Jessica Jones

Reporter

Jessica Jones covers both the legislature in Raleigh and politics across the state. Before her current assignment, Jessica was given the responsibility to open up WUNC's first Greensboro Bureau at the Triad Stage in 2009. She's a seasoned public radio reporter who's covered everything from education to immigration, and she's a regular contributor to NPR's news programs. Jessica started her career in journalism in Egypt, where she freelanced for international print and radio outlets. After stints in Washington, D.C. with Voice of America and NPR, Jessica joined the staff of WUNC in 1999. She is a graduate of Yale University.

Ways to Connect

A picture of Jay Faison.
SnapAV

A conservative tech entrepreneur has created a foundation dedicated to finding clean-energy solutions to the climate crisis.

Jay Faison has several defining characteristics. He is a Republican, a member of a wealthy Charlotte family, and a supporter of GOP campaigns in North Carolina and nationally. Faison founded the ClearPath Foundation in December, and recently announced that he is giving $175 million to a campaign to get Republicans talking about market-based solutions to climate change. 

Image of William Shakespeare.
Books18 / Flickr

Composers have been writing music influenced by stories and dramatic works for centuries, and Shakespeare's A Midsummer's Night's Dream is no exception. It has been made into a ballet, an opera, and has inspired a great number of musical compositions, perhaps the most famous of which is the incidental music written by Felix Mendelssohn to accompany the play.

This weekend, the North Carolina symphony, in collaboration with the NC School of the Arts, is bringing this tale to life on stage. The music depicts a fanciful world of fairies, elves, and wood sprites.

A picture of a copperhead snake.
Professor J.D. Willson / Flickr

Spring is here, and animals that have hunkered down through the long, cold winter are finally coming out again, now that it’s warm. That’s certainly true for the venomous snakes that call North Carolina home.

The Tar Heel state has the dubious distinction of leading the nation in the number of copperhead bites per year, with Texas coming in a close second. A few months ago, Jessica Jones had her own close encounter with a copperhead in a friend’s yard.

Secretary Tony Tata
NC Department of Transportation

Earlier today, an Amtrak train collided with a tractor-trailer in Halifax County. Fifty five passengers have been taken to the hospital.

The accident took place at 12:15 p.m. yesterday at the intersection of U-S 301 and N-C 903. The train was the northbound Carolinian 80, a popular route for commuters and business passengers.

The collision caused the Carolinian's locomotive and baggage car to derail. 15 passengers were taken to Halifax Memorial Hospital by ambulance and 25 were transported by bus. The remaining passengers were moved to the Halifax Community Center.

A close-up picture of a snowflake
Alexei Kljatov / Creative Commons 2.0 http://earthdesk.blogs.pace.edu/files/2013/12/snowflake.jpg

A winter storm system is expected to sweep into the state tonight and leave 4 to 8 inches of snow in its wake. Freezing precipitation is likely to come at the end of the storm too. Meteorologist Darin Figurskey of the National Weather Service spoke with WUNC's All Things Considered host, Catherine Brand, about this wintry weather.

Joseph Sledge and his attorney Christine Mumma 1/23/15
Jorge Valencia

A man held in a North Carolina prison for most of his life was released on Friday, after a special panel found he had been wrongfully convicted of a double murder in 1976.

Following a brief hearing in Columbus County, a specially appointed three-judge panel found Joseph Sledge had proven he was innocent of the stabbing deaths of a mother and her adult daughter in neighboring Bladen County.

Tulane Publications via Flickr/Creative Commons

A legislative subcommittee has endorsed a measure that would take oversight of the state's Medicaid program away from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The subcommittee approved the measure Thursday.
 

It would place an eight-member board in charge of the state's Medicaid program. The group would run Medicaid with a set amount of funds, given by the legislature every year. That means it would have the power to increase or reduce services for patients.

Speaker of the House Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger on the first day of this year's legislative session.
Jessica Jones

State lawmakers gathered in Raleigh Wednesday for the first official  day of this year’s legislative session. Members elected the Republican leaders of both chambers, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and a new Speaker of the House, Tim Moore. They say their priorities include continuing tax reform and job growth by making the state more business friendly.

North Carolina Legislature passes a tax reform bill.
W Edward Callis III

State lawmakers will be back in Raleigh Wednesday for a one-day organizational session. The most important task at hand for legislators is to formally elect the heads of the state House and Senate. And there shouldn't be any surprises.

The previous session's President Pro Tem of the Senate, Republican Phil Berger of Eden, is expected to be re-elected easily. He's scheduled to hold a news conference later in the morning.

Dorothea Dix campus
Ted Buckner / Flickr/Creative Commons

Governor Pat McCrory’s administration and Raleigh leaders have reached an agreement for the city to buy the old Dorothea Dix campus in order to create a park. Advocates have lobbied for years to create a grand city park on the 307-acre property, but those efforts were frustrated until now.

Governor McCrory and Raleigh’s mayor, Nancy McFarlane, held a joint news conference Monday at the executive mansion. They spoke before an audience of park advocates, state lawmakers and members of the business community who’ve long supported the idea to re-purpose the Dorothea Dix campus.  

N.C. General Assembly, State Legislature
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

A program giving developers tax credits to restore old buildings expired on January first. But advocates have launched a campaign asking lawmakers to restore the program.

The North Carolina Metropolitan Mayors Coalition has launched an online petition drive to ask state lawmakers to restore the historic tax credit. So far it has more than 1,700 signatures.

Representative Paul Tine
NCGA

A state legislator who was previously a Democrat has become unaffiliated because he feels he can get more done that way for his district. Representative Paul Tine of the Outer Banks says he wanted to stay within the moderate Democratic fold, but he felt the party was veering too far to the left for him. Tine also feels that as an unaffiliated legislator, he can work with the Republican majority to benefit his district. He says the Outer Banks benefited from strong legislators, including former Democratic Senator Marc Basnight:

U.S. Representative Alma Adams
U.S. Representative Alma Adams

New members of North Carolina's Congressional delegation were sworn in today in Congress. That includes Republican Senator Thom Tillis and Republican Congressman David Rouzer of the 7th District.

Photo: Mark Martin
Mark Martin

North Carolina's state Supreme Court Chief Justice was sworn in yesterday. 

Chief Justice Mark Martin was officially sworn in for an eight-year term in a ceremony at the North Carolina Supreme Court.

But he isn't new to the court- Martin was first elected in 1998. He was appointed to serve as Chief Justice this summer, after the former Chief Justice Sarah Parker resigned. She had reached the mandatory retirement age of 72.

Tulane Publications via Flickr/Creative Commons

An effort to open the state’s Medicaid program to managed care ran into trouble today. A report that passed a subcommittee easily last week was gutted in a health and human services oversight committee meeting this morning.

The move may indicate a victory for the administration and some Republicans who want to build on an existing program for Medicaid patients. 

This morning, Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos left no doubt where she stands on the issue of Medicaid reform. She addressed a conference room filled with state lawmakers, reporters, and lobbyists.

Ralf Heb / Flickr/Creative Commons

In recent months, Governor Pat McCrory has said he’s considering proposing expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, which would allow more low-income people here to receive health care. Back in 2012, the General Assembly passed a bill blocking expansion and the formation of a state health exchange. The governor signed it into law. But now, many other Republican-led states are moving forward with enlarging eligibility for the program. Yet Republican leaders don’t have a consensus on what to do here.

North Carolina Southern Piedmont Region Rand McNally Map circa 1947
Davecito via Flickr/Creative Commons

North Carolina's Department of Transportation has released a plan that would spend $15 billion on road construction, aviation and public transit projects through 2025.

The plan would use new standards under a new method approved by the General Assembly last year. Governor Pat McCrory said it's the right choice for the state:

"We're taking away the choke points which block access to rural and urban areas alike, to spur economic growth and create jobs. We're taking the politics out of road building and transportation so we're getting a bigger bang out of limited dollars."

A picture of a stethoscope.
jasleen_kaur / Flickr/Creative Commons

A Medicaid oversight subcommittee has approved recommendations laying out goals for reform of the state's health insurance program for low-income residents. But support for the measure was not unanimous among Republicans. 

The recommendations approved Tuesday will now go before the full Health and Human Services oversight committee.

Two-pages of findings sketch out general goals for Medicaid reform in the state. Overall, it reiterates the feeling among some lawmakers- including Senator Ralph Hise- that the primary goal in reforming Medicaid should be to cut costs.

Researchers at Duke have developed a mathematical model that shows how changes in North Carolina’s congressional voting districts could affect election outcomes.
Duke University

Back in 2012, more North Carolinians voted for Democrats than Republicans in North Carolina’s Congressional elections. But Republicans ended up winning nine out of the state’s 13 seats that year. Those numbers piqued the interest of researchers at Duke, who decided to seek a mathematical explanation for the discrepancy. They recently published a study with their results.

a thin computer with keyboard
Karlis Dambrans / Flickr/Creative Commons

State health officials would like to update North Carolina's antiquated system of recording deaths.  The Tar Heel state uses handwritten or typed documents to declare a death.  Those forms are hand-delivered through several stops from the funeral home to state records in Raleigh -- which can take at least three months. Secretary of Health and Human Services Aldona Wos told lawmakers today her department wants to move to a fully electronic system:

Image of tools in doctor's office
Morgan / Flickr/Creative Commons

State health officials and an advisory board have released a six-year plan to help fight cancer in North Carolina. The plan identifies six specific cancers that are prevalent in the state and recommends specific strategies to fight them.

Dr. Ruth Petersen is with the Department of Health and Human Services. She notes lung cancer is one of the diseases identified in the report. Petersen says causes include exposure to smoke, secondhand smoke, or radon gas.

Governor Pat McCrory says he's pleased with last night's Republican victories in both statewide and Congressional elections, although he told WUNC earlier today that some of those victories were unexpected, especially on the state level.

"I was very surprised, frankly, based upon our surveys and others, that we didn't lose any seats in the Senate- in fact, we gained one,  and we lost very few seats in the House," said McCrory.

String-like Ebola virus particles are shedding from an infected cell in this electron micrograph.
NIH/NIAID via Flickr/Creative Commons

State health officials say a patient at Duke University Hospital who so far has tested negative for the Ebola virus has posed no risk to the general public.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Aldona Wos and others held a call-in news conference Monday afternoon to talk about the patient, who arrived in the U.S. from Liberia on Saturday.

The patient, who remains anonymous, is currently in an isolation ward at Duke, after reporting a fever while traveling by bus to North Carolina from New Jersey.

A picture of an 'I Voted' sticker.
Vox Efx / Flickr

Four out of of seven seats on Wake County's Board of Commissioners are up for election. Republicans currently occupy those positions, but if just one of them loses, Democrats will have a majority on the board.

The Democratic and Republican candidates for the four seats up for election differentiate themselves mostly by ideology. The Republican incumbents are loath to raise taxes and are not openly supportive of a transit tax proposal. Their relationship with the county school board has been tense.

Gavel
SalFalko / Flickr Creative Commons

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond will hear oral arguments tomorrow over a North Carolina law that would require abortion providers to show patients an ultrasound and describe the image in detail.

The Republican-led state legislature passed the law back in 2011. It would require abortion providers to show their patients images of an embryo or fetus and describe them.

Six organizations quickly challenged the law, and U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles temporarily blocked the ultrasound requirement.

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