NC Lawmakers Return To Raleigh For Start of Legislative Session

Jan 11, 2017

Composite photo of House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) and Senate Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham).
Credit NC General Assembly

State lawmakers return to Raleigh Wednesday for the ceremonial start of the long session.

Generally, the long legislative session begins after a quiet political period; however, that is not the case this year. Lawmakers will gavel in following weeks of partisan acrimony – and what is likely just the beginning of a long power struggle between Republican supermajorities and Democratic Governor Roy Cooper.

Following a contentious general election, there were weeks of unfounded claims of voter fraud in the gubernatorial race. Then, days after Cooper was declared the winner, Republicans stripped the executive branch of some authority. Lawsuits have left possible changes on hold. For his part, Cooper moved to unilaterally expand federal Medicaid last week, despite a state law forbidding him from doing so.

It's likely to be an uneventful day at the General Assembly. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) are expected to be formally re-elected to leadership roles. Berger has served as the Senate Pro Tem since 2011. Moore became House Speaker two years ago.

The Republican leaders have not announced agenda specifics for this session. The main objective of this long session is to pass a state budget. Lawmakers will attempt to complete that task by June 30th, although the deadline is not legally binding. Two years ago, the House and Senate clashed over spending plans and negotiations carried on until the end of September.

Additionally, lawmakers had been ordered to redraw nearly 30 state legislative seats by mid March, because they were illegally drawn.  But late Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. Supreme Court put a hold on that order, and granted the request of North Carolina Republican legislative leaders to delay the ruling by a three-judge panel.

The Supreme Court says its order will stay in place at least until the court decides whether to hear the appeal. If the justices take up the case, the stay will remain in effect pending a decision.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.