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Just in from the watchdogs at Democracy NC (click here to read the entire report):

State Legislators Pile Up $8 Million for Campaigns;
Incumbent Advantage Will Grow with PACs’ “Gratitude Money”

A review of financial reports by the watchdog group Democracy North Carolina shows that state legislators running for reelection have stockpiled more than $8 million in cash for the final months of the 2014 campaign.

Legislators of both parties can also expect a windfall in special-interest donations when the General Assembly adjourns, likely this week, said Bob Hall, director of the nonpartisan group.

The 101 Republican legislators seeking election to the NC House or Senate hold $6.8 million in cash, more than four times as much as the $1.5 million held by the 52 Democrats. (The other 17 legislators are retiring or running for another office, or they were defeated in the primary.)

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) led all lawmakers with $1,015,460 in cash as of June 30, the deadline for the most recent financial report. The next report is not due until late October. Senate Republican Majority Leader Harry Brown (R-Onslow) is next with $444,267, followed by Democratic Senator Josh Stein (D-Wake) with $347,413.

Because Speaker Thom Tillis is running for the U.S. Senate, the Republicans in the House who have the most cash are Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) with $251,573 and Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) with $246,216. Both men have Democratic opponents in the general election, but neither challenger had more $9,000 as of June 30.

“The combination of big-money fundraising and highly partisan redistricting means we’re seeing less competition in general elections,” said Hall “It’s hard to hold legislators accountable when they don’t have competition.”

Of the 153 legislators seeking reelection, 74 – or nearly half of them – face no opposition from the other major party. Read More

North Carolina had 20,000 fewer people working in July than the previous month, as the state’s unemployment ticked up slightly to 6.5 percent.

The July jobs report that came out Monday morning (click here to read) puts the state’s unemployment rate at 6.5 percent, much lower than the 8.1 percent unemployment the state experienced a year ago, in July 2013.

The national unemployment rate is 6.2 percent.

July’s unemployment rate in North Carolina was an uptick from recent months, when the unemployment rate dipped as low as 6.2 percent in April.

North Carolina has seen its labor pool shrink steadily as it has emerged from the recession, and there were 19,848 fewer people receiving paychecks in July than there were in June.

Read More

1. Lawmakers inch toward adjournment - This afternoon at 4:30 p.m. the House Rules committee will take up House Bill 1224, legislation that ties together a sales tax and economic development measure to a budget fix that would fund teaching assistant positions for the 2014-15 school year. Incentives and the TA budget fix are the remaining issues to be resolved before the House adjourns. Adjournment resolutions will be considered again this evening when the House meets at 5:00pm.info1

2. Wake County hits one million residents – Wake County’s population is expected to reach one million residents this week. Wake County commissioners will discuss the milestone and population growth at their Monday meeting. The county has put together a great infographic to mark the occassion.

3. Public hearings begin on draft fracking rules – Environmental regulators will hold a series of four hearings over the next few weeks to collect public input on proposed rules for regulating oil and gas development in North Carolina.

This week, the state Mining and Energy Commission’s hearings are scheduled for:
• 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 20 at the McKimmon Center,1101 Gorman St., Raleigh
• 5-9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 22 at the Wicker Center,1801 Nash St., Sanford

Written comments may also be submitted electronically through September 30th on the state Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources’ website.

4. The state of the U.S. Supreme Court - Few recent rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court have done more to anger caring and thinking Americans and awaken them to the importance of monitoring the federal courts and the judges who serve on them than the now infamous Hobby Lobby v. Burwell decision of this past June.

Ian Millhiser, Senior Constitutional Policy Analyst for the Center for American Progress, will be in Raleigh this Thursday to discuss  Hobby Lobby and other momentous decisions by the High Court over the past year. Want to learn more? Click here to register for Thursday’s Crucial Conversation with Millhiser.

5. Back to school education webinar – If you are still a bit confused about how this legislative session has impacted education, you’ll want to carve out time for Thursday night’s education webinar.

Join Public Schools First NC and guests Mark Jewell, Vice President of the NC Association of Educators and Chris Hill, Director of the NC Justice Center Education and Law Project for an online discussion about the effects of recent legislation on North Carolina’s public schools. The webinar will cover:
•    Public school funding
•    Teacher pay .
•    Charter schools
•    Common Core and more
The Public Schools First NC’s webinar will be Thursday, August 21, 7:00 p.m – 8:00p.m. Register for the event here.

6. Moral Week of Action begins Friday – The NC NAACP and the Forward Together movement will stage seven consecutive days of action and a “Jericho March” at the North Carolina State Capitol to highlight and challenge what they say are destructive laws coming out of Raleigh.

Every day for one week, they will gather and demand that Gov. Pat McCrory, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate Leader Phil Berger repent and repeal their public policy attacks on North Carolinians’ civil and human rights.

Each day they will emphasize several urgent issues and on the final day, Thursday, August 28, the 51st Anniversary of the March on Washington, they will hold a mass rally on Bicentennial Mall for voting rights and voter mobilization – the Vote Your Dreams, Not Your Fears Rally – at 5:30 pm. Events this week include:
•    Friday, Aug. 22 – Labor Rights, Fair and Living Wages, and Economic Justice
•    Saturday, Aug. 23 – Education and Criminal Justice
•    Sunday, Aug. 24 – Equal Protection under the Law: Call for Respect in the Law and in the Community regardless of race, creed, class, gender, sexual orientation and immigration status

The negative impact of the failure of state leaders to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act is becoming truly gigantic. As the Asheville Citizen-Times reported over the weekend:

North Carolina will miss $51 billion in federal payments over the next decade unless lawmakers expand Medicaid under Obamacare, according to a new report.

Hospitals in the state would get $11.3 billion of that amount under an expanded system, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Urban Institute say.

The report comes as hospitals across the nation are laying off workers. The health care sector cut 52,638 jobs nationally last year, making it second only to the financial industry in layoffs.

That’s $51 billion with a B, folks. For more details, check out this morning’s “Monday Numbers” over on the main PW site.

Click here to read a summary of the report.

Try as they might, the NC House was unable to wrap-up the short session on Friday. Legislators in that chamber will return for two days next week, in which they hope to conclude their work for the remainder of the year and adjourn.

House Speaker Thom Tillis announced late Friday that the body does not plan to return in November.

The Senate has been clear that their preference is to return after the election and tackle Medicaid reform and a final plan to clean-up the state’s coal ash ponds.

One of the final hurdles for the House will be House Bill 718, which includes a budget fix to help local districts spare the jobs of teaching assistants this school year.

The House meets again on Monday at 5:00 p.m.
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