Restoring longleaf pines, keystone of once vast ecosystems
DESOTO NATIONAL FOREST, Miss. (AP) — Three centuries ago, much of what is now the southern United States was covered with fire-dependent savannas anchored by lofty pines. By the 1900s, less than 3% of America’s longleaf pine forests remained. Logging, clear-cutting for farms and development and fire suppression had all but eliminated the trees and the grasslands beneath where hundreds of plant and animal species flourished. Now, landowners, nonprofits and government agencies are working in nine coastal states from Virginia to Texas to bring back longleaf pines. The trees are named for the footlong needles prized by Native Americans for weaving baskets.
COURT OF APPEALS-JACKSON
Outgoing NC House minority leader named to Court of Appeals
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The outgoing leader of North Carolina House Democrats is joining the state Court of Appeals. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper announced on Wednesday that he’s appointed Rep. Darren Jackson of Wake County to the seat being vacated by Phil Berger Jr., who was elected to the state Supreme Court last month. Jackson won reelection to his House seat but decided against running for minority leader again, citing disappointing election results for his party. Jackson serves through 2022 but can seek a full eight-year term then. Wake County Democrats also now must choose someone to fill Jackson’s two-year House term.
STATE EMPLOYEES-RETIREE HEALTH
New state hires will miss out on retiree health coverage
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina state employees and public school teachers won’t qualify for state medical coverage when they retire if they’re hired in 2021 and beyond. The 2017 state budget law directed the cutoff to begin in the new year. Legislative Republicans who backed the change said it was needed to rein in future anticipated health care costs for covered employees. The health plan offers supplemental insurance for Medicare enrollees and regular plan coverage for those who aren’t 65 years old. The change doesn’t affect pensions, and health coverage will still be offered to active employees.
APPEALS COURT-CHIEF JUDGE
North Carolina Court of Appeals gets new leader
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Judge Donna Stroud will be the next leader of the 15-member North Carolina Court of Appeals. Outgoing Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley formally appointed Stroud to the post of chief judge, effective Friday. Stroud succeeds Linda McGee, who didn’t seek reelection this year and is leaving the court. So is Judge Wanda Bryant, who held the most seniority after McGee and also didn’t run. Stroud has been on the court since 2007 and was once a Wake County District Court judge. The intermediate-level Court of Appeals usually meets in three-judge panels to hear cases.
Ex-Cabinet member, NC governor nominee Flaherty dies at 92
CARY, N.C. (AP) — David Flaherty, a former cabinet secretary for Republican North Carolina governors and former GOP gubernatorial nominee himself, has died at the age of 92. A funeral home confirmed on Tuesday that Flaherty died from natural causes on Dec. 20 at his home in Cary. Flaherty was a state senator who later served as state human resources secretary for Govs. Jim Holshouser and Jim Martin. He won the 1976 GOP nomination for governor but was handily defeated that November by Democrat Jim Hunt. Flaherty was a Boston native who moved to North Carolina in the 1950s while employed by Broyhill Industries.
Marc Basnight, longest serving NC Senate leader, dies at 73
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — One of North Carolina’s most powerful contemporary political leaders has died. Former state Sen. Marc Basnight served a record 18 years as Senate leader. A family spokesperson said the Democrat died Monday afternoon at his home near the North Carolina barrier islands called the Outer Banks. He had been ill for years with what was later diagnosed as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. His nine terms as Senate president pro tempore through 2010 made him the longest-serving head of a legislative body in North Carolina history. Gov. Roy Cooper served with Basnight in the Senate. Cooper called him a “giant” in North Carolina.
Body found near where kayaker went missing in North Carolina
MANNS HARBOR, N.C. (AP) — Authorities in North Carolina say that a body has been found on the shores of the Croatan Sound in an area where a kayaker went missing. The Charlotte Observer reports that the discovery was made around 3 p.m. Monday. The sound runs between the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and Roanoke Island, which is near the Outer Banks. John Beardsley of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission said that a duck hunter discovered the body. Beardsley said the body was being moved to a state Medical Examiner’s Office in Greenville. Officials said that Kayaker Alexander Rush of Kill Devil Hills went missing in early December. Rush’s overturned kayak was later found in the Croatan Sound.
Laid-off preschool teacher buys $250,000 lottery ticket
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A laid-off preschool teacher in North Carolina has won a $250,000 prize from a scratch-off lotto ticket. WBTV reported Sunday that Joe Camp had been a preschool teacher in Charlotte for 20 years before he was laid off in September. He was able to find a job at a car dealership. He also bought two Gold Rush scratch-off tickets at a gas station in Charlotte. Camp said he fell to his knees at the gas pump after seeing the winnings. After taxes, Camp claimed $176,876. Camp said he plans to use his winnings to save for his daughter’s future and buy a home.