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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Illustration: Cadeceus
Flickr user takomabibelot

North Carolina lawmakers got the first granular look at the state’s Medicaid program in 20 years, showing the program’s improving financial condition but continuing major debts to medical providers.

The audit found the Medicaid fund balance was $350 million in the red for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2014—almost $59 million better than a year earlier.
 

Photo: Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas on stage in Raleigh
Jorge Valencia

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas spoke to a cheering and applauding crowd in Raleigh on Monday, largely criticizing the foreign policy record of newly announced Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and President Obama.
 

Cruz, in his first appearance in North Carolina since announcing his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, sought to blur distinctions between Clinton and the President, taking apart events during and after Clinton’s tenure as President Obama's first Secretary of State.

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

North Carolina lawmakers are back in session today following their spring recess.

One question this week is whether the Senate will take up the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 

Bills like this one have sent political tidal waves across the country. Critics say they would allow businesses to discriminate against certain groups, such as gay people.

Photo: A camera pinned on a police uniform
cops.usdoj.gov

A bipartisan group of North Carolina lawmakers is proposing that some of the state’s largest police departments and sheriffs’ offices be required to have their officers wear body cameras while they’re on patrol.

The bill—which would impact law enforcement agencies serving roughly 60 percent of the state’s population, including in Raleigh, Charlotte, Wilmington and Asheville—would set aside $10 million over two years to help agencies pay for the cost of equipment and storing thousands of hours of video.

Flickr user Ben Re

Almost one out of every 10 people in the United States has a firearm at home and has shown a propensity for impulsive angry behavior, according to an academic analysis led by a Duke University professor and published this month.
 

The analysis, which relied on an early 2000s in-person interviews with more than 5,000 people across the country, concludes that individuals showing impulsive angry behavior are more likely than people diagnosed with a mental illness to engage in gun violence.

Photo: Firearms
Jorge Valencia

The suspect in this year’s murder of three young people in a Chapel Hill apartment is scheduled for his second court appearance today.

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, has been charged in the fatal shooting of three young people in the apartment next to his in the Finley Forest neighborhood of Chapel Hill. According to search warrants, authorities found three airsoft guns and 11 firearms in his home, including pistols shotguns and one AR-15 assault rifle with a fully-loaded magazine.

Gov. Pat McCrory
Governor's Office

Gov. Pat McCrory said on Monday that he won’t sign a state Senate plan to allow court officials who oppose gay marriage for religious reasons to recuse themselves from officiating at weddings.
 

McCrory will not sign Senate Bill 2, which would allow magistrates to recuse themselves from officiating at any wedding, if it's approved by the House of Representatives, because it would conflict with federal court rulings that in October struck down North Carolina’s constitutional ban on gay marriage, he said.

N.C. General Assembly, State Legislature
Dave DeWitt

The first law Gov. Pat McCrory signs this year could be an agreement between the House and Senate to slowly drop North Carolina's tax on gas.
 

Under a plan approved by top members of each chamber last week, the gas tax would fall on Wednesday to 36 cents from 37.5 cents, then to 35 cents in January and to 34 cents in July 2016.

The measure would eliminate a plan previously approved by lawmakers that, according to legislative analysis, would've cut the gas tax significantly more, potentially costing dozens of jobs at the state Department of Transportation.

Photo: Income taxes
Flickr user Laura Gilmore

Top North Carolina Republicans say they want to cut personal and corporate income tax rates, continuing to lower rates after a round of breaks in 2013.
 

Three powerful members of the Senate rolled out a plan this week that they say will cut personal and corporate income taxes by $1 billion dollars each year. The plan would:

Photo: marijuana plants
Flickr user Coleen Whitfiled

A North Carolina legislative committee turned down on  a proposal to legalize marijuana for medical purposes Wednesday afternoon, marking the most progress a legalization bill has made in the state.

Twenty people addressed the House Judiciary Committee over an emotional hour-long meeting in which relatives of injured military veterans said marijuana can be used to treat chronic pain, while speakers from Christian organizations refuted its medical benefits. For advocates, the debate itself should be considered a victory, said bill cosponsor Rep. Becky Carney (D-Mecklenburg).

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