UNC Basketball team honored for championship victory

The UNC-Chapel Hill men’s basketball championship team was honored at state legislature on Wednesday. Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams spoke to the legislators about the need for greater teamwork going forward. In an article from WRAL, Williams was quoted saying, “We need your help in a lot of ways. We need you to reach across the aisle to work together as a team.” He also emphasized the need for both parties to come together to work on improving the quality of education in the state.

Om the same day, the Tar Heels traveled to Gov. Roy Cooper’s Executive Mansion in Raleigh. Cooper praised the team for never quitting and congratulated them on their championship victory. Williams presented Cooper with a signed basketball.


Political reporter Mark Binker dies at 43

Veteran statehouse reporter Mark Binker died unexpectedly on Saturday at the age of 43. He covered state government for 12 years, first for the Greensboro News & Record, then for WRAL, and most recently for the Raleigh News & Observer’s The Insider newsletter.

A YouCaring fundraising page has been set up for funeral expenses and to support the needs of Binker’s family. A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. May 12 at the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh, WRAL reports. Binker was a highly regarded journalist, and since his death, he has received condolences from several state leaders.

Republican Senate Leader Phil Berger expressed his condolences to Binker’s wife and three sons and said in a statement that the highest compliment he can give is Binker as a reporter is that “through almost 15 years of regular interaction with him, I have no idea what his personal politics were. In a statement on Facebook, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper called Binker “an outstanding journalist who uniquely understood complex issues” who “never ducked asking tough questions, or stopped digging for more.”

Same-sex marriage ‘not valid,’ lawmakers say in new bill

Four North Carolina House Republicans introduced a bill Tuesday that would defy the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. House Bill 780, titled “Uphold Historical Marriage Act,” says the Supreme Court’s ruling would be “null and void” and declares “marriages between persons of the same gender not valid.” The bill also quotes the following portion of the Bible: “A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, ESV). The proposed legislation gained widespread attention after a tweet from Buzzfeed News national reporter Dominic Holden.

The Raleigh News & Observer reported that the bill would order North Carolina to return to the constitutional amendment known as Amendment One, which was approved in a 2012 voter referendum. Same-sex marriages performed in other states wouldn’t be recognized in North Carolina under HB 780. The bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Larry Pittman of Cabarrus, is a Christian minister. According to a WRAL article, Pittman refused to comment on the legislation he filed. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper released a statement saying, “The bill is wrong. We need more LGBT protections, not fewer.”

Holden called the bill “preposterous” and said it won’t become law. The News & Observer reported HB 780 was sponsored by the House’s most conservative legislators — a group that frequently files bills that don’t get a hearing because House GOP leaders don’t support the proposals.

HB2 repeal going to vote Thursday as NCAA deadline approaches

North Carolina lawmakers struck a deal late Wednesday night with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper that could repeal House Bill 2. Earlier this week, the NCAA reported a Thursday deadline for the state to make changes to the controversial law or lose its ability to host sports championships through 2022, according to Business Insider. HB2 is a law passed by the state legislature in March 2016 that, among many things, requires people to use the restrooms of the gender on their birth certificates.

Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore issued a joint statement Wednesday night, saying House Bill 142 would repeal HB2, leave the issue of bathroom regulation to the state and enact a moratorium on local ordinances similar to Charlotte’s until Dec. 1, 2020. Berger and Moore said in their statement: “We are pleased this proposal fully protects bathroom safety and privacy.” Cooper said in a statement that he supports the compromise. “It’s not a perfect deal, but it repeal House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation,” he said in the statement.

The bill is expected to go to a vote in the Senate at about 9:15 a.m. and then go to the House shortly thereafter. The question going forward is whether there are enough legislators in both houses who will support the compromise. Since its passage, HB2 has cost the state millions of dollars in lost revenue. The Associated Press published a report on Monday, which found that HB2 will cost North Carolina more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a decade.

Gov. Roy Cooper introduces state budget

Gov. Roy Cooper released his 2017-19 budget proposal on Wednesday. The budget would increase state government spending by $1.1 billion next year, according to ABC 11. The Raleigh News & Observer reports the budget includes a heavy investment in education with 10 percent raises for public school teachers over two years. Cooper’s budget would also expand Medicaid coverage by more than 600,000 people and allow law enforcement officers to retire five years earlier. WRAL outlined some of the other budget highlights.

The lengthy process for approving the budget is underway, and the Republican-controlled legislature will review and pass appropriations bills.

Republican leaders have signaled Cooper will face an uphill battle. A WRAL article quotes Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger calling the budget a “reckless $1 billion spending spree” that would return the state “to the days of high taxes and multi-billion dollar deficits.” WRAL also notes North Carolina is expected to finish the 2016-17 fiscal year with a $522 million surplus, but Cooper’s budget increases state spending by more than twice that amount. In a statement, Cooper said he is prepared to work with lawmakers and that his goals are “universal and bipartisan.”

Bipartisan HB2 repeal bill introduced, met with mixed response

The North Carolina General Assembly passed House Bill 2 last year, a bill that among many things, requires people to use restrooms of the sex on their birth certificate. Past efforts to repeal HB2 and find a compromise between Democrats and Republicans have been unsuccessful, leading some lawmakers to take it upon themselves to search for solutions. On Wednesday, two Democrats and two Republicans introduced House Bill 186 in an effort to protect transgender rights and create tougher penalties for bathroom crimes. Colin Campbell of the Raleigh News & Observer broke the story Wednesday evening in a tweet and wrote an article shortly thereafter.

The bill has generated bipartisan support with several co-sponsors, but many LGBT advocacy groups oppose it. Chris Sgro, director of Equality North Carolina, fears the compromise will not “bring back business or sporting events, and only serves to reinforce the damage,” according to an article from WRAL.

The biggest question right now seems to be whether HB186 will have enough votes to pass through the House and Senate. If it does pass through both chambers, there is still a possibility Gov. Roy Cooper would not sign it into law. Cooper has expressed his concerns with the proposed repeal, saying in a tweet that the bill “fails the basic test of restoring our reputation.” Those who introduced the bill, including Republican co-sponsor Rep. Chuck McGrady of Hendersonville, are defending the bill as “a bipartisan fix to solve this contentious issue.”