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Stories We'll Be Watching in 2019

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Pixabay

The past year was chock full of news, and in 2019 we know the news won’t slow down. We expect more breaking news and impactful stories, a host of which will be rolling over from 2018. Here are the stories our team already knows we’ll be following in the new year.

The 9th Congressional District Race

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Credit Mark Harris For Congress / Dan McCready For Congress
The 9th District congressional race featuring Republican Mark Harris, left, and Democrat Dan McCready is still unsolved as investigators continue into the New Year.

The North Carolina Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, which dissolved on Friday, refused to certify the 9th District Congressional race between Republican Mark Harris and Democrat Dan McCready as investigators continue to look into allegations of ballot fraud. A new board is expected to take shape ahead of a scheduled public meeting on the investigation Jan. 11. Whatever that meeting holds could determine whether or not there will be a new election in the district.

“Mark Harris, depending on what he knew and when he knew it, could go from elected congressman to disgraced pastor. And Dan McCready might have to decide whether he wants to work with Nancy Pelosi or not.” — Tommy Tomlinson, host of the SouthBound podcast.

“This well-chronicled dispute from the 2018 election could stretch several months into 2019, especially if the state Board of Elections orders a new election. If that occurs, there will also be a primary election because of legislation passed in December.” — Greg Collard, news director

Balance Of Power In The General Assembly

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Credit Wikimedia Commons

In the November elections, enough Democrats were voted into office to break the Republican supermajority. That gives Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper his veto power back. How will this affect legislation that’s passed on the state level?

“After the midterm election results rolled in, the Democrats will take control of the House in the new year. What impact that will have on the country and the state will be something to watch.” — Justin Lape, Morning Edition producer

“Change in the balance of power in Raleigh. Republicans no longer hold all the cards and will have to work with Democrats to get legislation passed. Or it could be total gridlock. Either way, it will be interesting.” — Marshall Terry, Morning Edition host

Mecklenburg County’s New Sheriff

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Credit Nick de la Canal / WFAE
At a news conference at Manolo's Bakery on Central Avenue, newly-elected Sheriff Garry McFaddan cut into a 287g cake alongside activist Stefania Areteaga and the bakery's owner.

Garry McFadden ousted incumbent Sheriff Irwin Carmichael in the 2018 primary election. McFadden was elected, in large part, on a promise to end the county’s participation in the controversial 287(g) program — an agreement Carmichael supported that served as a way for ICE to retrieve inmates in Mecklenburg jails that were in the country illegally. McFadden made good on his promise, ending county participation in 287(g) as his first act in office.

“I’m interested in watching what Sheriff McFadden will do next. Will he be able to keep all of his promises to the public and Latino population who helped get him elected?” — Sarah Delia, host of the She Says podcast

Tolls On Charlotte-area Highways

Traffic on I-77 near Lake Norman
Credit David Boraks / WFAE
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WFAE
Traffic on I-77 near Lake Norman.

After years of controversy and debate, 2018 brought tolls to the Charlotte-area. The Monroe Expressway opened this year in Union County. But the hotly contested Interstate 77 tolls have been held up. The organization leading their construction says they are hoping to open tolls in the first quarter of 2019, despite promises of opening them before 2018's end. What impact will tolls continue to have in the New Year?

“Proponents says the project will relieve help relieve congestion. Opponents, still upset that the road that a 50-year contract was awarded to a company to built and maintain the road, fear high prices and more congestion, particularly on secondary roads as people avoid the tolls. Who will be right?” — David Boraks, energy and environment reporter

Charlotte’s Affordable Housing Crisis

Charlotte skyline at dusk
Credit silicon640c / Flickr
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Flickr

As the Charlotte-area continues to grow, it’s getting harder for many residents to continue to live here. Evictions are rising in the area and the need for affordable housing continues to grow. Voters approved a $50 million bond referendum to fund affordable housing projects. 

“This is a major issue that city officials and residents grapple with as development continues full-force and gentrification is overtaking many neighborhoods. A successful bond issue will only be able to scratch the surface of meeting the need and it will be interesting to see how city officials, nonprofits and the private sector work to make it possible for the poor and working residents to find affordable housing in Charlotte without stretching their budgets and facing evictions.” — Gwendolyn Glenn, education reporter

Health Care Changes In North Carolina In 2019

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Credit Pixabay

The health care changes in 2018 will continue to have an impact. We're going to follow how federal and statewide decisions impact Charlotte-area health care recipients.

“There are many changes coming down the line. 1) The state is overhauling its Medicaid system. That will mean big changes for both doctors, nurses, hospitals and other medical providers and 1.8 million patients. 2) The state plans to take control and set prices for health care for state employees. This will mean some providers will get more in reimbursements, but others especially big institutions will receive less. 3) A judge in Texas ruled the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional in December. With several hundred thousand North Carolinians who get coverage through the law and countless other regulations the law impacts, it could have massive impacts on government budgets, providers and patients.” — Alex Olgin, health reporter

Emerging Contaminants In North Carolina Water

Duke Energy's now-closed Cape Fear Steam Station is one of three covered in the ruling. Duke Energy is planning to excavate coal ash from several ponds at the site, and transfer it to the nearby Brickhaven land fill.
Credit Duke Energy
Duke Energy's now-closed Cape Fear Steam Station is one of three covered in a coal ash ruling. Duke Energy planned to excavate coal ash from several ponds at the site, and transfer it to the nearby Brickhaven landfill.

Duke Energy continues to face consequences for coal ash spills that contaminated bodies of water across the state. On a local level, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools continues to test drinking water in campuses throughout the district that may have unsafe levels of lead. What other stories of water contamination will emerge in the New Year, and what will state leaders do about them?

“State officials will likely continue to push for information and maybe new regulations for new chemicals that aren't closely regulated, like Gen-X. That chemical got into the Cape Fear River from a Chemours plant near Fayetteville, sparking a lot of concern.”  — David Boraks, energy and environment reporter

North Carolina Confederate Monuments

In August 2018, protesters toppled Confederate statue "Silent Sam" on the UNC Chapel Hill campus.
Credit Jasmin Herrera / WFAE
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WFAE

The debate surrounding Confederate monuments, what they stand for and if they should stand in public spaces around North Carolina continues. It reached a tipping point in August when protesters tore down the long-standing Confederate monument “Silent Sam” on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus. The fate of the displaced monument is unclear and the statue opens up the door to another question: should other monuments be torn down as well?

“For 105 years, the Confederate monument known as 'Silent Sam' stood on a pedestal near the entrance to UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus until it was pulled down by protesters in August. The Chancellor and UNC Board of Governors haven’t been able to agree about what to do with it, and a 2015 state law will influence their decision.” — Cole del Charco, reporter

Sports Betting In North Carolina

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Credit Tom Lianza / Flickr
MGM Grand sports betting.

Thanks to a May U.S. Supreme Court decision, states are now free to allow sports gambling. Seven have already done so since the ruling, and several more are moving in that direction. North Carolina hasn’t followed suit, but will that change in 2019?

“So far, North Carolina is not, but the issue will certainly generate more discussion as sports betting become more common. In response to states legalizing sports betting, bipartisan legislation is moving through Congress to set standards for states.” — Greg Collard, News Director

Property Tax Values In Mecklenburg County

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Credit Flickr/lexie.longstreet

If you own property in Mecklenburg County, your values are likely to go up dramatically following the completion of the county revaluation. Property owners will receive notices of the new values in January, but the impact on their property tax bills won’t be known until summer. How will that affect the Charlotte-area housing market in the new year?

“Data shows that some residential property values have jumped by an average of 40 percent. The average increase in commercial property values rose 78 percent. That’s undoubtedly going to negatively impact first-time home buyers in the area. How will this impact the county and city’s ongoing affordable housing debate? That will definitely be a topic of discussion in 2019.” — Jessa O’Connor, digital editor