The N.C. Mining and Energy Commission has finalized the proposed safety regulations that companies will need to follow in order to frack for natural gas in our state. Over the past 18 months the commission has adopted 120 rules they believe will ensure that hydraulic fracturing can be done safely.

Still environmentalists worry the process has been rushed. Mary Maclean Asbill with the North Carolina Environmental Partnership and Southern Environmental Law Center says there are very real concerns that fracking will contaminate the state’s groundwater.  Asbill appeared last weekend on News and Views with Chris Fitzsimon to discuss the coalition’s concerns. (Click below to hear an excerpt of that interview; the full radio segment is available here.)

The next step will be a series of public hearings this August in Wake, Lee and Rockingham counties, giving citizens one last chance to weigh in. The Commission is slated to present the rules to the General Assembly by October.

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A new study released Tuesday by the North Carolina Bankers Association (NCBA) shows the profound economic impact immigrants have had on North Carolina’s economy.

According to the extensive study by researchers at the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School:

  • Hispanic buying power ($9.5 billion) rippled through the state’s economy creating an overall economic impact of $10.3 billion, or $12,895 per Hispanic resident, in 2010.Immigration report
  • Hispanic consumer spending was responsible for creating 92,000 spin-off jobs which, in turn, generated $3.4 billion in spin-off labor income, $460 million in spin-off state and local taxes, $444 million in spin-off federal taxes, and $367 million in spin-off social insurance payments.
  • Consumer spending by all immigrants generated 171,000 spin-off jobs, $6.4 billion in spin-off labor income, $1.4 billion in spin-off state and local taxes, $863 million in spin-off federal taxes, and $693 million in spin-off social insurance payments.
  • For immigrants and Hispanic newcomers,the state spent$2.3 billion and $2.0 billion, respectively, on essential services— k-12 education, health services, and public safety in 2010
  • The state received $2.4 billion and $1.5 billion, respectively, in total tax revenue (direct and indirect contributions) from immigrants ($3,869 per capita) and Hispanics ($1,900 per capita) in 2010.
  • $8 in revenue was generated for every $1 the state invested in essential services for immigrants; $5 was generated for every $1 invested in essential services for Hispanics.

The report’s bottom line: The overall economic impact of immigrants and Hispanics has been positive for the state, and underscores the need for an open door immigration policy.

Click here to read “Demographic and Economic Impacts of International Migration to North Carolina.”

voteGone are the days of registering to vote during early voting! If you want to take part in the fast-approaching May 6th primary, take note that today (Friday) is the deadline for getting registered to vote.

North Carolinians can stop by their county elections office to register. Registration forms can also be completed and turned in at the DMV or other public assistance agencies. Finally, forms postmarked by today’s deadline will be accepted for the upcoming election.

Click here  to download a voter registration form, and here for more info on where you can get registered.

Early voting for the May 6th primary begins April 24 and ends May 3.

House Speaker Thom Tillis may have more name recognition than many of the other candidates in Republican U.S. Senate primary, but that has not translated into more support among voters.

New numbers released this week by Public Policy Polling find that Tillis leads the GOP field for the upcoming May 6th primary with 18% of the support among potential voters. That compares with 15% for Greg Brannon, 11% for Mark Harris, 7% for Heather Grant, 6% for Ted Alexander, 5% for Alex Bradshaw, 2% for Jim Snyder, and 1% for Edward Kryn.

And while 34% of voters remain undecided, PPP suggests Tillis would need to win most of them to reach the 40% mark and avoid a summer runoff.

Dr. Andy Taylor, a political science professor at N.C. State University, says Tillis has failed to breakaway from his Republican challengers, struggling to portray himself as the best candidate to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Hagan in November.

Taylor joins us this weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon to handicap the Senate race and discuss the role of big money in the political process.
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For those wanting to hear more from the candidates, Time Warner Cable News will broadcast an  hour-long debate April 22 at Davidson College featuring  all eight of the Republican challengers hoping for a chance to unseat Sen. Hagan.

Early voting for the May primary begins April 24th.

It’s multiple-meeting-Monday, so let’s just dive right in to today’s belated Lunch Links.

First, a couple of must reads:  The Institute for Southern Studies has a fascinating look at Who’s driving North Carolina’s latest voter fraud hysteria?

Photograph by Renée C. Byer

Photograph by Renée C. Byer

Next up, many people are remembering Chuck Stone, who died over the weekend at 89, as a tenacious trailblazer. Brush up on his legacy by reading his obit in The Washington Post and this piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Mother Jones has an interview with Thomas Nazario, the author of  Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor. The moving images by Renée C. Byer remind us of the power of photojournalism.

Continuing on the subject of great storytelling, 60 Minutes correspondents Steve Kroft and Lesly Stahl will speak Tuesday evening as part of the Bryan Series at Guilford College.

What else are we watching this week?

The NC Budget & Tax Center is out with a new report today that finds ensuring all drivers have a driver’s license, regardless of their immigration status, can improve public safety and provide an economic boost to our state.

The Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee meets tomorrow where members will hear several presentations including one on Read To Achieve Summer Reading Camps. For more background on that controversial law, check out this piece by Policy Watch education reporter Lindsay Wagner.

We’re a little more than a month away from the short legislative session, and many veteran educators are still wondering if they will see a raise this year. Rep. Grier Martin weighed in this weekend on News and Views with Chris Fitzsimon:
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Education funding will also be front and center Friday when the UNC Board of Governors meets. NC Student Power Union will be outside petitioning the board to reduce tuition and increase financial aid incrementally so that, by 2020, the incoming class of all NC public universities will graduate free of student debt.

Also on Friday, bluesy folk rocker Marc Black promises to deliver an upbeat concert to benefit the work of the Frack Free NC Alliance. Black is perhaps best known for his anti-fracking movement anthem “No Fracking Way.”

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And we’ll leave you with one final reminder with today’s lunch links: Those wishing to vote in the May primary must be registered to vote by this Friday, April 11.