Under the Dome: NC Treasurer Dale Folwell’s state vehicle use probed

Good morning! ☀️ Late Wednesday, the House gave initial approval to its budget plan, while the Senate unexpectedly put out its own competing proposal. Read about the latest developments in the standoff between House and Senate Republicans and what they mean.

Here’s what else you need to know about North Carolina politics today, from our team and correspondent Stephanie Loder.

WAKE COUNTY DA REQUESTED SBI INVESTIGATION

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman told The News & Observer on Wednesday that the State Bureau of Investigation is looking into Treasurer Dale Folwell and his use of state-owned vehicles.

Freeman said in a statement she is required by state law to report to the SBI any “evidence uncovered during a routine audit which may amount to the misuse of state property.”

“We are at the beginning of what is a standard review,” Freeman said.

Folwell, who has served since 2017 as treasurer, ran for the Republican nomination for governor and lost to Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson.

Folwell said in a statement that he’s “provided pages of documentation” and plans on “continuing to cooperate with the Department of Motor Fleet Management to satisfactorily resolve this issue.”

“I am the treasurer all the time and known for transparency,” he said. “I am always thinking about how to do things better and more efficiently on behalf of taxpayers, which includes the use of the state car.”

In 2023, former Democratic State Auditor Beth Wood pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of misusing her state-owned vehicle.

The investigation determined that for two years, Wood used a state-owned vehicle to go to spas, shopping, and hair and dental appointments.

Get the full story from Avi Bajpai here.

NC ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES PROTECTED

The language that would have let builders disturb archaeological resources in environmentally sensitive coastal areas of North Carolina was removed on Wednesday from House Bill 385.

The bill had faced widespread opposition from Native Americans in the state and the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Sen. Norm Sanderson, a Pamlico County Republican, proposed changes requiring the department to inform potential buyers of whether the land they want to purchase is potentially a significant archaeological site.

In a statement, department spokesman Schorr Johnson said there are still concerns about the updated language.

Johnson said that while the new language was an improvement from the original proposal, it was a duplication of efforts since the agency already provides information to property owners about archaeological resources on properties.

Get the full story from Adam Wagner here.

NC LEGISLATORS GIVE LEGAL POT ANOTHER TRY

State senators have added new language on legalization to a bill regulating hemp as they make another attempt to pass medical marijuana in North Carolina.

Republican Sen. Michael Lazzara, of Onslow County, on Wednesday called for an amendment during a Senate judiciary committee to add the language from the NC Compassionate Care Act to House Bill 563.

The Compassionate Care Act, which is sponsored by Republican Sen. Bill Rabon of Brunswick County, would allow medical marijuana be used in the state to treat:

  • Cancer.

  • ALS.

  • Parkinson’s disease.

  • Epilepsy.

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder.

While HB 563 would now legalize medical marijuana, it would also:

  • Prohibit anyone under age 21 from purchasing hemp and hemp-derived products.

  • Add kratom, xylazine and tianeptine to the list of the state’s controlled substances.

The bills being combined are closely related, Rabon said, because of the chemical similarity between hemp and marijuana.

Get the full story from Luciana Perez Uribe Guinassi here.

NC HOUSE PROPOSES NEW UNC ENGINEERING SCHOOL

The budget proposal from Republicans in the state House indicates legislators want to see a new science and technology school developed on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus.

It directs the university’s chancellor and the UNC System Board of Governors to create a “School of Applied Science and Technology” with degree programs in:

  • Engineering.

  • Computer science.

  • Biomedical sciences.

  • Natural resources.

  • Physical sciences.

The budget would allocate $8 million to the university to develop, operate and offer degrees at the college.

Republican House Speaker Tim Moore says a school is needed to meet the state’s growing needs for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) professions.

Moore envisions the proposed school would provide a “different type” of engineering than what is offered at NC State University. He said the proposed school would be complementary, not competitive with NC State.

However, Beth Moracco, the chair of the UNC faculty, called the new school proposal “premature” since there hasn’t been discussion or recommendations among faculty or a working group dedicated to applied science.

There hasn’t been a school or college dedicated to engineering at the university since 1935, which is when the engineering programs at UNC and NC State merged.

Get the full story from Korie Dean here.

That’s all for today. Check your inbox tomorrow for more #ncpol news.

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