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House passes investigative grand jury bill

Attorney General Roy Cooper issued a statement Tuesday hailing the passage in the House of a bill that would allow prosecutors to use investigative grand juries.

“This is an important step in our fight against public corruption,” Cooper said in a statement his office released. “Investigative grand juries are a critical tool that can help uncover the truth and assure that wrongdoing by public officials will be prosecuted.”

HB908 would allow it in cases of public corruption and complex financial crimes. A three-judge panel would have to grant permission.

Environmental group asks Cooper to investigate McCrory over energy ties

A national environmental organization delivered a letter Thursday to the attorney general asking him to investigate what it calls conflicts of interest and a “pattern of political patronage” centered around Gov. Pat McCrory and the state’s plan to begin fracking.

Food & Water Watch – an offshoot of the nonprofit group Public Citizen – ties together a wide range of previously reported issues to make its case.

Cooper calls for stronger school violence protections

Following President Obama’s gun violence prevention announcement Wednesday, state Attorney General Roy Cooper called on the General Assembly to revisit recommendations from a 2006 school safety study that he led.

Those recommendations included putting more resource officers in schools, setting up a statewide school tip line to anonymously report tips, training for teachers on recognizing potential threats and responding to them, and re-establishing the Center for the Prevention of School Violence.

Some of the study’s recommendations were enacted, including routine lockdown drills and improved building security. Informational packets were also given to schools to help prepare for violence and other crises.

“We hope that this tragedy never happens at any of our schools, but we must take steps to prevent it and be ready in case it does,” Cooper said in a news release. “North Carolina should make sure every school and every law enforcement professional has the right tools and training.”

Medicaid fraud unit busts dentist, other health-care providers

Two years ago the General Assembly beefed up the attorney general’s budget to double the size of the Medicaid Investigation Division. In its first sweep, a year ago, it arrested 20 people, and has obtained 17 convictions so far.

Now it has announced the results of its latest fraud sweep: the arrests on Tuesday of nine health-care providers, including a dentist, home health workers, a mental health car provider, and an HIV case manager.

Morning Roundup: At last minute, lawmakers write bill to eliminate business

During the final days of the legislative session, while attention was divided among countless bills, the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in support of legislation that props up a longstanding organization and pushes a recently formed competitor out of operation.

Senate Bill 738, which now sits on Gov. Bev Perdue’s desk, stipulates that bail bondsmen in the state receive their required training from the N.C. Bail Agents Association, a private nonprofit with an affiliated political action committee. Read more here.

More political headlines:

--Two miles of concrete barriers. More than five miles of 9-foot “anti-scale” steel fence. Nearly eight miles of lightweight metal barriers, and portable vehicle barriers designed to withstand the impact of a 15,000-pound car at 50 mph. These are some of items the Secret Service is seeking to protect the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, according to a federal government contract request released this week.

Common Cause asks N.C. attorney general to investigate ALEC

An advocacy group is asking Attorney General Roy Cooper to investigate the tax status of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group that counts House Speaker Thom Tillis as one of its top members.

Common Cause sent the letter Tuesday just weeks after it filed a whistleblower complaint against ALEC with the IRS, saying they are operating as a tax-exempt nonprofit while lobbying state legislatures across the country.

"Common Cause has discovered compelling evidence that ALEC is a corporate lobby masquerading as a charity. ALEC’s compliance with state tax, gift, solicitation and lobbying laws should be reviewed by your office and/or appropriate state regulatory authorities," the letter states.


Attorney General Cooper helps White House lobby for consumer watchdog

From the AP: N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper is visiting the White House, joining the congressional battle over the agency protecting consumers from financial industry abuses.

The White House says Cooper, a Democrat, is joining fellow attorneys general Wednesday from Maryland, Mississippi and Utah in calling on Congress to confirm one of their former colleagues to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Cooper is immediate past president of the National Association of Attorneys General.

Republican senators oppose confirming former Ohio attorney general Richard Cordray to direct the consumer agency, a cornerstone of last year's law overhauling Wall Street regulations. The GOP says the agency has too much power

Three-quarters of the country's attorneys general signed a letter urging the Senate to confirm Cordray.

Bomb threat at Department of Justice

An anonymous phone call threatening a bomb at the Department of Justice led State Capitol Police to evacuate 400 employees from the building this morning.

The threat was called in to the building at the corner of Edenton and Salisbury streets at 10 a.m., said Chief Scott Hunter of the State Capitol Police Department.

Officers with bomb sniffing dogs and the State Bureau of Investigation's Hazardous Devices Unit searched the building floor by floor, reports Benjamin Niolet.

"We have not found anything out of the ordinary," Hunter said, adding that the threat included no specifics other than a statement that the bomb was in the building.

Hunter said he expected the building to reopen around 1 p.m. Most employees appeared to have scattered for lunch.

The building houses the office of Attorney General of Roy Cooper, who oversees the SBI, which has been under scrutiny for agent misconduct in forensic work for criminal investigations.

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