Raleigh, N.C. — State lawmakers come back to town Wednesday for the official opening of the 152nd session of the North Carolina General Assembly.
The first day is all pomp and circumstance, as House and Senate members are officially sworn in with their spouses and children by their sides. Each chamber also chooses its leaders.
The Republican majority in the House has chosen Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, to be House speaker, succeeding U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, and Moore is expected to be elected without controversy. In the Senate, the GOP majority is expected to choose Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, to serve his third term as Senate president pro tem.
After Wednesday, lawmakers take a two-week hiatus to get committees set up and bills filed before they return Jan. 28 to work in earnest.
Medicaid reform and education spending are among the issues the General Assembly will face this year.
The Senate wants to let for-profit managed care companies run Medicaid, the health insurance program for the poor and disabled. Gov. Pat McCrory and House leaders prefer groups run by physicians and other health care providers to be in charge.
One such group, Community Care of North Carolina, announced a partnership Tuesday with industrial engineers at North Carolina State University to improve the efficiency of how care for Medicaid patients is managed.
"They've had a history of working in North Carolina," Rep. Marilyn Avila, R-Wake, said of Community Care. "They know North Carolina, and it's only logical that they would be a significant part of whatever plan we move forward with."
On the education front, lawmakers have pledged to raise salaries for beginning teachers to $35,000 this year, and many General Assembly members want to increase funding for textbooks, buses and technology.
But the state budget will be tight – it's already $200 million short – so there will be a lot of competition for any new money.