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Zach here with a PSA. It's July 1, which means the return of one of North Carolina’s greatest creations: Cook Out's watermelon milkshake (roughly $2.79.)
Now, I might be biased (I once interned at Cook Out and it's headquartered in my hometown of Thomasville), but its return is one of my favorite days of the year.
- Some of you might think the idea of mixing chunks of watermelon into a vanilla milkshake is wrong — and it might be. It's easily one of their most polarizing flavors and gets a criminally low 11 out of 17 rating on cookoutmilkshakereviews.com.
- But I haven't found a more refreshing dessert for a hot-and-muggy, summer evening in the Old North State.
Yes, but: Unfortunately, the watermelon milkshake only comes around once a year, during July and August. Though, perhaps eating one in February would ruin it for me forever.
My order: BBQ Sandwich tray, double fries (with Cajun seasoning) and a watermelon milkshake.
This weekend is set to be the second busiest for travel since 2000 with a record number of Americans planning to hit the road, Axios' Kelly Tyko reports.
Raleigh-Durham International Airport may have its busiest weekend since before the pandemic, The News & Observer reports, with most passengers passing through Friday and Monday.
Why it matters: Pack your patience and build in extra time.
- "There is a lot of pent-up COVID-19 demand to travel, so many people are still going to do it on the Fourth of July and this summer despite inflation and gas prices," Eric Jones, co-founder of The Vacationer, told Axios.
What's happening: The extra congestion is driven by a handful of factors, beyond people having the post-COVID travel bug:
- Airline staffing shortages, which could extend well into 2023, Axios' Joann Muller wrote.
- Those staffing shortages are part of the reason behind recent flight delays and cancellations, AAA said.
The intrigue: The airline industry and federal government, which is responsible for air traffic control through the Federal Aviation Administration, are finger-pointing.
- Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian sees a "stressed" air traffic control system as the leading cause of flight disruptions in the U.S., he told staff in a webinar June 29 viewed by Airline Weekly.
- Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who oversees the FAA, blamed airlines' downsizing, despite $54 billion in federal aid, during the pandemic. "The majority of cancellations, and the majority of delays, have nothing to do with air traffic control staffing," he told NBC Nightly News on June 28.
Worth noting: Delta, a top airline at RDU, already knows it will face "operational challenges" over the holiday weekend, and is offering travelers waivers to rebook at no charge.
Hemp and CBD are still legal in North Carolina.
After a tense standoff between North Carolina's Republican House and Senate chambers, lawmakers reached a last-minute agreement on legislation to remove hemp from the state's list of illegal drugs.
- The bill will now go to the governor's desk, where he is expected to sign it into law — just in time to avoid a Friday deadline that would have outlawed the product and put 1,500 of the farms in limbo.
Why it matters: The situation shows how, even when legislation has bipartisan support, minor disagreements can derail policy changes that legislators agree would benefit the state.
- Before a compromise was reached, Democratic Rep. Kelly Alexander told fellow legislators Tuesday: "Without any debate, we just destroyed the hemp industry."
Between the lines: Two Republican lawmakers, Rep. Jimmy Dixon and Sen. Brent Jackson, each sponsored their own versions of the bill.
- The pair disagree over whether to include permanent hemp legalization with legislation addressing various state agriculture needs or pass it on its own.
- "It's unfortunate that for so long these farmers and small business owners have been left in the lurch," Jackson said in a statement yesterday.
North Carolina is vying to house the headquarters of a new federal agency that will seek to cure major diseases.
Why it matters: The Advanced Research Project Agency for Health, known as ARPA-H, will be the first to focus on breakthrough healthcare and technology innovations — meaning it will be looking for and funding ways to cure cancer, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and more.
The original location of the burger-and-fries institution Char-Grill could make way for a tower up to 20 stories high, as developers zero in on downtown's Hillsborough Street corridor.
Driving the news: Raleigh developer Wilson | Blount said in a press release Wednesday it is acquiring several parcels around the Char-Grill at 618 Hillsborough St. for a new mixed-use development project.
Teachers could see an average of a 4.2% pay increase in the next year under a new statewide budget plan unveiled by Republican leaders Tuesday.
Why it matters: The possibility of that raise comes as teachers face mounting demands. In recent years, they've navigated the pandemic, threats of school shootings and political interference in lesson plans, driving thousands of educators to quit their jobs.
Wolfspeed, the Durham-based semiconductor maker formerly known as Cree, could be on the verge of a major expansion in Chatham County, if a state budget proposed Tuesday evening is approved, two sources told Axios.
Driving the news: The budget plan includes $112.5 million for the state's Commerce Department as a potential incentive for a chip manufacturing project in Chatham County.
The North Carolina House passed its own plan to expand Medicaid in the state Tuesday, but the bill is unlikely to advance beyond that if a standoff between the House and Senate continues.
Why it matters: Medicaid expansion, if signed into law, would grant health care to some 600,000 of North Carolina’s poorest residents. But the two legislative chambers have yet to agree on how to make that happen.
Between the lines: After the Senate passed its Medicaid proposal earlier this month, House Republican leaders said they wouldn’t take up the issue during this legislative session.
- Turns out they did, but the bill they passed yesterday includes lines that would delay the implementation of expansion by several months — something Senate leader Phil Berger doesn’t want to do.
- House leaders also still oppose several provisions in the Senate’s plan, including one that would remove some regulatory requirements for advanced practice registered nurses.
What’s next: Berger said in a press conference Tuesday that the Senate would look at the House’s proposal. But he’s been critical of early drafts.
- “It is past time for action,” Berger said in a statement emailed to reporters last week.
What they’re saying: Gov. Roy Cooper, however, seems optimistic that the two chambers are still discussing the issue.
- “I’m encouraged that both the House and Senate agree that North Carolina needs to expand Medicaid,” Cooper said in a tweet Tuesday. “It is imperative that an agreement is reached to get this done now.”