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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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.

Governor Pat McCrory
Hal Goodtree / Flickr Creative Commons

Post updated: 3:55 p.m.

Gov. Pat McCrory says he will veto Senate Bill 2. In an email, McCroy said he plans to stop a plan to give magistrates the ability to opt out of performing weddings based on strongly held religious beliefs.

Opponents of the measure have called it a pathway to descrimination of same-sex couples. Supporters call it a religious freedom measure. McCrory's announcement comes just hours after state lawmakers approved the bill.

Photo: Craig Johnson (left) and Shawn Long (center) with their son Isaiah Johnson.
Equality NC

North Carolina lawmakers pushed through two of the year’s most controversial measures on Wednesday afternoon, limiting debate and quickly ushering proposals that could reduce some same-sex couples’ access to marriage ceremonies and extend the waiting period for abortion procedures.

While House and Senate members debated in separate hearings, the measures over gay marriage and abortions are intertwined social issues that attract vigorous advocacy from conservative and liberal groups.

Photo: A graffiti painting at an intersection in Asheville
It's Tea / Flickr

State lawmakers are expected to send Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday a bill that would make graffiti vandalism a felony if performed by repeat offenders.

Under House Bill 552, which was approved unanimously by the House and is expected to get final approval from the Senate, anyone who has two or more prior convictions for graffiti vandalism or violates the law against it at least five times within two months could be charged with a felony. The offender could face up to 39 months in jail.

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

North Carolina House representatives are introducing parts of their two year spending plan.

Education, Health and Human Services, transportation, and judicial appropriation committee meetings take place throughout Thursday as policy makers begin to digest parts of a $21 billion state spending plan.

Photo: 10 people were arrested outside the offices of North Carolina Senate Leader Phil Berger.
Jorge Valencia

Police officers arrested 10 protesters at the North Carolina General Assembly on Friday, as the protesters chanted and called on Republican lawmakers to put a referendum on a statewide ballot to raise the minimum wage.

Officers handcuffed the protesters outside the office of Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) after they refused to leave the building past its posted 5 p.m. closing time. 

Officers took protesters to the Wake County Detention Center and charged them with second degree trespassing, said police Chief Jeff Weaver.

An image of a handgun
RabidSquirrel / pixabay

One morning this month, Kaaren Haldeman, an anthropologist in Durham, sent her three sons to school and drove to downtown Raleigh. There, down the hallways of the North Carolina General Assembly building, she led two mothers who were pushing babies in strollers.

“Have you been in this building much?” she asked them. “It's like a labyrinth.”

Photo: U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker
Jorge Valencia

Federal authorities arrested 13 current or former law enforcement officers in Eastern North Carolina on Thursday morning, on suspicion that they were conspiring to use their badge and firearm to protect cocaine and heroin shipments to Maryland and South Carolina.

Photo: Protesters gathered at the North Carolina General Assembly building on the second anniversary of what's become known as "Moral Monday" rallies.
Jorge Valencia

Hundreds of protesters returned to the North Carolina General Assembly on Wednesday afternoon, renewing a call on Republican state leaders to reverse several landmark pieces of legislation approved since 2011.

On the second anniversary of what’s become known as “Moral Monday” rallies, protesters gathered outside the legislative building, while some chanted inside the building beside the Senate and House chamber doors.

Bible
Wikipedia

Republican leaders in the state House say they do not plan to consider North Carolina’s version of a religious freedom law that has been controversial in other parts of the country.

Photo: Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer (R-Mecklenburg)
Jorge Valencia

A pregnant woman seeking an abortion would be required to speak to a medical provider and wait for three days before she can have the procedure under a plan approved by a North Carolina legislative committee on Wednesday.

The proposed law, which got its first nod in a House of Representatives committee, would increase abortion wait time from one day and would require physicians to report information about the abortion to state health officials.
 

In 2011, employees of the group Mercy for Animals made secret recordings at a Buterball facility in Hoke County, resulting in the animal cruelty conviction of five employees for kicking and beating live birds.
Mercy For Animals

Animal rights activists and journalists would be prohibited from going undercover into private businesses and secretly taking pictures and recordings of illegal activity, under a bill approved by a North Carolina legislative panel on Tuesday.

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