The Herald-Sun in Durham has laid off several employees, the second round of job cuts since 2011.
A source knowledgeable about the situation told the INDY that four to six people may have lost their jobs, but the number could not be confirmed. The staff box online lists 18 people in the newsroom, not including Editor Bob Ashley. If these figures are correct, the editorial department could have as few as a dozen employees.
Ashley referred questions regarding the layoffs to publisher Rick Bean. The The Herald-Sun is owned by Paxton Media Group, headquartered in Paducah, Ky. Paxton officials also referred questions to Bean, who did not return calls to the INDY.
Two years ago, The Herald-Sun’s copy and design desk moved to the staff of the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, another Paxton paper, leaving fewer than 20 people in the Herald-Sun’s newsroom, the INDY reported.
Recently the paper went behind a paywall online, offering a limited number of articles for free and then charging for subsequent ones. Print subscribers will have full access.
The paper’s 100,000-square-foot building on Pickett Road is also for sale. In a Herald-Sun story published May 12, Bean said the publication would move to another Durham location.
The North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus held an impromptu press conference Wednesday afternoon to address what several legislators called flaws and failures within the Department of Health and Human Services, including the “questionable judgment” of the agency’s secretary, Aldona Wos.
A letter addressed to Wos and Gov. Pat McCrory, which was hand-delivered following the conference, admonished Wos for “choosing to communicate via email with only 17 of 170 N.C. legislators about the status of the Department and issues reported on the press.”
Most pressing of these issues, perhaps, are the recent food stamps delays (NC FAST) in a number of counties in the state.
Sen. Earline Parmon, D-Forsyth, who spoke at the conference, said “an overwhelming number” of residents in her district have been calling her, saying they have not received their food benefits for months.
“On my way here, I got a call from a mother who has a child that’s diabetic,” Parmon said. “His blood sugar keeps dropping, because she has not been able to access her food stamps.”
Parmon said she was fortunate in Forsyth County to work with local agencies to feed families who had not received food stamps through July; several other counties in the state are experiencing backlogs as well.
The McCrory administration has maintained the issues originated under former Gov. Beverly Perdue.
There have also been recent issues with Medicaid reimbursements; claims have been approved at levels far below the DHHS’ targets.
In addition, hospitals and health care clinics have been closing and laying off employees across the state, due to the government’s refusal to support Medicaid expansion—when North Carolina has the third-highest unemployment rate in the country.
Finally, there are the well-publicized personnel and staffing decisions, such as double-digit salary increases for former McCrory staffers with questionable qualifications, decisions attributed to Wos and McCrory.
In another instance, DHHS has paid Wos acquaintance Joe Hauck $228,000 between January and August 2013. Hauck is a former employee of Wos’ husband and has been advising Wos on “strategic planning, reorganization and policy issues.”
Two bills became law in the span of 10 minutes this morning, notwithstanding Gov. Pat McCrory's earlier vetoes.
The N.C. Senate voted 34-10 to override House Bill 392, which requires people applying for public assistance to be drug tested.
The Senate voted 39-5 to override House Bill 786, an immigration law which creates a loophole that would expand the seasonal worker E-Verify system exemption from 90 days to nearly 9 months.
Sen. Jim Davis urged his colleagues to vote to override HB 392.
"This bill is not and never was a way to fight criminal drug abuse," Davis said. "It's a bill to stop supporting people who abuse drugs and help them move to self-sufficiency and have a job. It's a way to help steer people away from drugs."
Regarding HB 786, Sen. Brent Jackson called it "the right thing for the agriculture community."
"(The bill) in no way adds to illegals," he said, "and it is still illegal to hire illegals."
Sen. Floyd McKissick asked that the Senate session be adjourned in honor of Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, who resigned from the Senate Aug. 19.
Sen. Jerry Tillman, a Republican, said he had great respect for Kinnaird and called himself and Kinnaird "close buddies."
"She is an unabashed liberal," Tillman said. "She never wavered. You've got to love that in a person."
The N.C. House voted to override Gov. McCrory's vetoes of two bills Tuesday afternoon, following a very short discussion.
The House sustained House Bill 392, a bill requiring people applying for public assistance to undergo drug testing, in a 77-39 vote.
The House also sustained House Bill 786, a bill expanding the seasonal worker E-Verify system exemption from 90 days to nearly 9 months, in 84-32 vote.
The vote to override the gubernatorial veto of HB 392 came after bipartisan pleas to keep the veto in place.
Under the bill, people applying to receive welfare benefits (TANF) will be drug tested. In a "reasonable suspicion" clause that is particularly unfair, anyone with a criminal record from the last years three years will be subjected to a drug test before receiving benefits as well.
"This bill meets the definition of kicking a man while he's down," said Rep. Jim Fulghum, R-Wake, a Raleigh neurosurgeon.
Fulghum called the bill "unclear" and said that it unfairly punishes the poor.
Several House Democrats—including Rep. Valerie Foushee, D-Durham/Orange, Rep. Duane Hall, D-Wake, Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake and Rep. Deb McManus, D-Chatham—voted for the bill in session.
Republican representatives from rural counties had strong and contrasting feelings on the seasonal worker bill.
Gov. George Cleveland, R-Onslow, called the bill "a jobs bill for illegal aliens" and said that if the bill becomes law, North Carolina will become a "magnet" for illegal workers as it has been in the past. Cleveland urged his colleagues in the House to vote against overriding the governor's veto.
Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Franklin/Nash, said that the bill would "provide parity for North Carolina agriculture businesses, with outside businesses." Collins said that states use the longer E-verify exemption period and that North Carolina should do the same to remain competitive. He encouraged his colleagues to vote to override McCrory's veto.
House Speaker Thom Tillis said he will notify the Senate of the House decisions to override both vetoes, the only vetoes Gov. McCrory made this session.
The N.C. Senate session will commence Wednesday at 9 a.m.