Jorge Valencia

Capitol Reporter

Jorge Valencia has been with North Carolina Public Radio since 2012. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun.

Ways to Connect

Fracking the Marcellus Shale: a rig and gas well operation.
wcn 247 / Flickr

The panel that is writing the rules that may become North Carolina’s fracking laws will not require drilling companies to disclose which chemicals they use to extract gas.

Members of the Energy and Mining Commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the rule, which stumped them for more than a year and drew  input from environmental and business groups.

A Carlie C's grocery store parking lot
Charlie C's

The legislative committee that reviews North Carolina’s tax laws debated on Monday a tax that cities and towns levy on businesses to allow them to operate within their municipality limits.

The tax, which state lawmakers have tried to change at least five times in the last 10 years, allows local governments to charge companies a flat rate or a percentage of their revenues. It includes retailers but exempts businesses such as insurance and law offices.

Friends and relatives posted pictures like these of Jesus Huerta around Durham, NC
Leoneda Inge

A teenager who Durham police say fatally shot himself while in custody last year used a .45 caliber pistol that he had concealed and an officer did not discover while frisking and arresting him, police said Friday.

Officers had picked up 17-year-old Jesus Huerta the morning of Nov. 19 because his family reported him as a runaway, police said, but emergency dispatchers did not relay warnings from the family that Huerta had threatened to kill himself.

Photo: Rosanell Eaton and Mary E. Perry
Jorge Valencia

The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP has expanded its lawsuit against the state’s new Voter ID law to argue that it discriminates against Hispanics and to challenge its elimination of pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, flanked by state Rep. Rosa Gill (D-Wake) and state Sen. Josh Stein (D-Wake)
Jorge Valencia

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan said on Monday that she’s pushing to make long-term unemployed people in North Carolina eligible again for federal emergency unemployment benefits.

Hagan, a Democrat, introduced a provision for a possible extension of nationwide unemployment benefits that would make North Carolina eligible again, she said. The state was disqualified from Emergency Unemployment Compensation last year after the Republican-led General Assembly reduced benefits at the state level.

Photo: The Rev. William Barber outside the North Carolina State Capitol building.
Jorge Valencia

A judge gave permission Monday to a group that’s been protesting new North Carolina laws to rally on the grounds of the state Capitol building.

Wake County Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour’s decision reversed denial of a permit  earlier this month.  It served as a preamble for the new year of protests, that have become known as Moral Monday, against the Republican-controlled state legislature.

Just hours after the decision, the Rev. William Barber, one of the key Moral Monday organizers, spoke to dozens of people on a courtyard outside the Capitol, mapping out 2014.

A judge in Durham dropped criminal charges Wednesday against 14 people who were cited for panhandling. Charges were filed under a new ordinance that makes it illegal to beg for money in parts of the city.

Chief District Court Judge Marcia Morey dropped the charges as part of the court’s effort to keep offenders out of jail under the condition they not violate the ordinance again and seek help with health, addiction, housing or employment issues.

Photo: Rev. William Barber of the N.C. NAACP called for pickets outside Rose and Maxwell stores, which are owned by the family of state Budget Director Art Pope.
Jorge Valencia

An accidental debate between state budget director Art Pope and state NAACP President Rev. William Barber this month was a rare chance encounter between two of the best known conservative and liberal voices in state politics.

The setting was familiar: Rev. Barber has been publicly railing for months against laws passed by North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature, and on Dec. 2 he called a news conference to criticize Pope in front of his offices in the state Administration Building.

Photo: Nancy MacLean, a professor of history and public policy at Duke University, and members of the Scholars for North Carolina’s Future
Jorge Valencia

A group of professors from public and private colleges across North Carolina has for months been criticizing a conservative think tank in Raleigh: They say the non-profit Civitas Institute purports to be independent, but really is an arm of the state Republican Party, and that it is trying to bully liberal academics in the state’s public university system.

A house for sale in Stokes County, N.C.
Images of Money via Flickr

Purchases of homes in the Triangle region continued to rise in November, showing the local economy is still improving.

Sales rose by 10 percent and the number of homes for sale dropped by 11  percent, compared to the same month a year earlier, according to Triangle Multiple Listing Services data.

Photo: Rosanell Eaton and Mary E. Perry
Jorge Valencia

A federal judge has ruled that challenges to the North Carolina law that requires voters to show identification at polling stations will not be heard until after the mid-term elections of 2014.

U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake said in a a hearing Thursday that the law was too complex to be thoroughly reviewed prior to the November elections. Peake scheduled a trial for July 2015.

Attorneys on both sides of four lawsuits challenging voting rules signed into law by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory this year are scheduled to meet in U.S. District Court on Thursday morning to argue over an opening date for the trial.

The two sides disagree on whether a trial should be heard before the 2014 mid-term elections. The plaintiffs, which include the North Carolina NAACP and the League of Women Voters, are asking the court to schedule for trial in August 2014. The attorneys representing the state are asking for a begin date no earlier than January 2015.

Photo: A farm in Lee County
Donald Lee Pardue via Flickr

An advisory group that’s analyzing options for a new state law on shale gas drilling may recommend to lawmakers that they not require energy companies disclose all the chemicals they use when extracting gas. 

The state’s Medicaid Reform Advisory Committee is comprised by Sen. Louis Pate, Dr. Richard Gilbert, Dennis Barry, Peggy Terhune and Rep. Nelson Dollar
Jorge Valencia

  The North Carolina health department may create up to seven regional networks across the state to give Medicaid services, instead of allowing companies to compete to provide government insurance statewide, according to a new proposal.

Photo: Rev. William Barber of the N.C. NAACP called for pickets outside Rose and Maxwell stores, which are owned by the family of state Budget Director Art Pope.
Jorge Valencia

The Rev. William Barber, who led weekly protests this year against laws passed by North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature, gathered with a few of his supporters Monday outside the state budget office to criticize a man they say supports policies that hurt poor people.

Photo: A tree farm in Rutherwood, N.C.
BlueRidgeKitties / Flickr

When Jessie Davis started tagging trees for sale in his 500-acre farm in western North Carolina this fall, he noticed his Frasier firs were taller and brighter than they were in previous years. He knew the reason was simple: this was a rainy year.

Photo: Former governors Jim Hunt (left) and Jim Martin
Jorge Valencia

Prominent North Carolina politicians, including Sen. Kay Hagan and former governors Jim Hunt and Jim Martin, spoke in support of U.S. foreign spending on Monday, saying investments outside of the country can benefit the state’s economy. 

Division of Employment Security
NC Commerce Department

The percentage of people that are unemployed in North Carolina continued to drop over the last two months, but that’s still more than the national average. The state’s rate was 8 percent in October, down from 8.3 percent in September and 8.7 percent in August, the state Commerce Department said today. Numbers for September were published today because some offices were closed when they were scheduled to be released during the federal government shut down.

Durham Police Department badge.
City of Durham

Protesters are planning a march to the Durham Police Department tonight to ask for answers in the recent death of a 17-year-old who died while in police custody in the department’s headquarters parking lot.  Police have said Jesus Huerta was sitting in the back of a police cruiser at about 3 a.m. Tuesday before "a loud noise" was heard and he died. In a 911 recording released that day, the officer driving Huerta said the teen may have suffered a gunshot wound.

Photo: A farm in Lee County
Donald Lee Pardue via Flickr

An energy company that’s exploring the potential for natural gas drilling in North Carolina is scaling back research efforts in Lee County. 

A teenager died in a Durham police car in the department’s headquarters parking lot early Tuesday after the officer driving him heard "a loud noise" in the car, authorities said. 

Teens at a high school football game
Brad Barlow / Flickr

More than half of teens with psychiatric disorders go untreated, and those who do get help often get it from non-mental health specialists, according to a study co-authored by Duke University researchers this month.

 About 45 percent of teens who have a psychiatric disorder received treatment in the 12 months prior to the study, and those getting help most often receive it from school counselors, pediatricians or probation officers.  

Photo: J.V. Hofmann and class measuring pine in reed bed at Hofmann Forest, about 1937
Historical State, NCSU Libraries

  A company that has a deal to buy a 79,000-acre forest from North Carolina State University may have wanted to turn more than half of it into suburban cul-de-sacs, office buildings and corn farm lands, according to a company document leaked this week.

The plans, outlined in an prospectus addressed to potential investors, apparently contradicts statements the buyer, Hofmann Forest LLC, and the university have made saying the timber forest near Jacksonville in Onslow County would be protected in a potential sale.

Photo: Ferris wheel at the N.C. State Fair
Flickr user Kevin Oliver

When North Carolina legislators passed a law this summer charging sales tax on admissions to live entertainment events in the state, they made a list of exempt groups.

But exactly who doesn’t have to pay created confusion, so now law makers have a more clear proposal: Tax everyone, except for K-12 schools and all-volunteer groups.

Photo: A tobacco farm in Eastern North Carolina
Flickr user perrykm5

Members of North Carolina’s congressional delegation are urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to not lower payments to tobacco farmers next year as part of the expected federal budget cuts known as sequestration.

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