North Carolina General Assembly

From Ballotpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
North Carolina State Legislature

Seal of North Carolina.png
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   None
2015 session start:   January 14, 2015
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Senate President:   Dan Forest (R)
House Speaker:  Timothy K. Moore (R)
Majority Leader:   Harry Brown (R) (Senate),
Michael Hager (R) (House)
Minority Leader:   Dan Blue (D) (Senate),
Larry Hall (D) (House)
Members:  50 (Senate), 120 (House)
Length of term:   2 years (Senate), 2 years (House)
Authority:   Art II, North Carolina Constitution
Salary:   $13,951/year + per diem
Last Election:  November 4, 2014
50 seats (Senate)
120 seats (House)
Next election:  November 8, 2016
50 seats (Senate)
120 seats (House)
Redistricting:  North Carolina Legislature has control
The General Assembly of North Carolina General is the state legislature of North Carolina. The General Assembly makes the laws of North Carolina, also known as the General Statutes. The General Assembly is a bicameral legislature, consisting of the North Carolina House of Representatives (formerly the North Carolina House of Commons) and the North Carolina State Senate. The House has 120 members, while the Senate has 50.[1]

Legislators in both chambers serve two-year terms without term limits. Starting with the 2002 election, each legislator represents a single-member House or Senatorial district; prior to 2002, some districts elected multiple legislators.

The General Assembly meets in the state capital of Raleigh (except for special occasions, when legislators might decide to hold a ceremonial session in some other city). It met in the Capitol building until 1963, when the legislature relocated to the new North Carolina State Legislative Building.[2]

As of May 2015, North Carolina is one of 23 Republican state government trifectas.

See also: North Carolina House of Representatives, North Carolina State Senate, North Carolina Governor


Section 11 of Article II of the North Carolina Constitution establishes that the General Assembly is to convene a new regular session every two years, and that the dates for these sessions are to be set by law. Sessions in the General Assembly of North Carolina last two years and begin on odd numbered years after elections. Sessions begin at noon on the third Wednesday after the second Monday in January.[3]


See also: Dates of 2015 state legislative sessions

In 2015, the Legislature will be in session from January 14 through early July (Projected).

Major issues

Major issues in the 2015 legislative session include the budget shortfall, medicaid expansion, increase teacher pay, coal ash clean up and reforming the state's tax structure.[4]


See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the Legislature was in session from May 14 through August 20.

Major issues

Major issues in the 2014 legislative session included financing the $445 million state budget shortfall, teacher pay, medicaid and coal ash ponds.[5]


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature was in session from January 9 to July 26.

Major issues

Major issues in the 2012-2013 legislative session included tax reform, cutting government regulations and reshaping the state's public schools.[6]


See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the Legislature convened on May 16 and adjourned July 3.


See also: Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions

In 2011, the General Assembly was in regular session from January 26 to June 18.[7] A special session dealing with redistricting began July 13 and ended July 28. The redistricting session covered more than just redistricting, with Republicans overriding five of Governor Perdue's vetoes. Some of the overturned vetoes include the Women's Right to Know Act and state regulatory overhaul. Democratic lawmakers achieved victory in sustaining the veto on the voter I.D. bill.[8]

A second special session was called for September 12 to consider constitutional amendments, including a potential ban on same-sex marriage.[8]


See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions

In 2010, the General Assembly was in session from May 12 to July 11.[9]

Role in state budget

See also: North Carolina state budget and finances
North Carolina on Horizontal-Policypedia logo-color.png
Check out Ballotpedia articles about policy in your state on:
BudgetsCivil libertiesEducationElectionsEnergyEnvironmentPensions

The state operates on a biennial budget cycle. The sequence of key events in the budget process is as follows:[10][11]

  1. Budget instruction guidelines are sent to state agencies in July.
  2. State agency budget requests are submitted in October.
  3. Agency hearings are held in October and December.
  4. The governor submits his or her proposed budget to the North Carolina State Legislature in early February.
  5. The legislature adopts a budget in June. A simply majority is required to pass a budget.
  6. The biennial budget cycle begins in July.

North Carolina is one of only six states in which the governor cannot exercise line item veto authority.[11]

The governor is constitutionally and statutorily required to submit a balanced budget. In turn, the legislature is required by statute to pass a balanced budget.[11]

Cost-benefit analyses

See also: Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative Cost-Benefit Study
Map showing results of the Pew-MacArthur cost-benefit study.

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative released a report in July 2013 indicating that cost-benefit analysis in policymaking led to more effective uses of public funds. Looking at data from 2008 through 2011, the study's authors found that some states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis, while others were facing challenges and lagging behind the rest of the nation. The challenges states faced included a lack of time, money and technical skills needed to conduct comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. North Carolina was one of the 10 states that used cost-benefit analysis more than the rest of the states with respect to determining return on investment regarding state programs. In addition, these states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis with respect to large budget areas and when making policy decisions.[12]

Ethics and transparency

Following the Money report

See also: "Following the Money" report, 2014

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released its annual report on state transparency websites in April 2014. The report, entitled "Following the Money," measured how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending.[13] According to the report, North Carolina received a grade of B+ and a numerical score of 88.5, indicating that North Carolina was "advancing" in terms of transparency regarding state spending.[13]

Open States Transparency

See also: Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. North Carolina was given a grade of A in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data was to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[14]


The Senate has 50 members. Though its members represent districts that are larger than those of their colleagues in the House, its prerogatives and powers are no greater. Each member represents an average of 190,710 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[15] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 160,986.[16]

The President of the Senate is the Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina, but the Lt. Governor has very limited powers and only votes to break a tie. Before the office of Lt. Governor was created in 1868, the Senate was presided over by a "Speaker." After the 1988 election of James Carson Gardner, the first Republican Lt. Governor since Reconstruction, Democrats in control of the Senate shifted most of the power held by the Lt. Governor to the senator who is elected President Pro Tempore (or Pro-Tem). The President pro tempore appoints members to standing committees of the Senate, and holds great sway over bills. Democrat Marc Basnight who was President pro tempore held the office longer than anyone in history. The current President pro tempore is Phil Berger.

Based on the results of the November 2010 election, the Senate has a 31-19 Republican majority in the 2011-2012 session, changed from a 30-20 Democratic majority in the 2009-2010 session.

The qualifications to be a senator are found in the state Constitution: "Each Senator, at the time of his election, shall be not less than 25 years of age, shall be a qualified voter of the State, and shall have resided in the State as a citizen for two years and in the district for which he is chosen for one year immediately preceding his election."

According to the state constitution, the Senate is also the "Court for the Trial of Impeachments." The House of Representatives has the power to impeach state officials, after which the Senate holds a trial, as in the federal system. If the Governor or Lt. Governor is the official who has been impeached, the Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court presides.

Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 16
     Republican Party 34
Total 50

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the North Carolina State Senate from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the North Carolina State Senate.PNG

House of Representatives

The 120 members of the House are led by a Speaker, who holds powers similar to those of the Senate President pro-tem. Each member represents an average of 79,462 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[15] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 67,078.[16]

The qualifications to be a member of the House are found in the state Constitution: "Each Representative, at the time of his election, shall be a qualified voter of the State, and shall have resided in the district for which he is chosen for one year immediately preceding his election." Elsewhere, the constitution specifies that no elected official shall be under twenty-one years of age and that no elected officials may deny the existence of God, although this provision is not enforced and violates the spirit of the "No religious test clause" of the United States Constitution.

Party As of May 2015
     Democratic Party 45
     Republican Party 74
     Independent 1
Total 120

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the North Carolina State House of Representatives from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the North Carolina State House.PNG



See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2013, members of the North Carolina Legislature are paid $13,951/year. Per diem is $104/day set by statute. Legislators are allowed up to $559/month for expenses.[17]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

North Carolina legislators assume office the first day of the new General Assembly in January.


The North Carolina legislature traces its roots to the first assembly for the "County of Albemarle," which was convened in 1665 by Governor William Drummond.[18] Albemarle County was the portion of the British colony of Carolina (under the control of the “Lords Proprietors” before becoming a royal province in 1729) that would eventually become North Carolina.

From approximately 1666 to 1697, the Governor, his council, and representatives of various precincts and towns, elected by male freeholders, sat together as a unicameral legislature. By 1697, this evolved into a bicameral body, with the Governor and his council as the upper house, and the House of Burgesses as the elected lower house. The House, sometimes known simply as “the Assembly,” could only meet when called by the Governor, but it was allowed to set its own rules and to elect its own Speaker. It also controlled the salary of the Governor, and withheld that salary when the Governor displeased a majority of the House. Naturally, conflicts between the Governor and the legislature were frequent. In 1774 and 1775, the people of the colony elected a provincial Congress, independent of the royal governor, as the American Revolution began. Most of its members were also members of what would be the last House of Burgesses.

There would be five Provincial Congresses. The fifth Congress approved the first constitution (1776). Because of the history of distrust of the executive, the constitution firmly established the General Assembly, as it was now called, as the most powerful organ of the state. The bicameral legislature, whose members would all be elected by the people, would itself elect all the officers of the executive and judicial branches. As William S. Powell wrote in North Carolina: A History, “The legislative branch henceforth would have the upper hand. The governor would be the creature of the assembly, elected by it and removable by it….The governor could not take any important step without the advice and consent of the 'council of state,' and he had no voice in the appointment or removal of [council of state members].” This constitution was not submitted to a vote of the people. The Congress simply adopted it and elected Richard Caswell, the last president of the Congress, as acting Governor until the new legislature was elected and seated.

The new General Assembly, which first convened in April 1777, consisted of a Senate, which had one member from each county (regardless of population), and a House of Commons, which had two members representing each county, plus one each from certain towns. Only land-owning (100 acres for the House of Commons, 300 acres for the Senate), Protestant men could serve.

In 1835, the constitution was amended to make the Governor elected by the people, but the legislature still elected all other officials. Amendments also set the number of senators at 50 and the number of commoners at 120. Senators would now be elected by districts representing approximately equal numbers of citizens, rather than by counties. Members of the House were still elected by county, but more populous counties were entitled to more representatives.

In 1868, a new constitution changed the name of the House of Commons to the House of Representatives. It also established the office of Lieutenant Governor. Previously, the Speaker of the Senate was the constitutional successor to the Governor in case of death or resignation. Property qualifications for holding office were also abolished. Finally, the power to elect executive officers and judges was taken from legislators and given to the people.

Starting in 1966 (in the wake of Reynolds v. Sims), members of the House of Representatives were elected from districts, much as senators already were. This left some counties without a resident member of the legislature for the first time in state history.

In 1868, African Americans were first elected to the General Assembly (fifteen representatives and two senators). But after Democrats consolidated power in the late 1890s, no African Americans were elected until Henry Frye (a Democrat) in 1968.

Lillian Exum Clement became the first female member of the General Assembly in 1921.

Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, North Carolina
Partisan breakdown of the North Carolina legislature from 1992-2013

North Carolina State Senate: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the North Carolina State Senate for the first 19 years while the Republicans were the majority for the last three years. The North Carolina State Senate is 1 of 16 state senates that was Democratic for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013. The final three years of the study depicted a shift in the North Carolina senate with the final year being a Republican trifecta.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

North Carolina State House of Representatives: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the North Carolina State House of Representatives for 15 years while the Republicans were the majority for seven years. The final three years of the study depicted a shift from Democrat to Republican control in the North Carolina House with the final year being a Republican trifecta.

Across the country, there were 577 Democratic and 483 Republican State Houses of Representatives from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of North Carolina, the North Carolina State Senate and the North Carolina House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of North Carolina state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

To read the full report on the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI) in PDF form, click here.

The chart below depicts the partisanship of the North Carolina state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. During the years of the study, North Carolina experienced many years under a Democratic trifecta, from 1993-1994 and from 1999-2010. In 2013, however, this trend switched, and the state experienced a Republican trifecta instead. North Carolina's SQLI rating was in the 30s for most of the years of the study, with its lowest ranking in 2003, finishing 41st. However, in more recent years of the study, the state's ranking improved. Its highest ranking was 11th in 2011 during a divided government.

  • SQLI average with Democratic trifecta: 30.08
  • SQLI average with Republican trifecta: N/A
  • SQLI average with divided government: 30.89
Chart displaying the partisanship of North Carolina government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).

Joint legislative committees

See also: Public policy in North Carolina

The North Carolina General Assembly has no joint standing committees. It does have 57 non-standing, interim and study committees.[19] A list of all committees can be found here.

See also

External links


  1. North Carolina General Assembly, "Structure of the North Carolina General Assembly," accessed July 14, 2014
  2. North Carolina Historic Sites, "Chronology of Capitals of North Carolina," accessed July 14, 2014
  3. North Carolina General Assembly, "N.C. Gen. Stat. 120-11.1," accessed July 14, 2014
  4., "State lawmakers have no plans to extend Medicaid in North Carolina," January 21, 2015
  5., "State legislature reconvenes for short session," accessed May 16, 2014
  6. WRAL, "Ceremony marks opening of legislative session," January 9, 2013
  7. National Conference of State Legislatures, "2011 Legislative Sessions Calendar," accessed June 6, 2014(Archived)
  8. 8.0 8.1 Associated Press, "N.C. lawmakers leave town after new maps, overrides," accessed July 14, 2014
  9. National Conference of State Legislatures, "2010 Legislative Sessions Calendar," accessed July 14, 2014(Archived)
  10. National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting," updated April 2011
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 National Association of State Budget Officers, "Budget Processes in the States, Summer 2008," accessed February 21, 2014
  12. Pew Charitable Trusts, "States’ Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis," July 29, 2013
  13. 13.0 13.1 U.S. Public Interest Research Group, "Following the Money 2014 Report," accessed April 15, 2014
  14. Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
  15. 15.0 15.1, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
  16. 16.0 16.1, "Census 2000 PHC-T-2. Ranking Tables for States: 1990 and 2000," accessed May 15, 2014
  17., "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
  18. North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, "Historical markers of North Carolina," accessed July 14, 2014
  19. North Carolina General Assembly, "Non-Standing Committees," accessed July 14, 2014