2015-16 Session of the NCGA Gavels In

Last Wednesday, the North Carolina General Assembly convened for the first time since August of last year to kick off its 2015-16 session. The opening day of session is both organizational and ceremonial as each body is sworn in, elects officers and adopts temporary rules to govern their respective chamber.  Although this was the official first day of session, members of both bodies adjourned until January 28th when the business of the lawmaking in the long session will truly begin. 

The first order of business after being sworn in is electing leadership.  The House stands at 74 Republican members, 45 Democratic members, and 1 Unaffiliated member.  The lone Unaffiliated member Rep. Paul Tine (U-Dare) announced that he will caucus with the Republicans after switching his party registration from Democrat to Unaffiliated just a few weeks ago, bringing the caucus totals to 75-45.  Also to note, former House Majority Leader Rep. Edgar Starnes (R-Caldwell) announced last week that he would resign his House seat immediately to serve as legislative liaison to the Treasurer’s office leaving one vacancy which is expected to be filled in the near future.

Rep. Paul Tine Addresses Questions on Leaving Dems - The Outer Banks Voice

House Majority Leader Resigns General Assembly - Hickory Daily Record

With the departure of former Speaker, now U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, the body unanimously elected Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), who served in the previous session as Rules Chairman, as Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives.  Speaker Moore selected Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) to serve as his Rules Chairman, Clayton Somers to serve as Chief of Staff and Andy Munn to serve as Deputy Chief of Staff.  Speaker Moore has yet to officially unveil further committee appointments.

The Senate leadership election was no surprise. After increasing the Republican majority by one to 34 Republicans and 16 Democrats, Senate Pro-Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) was reelected to his third term in the post. He also selected Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson) to continue to serve as his Rules Chairman and Jim Blaine to continue to serve as Chief of Staff. In an approach different from the House, Sen. Berger has announced committee chairs and committee members, a list can be found here.

Pomp fills first day of legislative session - WRAL

Mysterious legislative session - The Daily Reflector

NC Speaker Tim Moore's to-do list: Hire staff, assign committees - N&O

Big Ticket Items

Individual businesses, groups, and associations have been steadily releasing their legislative agendas for what they will be pursuing during the upcoming session. The long session of the General Assembly does not have restrictions on which types of bills lawmakers may file as the short session does. In the House however, members may file only 10 public bills, but there is no limitation on the number of local bills. The Senate has no restrictions on the number of bills a member may file. If history is any judge, more than a thousand bills will be filed between the House and the Senate on any number of issues leading up to the bill filing deadline in March. Another important deadline will be May 7th crossover deadline, the time by which a bill must pass out of its originating chamber to remain eligible for consideration, although there are a few exceptions.

Every session is tasked with tackling the state budget for the next fiscal year. The Governor is expected to release his recommended budget in February after which the House will begin the budget process in the legislature. The budget determines state appropriations to each department, although often it contains a number of significant policy changes as well. . A factor in addressing the budget this year will be the state’s revenue stream. After last year’s tax reductions, revenues are currently around $200 million short of projections, although sales taxes from the holiday season and the April 15th payments have yet to be counted. 

Below are a number of issues that could be addressed during the upcoming legislative session. 

Economic Incentives, Revenue & Taxes

  • Further reductions to corporate, personal income and capital gains taxes in favor of more emphasis on a consumption tax or sales tax 
  • Modification of the tax apportionment formulas 
  • Restructuring of the way sales tax revenues are distributed, moving away from point of sale distribution in favor of per-capita distribution.
  • Readdressing tax credits and incentives.
  • Increasing funding for the Job Development Investment Grants (JDIG) 
  • A discretionary closing fund for the Governor to sweeten deals in luring jobs to the state. 

Healthcare

  • Medicaid Expansion
  • Medicaid Restructuring and Reform 

Transportation

  • Governor’s proposed $1 billion, 30-year bond for transportation 

Education

  • Increasing teacher pay, raising the starting salary state-wide to $35,000 
  • Replacing the Common Core standards with a NC specific plan
  • Public private partnerships with nonprofits to address need for after school programs
  • Perhaps a new director for the UNC System

New Members

In November, North Carolina elected 23 new freshmen members to the North Carolina General Assembly, 7 in the Senate and 16 in the House. Below you will find a list of the new members and the former members they succeeded as well as links to the full membership of the House and Senate. For the purposes of the term "freshmen", appointed members who served at least a majority of the 2014 short session were excluded.

Click here to view table.

Click here to view the full House directory and here for the Senate.