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.

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U.S. Representative Renee Ellmers, Clay Aiken
Jessica Jones

Republican U.S. Representative Renee Ellmers of the Second Congressional District and her challenger, Democrat Clay Aiken, held their first and only debate in Pinehurst Tuesday. The hour-long event covered topics ranging from Islamic State militants to the Affordable Care Act, and it was contentious.

U.S. Representative Renee Ellmers, Clay Aiken
Jessica Jones

Republican U.S. Representative Renee Ellmers and her challenger, Democrat Clay Aiken faced off at an hour-long debate Monday in Pinehurst. They discussed a number of topics, ranging from ISIS to the Affordable Care Act to immigration. Ellmers referred to Aiken several times as an "entertainer," and did her best to connect her opponent to President Obama.

"There's a clear choice here," said Ellmers. "Myself, who believes in conservative principles, or my opponent, who would be nothing more than a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama on so many issues."

Republican U.S. Representative Renee Ellmers will face her challenger, Democrat Clay Aiken in a debate today at Pinehurst.
 

The event will take place before a live audience at a North Carolina Bankers Association conference today. Ellmers is generally acknowledged to be leading the race in the second district. State legislators redrew it in 2011 to favor Republicans.

Thom Tillis, Senator Rand Paul
Jessica Jones

Wednesday morning, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky was in Raleigh to support Republican state Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis, in his race for the U.S. Senate. Tillis is running against the incumbent, Democratic Senator Kay Hagan, and the race is close. Republicans hope that Paul’s appearance will give Tillis a boost.

Big Ed’s restaurant in Raleigh was packed with diners and Tillis supporters long before the two men slipped in through a side door to work an appreciative crowd.

Clinton
Bryan Series

President Clinton is scheduled to be in town today to stump for the Democratic incumbent Senator Kay Hagan. She's running in a close race against her challenger, Republican state Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis.
 

President Clinton will appear at a private lunch held at the Carolina Inn. The Hagan campaign wouldn't give more details on who exactly will attend, but the guests are presumably big donors to the Hagan campaign.

Nicole Gottier / Flickr/Creative Commons

The race between Democratic Senator Kay Hagan and her challenger, Republican state Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis, is one of the most closely watched in the country. That’s because Republicans need to win only six seats in the U.S. Senate to gain a majority.

The most recent polls put Hagan slightly ahead. Groups rooting for Hagan are trying to get more women to the polls this year.

The state Board of Elections has received thousands of calls about incorrect voter registration information sent out by the state chapter of Americans For Prosperity, a national conservative group.

Republican Congresswoman Renee Ellmers of the state's Second Congressional District and her challenger, Democrat Clay Aiken, appeared in a candidates forum in Cary this morning.

The brief breakfast forum, hosted by the Cary Chamber of Commerce, marked the first time Ellmers and Aiken had ever met. Ellmers said she came away with a good impression of her opponent.
 

DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos
Jessica Jones

North Carolina's Secretary of Health and Human Services spoke before a legislative committee Wednesday to explain organizational changes made in one of her divisions.

Secretary Aldona Wos explained the changes will help streamline the Division of Medical Assistance, which administers the state's Medicaid program. She also told legislators that a formerly enormous backlog in the IT system used to process Medicaid applications- called NC FAST- has been reduced by 81 percent. The Secretary says she expects the system to be caught up by the end of October.

Chris Christie [File Photo 10/2013]
Steve Fallon / Creative Commons

New Jersey governor Chris Christie was in Wilmington Tuesday Sept. 16 stumping for Republican state Speaker of the House Thom Tillis. He's running against Democratic incumbent U.S. Senator Kay Hagan.

The two spoke before supporters at a restaurant, where Christie told the crowd that he takes his role as chairman of the Republican Governors' Association very seriously:

Vote Graffiti
Kodak Views / Flickr/Creative Commons

A poll released by Elon University gives Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan a four-point lead over her Republican challenger, state Speaker of the House Thom Tillis.

Hagan has support from 45 percent of residents who are likely to vote, while Tillis has 41 percent. According to the poll, 9 percent of voters say they support someone else, and 5 percent are undecided.
 

Professor Kenneth Fernandez is the director of the Elon University Poll.

Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis shake hands after the debate at UNC-TV Wednesday night.
Mike Oniffrey / UNC-TV

Democratic Senator Kay Hagan and Republican state Speaker of the House Thom Tillis held their first televised debate Wednesday night. The race is one of a handful of closely watched contests across the country that could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate next year.

The debate was a fast-paced hour of topics that ran the gamut from health care to foreign policy.

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

This evening, Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan and Republican Speaker of the North Carolina House Thom Tillis will square off in their first debate of the campaign season.

The much-anticipated first debate between Senator Hagan and Speaker Tillis will be broadcast on WUNC-FM and on television outlets across the state. It begins at 7:00 p.m.

Federal Building, Winston-Salem
Jessica Jones

The U.S. Department of Justice has accused Sheriff Johnson of racially profiling and illegally detaining members of the Hispanic community. Yesterday attorneys for the federal government called John Lamberth, a social psychologist, to the stand. He's an expert on racial profiling.

Lamberth conducted a study using data from 2008 to 2013 showing that Hispanics in Alamance County were seven times more likely to be given tickets than other people.

Alamance County Sheriff's vehicle
Alamance County Sheriff's Office

Today is the second day of the federal trial for Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson. Several current and former sheriff's deputies took the stand yesterday.

The U.S. Justice Department has accused Johnson of racial profiling and arresting and detaining members of the Hispanic community without probable cause.

Several past and present law enforcement officials testified on the opening day of the trial yesterday. It was held in federal district court in Winston-Salem.

Alamance County Sheriff's vehicle
Alamance County Sheriff's Office

A federal case against the Alamance county sheriff accused of illegally targeting Latino drivers is going to trial today.

The U.S. Justice Department has accused Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson of illegally targeting Latino drivers as well as arresting and detaining people without probable cause.

North Carolina House Chamber
Jessica Jones

Lawmakers in the state House have tentatively passed a 21 billion dollar budget adjustment for this fiscal year. It would give teachers average 7 percent raises at a cost of 282 million dollars. Republicans say the spending plan is sustainable. But Democrats in the House are asking whether the combination of pay raises and this year’s lower tax rates will be sustainable over the long term. 

Leaders in the House began debating the budget conference report at 10 a.m. today. Appropriations Chair Nelson Dollar began by presenting what the bill stands for.

Southern Appalachian Brook Trout
creative commons

State lawmakers in both chambers have approved a measure that would weaken environmental rules protecting rivers and streams in North Carolina.

Among other things, Senate Bill 883 would reduce the ratio of land that has to be mitigated when developers and others damage the banks of those waterways. That kind of damage is a major contributor to poor water quality.

Jane Blackburn and Lyn McCoy speak at an ACLU news conference.
Carol Jackson

ACLU attorneys challenging the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in North Carolina plan to ask a U.S. District Court judge in Greensboro for swift resolution of the issue. This comes after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit struck down Virginia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage on Monday. Since that court has jurisdiction over North Carolina, supporters of same-sex marriage here say it’s only a matter of time before this state’s ban crumbles as well.

Photo: The North Carolina General Assembly's Legislative Building
Jorge Valencia

Leaders of the state House and Senate have agreed on a framework for a budget for the fiscal year that has already started. They're expected to spell out the details this week.

Late Saturday afternoon, Speaker of the House Thom Tillis and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger both tweeted that their chambers had agreed upon a budget framework. They said they'd release more details this week.

The spending plan is expected to include teacher raises of about 7 percent and save teacher assistants' jobs.

Gov. Pat McCrory
NC Governor's Office

Governor Pat McCrory says he will consider vetoing a budget bill if he doesn't like what House and Senate budget negotiators come up with. The governor gave a brief interview just outside the Old Capitol earlier this afternoon.

Leaders in both houses still don't agree on some final key issues, which include how big teacher raises should be and how many teacher assistants to keep in classrooms. Governor McCrory said he met with the House caucus earlier today to spell out his priorities.

NC Legislative building
NC General Assembly

Lawmakers in the state Senate have tentatively approved a bill that would overhaul North Carolina's Medicaid system. The measure would create an independent agency to oversee the state's health care system for low-income residents. The bill would also contract out Medicaid to managed care and provider-led organizations. They would receive a set amount of money per patient to provide care. Republican Senator Ralph Hise is a sponsor of the bill. He says it's necessary to help control ballooning Medicaid costs.

NC Legislative building
NC General Assembly

Senate lawmakers considered a number of items today, while many House lawmakers took the time to pay homage to the late Republican Representative Jim Fulghum.

There's still no official word on whether budget writers might be close to an agreement on a spending plan for this fiscal year. So in the meantime, lawmakers are publicly pursuing other measures.

In the morning, a Senate Rules Committee approved a bill that would restore Fayetteville's red-light cameras, but the committee shelved another that would have allowed license-plate scanners on highways.

Gerry Cohen
Jorge Valencia / Gerry Cohen

One of the most respected and beloved figures at the General Assembly is about to retire.

Gerry Cohen will soon finish his current job as the special counsel for the state legislature, where he was first hired as a staff attorney back in 1977. Later, he became head of the bill drafting division, where his encyclopedic memory and reputation for fairness made him a favorite among Democrats and Republicans alike.

Gerry Cohen’s office at the state legislature is filled with boxes of mementos and papers dating back several decades.

Kay Hagan 7.18.14
Katelyn Ferral

Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan was in Raleigh Friday afternoon to discuss a bill she and others have introduced in the U.S. Senate that seeks to restore womens' access to employer-covered contraception. The bill was defeated this week but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he plans to bring it up later this year.

When Hagan was asked what she thinks of the North Carolina General Assembly's late efforts to put together a budget for this fiscal year, she was quick to bring up her own record as a former state senator:

NC Legislative building
NC General Assembly

A measure put forth by the state Senate to overhaul North Carolina's Medicaid program is headed for a vote in the chamber next week.

The proposal would allow both provider-led and managed care plans to serve patients who qualify for the health insurance program.

Senate leaders say their plan would help control costs. It would also create an entirely new department to oversee Medicaid in the state, headed by a corporate-like board. Republican Senator Louis Pate is a sponsor of the measure.

North Carolina legislative building
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Lawmakers in the North Carolina Senate have proposed a plan that sheds more light on how they’d like to manage the state's Medicaid program. But it differs significantly from plans put forward by the House and by Governor Pat McCrory. The Senate’s proposal would allow hospital and doctor-led health plans to see Medicaid patients as well as managed care plans run by insurance companies.

General Assembly
Dave DeWitt

Leaders in the state Senate have offered an eight percent pay raise for teachers as they inch closer to putting together a budget.

Senate leaders unveiled their offer to House budget negotiators late Tuesday afternoon. Senators had previously wanted to give educators raises of 11 percent, but House leaders said such a large increase would require cutting too many other areas.

North Carolina legislative building
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Democratic leaders in the state House say Speaker Thom Tillis has refused to release funds for a full-time employee to manage their legislative operations. Minority Leader Larry Hall says he's had to let the Democratic caucus chief of staff go because Tillis would not release enough funding for that position to last past July 1st.

North Carolina legislative building
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Budget negotiators in the North Carolina General Assembly are still at odds over how much to raise teacher pay for this fiscal year. Leaders in the House canceled what was meant to be an open conference committee meeting this morning because Senate negotiators declined to attend.

House leaders have offered to grant teachers raises of 6%, up from an earlier proposal of 5%. But Senate leaders say they still prefer pay increases of 11%.

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