The 2017-2018 North Carolina Legislature has reconvened and as such, I’ll begin to keep you updated on the activities of the General Assembly with weekly recaps, as I’ve done for the past six years. Whether or not you follow politics year round, just during an election cycle or only when something interests you, it’s likely that you couldn’t escape the vitriol of the political landscape this past year, both nationally and in North Carolina. This has been the most contentious political environment I’ve ever seen.
Nevertheless, North Carolina will continue to improve and prosper. According to the Census Bureau, (spring of 2016), since 2013, North Carolina has had the fastest growing economy in the nation.
Site Selection Magazine has NC & Texas tied as the best place in the nation to locate a new business, while CEO Magazine rated NC as the 3rd best place in the nation to do business.
This past May, The Tax Foundation elevated NC from the 44th worst tax environment in the nation to the 9th best – the biggest single jump in the history of the Foundation’s tracking.
The 2016 edition of Rich States/Poor States raised NC from 8th place in 2015 to 2nd place in the country for economic outlook. Our state corporate and personal income taxes, once the highest in the country, are now among the absolute lowest at 3% and 5.499%, respectively.
The State Savings Reserve Fund, commonly referred to as the “Rainey Day Fund” which held a mere $295.6 million balance in 2011, now boast more than $1.5 Billion – which enabled the state to respond quickly to the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew and the wildfires in the western part of the state. Provisions were able to be made to assist folks impacted by these two devastating events without hesitation or affecting budgeted state operating revenues.
The focus of the 2017-2018 Legislature will continue to be on improving education outcomes, increasing teacher pay, (currently set to average $50,000 per year – approximately $4,000 more than the median income in North Carolina), continued tax and regulatory reforms and healthcare as the main criteria. As the legislation for this session is filed and sent to committees for consideration, I’ll do my best to keep you informed.
Let’s begin with a recap of the kick off for the current session!
On Wednesday, January 11, 2017, the 2017-2018 North Carolina General Assembly officially convened for the first time. This first day was ceremonial in nature rather than a working session. The primary purpose of the day was to bring the newly elected and re-elected incumbents together, to collectively administer the oath of office to them. In addition to “swearing in”, the members had some “housekeeping” responsibilities to attend to. These chores included electing House leadership positions of Speaker of the House, Speaker of the House Pro-Tem and the election of the House Principal Clerk. The members also had to approve the House Rules for the 2017-2018 Session. The House Rules are voted on at the beginning of each new session by all of the 120 members present. These rules are typically determined by the majority party in power, presented to the body for approval or modification, then voted upon. The House Rules determine the manner by which the House will conduct the business of the state during that particular session. The rules can change from session to session, although this year’s rules were essentially the same as the 2015-2016 session. Also, the individual caucus leadership positions were announced. These positions were previously voted on by the individual caucus’ members (Republicans and Democrats). Here is the “line-up” for the 2017-2018 legislature:
Here is the House Republican and Democrat Leadership Teams:
Speaker Speaker Tim Moore
Speaker Pro Tempore: Representative Sarah Stevens
Majority Leader: Representative John R. Bell, IV
Deputy Majority Leader: Representative Stephen M. Ross
Majority Whip: Representative Jon Hardister
Deputy Majority Whip: Representative James L. Boles, Jr.
Deputy Majority Whip: Representative John R. Bradford, III
Deputy Majority Whip: Representative Chris Malone
Joint Caucus Liaison: Representative Pat B. Hurley
Conference Leader: Representative John Szoka
Deputy Conference Leader: Representative Holly Grange
Majority Freshman Leader: Representative Destin Hall
Majority Freshman Whip: Representative Brenden H. Jones
The Democratic Caucus elected the following people:
Democratic Leader: Representative Darren G. Jackson
Deputy Democratic Leader: Representative Robert T. Reives, II
Democratic Whip: Representative Verla Insko
Democratic Whip: Representative Garland E. Pierce
Democratic Whip: Representative Bobbie Richardson
Principal Clerk Mr. James White
Sergeant-at-Arms Mr. Garland Shepheard
The Senate elected the following leadership positions:
President: Lt. Governor Dan Forest
President Pro Tempore: Senator Phil Berger
Deputy President Pro Tempore: Senator Louis Pate
Majority Leader: Senator Harry Brown
Majority Whip: Senator Wesley Meredith
Majority Whip: Senator Jerry W. Tillman
Republican Joint Caucus Leader: Senator Norman W. Sanderson
Democratic Leader: Senator Dan Blue
Democratic Whip: Senator Terry Van Duyn
Democratic Caucus Secretary: Senator Ben Clark
Principal Clerk: Ms. Sarah Lang
Sergeant-at-Arms Mr. Philip King
The outcome of the 2016 North Carolina State election contests ended with the Republicans winning “supermajorities” in both the State House and the State Senate.
A “super majority” refers to having enough members (60%) in one party that they can override a Governor’s veto from within their own caucus. In the House a supermajority requires 72 votes; in the Senate, 30 votes are needed. The House now has 74 Republican members and 46 Democratic members; the Senate has 35 Republicans and 15 Democrats.
Governor Cooper, North Carolina’s 75th governor, took his Oath of Office on January 1, 2017. He has also named some of his picks for his cabinet. These nominees will be vetted by the Senate before they can be official:
Key cabinet nominations so far are:
Jim Trogdon – N.C. Department of Transportation
Michael Regan – N.C. Department of Environmental Quality
Erik Hooks – N.C. Department of Public Safety
Tony Copeland – N.C. Department of Commerce
Machelle Sanders – N.C. Department of Administration
The General Assembly adjourned at the end of the session and will reconvene at 12:00 p.m. on January 25, 2017. At that time, bills will be able to be filed and the serious work of the Assembly will begin.
A list of Committee Chair assignments has been released and I’m pleased to tell you that I’ve been named Chair of the State Personnel Committee. The positions of Vice-Chairs and individual committee members have not yet been released but as soon as they are, I’ll share that information with you.
In my next update, I hope to be able to give you committee meeting schedules and information on how you can “attend” meetings on-line, in the event you are unable to attend in person.
In the meanwhile, I wish you a great week and sincerely thank you for the honor of working on your behalf, representing House District 77, Rowan County.