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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.

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This week the ABC-TV affiliate in Houston, Texas has profiled some of the North Carolina teachers who took the school district up on their offer of higher pay, if they agreed to relocate more than 1,000 miles away and teach in the the Lone Star state.

Here’s an excerpt from the Eyewitness News story:

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Source: http://abc13.com/

‘[Brittany] Emanuel says it was a $13,000 difference for her to move here from Greensboro, North Carolina.

Another teacher, Ricky Ferguson, says he nearly doubled his salary. He too moved from the Tar Heel State. He and Emanuel are two of 39 teachers HISD recruited from North Carolina during four separate recruitment fairs in the across that state this summer.

“I enjoy my job,” says Ferguson, who starts as a science teacher Monday at Cesar Chavez High School. “I enjoy what I do. I’m trying to better myself and my family and Texas is where it’s at.”

New teachers from North Carolina represent roughly 10 percent of all new out of state teacher hires this school year.

Why is HISD targeting North Carolina teachers? The answer might lie within the walls of the State Capitol Building.

After years with no raises, earlier this month North Carolina legislators approved an increase in salary for teachers effective this year. But critics of the budget plan say it’s not enough.

“I would say we are in crisis mode right now,” Mark Jewell tells Eyewitness News.

Jewell is with the North Carolina Association of Educators. He says HISD Superintendent Terry Grier, who used to work with Jewell in North Carolina, knows teachers are ripe for the picking because of low pay and lack of funding.

“He is doing probably what any employer would want to do, is go and look where there is discontent and offer them something better,” Jewell said.

Starting pay at HISD is roughly $49,000 a year. In North Carolina it averages $33,000. It takes a teacher there twenty five years of service to reach $49,000.’

To read the full article, click here. Or click below to watch the package on KTRK-TV 13.

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This afternoon, the state Mining and Energy Commission will hold the second of four public hearings on proposed rules for regulating oil and gas development in North Carolina.

The hearing at the Wicker Center in Sanford comes amid new worries about the  waste water produced by hydraulic fracturing.

Think Progress reports on new research that finds ten percent of the contents of that fluid is toxic, but what’s really concerning is just how much we don’t know about the substance being injected into the earth.

Here’s more from Andrew Breiner’s story:

Frack_wikiAt least 10 percent of the contents of fracking fluid injected into the earth is toxic. For another third we have no idea. And that’s only from the list of chemicals the fracking industry provided voluntarily. That’s according to an analysis by William Stringfellow of Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory, reported in Chemistry World.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the practice of injecting fluid at high pressure into the earth, which breaks up oil- and gas-filled rock formations that is then extracted to the surface. The contents and makeup of that fluid have been a subject of controversy, largely because drilling companies are able to keep what’s in it a secret, and because the fluid has been known to leak and spill on a regular basis.

Stringfellow mostly used FracFocus’ voluntary registry of 250 fracking chemicals provided by the industry to check against existing toxicology information. He found that about 10 percent of the chemicals are known to be hazardous “in terms of mammalian or aquatic toxicology,” Stringfellow said at the a meeting of the American Chemical Society. But for almost a third of those 250 chemicals, there’s no publicly available information on their toxicity to humans or other life. And that’s not even counting the chemicals that the industry can simply choose to keep a secret.

FracFocus was in the news last week when drilling companies came under scrutiny for injecting diesel fuel into the earth to frack oil and gas, something for which they are supposed to have a permit. When that came to light, many companies simply went back and removed past mentions of injecting diesel.

Pressure is growing for companies to stop concealing the chemical mixtures they use for fracking. The companies Baker Hughes and Schlumberger chose to disclose their entire fracking formulas, and other companies may follow suit. “Industry knows what its problem compounds are, and they’re trying to replace those,” Stringfellow said. And until then, they’re likely to keep their formulas a secret.

Read the full article here.

For those wanting to attend Friday’s public hearing in Lee County, it will run from 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. at the Wicker Center, 1801 Nash Street, Sanford.