Phil Berger and Tim Moore were formally elected to leadership roles on a ceremonial opening day of the long legislative session at the General Assembly in Raleigh. Berger (R-Rockingham) has served as the Senate Pro Tem since 2011 while Moore (R-Cleveland) gets a second two-year term as Speaker of the House.
The first day of the long session included little policy substance and plenty of pomp and circumstance. Berger’s eight-year-old granddaughter sang the national anthem in that chamber, while the House tapped a new principal clerk.
Republicans hold veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature as they have since 2013. The long legislative session will stretch into July and the primary task for lawmakers is to pass a state spending plan. The first legislation is expected to be filed in two weeks.
As state lawmakers convene for the 2017 session, a bipartisan group is renewing calls for independent redistricting. A dozen advocates for independent redistricting called on legislators to turn over map making duties. Legislation in 2011 and 2015 had support in the House, but limited interest from the Senate.
“I think that is unfortunate because there certainly are Senators who understand that in the long run it is to their benefit to have districts drawn that their citizens have confidence in, and that people are encouraged to participate in the process,” said Jane Pinsky, Director of the nonpartisan NC Coalition for Lobbying & Government reform.
But Republican leadership doesn’t appear eager to make any changes.
“I think that partisanship is an inherent part of who we are and I think it’ll always have some role in the decision that we make and that includes redistricting,” countered Representative David Lewis (R-Harnett).