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Josh Dobson replaces Mitch Gillespie in N.C. House

A McDowell County commissioner will replace former Rep. Mitch Gillespie, who left office to join the McCrory administration. Josh Dobson was appointed to the vacancy by the 85th House District Republican Party. “Josh will do well in Raleigh,” Gillespie said in a statement released by the House speaker's office. “I am confident that he will continue the work we’ve started in our district and in Raleigh.”

According to the speaker's office, Dobson is a McDowell County native who received a bachelor's from Gardner-Webb University and a master's degree from Appalachian State. He is married with one daughter.

Rep. Gillespie resigns

Mitch Gillespie, a longtime Republican member of the House, has resigned effective Sunday. He's headed to the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources to become an assistant secretary under the new boss there, John Skvarla of Pinehurst.

Gillespie, who lives in Marion, took the lead on what is termed regulatory reform last session, with a special emphasis on environmental regulations that restrict development. He's been a developer and surveyor, and has received substantial campaign contributions from development and energy interests.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reported Gillespie submitted his letter of resignation on Friday. The General Assembly's website confirms the resignation.

Republican leaders in District 85 will select a replacement, which the new governor will sign off on as a formality.

Rep. Gillespie leaving House to join DENR -- an agency he targeted

Veteran lawmaker Rep. Mitch Gillespie – who in 2011 literally drew a bulls-eye target on his legislative office window aimed at the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources – will resign next month to become an assistant secretary of the agency.

Bill moves legalize natural gas drilling through fracking

The state’s debate over fracking resumed Wednesday with the advance of a bill that would legalize the natural gas mining method within two years in this state, giving agency officials until 2014 to come up with provisions to protect the public health and the environment.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Bob Rucho of Mecklenburg County, is controversial even within the Republican-dominated legislature. It will compete for votes against a more moderate approach expected from Sen. Mitch Gillespie, a McDowell County Republican who favors greater public safeguards. Read more on the debate from the legislature here.

Two House Republicans call for delay in fracking

Two state Republican lawmakers said Wednesday they will lead an effort to delay legalizing fracking in this state. The move casts doubt on plans by some in the state legislature who have been pushing to quickly legalize the controversial natural gas extraction technique.

Rep. Mitch Gillespie, chairman of the House appropriations committee, spent an hour outlining for reporters reasons why the state should take several years to make sure fracking is done safely and responsibly. Gillespie, representing Burke and McDowell counties, said that conducting more research and crafting laws would delay legalized fracking here by at least two to three years.

Gillespie was flanked on one side by Rep. Michael Stone of Harnett and Lee counties, areas where natural gas deposits are thought to be held underground in shale rock formations. On Gillespie’s other side stood Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Guilford County Democrat sympathetic to environmental causes who said she remained concerned that fracking contaminates drinking water and endangers public safety. More here.

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