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Headline Roundup: Interim CATS CEO Named; SC Senate Panel Looks At Ways To Recruit Teachers; More

Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee has named John Muth as interim transit director and chief executive officer for the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) effective Jan. 10, 2015. The organization is in the process of selecting a recruitment firm to lead the national search for a permanent Executive Director.

Muth joined CATS in 2000 has been serving as deputy director since 2010.

Cabinet-level Department Of Information Technology Proposed For NC
Gov. Pat McCrory's administration wants lawmakers next year to create a Cabinet-level department to consolidate control and management over scores of computer networks and information technology projects across North Carolina agencies.

State Chief Information Officer Chris Estes made the pitch to a legislative panel Thursday for a Department of Information Technology. Key committee lawmakers say they support the idea in principle.

The current information technology framework has been criticized for years as inefficient, with agencies purchasing or creating systems that can't link easily to other agencies. Estes says three-quarters of state IT projects exceed their planned budget and schedule.

The proposal envisions a department secretary whose office would receive money for agency projects, not the agency itself. Agencies would still decide how many computers or other technology their workers need.

SC Senate Panel Looks At Ways To Recruit Teachers
Senators say forgiving student loans, paying teacher mentors a stipend and boosting some teachers' salaries could be ways to recruit and keep good teachers in South Carolina.

Those are among recommendations a Senate study panel is forwarding to the Senate Finance Committee.

Its leader, Sen. Wes Hayes of Rock Hill, says the state needs to focus such initiatives in rural districts where's it's particularly hard to fill classrooms with high-quality teachers. Panelists noted rural districts pay less than their urban and suburban counterparts while also offering less to do locally.

They discussed expanding loan-forgiveness programs, saying high debt may dissuade some students from a teaching career.

According to the Institute for College Access and Success, South Carolina ranks 10th highest nationwide in college graduates' average debt. 

Regulations For NC Fracking Permits Approved By Panel  
A state panel has approved a comprehensive list of regulations for companies that want fracking permits to drill for and collect natural gas in North Carolina.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reports that the state Rules Review Commission on Wednesday approved 117 rules in all. The measures covered items like chemical disclosure, well shafts, water storage, water testing and buffer zones.

The approval comes a month after the state Mining and Energy Commission voted in favor of dozens of rules to guide the process for how companies would use the hydraulic fracturing method.

The rules now head to the state legislature, which has the final say during the session that starts next month.

Duke Energy Plans To Remove Coal Ash From Greenville, SC Plant
Duke Energy plans to remove all of its coal ash from pits at its plant near Greenville. The company’s plan is part of a deal with the Southern Environmental Law Center which represents several groups pushing Duke to clean up the ash dumps at the Lee facility.  The agreement announced today calls for Duke to move three million tons of ash stored in pits along the river to a lined-facility away from the waterway.  The center’s senior attorney praised the agreement.  Duke is the latest utility to agree to move coal ash from South Carolina waterways. 

I-485 Lanes Opening Tonight
The going may be a bit easier on the outer loop of I-485 this evening. The NC DOT plans to open the new third lane between I-77 and Rea Road in time for tonight’s commute. The third lane on the inner loop of that stretch is expected to open Saturday morning, depending on weather. The NC DOT says parts of the road may be rougher than usual, since crews will return in the spring to complete the final paving. 

SC Judge Throws Out 14-Year-Old's Conviction, Seventy Years Later 
Seventy years after he was executed, a South Carolina judge has thrown out the murder conviction of a 14-year-old African American boy. 

Police arrested George Stinney Junior in 1944 in connection with the deaths of two white girls in Clarendon County south of Columbia.  They say he confessed to their killing.  There was no evidence connecting him to the murders. He was found guilty in a one day trial.

But in a 2009 affidavit, Stinney’s sister testified that her brother had been with her on the day the two girls were killed.  The judge who threw out the convictions says Stinney was denied due process.  She says the state committed a great injustice. 

Concord Man Charged In 1996 Murder
A Concord man is charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of his girlfriend almost 20 years ago. Raleigh police say 40-year-old Edwin Christopher Lawing was arrested in Cornelius, and charged yesterday. A Wake County grand jury this week indicted Lawing in the 1996 slaying.

Twenty-year-old Lacoy McQueen was a Shaw University student missing for nearly a year before her remains were found north of Raleigh. Lawing was arrested and charged at that time, but the charges were dismissed for lack of evidence. Authorities say modern tests on evidence resulted in the new charge. They would not comment about the new evidence.