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  • Senator Kay Hagan and Speaker Thom Tillis square off – On Wednesday, the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters Educational Foundation hosts the first debate in North Carolina’s U.S.

    The first debate in the U.S. Senate race is Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.

    Senate race featuring incumbent Senator Kay Hagan (D) and Speaker of the NC House Thom Tillis (R). The 7:00 p.m. debate will be aired live, statewide and be moderated by Norah O’Donnell, co-anchor of CBS This Morning.

  • Education results to be released – The State Board of Education kicks off their September board meeting on Wednesday. We’ll be watching Thursday when they discuss the cohort graduation rate for the 2013-14 school year. They will also  release data on end-of-grade tests for the ’13-’14 school year.
  • Health Care enrollment is the talk of the town – On Thursday, the NC Health Care Access Coalition along with Senator Angela Bryant, Representative Nathan Baskerville, and former Congresswoman Eva Clayton will discuss the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, how Medicaid expansion would help the community, and implementation of the online marketplace, including
    State Budget Director Art Pope will step down next month, and be succeeded by Lee Roberts.

    State Budget Director Art Pope leaves office Friday, and be succeeded by Lee Roberts.

    Special Enrollment Period opportunities. The event will be held on Thursday from 6:00-7:30 p.m. at the Shiloh Baptist Church, 635 S. College Street in Henderson.

  • Art Pope exits – Art Pope departs the McCrory’s administration at the end of this week, stepping down from the post of state budget director effective September 5th. Succeeding Pope will be Lee Roberts, a Raleigh banking executive who the governor appointed to the North Carolina Banking Commission last year.
  • Focus on fracking – ***UPDATE:  This week’s Mining and Energy Commission meeting originally scheduled for Friday has been cancelled. ****  (Note: The final public hearing on the state’s draft fracking rules will be held in Cullowhee/Western NC on September 12.)
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Many North Carolina congregations are observing a Labor Sabbath prior to Labor Day. MaryBe McMillan of the NC State AFL-CIO, joins us this weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon,  to explain the importance of having people of faith talk about unions and workers’ rights. Click below to hear part of that interview, or here to listen to the full radio interview.

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U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) doesn’t want to spend much time focused on all the speculation about whether he’ll make a run for the White House in 2016.  As we approach Labor Day, the 72-year-old wants to talk about the jobs deficit and stagnant wages.

The longest-serving Independent in Congressional history was in Raleigh this week for a town hall forum at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church.

In an interview with N.C. Policy Watch, Sanders spoke about the need for Congress (and individual states) to do more to help America’s shrinking middle class:

“The very bad news is that many of the new jobs that are being created are low wage jobs, part-time jobs. Median family income today is $5,000 less than it was in 1999. Our goal is obviously job creation, but it is also creating jobs that pay people a livable wage.”

As for conservative lawmakers who have suggested that it may be time to scrap minimum wage laws altogether, Sanders offers this assessment:

“Their belief is that we should abolish the concept of the minimum wage. And that means if you are in a high unemployment area, and you are desperate enough, yup, you’re going to have to work for three or four bucks an hour. That is a step toward feudalism,” explained Sanders. “It’s not just the minimum wage, it’s safety on the job, all types of child labor laws…these guys believe that ‘freedom’ means abolishing all of these laws and leaving working people at the mercy of whatever an employer wants to pay them, or how that employer will treat them.”

Sanders, who joins us this weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon, also shares his thoughts on dark money in politics, the need for campaign finance reform, and new efforts to improve  veterans’ health care.

For a preview of that radio interview, click below. For more on North Carolina’s Living Income Standard, click here.
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Gay rights advocates rally at a recent Moral Monday demonstration.

Equality NC, same-sex couples and families delivered over 10,600 petitions to the Raleigh and regional offices of Governor Pat McCrory this morning, urging him to stop defending the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

“We are proud to deliver this important message alongside families from all across the state who are demanding Gov. McCrory not waste one taxpayer dollar defending what is now an unconstitutional and indefensible law,” said Chris Sgro, Equality NC’s executive director. “In doing so, we join them in asking that our elected officials not only stand with their constituents, but also help North Carolina stand on the right side of history.”

Last month, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced his office would no longer defend state laws banning same-sex marriage, after the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban in Bostic v. Schaeffer.

As the News & Observer points out in Wednesday’s paper, the petition drive by the advocacy organization may press McCrory to discuss his own position on same-sex marriage:

McCrory had asked Cooper to request a stay of North Carolina’s case pending a higher appeal of the Virginia lawsuit, which is now on hold.

But his stance leaves unanswered questions, Equality NC suggests: Does McCrory still personally support the amendment after the Virginia ruling? And will he seek a special outside counsel to uphold the state’s ban now that Cooper won’t defend it?

The questions may hold implications for the 2016 governor’s race when Cooper is expected to challenge McCrory.

McCrory supported North Carolina’s constitutional ban on gay marriage when it was placed on the ballot in May of 2012.

Since then, polls have shown a growing acceptance of this issue with a majority of voters (nationwide and in North Carolina) supporting either marriage or civil unions for same-sex couple.

For more on where things stand in the courts on same-sex marriage, read this piece by Policy Watch’s Courts and Law reporter Sharon McCloskey.