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NC Voters for Clean Elections is out with a new and, sadly, not terribly surprising report on the big campaign money flowing from the pro-fracking crowd. This is from the release that accompanied the report:

RALEIGH, N.C. – As North Carolina lawmakers take up a new bill on hydraulic fracturing, the much-debated energy drilling method commonly known as “fracking,” a new report finds that energy interests tied to fracking gave campaign contributions to more than 100 state legislators between 2009 and 2011.

The report by N.C. Voters for Clean Elections, a state coalition focused on the role of money in politics, also finds that legislators who supported a pro-fracking bill in 2011 received more than triple the amount of campaign money from energy interests than did opponents of the legislation. Read More

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In case you missed it, the Wlimington Star News posted an excellent editorial yesterday afternoon about the latest, warmed-over school voucher proposal at the General Assembly. After noting the excellent reporting by Sarah Ovaska here at NC Policy Watch about a lawmaker junket to Florida sponsored by a pro-voucher lobby group, the editorial has this to say:

“If Republican lawmakers are truly interested in improving the public schools, they should stop trying to dismantle them and work on reducing class sizes, improving teacher training, putting more resources into extra tutoring for students who are behind, and stop taking money away for supplies, technology, textbooks and teachers.”

To which, all a body can say is AMEN!

You can read the entire editorial by clicking here.

 

In case anyone had any doubts, pay-to-play politics are alive and well in the North Carolina General Assembly. As Policy Watch investigative reporter Sarah Ovaska reported here yesterday afternoon, a conservative House leader announced yesterday that he would introduce legislation this week that would establish a new tax break for corporations that fund slots in private schools.

The plan is modeled on a Florida program (now, there’s a highly successful state everyone wants to copy!) that was pitched to a group of 11 state lawmakers, including House Speaker Thom Tillis, at an all-expense paid trip to the Miami area that the pro-voucher group funded in March.

And, of course, the trip — which certainly appears to violate the state’s prohibition on gifts from lobby groups to lawmakers — had absolutely no impact whatsoever on the group’s friendly reception from House leadership or its success in winning introduction of the bill.  

To learn more about what the voucher group and its friends in the corporate world and the General Assembly appear to be up to, check out this excellent article in yesterday’s New York Times  - “Public money finds back door to private schools.”

The General Assembly returned to Raleigh last week and a controversial method of natural gas drilling – known as fracking – is already on the Republican agenda with the introduction of the Clean Energy and Economic Security Act – S820 (don’t be fooled by the title).  A recent development in the gas industry may foretell the future of the most cavalier of gas companies. Read More

Chris’ “Monday Numbers” column this morning recounts some of the sobering facts about fracking that make any rush to an affirmative judgment on the controversial natural gas extraction technique (recently banned in Vermont) a fool’s errand.

Meanwhile, the Greenville Daily Reflector also weighs in on the subject this morning with a similarly skeptical take:

Until North Carolina knows that for certain, however, it makes sense to allow research and determine the necessary regulations to ensure protection of drinking water near fracking sites. The General Assembly has two bills with competing approaches to this issue and backing a measure that moves hastily to allow the process would be a grave mistake.

Finally, in case you missed it over the weekend, the Asheville Citizen-Times spoke up with great coherence about the evils that the U.S. Supreme Court unleashed two-and-a-half-years ago with its decision in the Citizens United case. The CT rightfully calls on the court to fashion a do-over in a new Montana case and highlights the local ill-effects of Super PAC madness in western North Carolina.