If you missed Tuesday night’s debate at Davidson College with the leading candidates in the Republican U.S. Senate primary, you missed Rev. Mark Harris, Heather Grant, Dr. Greg Brannon and House Speaker Thom Tillis all deny the existence of climate change.

Think Progress recounts the first debate of the primary season this way:

“Is climate change a fact?” the moderator asked in the video, which was posted by Buzzfeed. The questioned produced a brief flurry of laughter from the audience as well as several repressed snickers from the candidates. All four then followed with a curt “no” — though Brannon did append “God controls the climate” to his answer.

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Here’s how the News and Observer’s John Frank and the Charlotte Observer’s Jim Morrill and Ely Portillo summed up the hour-long face off:

‘Despite the need to differentiate themselves, the four candidates found more common ground. All oppose the Affordable Care Act. All oppose medical marijuana. All want to eliminate federal agencies. All believe Russia is the biggest foreign policy threat. And all believe climate change is not a fact.

Each named different federal departments they want to eliminate: Tillis said the Department of Education and Mark Harris said Education, Energy and Commerce, Grant said the Environmental Protection Agency and Greg Brannon named four departments, Health and Human Services, Education, the Federal Reserve and the Internal Revenue Service.’

WRAL hosts a second debate this evening at 7:00 p.m., again with Harris, Grant, Brannon, and Tillis.

Some of the less well-known candidates vying for a chance to take on U.S. Senator Kay Hagan will get their chance to share their platforms on Thursday evening.

Your final chance to hear from the GOP Senate hopefuls comes Monday when UNC-TV will host a one-hour debate at 7:00 p.m. in a statewide broadcast.

jobs adFigures released Monday by the Division of Employment Security show North Carolina’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for March falling to 6.3 percent, a slight improvement from February.

But analysts with the N.C. Budget and Tax Center note that while the state has seen its payrolls expand by 65,000 new jobs (1.6 percent) since March 2013, this represents slower job growth than the 1.7 percent rate of job creation in the nation as a whole. Here’s more from the BTC:

Not only did North Carolina underperform the rest of the nation over the last year, the state’s performance in 2013 stacks up poorly compared to its performance in previous years. Over the past year (March 2013-2014), the state created 200 fewer jobs than it did over the same period the year before (March 2012-2013), and only created 100 more jobs than were created from March 2011-2012—hardly signs of an increasing job creation trajectory.

“Given the massive jobs losses the state experienced in the Great Recession, the state needs to be creating jobs at a significantly faster rate than the rest of the nation in order to achieve escape velocity for a robust, long-term recovery in the labor market,” said Allan Freyer, a policy analyst with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center. “Unfortunately, far from being a banner era of job creation, the last year was pretty disappointing from pretty much every angle—slower job growth and a falling labor force are evidence of a lagging overall economy.”

Here’s how economist John Quinterno with South by North Strategies puts the new data into context: North Carolina still has fewer payroll jobs, more unemployed residents, and a higher unemployment rate than it did 6.25 years ago:

Between March 2013 and March 2014, the number of unemployed North Carolina’s fell by 105,637 persons, but 46.8 percent of the decline was attributable to people who left the labor force entirely. If those 49,426 persons were added back to the labor force and considered unemployed, the statewide unemployment rate in March would have equaled 7.3 percent. Even if 50 percent of those individuals were added back to the labor force and considered unemployed, the statewide unemployment rate would have equaled 6.8 percent.

Declines in the statewide labor force participation rate provide additional evidence of a labor market that is not growing rapidly enough to accommodate all those who want and need work. In March, the labor force participation rate held steady at the revised February 2014 figure of 61 percent, which is the lowest monthly figure recorded at any point since 1976. Moreover, the labor force participation rate has fallen steadily since December 2012, when the rate equaled 62.7 percent.

“Despite recent declines in the statewide unemployment rate, labor market conditions in North Carolina remain underwhelming. Look beyond the important yet limited measure of the unemployment rate, and one will see labor market dynamics essentially no different from the sluggish ones that have characterized the past four years.”

040910_1521_TGIFlunchli1.jpgMembers of the House Committee on Food Desert Zones will meet this afternoon to issue their recommendations on how to promote healthier eating in areas that have limited access to fresh, nutritional fruits and vegetables.  Legislators are focusing on this issue as studies have shown residents who lack access to healthy choices in their local grocery store face higher levels of diet-related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

This afternoon over at Duke University, Representative Graig Meyer and Governor Pat McCrory’s Senior Advisor on Education, Eric Guckian, will take part in a discussion about what makes for a successful K-12 education in North Carolina.

On Tuesday, members of a legislative committee examining the impact of the Affordable Care Act will hear from U.S. Senator Richard Burr and Pam Silberman, President of the North Carolina Institute of Medicine. The meeting gets underway at 10:00 a.m. at Elliot University Center Auditorium at the University of North Carolina – Greensboro campus.

(Photo: Eric Chance, Appalachian Voices)

(Photo: Eric Chance, Appalachian Voices)

One of the most highly anticipated meetings for the week comes Tuesday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. when the legislature’s environmental oversight committee holds a special hearing on coal ash regulations. Members are expected to discuss Gov. Pat McCrory’s “comprehensive  action plan” that he be given broader authority over coal ash disposal.

If you missed it over the weekend, several Republican legislators said they were upset that they were not notified about McCrory’s coal ash plan before it was released, and that it did not go far enough.

Two televised debates air this week to help North Carolina voters learn more about the top candidates in the Republican U.S. Senate primary. The first hour-long debate is slated for 7:00 p.m. Tuesday at Davidson College. Time Warner Cable News will broadcast the debate which will also be streamed by The Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer of Raleigh.

WRAL-TV in Raleigh will host the second senatorial debate with many of the leading candidates on Wednesday. The debates conveniently come in advance of early voting, which starts on Thursday.Defenders of Justice

The N.C. Justice Center holds its 16th Annual Defenders of Justice awards ceremony Tuesday evening in Chapel Hill, honoring individuals or organizations who are making significant contributions in litigation; research and policy development; public policy advocacy and grassroots empowerment. You can read more about the 2014 honorees here.

Wednesday afternoon Environment North Carolina is hosting an event at Durham Central Park School for Children with Congressmen G.K. Butterfield and David Price to highlight steps people are already taking to fight climate change.

The school’s 4th grade class recently ran a fundraiser via kickstarter to purchase solar panels in an effort to cutcommon-core their carbon footprint. They not only raised enough money to buy the panels, the class is taking an additional step and building small wind turbines to generate even more clean energy.

And finally, the Committee on Common Core State Standards meets for a final time Thursday before delivering its recommendations to the General Assembly in advance of the upcoming legislative session. The question is will lawmakers recommend that the state opt out of the Common Core or delay its implementation as further review take place. Stay tuned…

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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