North Carolina General Assembly

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North Carolina State Legislature

Seal of North Carolina.png
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   None
2015 session start:   May 12, 2012
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Senate President:   Walter Dalton (R)
House Speaker:  Thom Tillis (R)
Majority Leader:   Harry Brown (R) (Senate),
Paul Stam (R) (House)
Minority Leader:   Martin Nesbitt (D) (Senate),
Joe Hackney (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 2, 2010
50 seats (Senate)
120 seats (House)
Next election:  November 6, 2012
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]

Legislative process


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 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the Legislature will convene on May 12.


See also: Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions

In 2011, the General Assembly was in regular session from January 26 through mid June. [4] 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. [5]

A second special session has been called for September 12 to consider constitutional amendments, including a potential ban on same-sex marriage.[5]


See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions

In 2010, the General Assembly was in session from May 12 to July 11. [6]


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.[7] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 160,986.[8]

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

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.[9] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 67,078.[10]

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



See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2010, 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.[11]

The $13,951/year that North Carolina legislators are paid as of 2010 is the same as they were paid during legislative sessions in 2007. Per diem is also the same.[12]

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.[13] 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. [14]

Joint legislative committees

The North Carolina General Assembly has no joint standing committees. It does have 45 non-standing, interim, and study committees.[15]

External links