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This year saw major changes to North Carolina’s elections law, with the final bill taking up 57 pages. Its various provisions are wide-ranging, setting new standards for voter identification, making it easier to mount voting challenges, trimming the number of days off the early voting period and eliminating same-day registration, straight-ticket options and initiatives to increase registration among young, first-time voters.

While the controversy over what is arguably one of the biggest rewrites of voting rules in the country simmers and legal challenges proceed, the various changes under the new law will begin taking effect over the course of the next two election cycles.


WNC Agricultural Options' 10th annual grant cycle is under way. With funding from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, WNC AgOptions will award a total of $153,000 to diversifying farmers in western North Carolina in 2014. Farmers have until Dec. 13 to submit an application for a $3,000 or $6,000 grant.

"The 2014 funding cycle will represent a decade of service to our agricultural industry through farmer grants, educational seminars and technical assistance," said Ross Young, Madison County Extension Director and WNC AgOptions steering committee leader. "Since 2004, more than 350 farmer grants and several community grants have been awarded. We are extremely grateful to the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission as the sole funder of this program since its inception."

The commission has helped ensure that farmers continue farming during changes in the tobacco industry in the past 25 years.


North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory recently appointed Macon County attorney William (Bill) Coward as Superior Court Judge for the Judicial District 30A.

Prior to his appointment, Coward worked as an attorney with the firm Coward, Hicks & Siler for more than 25 years. He has also served for 15 years as the town attorney for Highlands. Coward is a graduate of the University of North Carolina School of Law.

Coward has practiced law in Western North Carolina continuously since his graduation from the University of North Carolina Law School in 1987. His practice has been devoted exclusively to civil litigation and criminal law, with cases involving corporate disputes, defense against condemnation of land by the Department of Transportation, personal injury and car wreck cases, family law and construction law.


Energy costs across the state are once again increasing as Duke Energy Carolinas was awarded another overall 4.5 percent rate increase by the North Carolina Utilities Commission. The rate increase, which stands as Duke Carolinas’ third since 2009, will increase to 5.1 percent after two years. That increase will allow the utility to make a 10.2 percent shareholder profit and a capital structure of 53 percent equity in a challenging economic climate.

“I feel the same why about this increase as I have about all the others,” said Macon County Commissioner Ronnie Beale. “In this environment, we have to do what is best for our citizens and they cannot afford another increase. We have a large population of elderly residents and people on fixed incomes. I don't know of any other business that has gotten to raise rates three times in two years.”


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