Ceremony marks opening of legislative session

Posted January 9, 2013

— The General Assembly opened its 2013 session Wednesday amid pomp, with some lawmakers sporting boutonniéres, family members on the House and Senate floors and Gov. Pat McCrory joining a crowded gallery.

After senators and representatives were sworn into office, the House and Senate and their respective Republican and Democratic caucuses quickly named their leaders.

Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, was elected by acclamation to his second term as Senate president pro tem, as was Rep. Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, as House speaker.

They immediately set the GOP agenda for the year as one of tax reform, cutting government regulations and reshaping North Carolina's public schools.

"Today, we renew the fight for reform that started two years ago," Berger said in brief remarks. "We have the opportunity to set sweeping policies to change the direction of North Carolina and to make a real and lasting difference."

Republican lawmakers wore red as a show of their strength in both chambers – they picked up two Senate seats and nine House seats in November and now hold veto-proof majorities in both chambers. Democrats know they're far outnumbered, declining to even offer a candidate for either Senate president pro tem or House speaker.

Still, Tillis predicted that this session would be less partisan than the last two years.

House Minority Leader Larry Hall said Democrats will work with Republicans when possible, but they don't plan to disappear.

"The statement we're saying is, we're in this with you for the good of the people of North Carolina. We're going to step down that road with you as long as you act in the best interests, and whenever you get off that path, we will be there," said Hall, D-Durham.

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Berger called the state tax code "one of single greatest roadblocks to our recovery," and he said government bureaucracy is stifling business growth. He also targeted teachers in saying that North Carolina needs to eliminate "failing schools."

"While we are committed to rewarding and recognizing our best teachers, no teacher should be guaranteed a job if they fail in their responsibility to educate our children," he said. "Every month, every week, every day that we accept mediocrity, another child slips through the cracks."

Lawmakers should always consider struggling families when crafting legislation, Berger said, adding that he and his Republican colleagues in the General Assembly would set an example for their GOP counterparts in Washington, D.C.

"North Carolina Republicans deliver. We've kept our word, and we act on the promises we've made," he said.

A few hours later in the House, Tillis compared North Carolina to a business and said the state needs to do a better job to be competitive.

"There's substantial room for improvement in North Carolina, and we simply must commit to advancing an agenda that will transform our business – our state – with the goal of being the very best at everything we do," he said.

He said North Carolina would work to retain its status as "the least unionized state," and like Berger, he called for broad-based tax and regulatory reform and "meaningful change" in public education.

"What we have to do is get rid of the lists and lists of regulations, controls and other impediments that just get in the way of teaching," he said.

Tillis promised leaner budgets that would be delivered early enough so counties and school districts could know what state funding they would have as they set their own spending plans.

"We must pass budgets that put the interests of taxpayers ahead of the interests of those who want to expand the scope and the cost of government," he said.

Both chambers also adopted new rules for the legislative session. Among them is one the bars lobbyists from the Senate floor for 15 minutes after each session to allow a "cooling down" period.

House Democrats balked at moving the deadline for bills to pass one chamber from April to May 16 and to cap the number of bills any individual lawmaker can introduce at 10, but the GOP majority approved them along with other rules.

After the one-day organizational session, the General Assembly recessed until Jan. 30, giving leaders three weeks to set up legislative committees so lawmakers can begin handling bills when they return to Raleigh.

"Everybody's raring to go," Berger said. "In fact, I think there's some disappointment that we're not coming back until the 30th to really start doing things."

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who took his oath of office Monday so he could preside over the Senate, noted that the Legislative Building is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. An architect by trade, he said that the building opened in a time of turmoil for the state and nation and that lawmakers face a similar time of change now.

"We have many challenges that face us in North Carolina in 2013, but as designers of North Carolina's future, we will tackle those challenges with boldness and courage," Forest said. "We will build a strong foundation for our future and design a North Carolina that our children and our grandchildren can be proud of."


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  • superman Jan 11, 2013

    There aint going to be no change. McCory done feed his buddies cake by giving them a raise. Unemployment benefits will be cut. So just what kind of change has been good so far. Sounds like the same old same old. Just a different set of crooks with their hands in the pot. The thousands with no jobs, no unemployment benefits might just soon storm Raleigh. I think we will soon see riots and demonstrations on the government. People have had more than enough. No future for a job. That has always been the difference in our country and others. People here had a future, hopes, dreams. They have them no more. People are going to get very tired of rich politicians who only think about themselves. McCory has already made it clear that he has no sympathy or compassion for the people who are cold, hungry and desperate. Remember desperate people do desperate things. Standard equipment for politicans will soon be bullet proof vest.

  • bassbugy Jan 10, 2013

    One must wonder how much it cost to have a inaugural celebration of the Governor of NC and the President of the US. I can only wonder how many homeless folks could be fed, or how many schools could be protected by officers for the money that is spend on these celebrations. The voting is over, and we know who holds the office. Why do we, as the taxpayers have to pay for a celebration that we can't even attend.

  • sunneyone2 Jan 10, 2013

    "least unionized state" means you can get fired at any time, for anything and not have anyone in your corner to help you fight, unless you pay them. Yeah, that's great....

    I'm worried about this group of leaders. I think they're going to ruin the beauty of this state for fracking. They're going to kill any advances made for anyone other than white dudes. I agree, dark days ahead for NC.

  • goldenosprey Jan 10, 2013

    What's not to hate? McCrony broke his campaign promise to be a "political outsider" and "root out special interest" by essentially selling this authority to his benefactor.
    Art Pope made a fortune selling cheap Chinese garbage to poor people and redistributing the wealth to undermine public education, workers rights, environmental stewardship, and women's health with his rightwing Civitas organization.

  • piene2 Jan 10, 2013

    "Oh you poor poor Democrats and your sour grapes. Republicans won, so the voters must be stupid, right? Time to stop crying and blaming voters, and own up to your failed policies. Let's see if you can take as many dirty tricks as you've been dishing out.

    Hey Joe, we have the nation. You are more then welcome to Mississippi North East.

  • North Carolina Home Jan 10, 2013

    Nobody that voted for Gov. McCrory or a Republican legislator in the state of North Carolina expects anything but negativity for four years from WRAL and the McClatchy twins (N&O and CO)

    That is just the way they roll. In fact, they may have a tougher time dealing with the loss of power than the Democrats in the back row for the first time in over a hundred years.

    Remind me again...why do you hate Art Pope? He's working for free. Dr.Aldona Wos is working for the grand salary of $1.00.

    According to the media, they are "paying" to play.

    Wish Mike and Mary Easley had paid to play at that rate.

  • driverkid3 Jan 10, 2013

    jgilchr, I am a woman and not at all afraid of what these folks are going to do. It's a shame what we women have had to go through under the rule of the dems, and now, it's going to change! No wonder you dems are spitting acid over this.

  • driverkid3 Jan 10, 2013

    It's about time that we have people on Jones St. that are looking out for this state, and are wanting to do the best for it. Just get the Voter ID passed please.

  • josephlawrence43 Jan 9, 2013

    aw now come on WRAL--you know that the reference to the tracking program you have for our new governor is going to show up--and the question is going to be asked "why not a similar program for Obama, Easley, Purdue, etc. Its gonna happen--so why not let it go through and be done with it???

  • paultaylorsr100 Jan 9, 2013

    Maybe you mad now because yuhave to get off the porch and go to work. You won't be getting 5 years of unemployment anymore while you sit around.