earthquake in Mineral, Virginia on August 23, 2011 that damaged homes and buildings in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

If you feel shaking, emergency management and earthquake officials recommended that you:

• Drop to the ground

• Take cover under a sturdy desk or table

• Hold on to the desk until the shaking stops.

• If there is no table or desk nearby, crouch in an inside corner of a building and cover your head and neck with your hands and arms.

• Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, bookshelves, lamps, TVs, cabinets and other objects as much as possible. Such items may fall and cause injuries.

Do not get in a doorway. It is not safe and does not protect you from falling or flying objects.

Do not run outside. Running in an earthquake is dangerous. The ground is moving making it easy to fall or be injured by falling structures, trees, debris or glass. If you are outside during an earthquake, move to a clear area that is away from trees, signs, buildings or downed electrical lines.

McCrory encouraged North Carolinians to join the other Southeastern states and Washington, D.C., in the third Great SouthEast ShakeOut earthquake exercise, scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 16 at 10:16 a.m.

Families, businesses and schools can register their participation at www.shakeout.org/southeast. Participants will be notified of events in their area and receive regular information on how to plan their drill and become better prepared for earthquakes and other disasters.

More earthquake preparedness tips can be found online at www.ReadyNC.org. North Carolinians can also download the free ReadyNC mobile app – available for both iPhone and Droid devices – that provides real-time weather and traffic alerts plus readiness tips for a variety of emergencies.

State Health Officials Preparing for Ebola In NC

Aldona Wos leads the Department of Health and Human Services

Aldona Wos leads the Department of Health and Human Services

Secretary Aldona Wos said that the Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) Division of Public Health has been working closely with its public health partners and health care providers since July to prepare for the possibility that a patient in North Carolina might be diagnosed with Ebola. Over the past few months, extensive guidance has been sent to health care providers and procedures have been put in place to routinely screen and evaluate patients.

“North Carolina’s health care community is ready to identify and respond to a case of Ebola,” said Secretary Aldona Wos, M.D. “If a case were to occur in North Carolina, state and local health officials would rapidly identify everyone who was potentially exposed and take immediate measures to prevent further spread. Our public health professionals have extensive training and experience with this type of investigation and response.”

Public health officials are actively monitoring for cases using a variety of methods, including surveillance of emergency department visits and collaborating with a network of hospital-based Public Health Epidemiologists. DHHS’ State Laboratory of Public Health also has successfully established the capability to rapidly detect Ebola infection using procedures and materials provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Additionally, public health officials and DHHS’ Office of Emergency Medical Services have provided assistance to local EMS agencies with triage and treatment protocols for any potential Ebola patients.

“North Carolina has a strong health care system and a multi-faceted public health infrastructure,” added Dr. Wos. “I am confident in the measures in place and the strength of our system. The keys are for all health care providers to take full travel histories from their patients and for good infection control practices to be strictly applied.”

Ebola is only contagious after the onset of symptoms. The incubation period before symptoms may appear is 2-21 days, with 8-10 days being the most common. Ebola is spread through unprotected contact with blood or body fluids from someone who is infected. Anyone who becomes ill within 21 days after traveling to an affected area in West Africa should contact a healthcare provider right away and limit their contact with others until they have been evaluated.

In addition to the current Ebola virus preparedness response, DHHS’ Division of Public Health tracks and responds to cases and outbreaks due to other infections, including food-borne, vector-borne and respiratory diseases.

No Guns at NC State Fair Rules Judge

NC_State_Fair-520x300If you’re planning to go to the state fair in Raleigh, leave your guns at home. A judge ruled Monday that concealed handguns will not be allowed at the North Carolina State Fair, a decision that disappointed gun-rights advocates who asked for the ban to be overturned.

Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens said he believed “it would be unwise and imprudent to allow firearms into the State Fair.”
An attorney for the state argued that people just want to go to the fair, eat a fried Twinkie and enjoy the rides. The attorney warned that people often lose items while on rides.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, as it has in previous years, said it plans to put up signs warning against lawful conceal carry at the 11-day event and will ask anyone with a weapon going through metal detectors at fair gates to leave it in their vehicle.

Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler says he made the decision based on what he says is a vague 2013 law prohibiting people from carrying guns at events where admission is charged.

Gun-rights group Grass Roots North Carolina says there is nothing in the law that requires Troxler to prohibit guns. The group said it believes the commissioner is choosing to keep permit-holders from protecting their families.

Fair officials said they heard from dozens of people who said they wouldn’t attend the fair if concealed weapons were allowed. Troxler says the policy has nothing to do with being against guns or the Second Amendment but that it is about concerns of accidental discharge.

NC Drivers Beware of Deer

The arrival of the fall season not only means dropping temperatures and leaves, but also an increase in the chances of a collision with a deer across North Carolina. Between 2011 and 2013, nearly half of the more than 61,000 animal-related crashes took place in October through December. About 90 percent of those involved deer.

A N.C. Department of Transportation study shows that in 2013, there were 20,308 animal-related crashes, a slight increase over the 2012 figure, but still well below the numbers reported in 2010 and 2011.

Over the past three years, animal-related crashes claimed 18 lives, injured more than 3,400 drivers and passengers, and caused more than $149 million in damages.

Counties in the far western section of the state, where there are considerably fewer drivers and road mileage, once again reported the lowest number of crashes. Swain County had the fewest number of animal-related crashes with 5, falling just below Graham (9) and Jackson (11) counties.

More Cases of EV-D68 in North Carolina

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services today confirmed the presence of three additional cases of Enterovirus D68, or EV-D68, in North Carolina, totaling nine since September 22, 2014. The three specimens that tested positive for EV-D68 were obtained from children ages 10 and under with respiratory illnesses.
One additional case that meets the criteria established by CDC for their investigation of acute neurological illness with focal limb weakness was detected in the eastern part of the state. The patient with this criteria tested positive for rhinovirus/enterovirus but additional testing is being conducted to determine the presence of Enterovirus D68.
Enteroviruses are transmitted through close contact with an infected person, or by touching objects or surfaces that are contaminated with the virus and then touching the mouth, nose or eyes. Health officials are recommending that people take the following actions to protect themselves from infection with EV-D68 and other respiratory illnesses:
1. Wash hands vigorously and often with soap and water for 20 seconds, especially after changing diapers.
2. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
3. Avoid kissing, hugging and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
4. Frequently disinfect touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
There are more than 100 types of enteroviruses and 10-15 million infections across the United States each year. Enteroviruses are common viruses that can cause a range of symptoms, including runny nose, coughing, mouth sores, fever and body aches. Some patients will also develop wheezing and difficulty breathing. If you or your child experience cold-like symptoms and difficulty breathing, contact your health care provider right away.
Since people with asthma have a higher risk of respiratory illnesses, health officials are reminding everyone with asthma to take their medications as prescribed and make sure their asthma is under good control. Health officials are also recommending getting a flu vaccine as soon as possible to help prevent another important cause of respiratory illness that could be going around at the same time.

Same-Sex Marriages in North Carolina Could Be Underway in Days: “Not if But When”

Attorney Annika Brock and her partner Elaine Potter of Asheville were married last year in Vermont, but say they are looking forward to having their marriage recognized by their home state. Photo courtesy: Annika Brock.

Attorney Annika Brock and her partner Elaine Potter of Asheville were married last year in Vermont, but say they are looking forward to having their marriage recognized by their home state. Photo courtesy: Annika Brock.

Legally recognized same-sex marriages could happen in North Carolina in a matter of days. That’s the opinion of groups such as the ACLU and Equality NC after Monday’s announcement by the US Supreme Court that it would not review appeals court rulings in seven states regarding same-sex marriage bans. The decision means that all of those rulings stand, and the states in their jurisdiction, including North Carolina, must comply with the law and recognize the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.

Chris Sgro with Equality NCsays he expects things to move fast after Monday’s announcement, “It’s at this point inevitable that this will be the law of the land, so it’s not a question of if but when, and even that when is going to be pretty much fast-tracked.”

Sgro says the federal judge in North Carolina has asked for briefing materials within 10 days, but is bound by the decision of the Fourth Circuit. The judge then would have to issue a written order declaring unconstitutional the amendment North Carolina voters passed in 2012 defining marriage in the state as being between one man and one woman.

Attorney Annika Brock of Asheville got married to her partner of 9 years last year in Vermont, but Monday’s announcement is welcome news for her, “First of all, I can’t wait for the first couple to apply for a marriage license in North Carolina, but I think for us, it’s a matter of North Carolina recognizing our marriage.”

Brock says there is still progress to be made before same-sex couples have equal protection under the law, “We still have a long way to go in a lot of different ways. There are still so many things that it’s going to take a while, like Blue Cross Blue Shield, they won’t recognize my spouse, even though we’re married in another state.”

Some in the legal community say there’s still a chance the U-S Supreme Court will have to weigh in on the issue if federal courts disagree, but for now the state’s same-sex couples stand to have their marriages recognized by state law.

NCDOT Encourages Public to Comment on Proposed Strategic Transportation Corridors

The N.C. Department of Transportation invites the public to share their thoughts on a proposed network of multimodal transportation corridors that will form the backbone of the state’s transportation system.

The proposed Strategic Transportation Corridors move most of North Carolina’s people and goods, and connect critical centers of economic activity and international air and sea ports to support interstate commerce. A study launched by NCDOT more than a year ago has mapped out these high-priority corridors, based on three main factors, which include:

Providing essential connections to national transportation networks critical to interstate commerce and national defense;
Allowing significant inter-regional movements of people and goods across the state; and
Supporting economic development and efficiency of transport logistics.

NCDOT is launching a 60-day public comment period on Friday, Oct. 3, during which citizens are urged to review the results of the study and share their feedback. The STC policy and map showing the corridors is available online. Comments may be submitted by emailing Kerry Morrow, Statewide Plan Engineer, at kmorrow@ncdot.gov or by calling the NCDOT customer service line, 1-877-DOT-4YOU, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The comment period will close Tuesday, Dec. 2.

October is Bullying Awareness & Prevention Month

Bullying is widespread and perhaps the most underreported safety problem on American school campuses. Contrary to popular belief, bullying occurs more often at school than on the way to and from there. Once thought of as simply a rite of passage or relatively harmless behavior that helps build young people’s character, bullying is now known to have long-lasting harmful effects, for both the victim and the bully. Bullying is often mistakenly viewed as a narrow range of antisocial behavior confined to elementary school recess yards. In the United States, awareness of the problem is growing, especially with reports that in two-thirds of the recent school shootings (for which the shooter was still alive to report), the attackers had previously been bullied.

The N.C. Center for Safer Schools this week kicked off a special month long effort to shine the spotlight on the issue of bullying, after Gov. Pat McCrory proclaimed October Bullying Awareness and Prevention Month in North Carolina.

Bullying impacts students across the state; recent research shows that in North Carolina, 20 percent of high school students report being bullied in the past 12 months. Nearly 60 percent of N.C. high school students have witnessed bullying in their schools during the same time period. Additionally, bullying via social media or other electronic means – or cyber bullying – is also present. In 2013, 13 percent of N.C. high school students reported being the victims of some form of electronic bullying over the past 12 months.

One part of the Center’s work to help communities prevent bullying is a Bullying Prevention Train-the-Presenter Training. This training – available for school administrators, teachers and community leaders – is aimed at preparing people from across the state to return to their communities to share strategies on ways to prevent and identify bullying, and to give them resources to use when bullying is present.

Find bullying prevention materials and links to other resources on the N.C. Center for Safer School’s website, www.centerforsaferschools.org. You can follow the N.C. Center for Safer School’s Bullying Awareness and Prevention Month social media campaign, on Twitter @NCSaferSchools (#BullyFreeNC)

Berger, Tillis Respond to 4th Circuit Ruling

Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) issued the following joint statement Wednesday in response to a ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals:

“We are pleased the court upheld the lion’s share of commonsense reforms that bring North Carolina in line with a majority of other states, including the implementation of a popular voter ID requirement supported by nearly three quarters of North Carolinians.

“However, we share the concern of Judge Diana Gribbon Motz – the panel’s senior judge – that rewriting reasonable rules requiring people to vote in their own precinct and register in advance will strain our voting system, confuse voters and disrupt our general election that is only a month away. We intend to appeal this decision as quickly as possible to the Supreme Court.”

Background
North Carolina’s election reform law guarantees at least the same number of overall hours for early voting as in previous elections unless a bipartisan group of election officials chooses to modify those hours – in sharp contrast to several other states, including New York and Michigan, that do not allow early voting at all.

According to the State Board of Elections, the 2014 general election will have more early voting locations across North Carolina than in any prior off-year election and nearly 70 percent more evening hours for early voting than in 2010, the most recent non-presidential general election.

The law allows time to verify voter information by repealing same-day registration, ensuring accuracy and bringing North Carolina in line with 30 other states that do not have same-day registration.

It also requires voters to cast ballots in their own precinct, ensuring their votes are counted for every race, not just statewide races. If out-of-precinct ballots are allowed, votes for local races could be invalidated.

Judge Rules in Favor of NC Wildlife Sanctuary

gr-41979-1-1After a five year fight, a North Carolina wildlife sanctuary has won the right to return to its home and also recover more than 200-thousand dollars in damages from the town it calls home. For more than 11 years, Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary rescued and rehabilitated wild animals in Beech Mountain. The center also became a tourist attraction, until the Town Council voted to change some town rules, a move that placed Genesis in violation of its 30 year lease.

Susan Halliburton, a spokesperson for Genesis, says despite the court victory, the sanctuary continues to be in a tough spot,  “We can go back on the land, we still have the lease. How it’s going to play out with working? Obviously, they don’t want us there. They want the property back, is what they want.”

Calls to attorneys representing Beech Mountain were not returned. Though challenged by town leadership, the lease was ruled valid by a judge last year. Beech Mountain is expected to appeal the jury’s unanimous decision in Watauga County Superior Court.

Halliburton says rebuilding isn’t as simple as one might assume, and adds that it includes rebuilding their staff and volunteer base,  “We were forced to tear down the habitats – and we’re not just talking cages here. We’re talking foundations; double-wiring that bears can’t get in to animals or the birds.”

Genesis leased a little less than an acre on Buckeye Lake in 1999 for a dollar, with the agreement of the Town Council.

Operation Medicine Drop Collected over 7 million doses

The State Bureau of Investigation reported that nearly 7.4 million doses of expired or unused medicine pills were collected across the state during Operation Medicine Drop Sept. 27.

The pills and medications are being destroyed at an Environmental Protection Agency-approved incinerator.

The State Bureau of Investigation co-sponsored the pill take-back event along with Safe Kids North Carolina, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and state and local law enforcement agencies.

In addition to providing drop-off locations at its eight troop locations, the State Highway Patrol provided vehicles to transport the medication.  The DEA paid to have the medications destroyed.

This year, Cary Police Department lead the state with approximately 947,000 dosage units collected, topping Durham’s collection last year of 773,500 dosage units.

Medications are the leading cause of child poisoning, according to Safe Kids, a non-profit organization that helps parents and caregivers prevent childhood injuries. Environmental experts say that flushing medicines down the toilet contaminates water supplies and hurts aquatic life.

According to DEA, medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to misuse and abuse, and a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.

Conservative Group Faces Felony Probe for Mailers

The State Board of Elections is investigating the national conservative group Americans for Prosperity to determine whether it committed a felony after the North Carolina Democratic Party filed a formal complaint on Monday. This comes after American for Prosperity sent thousands of mailers to citizens across the state including incorrect voting and registration information.

Josh Lawson with the Board of Elections says they met with an AFP representative early Monday morning, and discovered in some cases the mailer went out multiple times to the same person,”We know it went everywhere, and unfortunately we have people complaining of third and fourth warnings. People are still going to be getting these through this week.”

It is against the law in North Carolina to intentionally mislead people about voter registration and discourage them from voting. Americans for Prosperity has sent out incorrect and some would say “suspicious” mailers in other states. So far, the organization, which receives funding from the Koch brothers, says the incorrect information is a mistake.

 

Bob Phillips with Common Cause North Carolina joins others in questioning the intent behind the mailer, “That’s very sloppy and lazy, and one wonders about the intent behind it, particularly with whom the mailers are going to.”

Americans for Prosperity says the intent behind the mailers was to educate voters. Earlier this year AFP sent mailers with incorrect information to voters in West Virginia, and last year the organization sent letters to Virginia voters claiming the recipients hadn’t registered to vote and that they would “tell their neighbors.”

Lawson says the state has asked AFP to take immediate action to correct the misinformation, “We met with the deputy general counsel of Americans for Prosperity and requested of him that they explore options on trying to ensure that the folks that received wrong information receive correct information, so he said that he would carry that message back, and we’re hoping that we’ll get a good answer.”

October 10th is the deadline to register to vote in North Carolina, because of last year’s voting law. Unlike in prior years, out-of-precinct voting is not permitted, and there is limited acceptance of provisional ballots. Voters are not required to come to the polls in this election with a photo ID.

Study Says NC Law Enforcement Support Changing Syringe Laws

A new study published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence reports on North Carolina law enforcement attitudes toward syringe decriminalization, or removing syringes from the list of prohibited drug paraphernalia. The study analyzed the responses of 350 North Carolina law enforcement officers to a confidential, anonymous survey regarding their experience with needle-stick injury, perceived risk of HIV and hepatitis C risk, and opinions on whether the state should consider syringe decriminalization as a tool to reduce needle-related injury among law enforcement.

 82% of respondents reported that they were very concerned about contracting HIV on the job and 3.8% reported ever receiving a job-related needle-stick injury. These injuries typically occur when an officer conducts a search and is accidentally pierced by a syringe, which may be contaminated with HIV or viral hepatitis. A study of law enforcement officers in Connecticut revealed that decriminalizing syringes can lower needle-stick injury to officers by 66% because it removes a suspect’s fear of syringe possession and increases the likelihood that they will tell officers they have syringes before being searched.

 The majority of officers in the North Carolina study reported positive views regarding syringe decriminalization, with approximately 63% agreeing that it would be “good for the community” and 60% agreeing that it would be “good for law enforcement.”

 The study’s lead author, Corey Davis, JD, MSPH, an attorney with the Network for Public Health Law says, “Syringe decriminalization is good policy. Since law enforcement opinion carries a lot of weight in the legislature, this study suggests that it’s good politics as well.”

 The study emerges after the passage of a new law in North Carolina that partially decriminalized syringes. The law, which went into effect in December 2013, states that a person cannot be charged with the possession of a syringe or other sharp object if he or she declares the object to law enforcement prior to a search.

“I would rather every addict come out and admit to having a needle than for one person not to tell the truth and have one of our officers get stuck,” says Sgt David Rose of the Winston Salem Police Department.

Take a Hike: 23 North Carolina Conservation Projects Funded in 2014

If you don’t own a piece of beautiful real estate in North Carolina, sometimes the only way to enjoy the state’s natural beauty is by hiking in one of the state parks or in conservation lands. This year, through the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, 23 land conservation projects will be funded, including land on Snake Mountain in Watauga County.

Eric Heigl with the Blue Ridge Conservancy says his organization counts on the state funding, “The Clean Water Management Act Trust Fund grants are one of the bigger grant opportunities to acquire lands that we have here in North Carolina and they will make or break certain projects.”

Projects receiving funding this year include the French Broad River, Chimney Rock State Park, Bentonville Battlefield Historic site and others. The grants are funded by the state, and the fund’s budget is set annually by the General Assembly. In its most recent budget, lawmakers increased funding to $14.1 million dollars, but during this last grant cycle, the state’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund received requests totaling $56 million dollars.

Bryan Gossage, director of the fund, says his job is about making the most of the resources allocated, and recognizing the hard work of state’s 24 land conservation groups, “There are always limited resources, and so there are always tough decisions to make. I just appreciate so much the hard work the trustees do, they’re volunteers.”

Will Morgan of The Nature Conservancy applied for funding, but he was not successful this year, “There was a lot of really great projects that didn’t receive funding because there just wasn’t enough money to go around.”

The grant money also funds projects that improve water quality. This year that includes more than $3 million dollars for stream restoration and for storm-water projects.

New Data Names North Carolina the Worst State for Teachers

medium International World Teachers Day  is coming up on Oct. 5 and the personal finance website WalletHub analyzed data along with 18 categories to conclude that among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, North Carolina ranks as the worst state for teachers.

The metrics it looked at included looks at states’ median starting salaries, unemployment rates and teacher job openings, among other factors.

 

 

 

Here is where North Carolina ranked in several categories:

Average starting salary, 41,

Median annual salary, 47,

Unemployment rate, 38,

Ten-year change in teacher salary, 51,

Pupil-to-teacher ratio, 32,

Public school spending per student, 48,

Teachers’ wage disparity, 43, and

Safest schools, 40.

North Carolina teachers are finally getting a raise, but not necessarily under the terms they wanted.

Under a budget deal signed into law Aug. 7 by Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, the raises will average 7 percent. But they are concurrent with a radical revamping of the state salary schedule and the specter of new differentiated-pay plans.

Among other provisions, the deal wraps “longevity pay” stipends for veterans into teachers’ base salaries, and directs districts to offer more to teachers working in certain subjects and schools. In all, the raises are worth some $282 million.

It comes amid tense political battles in the Tar Heel State over per-pupil funding and teacher tenure. North Carolina was once viewed as a leader for supporting programs like National Board certification, but enrollments in the state’s teacher-preparation programs have fallen, and some out-of-state districts—including Houston’s—have even been recruiting North Carolina teachers.

Teachers’ salaries, which have been essentially frozen since 2008, have been a particular concern.