Raleigh Round-up: A week of heavy blows to the environment, press

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Before we collectively unplugged for the long weekend, legislators in Raleigh were busy. Environmental safety, drinking water and freedom of the press all took a big hit last week when SB786 - the bill to allow fracking - was fast-tracked through the Senate.

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The bill passed in the name of "energy independence!" even though the U.S. Geological Survey only estimates an average of about five and a half years worth of natural gas in the Deep River Basin. So what is the real reason legislators are willing to pump unknown chemicals deep into the Earth, and subsequently, our groundwater? The press is asking this and many more questions, including, why does this bill make it a crime for anyone with knowledge of exactly what chemicals are being used to publicly disclose them? Why is this bill being fast tracked, and why are the circumstances surrounding it so secretive that Sen. Rick Gunn felt it necessary to confiscate a legal recording device from a member of the press during one of the committee hearings on Tuesday?

Mecklenburg County Representative Kelly Alexander filed HB 1161 proposing an amendment to the state constitution that would legalize marijuana for medical use. His good fight was joined by three other Democrats who co-sponsored the bill, which, at 19 pages, is one of the longest filed so far this session. If the bill is passed, the question of whether or not to allow medical marijuana would be left to North Carolina voters to decide on the ballot in November. Will other lawmakers give their constituents that opportunity? I guess we shall see in the coming weeks. The bill passed it's first reading and was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

Rep. Robert Brawley was removed from the House Republican Caucus, most likely in retaliation for a public letter criticizing Speaker Thom Tillis.

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