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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Governor Bev Perdue released her proposed budget in Raleigh earlier today. The $19.9 billion dollar plan would protect existing teacher and teacher assistant jobs, but it would eliminate about ten thousand other state jobs through cuts and through the reorganization of state agencies.

The state Senate has passed a bill that would block the federal requirement that everyone have health insurance or face a penalty. The measure passed easily by 30 to 18 today. Republican Senator Austin Allran of Hickory says the measure accomplishes three things-first, it says people in North Carolina should not be required to have a health insurance policy or be a member of a health care plan.

www.flickr.com/photos/bevperdue

North Carolina's Governor, Bev Perdue, gave her second State of the State address to legislators last night.

The Governor did her best to be optimistic, despite the specter of an enormous projected billion-dollar budget shortfall looming in the background. While she praised tough decisions that have already been made to cut costs, Governor Perdue said difficult choices will be required to keep the state in the black. Jessica Jones reports from the state capitol.

For years, advocates of charter schools have pressed legislators to pass a law that would allow more charters to operate in North Carolina. The schools receive public money, but they function independently of local districts. Right now only one hundred of them are allowed to operate at any given time in the state. But the new Republican-controlled legislature is likely to eliminate that limit completely. And that would make some charter school advocates very happy.

The Governor plans to address state legislators tonight in her annual State of the State Address.

The North Carolina legislature has begun a new session at a historic time in its history. Republicans now hold a majority in both chambers of the General Assembly for the first time in more than a century. But it's going to be a difficult year. Lawmakers face a potential 3-point-7 billion dollar budget deficit. Jessica Jones reports they say they're ready to meet that challenge.

The 2011-2012 legislative session begins today.

Thousands of visitors are pouring into Greensboro for one of this country's most prestigious sporting events- the annual U-S Figure Skating Championships. It begins tomorrow and runs through January 30th at the Greensboro Coliseum. This is the first time North Carolina has ever hosted the competition.

The nation's most prestigious figure skating event will begin tomorrow in Greensboro. The 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships features the best figure skaters in the country. They're competing for a variety of prizes in different categories. It's the first time North Carolina has hosted the competition. Kim Strable heads the Greensboro Sports Commission, which helps bring big events like this to the city. He says if everything goes smoothly next week, it will open the doors for Greensboro to host more skating competitions.

American Express plans to close a call center in Greensboro that employs 1900 employees.

Company officials say the decision to close the service center was not based on employees' performance. It's because these days many customers prefer to check their balances and pay bills online rather than calling an operator for help.

Snow falling in many parts of central North Carolina is expected to turn to freezing rain tonight. A layer of at least a tenth of an inch of ice is likely to form. Brandon Vincent is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. He says the roads will be dangerous.

"We'll see freezing rain and freezing drizzle persisting perhaps all the way through Tuesday morning even into early Tuesday afternoon, so the road situation's going to get pretty bad later this evening and overnight."

More than a century ago, North Carolina was well known for being the country's largest wine producer in the nation. Prohibition eventually closed down most of that industry, leaving a few producers who made sweet wines from muscadine grapes. But in recent years, producers of red and white European-style wines have sprung up all over the Tar Heel state. Over the last five years, the number of wineries across North Carolina has doubled to nearly one hundred.

Officials at Fort Bragg are holding a town hall meeting tomorrow for military families who have babies. Military investigators have been looking into a series of ten unexplained infant deaths on base since last year. So far they haven't found an environmental link, and they're waiting for consumer product safety results.

Tom McCullom is a spokesman for the base:

Volunteers and wildlife rehabilitators have rescued about twenty endangered sea turtles from cold waters and beaches so far this month. Lou Browning is a wildlife rehabilitator on Hatteras Island who's been helping transport turtles stunned by cold waters to veterinarians.

"When the temperature drops quickly, we get a cold that comes through the sound and the water temperature drops dramatically, when it drops below about 56 degrees Fahrenheit, sea turtles have a difficult time and they become lethargic."

middle schoolers
Jane Van Middlesworth

At many middle schools, students have the option of enrolling in band classes to play music. But very few have their own marching bands. Northern Middle School in Greensboro is an exception to that rule. The band has made quite a name for itself in parades and concerts across the state. In fact it's so good that it has been invited to play at college football's Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida on New Year's Day.

Tobacco workers employed by Lorillard plan to protest at an FDA meeting scheduled for tomorrow morning in Raleigh. The government is reviewing the safety of menthol cigarettes- Lorillard has a market share of about 35 percent of the product. The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 317-T in Greensboro is organizing the event. Randy Fulk is the union's international representative. He worked for Lorillard Tobacco for more than 36 years:

Three soldiers at Fort Bragg received medals today for their bravery during a recent deployment to Afghanistan. Sargeant First Class Marius Orhon received an Army Commendation Medal with Valor, and Sargeants Erik Crouch and Ryan Schloesser both received Bronze Star Medals with Valor. Crouch is a medic who performed valiantly after his group was attacked by Taliban. Major Matthew Ziglar is the company commander.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Here's one good old broadcast tradition that's still going on. Every Saturday morning, musicians in Mount Airy, North Carolina, gather at a historic downtown theater. They've been doing it since 1948 when AM radio station WPAQ began airing a live show called the "Merry-Go-Round."

The program features regional old-time and bluegrass music. And today, the "Merry-Go-Round" is one of the last shows of its kind on the airwaves.

From North Carolina Public Radio, Jessica Jones reports.

App State Profesor Dennis Scanlin and wind turbine
Dennis Scanlin

North Carolina could get most of the energy it needs as a state from renewable sources including solar and wind. That's according to a report published earlier this year by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. But when it comes to producing wind energy that goes back into the grid, North Carolina is behind other states. In fact, there is only one utility-grade wind turbine in all of North Carolina. Jessica Jones reports for our series, North Carolina Voices:  Tomorrow's Energy.

A solar panel, renewable energy
NCSU/CSE

Over the last three years, North Carolina has seen exponential growth in the use of solar power- from a few panels on homeowners' roofs to heat hot water to large installations that produce energy and send it right back into the grid. Small business owners working in the industry believe what they're doing is good for the state and for the environment. But right now, their prospects are limited. Jessica Jones reports for our series North Carolina Voices: Tomorrow's Energy.

Fifty years ago, on Feb. 1, four black college students sat down at a whites-only Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C. The "Greensboro Four," along with friends and supporters, returned to the counter every day for six months until the lunch counter was desegregated.

Their determination to resist Jim Crow laws inspired thousands of peaceful sit-ins and helped to end official segregation in the South. On Monday, in the same building that once housed the Woolworth's store, the International Civil Rights Center & Museum opens.

A newly proposed mass transit plan for the Triangle could link Chapel Hill to North Raleigh by bus and rail as early as 2020. It’s the suggestion of a 29 member regional organization called the Special Transit Advisory Group. As it stands right now, the proposal would greatly expand local and regional bus service, and add some form of rail transit later on.

In the early nineteen sixties, two young doctors from Tufts University Medical School near Boston spent a summer treating the Mississippi freedom riders. The struggle for civil rights opened the doctors’ eyes to how much minorities and the poor lacked access to health care. So they established two community health centers - one in rural Mississippi, the other in inner-city Boston. Today, those clinics- and about a thousand more across the country- provide a safety net of care to everyone who comes through the door, regardless of their ability to pay. There are one-hundred-and-six community health centers in North Carolina. Jessica Jones spent a few days at one: the Siler City Community Health Center, about an hour west of Raleigh. She reports for our series "North Carolina Voices: Diagnosing Health Care."

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