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.

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Carmen Rodriguez, third from left, was one of six protesters who blocked traffic in front of governor's executive mansion
Jorge Valencia

Six pro-immigrant protesters were arrested outside of the North Carolina Governor's mansion in downtown Raleigh on Thursday after they blocked rush-hour traffic in protest of a controversial new law that encourages local police collaboration with federal immigration authorities.

The demonstrators walked into traffic lanes of Blount Street at about 4 p.m. as more than 200 people encouraged them with chants of "We are America!" and "No papers, No fear!" The six demonstrators locked their arms together with long plastic traps as a man quickly shackled their ankles together.

Jorge Valencia

Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday signed a law that makes North Carolina less friendly to undocumented immigrants by prohibiting city or county policies that prevent local police from collaborating with federal immigration agents.

Photo: Rosanell Eaton and Mary E. Perry
Jorge Valencia

A federal court judge in Winston-Salem is scheduled to hear arguments Friday on whether to throw out parts of three lawsuits that challenge North Carolina’s 2013 election law changes.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder is expected to hear from attorneys on whether he should dismiss portions of the suits that challenge the state’s new requirement for voters to show qualifying photo identification at polling stations.

Photo: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy
Public Domain / Wikipedia Creative Commons

Members of North Carolina’s Republican congressional delegation were calling for more conservative leadership after Representative Kevin McCarthy’s stunning withdraw from the race for Speaker threw Congress into turmoil Thursday.

Photo: Gov. Pat McCrory spoke at the North Carolina Emergency Operations Center about preparation for Hurricane Joaquin.
Governor's Press Office

Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency on Thursday morning as weather forecasters eyed the path of a large hurricane that may strike the Carolinas -- and much of the East Coast -- this weekend.

North Carolina legislative building
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

One of the last-minute pieces of legislation the General Assembly passed Tuesday night is designed to make North Carolina less friendly to undocumented immigrants. House Bill 318 would ban what are known as "sanctuary cities." It would also ban police from accepting registration cards from consulates as a valid form of identification.

State Senate chamber
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

North Carolina cities and counties would be prohibited from being “sanctuaries” for people living in the country illegally, under a bill tentatively approved by the Senate on Thursday.
 
The plan would prohibit local governments from directing their police officers to not collect people’s immigration information and report it to federal authorities. Senate Republicans gave the initial nod in a largely party-line vote of 34 to 11. The House of Representatives would have to agree before sending the bill to the governor.
 

Jorge Valencia / WUNC

Bill Would Ban The Sale Of Fetal Tissue From Abortions

Republicans in the Senate's rules committee cleared a bill on Wednesday  that would ban the sale of fetal tissue from abortions.

House Bill 297  is a reaction to a national controversy after an anti-abortion group’s undercover videos suggested Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue from abortions.  

The chambers of the NC State House
Jorge Valencia / WUNC

The North Carolina House and Senate approved on Tuesday afternoon a long-awaited plan to overhaul the state's Medicaid system. The proposal could affect more than 1.5 million people who receive health care through the publicly-funded program, but it could take years for it to be fully implemented.

Top Republicans celebrated on Tuesday as they passed a proposal they've been working on for four years. Medicaid serves about 1.8 million people who qualify as low-income or disabled, almost one fifth of the state population.

State Senate chamber
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

North Carolina senators acted Monday on two plans that could have a wide impact on charter schools and the state's business recruitment efforts, and debated a plan to issue $2 billion dollars in bonds to renovate and put up new buildings. A recap: 

$2B Bond Package Focuses On Colleges And Universities, Leaves Out McCrory's Highway Plan 

State Senators unveiled a plan to borrow $2 billion in bonds for building construction and renovation.

Photo: Jerome Bias of Mebane drtives a 2001 Volkswagen Jetta
Jorge Valencia

The North Carolina General Assembly approved a two-year budget that includes a plan to lower income and corporate taxes and create new service taxes. Top Republicans say these measures will help create an environment in which the state’s economy will grow, while some Democrats say it unfairly shifts economic burden from large corporations to middle- and low-income families.

The budget includes more than 20 pages outlining changes to North Carolina's tax system. Part of the plan:

Jorge Valencia

Last month, volunteers from North Carolina and across the country gave free dental treatment to refugees near Turkey’s border with Syria. The trip had been organized by Deah Barakat, one of the three young Muslim Americans killed in Chapel Hill February of this year. After Deah and Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha were fatally shot, Project Refugee Smiles received more than half a million dollars in donations. The group of volunteers treated more than 700 people.

Jorge Valencia

 

Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore outlined a two-year spending plan this afternoon that would maintain funding for elementary school teaching assistants, high school drivers’ education classes, and gives state employees a one-time bonus of $750.

Dr. Sarah Arif of Cleveland and Farris Barakat help a boy at the temporary Syrian American Medical Society dental clinic at the Al-Salaam School in Reyhanli.
Alena Advic

Months before his neighbor barged into his Chapel Hill apartment and fatally shot him, his wife and his sister-in-law, Deah Barakat had decided he wanted to help people escaping the war in Syria.

Deah, a 23-year-old student at the University Of North Carolina School Of Dentistry, had seen and heard about the escalating violence ravaging parts of his parents’ native country, so he called a dentist who was running clinics for displaced Syrians, and he told him: he wanted to take Americans to the Middle East and treat refugees.

An imafe of a Bernie Sanders rally
Jorge Valencia / WUNC

After giving speeches in Georgia and South Carolina over the weekend, Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders got on stage in front of a crowd of more than nine thousand people in Greensboro Sunday evening.

He pumped up the audience to the song "Rockin' In The Free World" by Neil Young, a tune that seemed  fitting for a rally.

“Alright, are you guys ready to make a political revolution?” Sanders asked on stage followed by an enthusiastic "Yeah!" from the crowd.

An image of Jeb Bush speech
Jorge Valencia / WUNC

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush gave a speech just south of Raleigh on Wednesday, outlining a tax overhaul proposal that he says would spur economic growth by dramatically lowering corporate and personal income taxes. 

Bush, speaking in the warehouse of a Garner manufacturing company, laid out a plan that he said would encourage businesses to invest domestically and would end income tax liability for millions of low-income households.

A Confederate soldier statue is a part of a larger monument outside the North Carolina Capitol
Daderot / Wikimedia Commons

The North Carolina House of Representatives has tentatively approved a bill that could make it more difficult to take down the state's Confederate statues.

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr raised $1.7 million over the last three months, and has $3.8 million in cash for his re-election campaign next year, according to the Associated Press.

An image of a monument for black soldiers in the Civil War
Chris Meekins / NC Dept. of Cultural Resources

There are more than 120 Civil War monuments in North Carolina, outnumbering state monuments commemorating any other event. But Keith Hardison, State Director for Historic Sites, said people need to keep putting more up, whether they recognize the Civil War or civil rights.

Photo: North Carolina Supreme Court
Giant Sloth / Flickr

The North Carolina Supreme Court scrutinized arguments Tuesday in a case that could shift the balance of power between the state’s executive and legislative branches. Attorneys representing Gov. Pat McCrory and two former governors argued against state lawmakers appointing members to three environmental boards that perform administrative duties. 

North Carolina State Capitol, Raleigh.
Jim Bowen / Flickr

The North Carolina House of Representatives has rejected a controversial plan that would limit the authority of the Greensboro mayor and could change the make-up of the city council.

The House rejected the bill in a 73-35 vote on Monday night. A joint committee of House and Senate members will negotiate the terms of the measure, which had been approved by the House as a different plan, before returning it to each chamber for a new vote.

A picture of a dctor holding a stethoscope.
Alex Proimos / Flickr

North Carolina lawmakers have chosen to not expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act.

Republican state leaders, including Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, have said that, even if the federal government initially subsidizes new people enrolling in Medicaid, the program would eventually cost the state more than it saves.

Medicaid illustration: A Caduceus symbol and a dollar sign
Neff Conner / Flickr

The North Carolina House of Representatives approved a plan Tuesday to allow non-profit groups of hospitals and doctors to manage care for most of the state’s 1.8 million Medicaid health recipients, formally setting the stage for a clash with the Senate over how to revamp the program.
 

The House plan, which lawmakers have discussed since at least 2011 when Republicans took over a majority in both chambers, would allow state health officials to pay the non-profits a predetermined amount of money for the medical care of each patient and would be phased in by as early as 2020.

NC General Assembly; State Legislature.
Dave Crosby / Flickr Share-Alike

The North Carolina Senate gave preliminary approval on Wednesday afternoon to a two-year budget that would cut funding for thousands of public school teaching assistant positions, and would make significant policy changes to the state's tax code and Medicaid program.

The proposed $21.5 billion budget, which represents an almost 2 percent increase from the current year and was approved by Republicans along a party-line vote of 30-19, is scheduled for a final vote on Thursday.

An image of a handgun
RabidSquirrel / pixabay

The North Carolina House of Representatives voted Tuesday afternoon to remove the most controversial portions of a bill that would have allowed some people to buy handguns without a permit. It would have also allowed lawmakers to carry pistols on General Assembly grounds.

Jorge Valencia

North Carolina Senate Republicans unveiled a spending plan Monday that sets up a confrontation with Republicans in the House of Representatives over the polarizing Medicaid overhaul both chambers have sought since last year.

Medicaid illustration: A Caduceus symbol and a dollar sign
Neff Conner / Flickr

A North Carolina House committee has approved a plan to remake the state’s costly Medicaid program by allowing hospitals and physicians to manage the money spent to care for each patient.

The plan, which would shift much of the financial risk of growing Medicaid costs to provider-led entities, was approved after more than two hours of heated debate in the House of Representatives health committee. The bill is expected to be scheduled for a hearing in the appropriations committee on Thursday morning.

Photo: An Interstate in North Carolina
Jimmy Emmerson / Flickr

Rep. Harry Warren likes to wear flag pins on his jacket: One with the U.S. flag, and another with the North Carolina flag. On Tuesday morning, he sported them as he stood in front of the House of Representatives’ powerful finance committee, arguing the federal government has been ignoring a problem, and that the state government should take action.

“The question before us is whether or not we as an elected body want to take some strong legislative steps to hold undocumented folks accountable to obey North Carolina law,” Warren said.

An image of a handgun
RabidSquirrel / pixabay

Lawmakers could debate a plan to loosen North Carolina's gun regulations as early as Thursday. The Republican majority has struggled to reach a consensus for weeks on the bill called the Second Amendment Affirmation Act as citizens from across the state have lobbied them.
 

NC General Assembly
Jorge Valencia

North Carolina senators voted on Monday night to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of a bill that would allow some court officials to opt out of same-sex marriage duties based on “sincerely held religious” objections.

The Senate, in a largely party-line vote of 32 to 16, confirmed its support to give magistrates the option, although they would be required to stop performing all marriage duties.

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