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A Compromise for Craft Freedom in the Weekly News Roundup

Another week is in the books. In case you slept through it (lucky), we’ve got you covered with five news stories you should know about. 

(Photo by Jeff Hahne)

The two opposing sides of a contentious fight between North Carolina brewers and distributors have come to a compromise, as bipartisan Craft Beer Distribution & Modernization Act bills were filed in both the House and Senate this week, presumably bringing an end to a legal fight that’s been brewing since 2017. The new legislation will double the amount of beer state brewers are able to sell, deliver and ship at wholesale from 25,000 barrels to 50,000. Newly classified “midsize independent craft breweries” will be allowed to brew 100,000 barrels under the new legislation, though they can only self-distribute half that. It’s unclear when the bills will advance through the North Carolina General Assembly. 

At a press conference on Wednesday, NoDa Brewing co-owner Suzie Ford praised Tim Kent of the North Carolina Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association, which had opposed the Craft Freedom movement to increase the barrel cap. NoDa Brewery is a plaintiff alongside Olde Mecklenburg Brewery in a lawsuit against the state that will be resolved if the legislation passes. 

“The agreement announced today between Craft Freedom and the North Carolina Beer and Wine Wholesalers marks a new day in building a strong industry-based economic model for all in the craft beer business. Out of conflict has grown resolve to establish a framework that allows existing and new microbreweries to become economic engines for our state with a clear pathway to grow and prosper,” Ford said. “Anyone familiar with the political dynamics of alcohol distribution in North Carolina knows what has been accomplished is no easy task. I now hope that our lawmakers and the governor will see the wisdom put forth in our regulatory environment that insures stability for the state and greater economic freedom for our industry to grow and prosper.”

After more than a year of pressure from grassroots organizations like Charlotte-based Action NC, Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan announced this week that his company will no longer invest GEO Group and Core Civic, two private prison companies who have helped detain immigrants and asylum seekers captured at the U.S.-Mexico border. During a House Financial Service Committee hearing on Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez questioned Sloan on the bank’s investments in the two companies, to which he responded that the bank has decided to exit these relationships.

“This is a huge victory for our families,” Action NC board member Zhenia Martinez stated in a press release. “These past two months, our community has been under siege as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been conducting its campaign of terror in our neighborhoods. Wells Fargo’s commitment to pull its support from private prisons, gives us some hope that the tide is turning. But, let us not forget that this commitment comes after a hard-fought campaign to push Wells Fargo to pull its support from family separations and stop profiting from the pain of children and families.” 

A new bill that would expand on what is defined as a hate crime while worsening punishment for those crimes has been placed in committee, and local grassroots organizations are asking the community to voice its support to help get it through the General Assembly.  N.C. H312, or the Hate Crime Prevention Act, would make it a felony to commit a hate crime that results in serious physical injury to the victim; expand the state’s current hate crime laws to include sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, ethnicity and disability; create a hate crime database at the SBI; and mandate training for police and prosecutors. The bill currently has 32 Democratic sponsors and no Republican support. The Charlotte-based SAFE Coalition, which has been working to increase the scope and punishment for hate crimes since 2016, held a press conference on Friday calling on the community to reach out to representatives and push them to pass the new legislation. 

On Wednesday, WFAE announced the five finalists for the Queen City PodQuest, from which judges will choose a winner at a finale event in May. The creators of the winning podcast pitch will have an opportunity to work with the WFAE team to develop their idea into a six- to eight-episode podcast series. More than 31,000 people cast almost 100,000 votes among 340 entries during the public voting period, according to WFAE. The five finalists are as follows: Bicycling in the Queen City and Beyond, the title of which is quite self-explanatory; Choose Our Own Adventure, in which listeners will put forth pop culture topics for hosts to discuss; Fresh Take on Education, exploring what works in education from the point-of-view of teachers; Next Door Docs, offering medical guidance and helping listeners navigate the medical system; and Work It, based on — you guessed it — work. 

Police arrested Heather Ricci on Sunday for the killing of Luis Ramirez-Flores. Officers arrived at a home on Tara Lane in north Charlotte early Sunday morning and found Ramirez-Flores dead of a gunshot wound following what CMPD called a domestic-related incident. 

Heather Ricci (Photo courtesy of MCSO)

A man was also killed in an unrelated incident in Uptown on Saturday morning. According to police, a man called 911 just after 2 a.m. reporting that someone had stolen his car at gunpoint in a parking lot on West Trade Street and that the suspect, later identified as 20-year-old Brandon Clark, was still in the parking lot. While the man was on the phone with dispatch, an unknown suspect approached the stolen vehicle and shot and killed Clark. The suspect also shot into a different car in which a woman was sitting in the same lot, though she was not injured.

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