Members of the North Carolina General Assembly had a full schedule last week, considering bills on everything from taxes and job incentives to whether the governor should be elected on a team ticket. Both chambers return to action today, in preparation for the April 30th crossover deadline.

Economy and Economic Development

CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: State Treasurer Cowell Launching Second Fund that Invests in NC Companies 

North Carolina’s 90 billion pension plan is launching a second fund that invests in North Carolina companies after a strong five-year run by the first fund, State Treasurer Cowell said Wednesday. The Second North Carolina innovation fund pumps $250 million into private equity funds.

CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: NC Unemployment Rate Rises to 5.4% in March 

North Carolina’s unemployment rate rose a notch to 5.4 percent in March as tens of thousands of people entered the labor force in search of work. A year ago, the state’s unemployment rate stood at 6.4 percent.

GREENSBORO NEWS & RECORD: Volvo Can’t Find ‘Certainty’ in NC Incentives 

Volvo may have dropped North Carolina from its list of prospective plant sites because this state can’t promise its incentive programs have solid legislative support, the state’s administration suggested Tuesday. Amid reports that Volvo is considering South Carolina or Georgia for a $500 million plant, North Carolina officials won’t comment on whether this state is still on the list.

Education

NEWS & OBSERVER: House Wants to Study Fixed Tuition at UNC 

The state House is willing to consider fixed-tuition for UNC system students, giving approval Tuesday to an order for the system Board of Governors to study the idea. The concept is that UNC students would be guaranteed a set tuition cost for four years once they start school

NEWS & OBSERVER: Scholarship Program Proposed for NC Teachers 

State House education leaders want to find a way to attract high school students and working professionals to teaching careers at a time when interest in the profession is dropping. They are proposing, in House Bill 661, to offer scholarships of up to $8,500 a year to high school students seeking to enroll in traditional teacher preparation programs or alternative “fast-track” programs.

Energy

WINSTON SALEM JOURNAL: DENR to Drill Fracking Test Well in Walnut Grove 

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources plans to drill 1,750 feet deep in this area to get a better idea of what potential shale-gas reserves may lie in the Dan River Basin. The selected test site sits on land owned by the town of Walnut Cove, a town of 1,400 people. The site is about 2 miles north of the line between Forsyth and Stokes counties, off Crestview Drive, in a predominately black neighborhood of brick ranch homes

Healthcare

WINSTON SALEM JOURNAL: Bi-Partisan Bills Would Provide Insurance for Those with Autism 

Providing health insurance coverage to individuals with autism and their parents is the goal of bipartisan bills filed in the House and Senate. Advocates say the bills differ notably in how much coverage they would provide, as well as how they address the intervention learning strategy known as adaptive behavioral analysis 

NEWS & OBSERVER: NC House Panel Debates Dropping Healthcare Facility Regulations 

Some N.C. House members voiced skepticism Monday about repealing regulations that govern new and expanded healthcare facilities. House Bill 200 is one of two bills this session that would change the state’s process for granting a Certificate of Need – a crucial permit required for opening a new healthcare facility. A Senate proposal sponsored by Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca would eliminate the process entirely.

In The Courts

NEWS & OBSERVER: NC Legislators Renew Push to Keep Teens out of Adult Courts 

Steal a pair of sneakers in North Carolina the day after you turn 16 and you’ll be charged as an adult. You may not go to jail, but you’ll have an adult criminal record that stays with you the rest of your life. It’s been that way for 96 years – ever since the Juvenile Court Statute of 1919 became state law.

GREENSBORO NEWS & RECORD: Court-Ordered Review of NC Redistricting Looms 

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court reignited a serious political debate in North Carolina, ordering a review of a state court ruling on the 2011 redistricting that led to new election lines for state and federal lawmakers. The ruling comes at a time when redistricting is taking center stage in political battles at the state and national level. There is a bipartisan movement for independent, nonpartisan redistricting in North Carolina.

Transportation

WILMINGTON STAR NEWS: State Lawmakers Consider Priority Passes for Fort Fisher-Southport Ferry 

The line to board the Fort Fisher to Southport ferry could soon become a little more exclusive. A proposal moving through the N.C. General Assembly would institute a priority boarding pass on all state ferries for those passengers willing to fork over $150 per year in addition to already established tolls.

NEWS & OBSERVER: Senator Pulls Bill to Force NCDOT Layoffs 

After a Senate committee endorsed a bill ordering the layoffs of 81 state Department of Transportation workers, Transportation Secretary Tony Tata persuaded the sponsor Wednesday to withdraw the legislation, a Tata spokesman said. The bill sponsor, Sen. Bill Rabon, was not immediately available for comment. The DOT spokesman announced the agreement but indicated that some layoffs might be coming.