News: CJ Exclusives

CJ politics week in review, July 27-31

N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler in 2019 (CJ file photo)
N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler in 2019 (CJ file photo)

Each week, staff at Carolina Journal looks back at the week in N.C. politics and chooses several interesting, relevant stories you may have missed.

N.C. State Fair: North Carolinanians won’t get to sample overindulgent fried foods or take a spin on some of the fair’s dizzying rides this fall. COVID-19 has killed the 2020 N.C. State Fair, marking the first time the state has gone without the fair since World War II. Steve Troxler, Department of Agriculture secretary, announced the cancellation in a news conference Wednesday, July 29. A survey sent to advance ticket buyers found 65% of respondents are no longer comfortable attending the fair, Troxler said. The N.C. State Fairgrounds has lost more than $2 million in revenue from canceled events since February, the agriculture secretary said. 

Last call: North Carolina is banning the sale of alcohol after 11 p.m. — the latest attempt by Gov. Roy Cooper to slow the spread of COVID-19. The statewide executive order goes into effect Friday, July 31, and applies to all restaurants, breweries, wineries, and distilleries. Grocery stores and convenience stores are exempt. The ban is meant to prevent people from gathering as they would at a bar, the governor said. “This will be particularly important as colleges and universities are scheduled to start, bringing people all over the country to our state,” Cooper said. “We have seen case numbers increase among younger people, and prevention is critical to slowing the spread of the virus.”

Virtual Xmas: COVID-19 has claimed another North Carolina tradition. The annual Raleigh Christmas Parade will go virtual this year, ABC11 and Shop Local Raleigh announced Thursday, July 30. While the parade will run as normal, spectators won’t be allowed to watch from the sidewalks. Instead, viewers can watch a livestream of the parade on ABC11.com or ABC11’s TV apps. The parade will air 10 a.m. to noon Nov. 21. It will re-air on Christmas. “While this year’s parade will not be held live on city streets, we can guarantee that it will still have pageantry, music, special guests, performances and much more,” Jennifer Martin, executive director of Shop Local Raleigh, told ABC11.

Conrad resignation: Friday, July 31, is Rep. Deborah Conrad’s, R-Forsyth, last day as a state lawmaker, WRAL reported. The four-term legislator previously announced she wouldn’t seek re-election in 2020. Conrad may still return to the General Assembly, but this time as a lobbyist. “Lobbying is one of the exciting opportunities I am considering, as I have too much energy and passion for politics to retire,” Conrad told WRAL. Conrad served as the chairman of the House Banking Committee and the House Finance Committee.

Emergency directives: Chief Justice Cheri Beasley is extending emergency directives to limit foot traffic in the state’s courts. The directives include increasing the use of teleconferencing for remote court hearings, waiving notary requirements, and limiting public access in courthouses. “The extension of these emergency directives help ensure that our court system continues to administer justice while protecting the health and safety of court officials, court personnel, and the public,” Beasley said. Emergency directives last for 30 days unless extended. 

Beasley was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper to fill the court’s highest seat when Republican Chief Justice Mark Martin retired in February 2019. She’s running against Associate Justice Paul Newby, the only Republican on the high court, in November. Two judges from the N.C. Court of Appeals, Democrat Lucy Inman and Republican Phil Berger Jr., are battling for the Supreme Court’s second seat. Republican Tamara Barringer, a former state senator, is challenging appointed incumbent Justice Mark Davis.

Board of Transportation: Two former Republican senators are joining the state Board of Transportation. Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, appointed former Sens. Andy Wells, R-Catawba, and Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, to the board. During the short session, the General Assembly approved a bill giving the Board of Transportation more oversight power over the Department of Transportation after a state audit found the department mismanaged millions of dollars. House Bill 77 also gave the Senate leader and House speaker three appointments each to the 20-member board. The board doesn’t need a “go-along-to-get-along style oversight” of the department, Berger said in a news release. “Andy and Jerry bring a no-nonsense attitude and significant budgeting experience to the Board, and I’m hopeful they can help turn the agency around.”