TRIANGLE MUNICIPALITIES CRACK DOWN ON MASK-WEARING: Masks are required inside city-owned property in Raleigh regardless of a person’s vaccination status. “The city has used education to convey to employees the benefits of getting vaccinated,” said Julia Milstead, the city’s public information officer. “At this point, there has been no discussion on making them mandatory.” Employees and visitors to Wake Forest facilities are required to wear masks as of Monday, said Bill Crabtree, communications & public affairs director. Chapel Hill never lifted its requirement that employees and the public wear masks inside public buildings, Mayor Pam Hemminger said. The Town Council will continue to meet virtually through September, she said. In many ways this is better than the Governor doing it, local pols need to step up and use their authority.
NC HOUSE REPUBLICANS WANT HOSPITALS TO NOT REQUIRE VACCINES: Fifty-five state House Republicans sent hospital executives around North Carolina a letter on Thursday, asking them to reconsider COVID-19 vaccine mandates for employees. There are 68 Republicans in the North Carolina House. Rep. Donna White, R-Johnston, a nurse as well as co-chair of the House Health committee, signed the letter, as did two other of the committee's five co-chairs. But Rep. Kristin Baker, R-Cabarrus, a medical doctor and another co-chair, did not sign on. Neither did Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, a retired hospital executive, the fifth co-chair and a key Republican leader on health care issues. House Speaker Tim Moore also didn't sign, though it's not clear why, and his office didn't immediately say. Moore, R-Cleveland, expressed concerns similar to the letter's last week, when the state Department of Health and Human Services announced it would require vaccinations for workers at the health care facilities it runs.
UNC SYSTEM: GET A VACCINATION OR GET TESTED (AT LEAST) WEEKLY: Tens of thousands of North Carolina college students will need to get a COVID-19 vaccine or be tested weekly, according to the University of North Carolina System. The system serving roughly 250,000 students at 16 public colleges and universities across the state said in a statement on Thursday that UNC System President Peter Pans will also issue guidance later this week to extend that standard to faculty and staff. "All campuses will operate under a 'Get Vaccinated or Get Tested Weekly' requirement for students. Universities are collecting information on students' vaccination status, and any unvaccinated students will be subject to weekly, or more frequent, testing," said Norma Houston, chief of staff of the UNC System Office. Houston added that, "It is only fair that we ask our employees to abide by the same safety protocols we've already put in place for our students." Less than 37% of residents aged 12 to 24 have gotten at least one COVID-19 shot, which is far below the statewide average of 59% of eligible North Carolinians.
IT'S BUDGET SEASON AGAIN AT THE NC LEGISLATURE: The mostly behind-the-scenes work of North Carolina House budget writers fashioning a proposed two-year government spending plan is getting unveiled. The House scheduled several subcommittee meetings on Thursday to consider spending and policy items for most government agencies. The meetings mark a key step toward rolling out a complete budget bill and the full House voting on it by the end of next week. The Republican-controlled Senate approved its own plan in June that would spend $25.7 billion this fiscal year. That's the same amount that House GOP leaders agreed to spend. That figure doesn't include billions of dollars that the state has received from Washington for COVID-19 aid. The two chambers ultimately will have to work out differences to get a final spending plan on Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's desk. Cooper said he expects to have input, especially if legislators want him to sign the bill.
TEXAS GOP GOVERNOR WILL USE "SPECIAL" SESSION TO THREATEN DEMS WITH ARREST: Texas Republicans will redouble their efforts to pass new voting restrictions by convening a second special House session this weekend, hardening a stalemate with Democratic legislators whose exodus to Washington had left the bill in limbo while they push for federal voting rights legislation. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced Thursday that the new legislative session will begin Saturday, a move that will force Democrats to decide whether to stay out of Texas for another 30 days or return and face the threat of arrest for breaking quorum. Abbott named election policy as one of several items on the agenda. Democrats have now prevented passage of new voting restrictions twice by depriving the House of the minimum number of members whose presence is necessary to do business, first during the House’s regular session in May and again in the first special session that began last month and ends on Friday. Texas state Democrats did not immediately respond to Abbott’s announcement, but they have spent this week discussing next steps while awaiting news from Austin and Capitol Hill. Prospects for immediate action on voting rights are uncertain in the U.S. Senate as the chamber faces pressure to pass major elements of President Biden’s economic agenda before its August recess.