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North Carolina lawmakers file 'No Veteran Left Behind' Ac

13 American Flag horizontal copyA bill introduced by House Majority Leader John Bell, R-Wayne, is meant to help improve crisis intervention and services for veterans suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues.

House Bill 370, No Veteran Left Behind Act, creates a pilot program for several military and veteran heavy counties in North Carolina to improve and expand training for local law enforcement and first responders, a news release says. It focuses on dealing with veteran-specific crisis intervention, suicide prevention, and available resources at the Department of Veterans Affairs, including Brunswick, Craven, Cumberland, Onslow, Union and Wayne counties.

“More than 100,000 active duty service members and over 600,000 veterans call North Carolina home,” Bell said. “Our veterans and their families face unique challenges, especially those on active duty. After talking with veteran advocates, law enforcement and local leaders, we believe the No Veteran Left Behind Act will help address an important need in our state by providing local law enforcement with additional training to assist veterans in need.”

Other bill sponsors are House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, Rep. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, and Rep. Charlie Miller, R-Brunswick.
“North Carolina is the proud home to hundreds of thousands of veterans and their families who served the United States in our Armed Forces and face unique challenges in this pandemic recovery,” said Moore in a statement.

“The No Veteran Left Behind Act will benefit not just North Carolina veterans in pilot counties, but their communities and local leaders, as well. We are committed to identifying statewide needs through this initiative that will help more military families succeed in our state.”

The training will be administered through The Independence Fund Inc., a North Carolina-based nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of veterans and their families. Under the bill, the release says, The Independence Fund will partner with state and local governments to assess each county’s initial response to veterans in crises and conclude with an updated data collection process map developed.

Cleveland said the bill is important for military heavy areas such as Onslow County, which is home to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
“As a retired Marine and the representative of a district with tens of thousands of active duty service members and veterans, I believe this legislation will help our local law enforcement and first responders better support veterans and military families,” Cleveland said.

The No Veteran Left Behind Act also has the support of local sheriffs, who will be included in the pilot program, including Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes, who said he believes it will help them better meet the needs of the many veterans and active duty service members in their county.

General Assembly advances bill to rein in governor’s emergency powers

12 cooper podiumMore than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic brought North Carolina to a screeching halt, Gov. Roy Cooper shows no sign of relinquishing the sweeping and open-ended emergency powers he has claimed under state law.

The General Assembly is now trying once again to clarify exactly what a governor should have the power to do on his own during a state of emergency — and how long “emergencies” should be able
to last.

A new bill that would rewrite the state’s Emergency Management Act advanced through a House Judiciary committee this week. It now sits in the House Rules Committee.

North Carolina’s current law allows the governor to declare a state of emergency at any time, and it does not end until the governor declares it over. During such a period, the governor has broad powers to regulate gatherings, close schools, shutter businesses, or mandate evacuations.

The law appears to require Council of State concurrence for some of these powers, but when Cooper was challenged last summer over several of his executive orders, a judge ruled that North Carolina’s governor can make these decisions unilaterally

Under House Bill 264, a state of emergency would end within seven days unless the Council of State authorizes it to last longer. The Council of State would then need to vote to continue the state of emergency every 30 days.

The governor would also need Council of State approval to exercise most of the powers to prohibit and restrict activity and business.

“A year ago, when the shutdown order was entered, most people in our state didn’t believe that the governor had the ability to shut our entire state down. Most people assumed there were at least some form of checks and balances on that sort of measure,” said Destin Hall, R-Caldwell, when the bill was first introduced.

“Our state is going to face other emergencies in the future. We’ve got to build public trust in an emergency situation. The way we do that, try to take the politics out of it, is through a deliberative process. This bill would give us that deliberative process.”

The Council of State is made up of the independently elected statewide officials under the state constitution, including the lieutenant governor, state auditor, state treasurer, and secretary of state. Notably, the bill does not include new legislative oversight.

Other states have taken up similar bills as the coronavirus has shone a light on the shortcomings of most state emergency laws, which historically have been used primarily during hurricanes or other natural disasters.

New York’s state legislature, for example, passed a law this month requiring more oversight of its governor’s emergency powers.

In North Carolina, Cooper would need to sign this new emergency powers bill for it to go into effect. This is unlikely. Over the past year, Cooper has vetoed any effort to rein in his control.

Instead, he has preferred to go it alone — something General Assembly leaders have noted.

“The current law that granted these emergency powers was simply not written for today’s challenges,” Rep. John Bell, R-Wayne, said when the bill was first introduced. “There needs to be more bipartisan input and checks and balances. There is no unilateral rule in a constitutional republic.”

Cumberland County school children are back in the classroom

11 Socially distanced classroom 3Cumberland County Schools will transition to Plan A beginning Monday, April 12. The Cumberland County Board of Education approved the changeover during a recent special meeting. Under Plan A, all students will be eligible to attend class in person on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of each week. Wellness Wednesday will be an independent remote learning day for all students so school buildings can be cleaned.

School-based virtual learning options remain open to students. Plan A does not require schools to reduce the usual number of students in the classroom. Social distancing is not required on school buses. CCS will continue the process of temperature screening students and others who enter school buildings.

Social distancing protocols will be in effect inside schools and visitor limitations remain in effect. Students, faculty members and staff must wear masks or face coverings in school and on school buses.

All families had the opportunity of deciding if their children would transition to Plan A or switch to full-time virtual learning. Families of students who are currently participating in full-time virtual learning which did not complete preference forms prior to the deadline, will remain remote through May 2021. Students enrolled in virtual academies are not eligible to transfer to other schools in the district at this time and will remain at the virtual academies through May.

School pupils began returning to class earlier this month. They were divided into two groups. Some attended school on Monday and Tuesday. Others returned to classrooms on Thursday and Friday. Schools Superintendent Marvin Connelly Jr., acknowledged the time and effort that has been spent making students' return a “safe and healthy one.” Dedicated employees “have worked around the clock to prepare for a hybrid teaching and learning model,” he said. “And we cannot forget the work of our staff members who are making sure we’re prepared to operate safely, effectively and efficiently."

Students, for their part, likely have lost months of learning as they return to classrooms. Most kids yearn for social connection with their peers and teachers, and the pandemic has caused many of them to fall behind. Some lack internet access at home and have resorted to finding nearby school buses outfitted with high-speed Wi-Fi. Cumberland County schools have discontinued the process because buses are on the road again. Lacking access to in-person schooling can also put some children at risk of going without meals or spending increased time with abusive relatives.

Remote learning has exacerbated the institutional harms that were already being inflicted on many families.

Virtual schooling could have a silver lining though: some children may end up being more resilient on the other side of the pandemic. Navigating uncertainty, maintaining hope for the future, and relying on community resources to overcome challenges are skills some youngsters could be developing.

For many students, learning from home can also be healthier than in-person schooling. Deepening their bond with parents, for instance, sets foundations for trust and empathy.

Fayetteville Beautiful event scheduled for April 17

10 Fayetteville Beautiful logoPublic registration for the Fayetteville Beautiful community cleanup event begins soon. Fayetteville residents and non-residents can participate. The event is scheduled for Saturday, April 17. This year there are some changes because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants and event organizers should wear masks and practice social distancing. On the day of the event participants are asked to drive into the marked entrance at Hay St. and Hurley Way to receive trash bags, fliers and water. Event organizers and participants should wear masks during the supply pick up and community cleanup event. Interested people can register online at www.fayettevillebeautiful.com. Scroll down to the active map, select a cleanup location, and click “Register.” Group representatives should include the number of volunteers that will
participate.

Food service for those affected by COVID-19

09 food giveawayAlliance Health, Hope4NC, Noonday Kitchen and Mercy Chefs will host a food giveaway to address food insecurity in Cumberland County on April 13 from 8 a.m. until noon at the John D. Fuller Recreation Center, 6627 Old Bunce Road in Fayetteville. This event is open to all Alliance members as well as the community. Community members who are picking up one or two boxes can just show up at the event. Community partners who are seeking bulk packaging are asked to pre-register at http://bit.ly/foodboxpickup.
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service is partnering with national, regional and local food distributors who have been impacted by COVID-19. This partnership purchases fresh produce, dairy and meat products from American producers. Distributors package these products into family-sized boxes, then transport them to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need.

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