North Carolina 2011-2012 legislative session gets under way

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January 30, 2011

By Greg Janetka

RALEIGH, North Carolina: The North Carolina legislature saw a historical day on Wednesday, as Republicans officially took over the reins in both the state House and Senate for the first time since 1870. The GOP began the 2011-12 session with a 31-19 majority in the Senate and 68-52 majority in the House. The session is expected to be dominated by issues dealing with the $3.7 billion shortfall in the budget and redistricting.

Senators elected Phil Berger (R) as the new President pro tempore. In his acceptance speech Berger stated, "This is an historic moment for this body and our state. But this is just a moment -- history will judge us based on the substance of this session. Today is a new day for North Carolina with a new vision for our state's future. We will lead North Carolina on a path of smaller, smarter, more efficient government."[1] Top leadership positions also include James Forrester as Deputy President Pro Tempore, Harry Brown as Majority Leader and Martin L. Nesbitt, Jr. as Minority Leader.[2]

The Senate voted along party lines to approved new rules for the chamber. This notably includes a provision for creation of the new position of parliamentarian. Democrats argued that this position, which would have the power to judge whether the Lieutenant Governor was ruling the chamber correctly, is a play to take power away from current Democratic Lt. Gov.Walter H. Dalton.[3] The new rules also allow senators to use computers connected to the Internet, which had long been prohibited.

Over in the House, representatives elected former IBM executive Thom Tillis as the new Speaker of the House. He acknowledged the difficulty of the task ahead, but stressed that he was ready for it, stating, "This is our job. We have to make decisions. There will be things that will tug at your heart, but you need to always think about how government only exists through the people, up to and including every dime that flows through it."[4]

The House moved quickly to file its first bill, which seeks to exempt North Carolina residents from provisions of the new federal health care law. Republicans are attempting to block penalties from being imposed on citizens who do not purchase health insurance. The House Judiciary Committee voted 23-16 to approve the legislation.[5]

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