Although the N.C. legislative building has remained quiet since the 2019 long session adjourned two weeks ago, there has been plenty going on in Raleigh as well as around the state and country. Take a look at the top five stories we followed this week.
1. Senate impeachment trial
For months now it feels that the impeachment of Pres. Donald Trump has consumed our social feeds and televisions; however, impeachment proceedings could wind down as soon as this weekend with Republican senators hoping to “move quickly to a vote to acquit the president as early as Saturday, ahead of his State of the Union address on Tuesday.” Senate leadership is increasingly confident that at least 51 senators will vote to prevent new witnesses from being brought forth to testify– a topic that has prompted much heated debate this week– which would speed up the final stages of the process. Need a reminder on how we got here and what the next steps might be? Check out this handy article.
2. CDC confirms coronavirus in U.S.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed Thursday that six Americans– located roughly from the west to midwest– have the coronavirus, including the first case of person-to-person transmission. That same afternoon the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a “global public health emergency” with documented cases in 18 countries. According to officials nearly all of the 7,874 diagnoses cases have been limited to China, and risk of spread in the U.S. remains low. Some misinformation spread via social media has led individuals to erroneously connect the virus to the popular Corona beer, resulting in many interesting Google searches this past week. In other, happier health news, meet Harvey the beagle. She sniffs out deadly infections (coronavirus excluded, unfortunately) at an Eastern North Carolina hospital.
3. GM does EVs
General Motors announced Monday it will invest more than $2 billion into its Detroit plant to make the facility its first dedicated exclusively to electric vehicles. The automaker will manufacture electric SUVs and trucks at the plant– including its first-ever all-electric truck– as well as the Cruise Origin, an electric autonomous ride-sharing vehicle. The Detroit plant currently employs about 900 workers, and GM estimates it will create more than 2,200 manufacturing jobs once the new facility is fully operational. GM also confirmed this week that it will unveil its reinvented, zero-emissions electric Hummer in a Super Bowl ad featuring basketball star LeBron James.
4. Opioid overdose prevention
Lawmakers in South Carolina will consider a policy change that would increase access to life-saving naloxone for patients and prevent overdose deaths. The bill would require doctors to prescribe naloxone to patients under certain circumstances if they are also prescribed an opioid. The bill sponsors said “the goal is to stop the rise in overdose deaths by getting people help as quickly as possible,” especially in cases of “accidental overdoses where people just don’t realize the dosage or they take too much over a 24-hour period.” Several other states have passed or are considering passing co-prescription legislation, which is based on CDC guidelines citing co-prescription of naloxone with an opioid as a best practice.
5. Proposed electricity rate hike
This week citizens across North Carolina voiced their concerns about the proposed 6 percent utility rate increase Duke Energy is seeking before the N.C. Utilities Commission (NCUC). Many concerns centered around the fear that the rate hike would be a mechanism for the utility to pass along the costs of coal ash cleanup to its customers. Roughly a month ago Duke and the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) reached an agreement on the excavation of coal ash basins. Since then Duke has attended public hearings and said it does not take the request to raise customers prices lightly. The utility also said that, if the rate increase passes, it requests that new rates become effective this summer. The NCUC will ultimately decide following a March 23 evidentiary hearing that will include input from industry experts.