Gov. Pat McCrory directs belt-tightening

Gov. Pat McCrory

RALEIGH–Gov. Pat McCrory has directed more belt-tightening within North Carolina government as pre-emptive actions to protect the state from a Medicaid shortfall and a fuzzy revenue picture.

McCrory wrote agency heads and Council of State members on Thursday with the news. The memo says agencies will receive money in April that’s more in line with what they’re spending monthly. He’s also directed them to discontinue most salary increases, limit purchases and reduce travel expenses.

The governor says North Carolina is in a better financial picture compared to a year ago. But he’s concerned about a projected Medicaid shortfall of up to $140 million and uncertainty with tax collections.

Agencies led by Council of State members like the attorney general and state treasurer aren’t obligated to follow the spending restrictions.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Wake County DA leaving for private practice

WAKE COUNTY — Longtime Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby is leaving his position to work at a private law firm.

Earlier this year, Willoughby announced he was not seeking re-election, but on Thursday, he sent his resignation letter to the governor’s office.

Willoughby has been the Wake County district attorney for the past 27 years.

Gov. Pat McCrory will appoint his successor. Many speculate he will pick a Republican.

Willoughby said he hopes whoever is picked is the right person for the job.

“I would hope that whoever was appointed or elected would be a good steward of the law and put the partisan politics aside,” Willoughby said.

Six people are running for the seat of Wake County district attorney, they include four Republicans and two Democrats.

Willoughby’s last day is March 31.

– Diana Bosch

Attorney General Holder hospitalized as precaution for faintness

WASHINGTON—The Justice Department said Attorney General Eric Holder has been taken to the hospital as a precaution after experiencing faintness and shortness of breath at work.

A statement from the department says Holder is “resting comfortably and in good condition” at a Washington hospital after feeling the symptoms during a Thursday morning meeting with senior staff.

The department says the 63-year-old attorney general is alert, talking with his doctors and undergoing further evaluation.

No additional information was immediately provided.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Former lawmaker Stephen LaRoque to have new trial on all charges

GREENVILLE — Former state lawmaker Stephen LaRoque will get a new trial on all charges against him.

LaRoque was found guilty last June of 12 federal charges including theft and money laundering. A federal judge previously ruled LaRoque should get a new trial on two charges and on Tuesday the judge decided he should also get a new trial on the remaining 10.

LaRoque expressed his gratitude over the federal judge’s decision to grant him a new trial on all charges in the loan fraud case.

“I’m just great full for the judge’s decision. I feel like he made the right decision,” said LaRoque.

Cameras are not allowed inside, but judge Malcolm Howard said he found evidence of “juror misconduct” with one juror who admitted to conducting online research which led to his guilty vote.

The judge said that juror’s actions could have influenced the entire jury’s decision. Defense attorney Joe Cheshire said this decision guarantees LaRoque his right to a fair, impartial trial.

“It was clear that in order for the public to have any confidence in the jury system which is the most important thing we have in America, there had to be a new trial here,” said Cheshire.

During a hearing next Tuesday, the judge will consider whether LaRoque can use his family farm to pay his new defense attorneys.

“We don’t think Stephen committed any criminal act but we seek permission from the court to enter the case and be paid and to be able to represent him,” said Attorney Keith Williams.

Attorneys with the federal government do not discuss pending cases, but they have 30 days to appeal the judge’s decision on granting LaRoque on a new trial on all charges.

– Julie Fertig

Gov. McCrory: Storm could be toughest in N.C. history

RALEIGH- During a news conference Wednesday, Gov Pat McCrory urged preparedness as another round of winter weather moves in to North Carolina.

Gov. McCrory said the unpredictability of this storm could make it one of the toughest in N.C. history.

He is asking people to be prepared to change their lifestyles for the next 48 hours as the storm passes across the state. “Do not wait. If you wait that means you’re going to take action which puts our emergency operations people’s lives at risk. So there is some responsibility that all of us have to take at this point in time,” he said.

Taking precautions such as charging electronic devices, having flashlights and a transistor radio ready will help in the event of power outages.

For more information on how you can prepare, go to readync.org.

An interview with Clay Aiken

As you have probably heard, Clay Aiken will indeed file to run as a Democrat for Congress in District 2.  That seat is currently held by Republican Rep. Renee Ellmers.  Before we get too far, I should also mention that both candidates will have a primary race.

Regardless, I had the chance to talk with Mr. Aiken for about ten minutes today.  The interview will air tonight on Capital Tonight at 7 and midnight but here’s a few nuggets from our conversation.

On why a singer thinks he would make a good U.S. Representative:

“I don’t look at the question that way.  I look at it as what do I bring and I bring an understanding of the area because I’m from here.  I’m from here lived here my entire life–lived elsewhere just for two years and had to move back.”

On the issues he is focused on:

“I think the issues that are important to anyone right now are the jobs and the economy.  I think the overriding issue is the way things are working in Washington–I should say not working–it’s dysfunctional.  One of the biggest issues is listening and working together.”

On the issue of same-sex marriage:

“I don’t think you take on the issue at all.  I disagree that it’s going to come up.  I think it will come up in settings like this, but I don’t think it’s an issue that people care about.  People know my position on it, it’s well documented, but it’s not something that affects people in their lives in this district.  When I talk to people it’s not even in the top ten of things that matter to folks.”

On the Affordable Care Act:

“There are provisions that need to be fixed.  Absolutely. hands down, but there are too many that are good to repeal the entire thing and lose those.”

On any potential of campaigning with President Obama:

“I think there are enough things that the President and I disagree on.  I don’t know that he would campaign with me to be completely honest with you.  I imagine, he needs to be spending his time in Washington instead of coming on the campaign trail if I’m being completely honest because I think people up there need to work together and I think he needs to do just as good a job reaching out to people as I want the other side to reach out to him.”

Check it out during the show tonight and we’ll post the interview later as well.  Loretta Boniti will also have reaction from the other campaigns coming up this afternoon.

– Tim Boyum

Hundreds attend memorial service for civil rights icon

GREENSBORO — Hundreds gathered in Greensboro Thursday for a memorial service for Franklin McCain. The civil rights activist died last week.

Patricia Miller Zoller of NC A&T State University Board of Trustees says McCain lived a life that impacted the entire country.

“What you did on that cold day in February more than 50 years ago has been woven into the fabric of America,” said Zoller. “You sat-in then so we can sit in a better country and a better world today.”

“The actions of Mr. McCain and his three friends were a bright spot on our history,” said Mayor Nancy Vaughan.

“He set an example for us to stand strong for what we believe in,” said Erskine Bowles, chancellor emeritus of the University of North Carolina.

Friends, family and community leaders paid tribute to the civil rights icon. Greensboro Four member Joseph McNeil said he lost a best friend.

“Franklin lived a moral life of courage and honor,” said McNeil.

The ceremony focused on celebrating the life of one of the men behind a movement.

“To the end, Frank made sure that folks like me understood that the nightmare hadn’t ended,” said Bowles.

“Franklin said then that my advice to them is to act on your conscience and don’t wait for masses to come, “said Zoller.

His son, Franklin McCain Jr., says his father was always full of advice and encouragement even up to the very end.

“He says, ‘I am going to die.’ and I say, daddy, I don’t want you talking like that,” said McCain Jr. “I want you to live so you can be a testimony of how you can become ill and get better and he said, ‘Son, my whole life has been a testimony.'”

– Brittney Edney

Sen. Kay Hagan Will Not Attend President Obama’s Research Triangle Speech

Democratic Senator Kay Hagan will not attend the speech President Obama is delivering Wednesday in the Research Triangle.

Members of Congress typically attend White House events in their home states or districts, but Sen. Hagan plans to stay in Washington since the Senate will be in session.

Sen. Hagan’s political rivals say her decision is aimed at distancing herself from the president and, by extension, her support of the Affordable Care Act.

But, in a written statement, Hagan campaign spokeswoman Sadie Weiner today said:

“This election isn’t about President Obama, it’s about the contrast between Kay’s record of commonsense, bipartisan results for North Carolina’s seniors, servicemembers and middle class families and her opponents’ records of catering to fringe outside interests. Kay will be in Washington because the Senate is in session Wednesday, and unlike Thom Tillis who skipped session to raise money with special interests, she is focused on doing the job she was elected to do.”

Weiner referenced Tillis’ attendance at a Washington, D.C. fundraiser this past summer, while the North Carolina House was in session. At the time, a Tillis campaign consultant told the News & Observer the speaker “made arrangements to keep the House calendar on track.”

Meanwhile, a sixth Republican candidate entered the North Carolina Senate race today. Former Shelby Mayor and chair of the Cleveland County Republican Party Ted Alexander now joins North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, physician Greg Brannon and attorney Heather Gran, among others.

Geoff Bennett

Poll: More than half of Americans support marijuana legalization

RALEIGH—An increasing number of Americans support legalizing marijuana.

According to a new CNN/ORC poll, 55 percent of respondents said marijuana should be legal, compared to 44 percent who said it should not.

Meanwhile, 35 percent of respondents believe smoking marijuana is morally wrong. That figure is a big drop from the 70 percent that it was in 1987.

The poll also found that Republicans and residents in the South are the only major groups who still oppose legal use.


Capital Tonight Dec. 9: Rep. Richard Hudson

On Capital Tonight: We talk with Rep. Richard Hudson about transportation safety, the farm bill and a deal on the budget. Plus, John Frank of the Raleigh News & Observer and Travis Fain of the Greensboro News & Record join the reporter roundtable. Watch the program here.