North Carolina’s two U.S. Senators have introduced an amendment to the Keystone XL pipeline bill intended to fast-track the exploration and drilling for natural gas and oil along the Atlantic coast.

Senator Thom Tillis took to the Senate floor Thursday to explain the provision that he says will create thousands of jobs over the next two decades. Click below to hear Tillis’ remarks as carried by C-SPAN:

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Late in the day, Governor Pat McCrory issued a statement praising the forward progress on offshore energy exploration:

“I’d like to thank Senators Burr and Tillis for taking a step in the right direction to help get North Carolina into the energy business. Responsibly exploring oil and gas reserves off our coast has the potential to make North Carolina a leader in energy, move America closer to energy independence, and create jobs.”

McCrory chairs the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition.


A week from today state lawmakers return to Raleigh and begin work in earnest on the 2015 “long” legislative session. House and Senate leaders have indicated teacher pay, job creation, and possibly tax reform will be back on the agenda this year. But some members are concerned that recent tax reforms may leave North Carolina without sufficient revenue to make good on its promises.

A recent report by the General Assembly’s Fiscal Research Division finds General Fund collections through December about $200 million less than projections.

Rep. Darren Jackson says if the revenue gap widens lawmakers may have difficulty increasing the salaries of teachers and state employees. Jackson also agrees with Chief Justice Mark Martin that more must be done during this session to improve the technology in North Carolina’s beleaguered court system.

Rep. Jackson appeared over the weekend on News & Views with Chris Fitzsimon. Click below to hear an excerpt of our radio interview or click here to listen to the full podcast.

To learn more about the funding crisis facing North Carolina’s court system read this piece by Policy Watch’s Courts and Law reporter Sharon McCloskey.

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“There’s no denying that the country continues to make great gains.  Over the past six years, President Obama and Congressional Democrats have together delivered the longest stretch of economic and job growth in this nation’s history; made accessing health care affordable, easier, and transparent; and safeguarded the American people by enacting strong financial reforms.  However, the President’s proposals tonight for free community college, paid sick leave, tax hikes on the rich, tax cuts for the middle-class, and expanded broadband deployment will only accelerate our progress.  It ensures that every American, not just the wealthy, has the tools to achieve their version of the American dream.  The President’s priorities address important issues impacting people across the country and reflect the concerns and will of all Americans.

“I applaud the President for his continued focus on growing paychecks and shrinking the wealth disparity gap while building a 21st century infrastructure that will ensure America’s long term success.  I look forward to working with my colleagues to move the President’s bold agenda forward.”  - Rep. G. K. Butterfield (NC-01)

“The President began the year with an opportunity to work with Congress on policies that would help restore economic prosperity to our nation. Yet, before the State of the Union could even take place, he threatened to veto multiple bipartisan initiatives without ever seeing legislative text.”

“It is clear that the President is once again proposing to raise taxes for new Washington programs — doubling-down on the failed policy of more taxes, more debt, and more spending and expanding the size and scope of the federal government. The President has missed his opportunity to move forward with this Congress.”  - U.S. Senator Richard Burr

“I am pleased that he has reconfirmed his commitment to the middle class, offering a new pathway to affordable higher education with his community college proposal and protecting incomes with a major tax overhaul. The President recognizes that growing and strengthening the middle class is the best way to ensure that the historic economic growth of the past couple of years continues and that the positive benefits of that growth are felt by all Americans, not just the wealthy.” - Rep. David Price (NC-04)

“The overarching theme of tonight’s speech – and the president’s time in office- can be summed up as: let’s spend more of your hard-earned taxpayer dollars creating expensive federally-run programs and supporting government-knows-best policies.”  - Rep. Renee Ellmers (NC-02)

Rep. Alma Adams (NC-12) took to social media to tweet her support of several of the President’s proposals:

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If you’re still scratching your head trying to figure out what was behind last week’s decision by the UNC Board of Governor’s to end its relationship with system President Tom Ross, be sure to read today’s Fitzsimon File where Chris works to unravel the mystery. Here’s an excerpt:

A politically appointed board unexpectedly fires a popular and respected president with no notice or no explanation and nobody even owns up to pushing for him to resign.

The head of the board then insists that it wasn’t politics that prompted the president’s dismissal, and says his age wasn’t a factor either, and then proceeds to talk about the incredible job the president is doing.

There is a conspiracy here all right, a carefully orchestrated plan by right-wing political interests to complete their takeover of the state by firing the head of the university system, a public institution that they have been seeking to dismantle for years.

Read Chris’ full column here, and click below to hear Board Chair John Fennebresque try to explain their decision to part ways with President Ross:
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Senate President Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore made it clear on day one of the 2015 legislative session that they were not in favor of Medicaid expansion this year.

Sen. Berger told reporters his position has not changed.

“There is in my view no good case that can be made that Medicaid expansion is the right thing for us to do in North Carolina.”

Newly-elected House Speaker Tim Moore said he’s concerned that federal funding could vanish in a few years, leaving the state in the lurch.

“I just don’t see that as a good long-term play for us to make,” Moore told reporters.

Governor Pat McCrory said last week that he would be open to the idea of Medicaid expansion, if the Obama administration allows North Carolina to craft its own state-specific plan under the Affordable Care Act.

Click below to watch an excerpt of Wednesday’s press conference with the leaders of the NC House and Senate:

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