Local News

Elections Give Democrats Control of N.C. Legislature

Posted November 3, 1998

— TheNorth Carolina General Assemblywill have a much different make-up when the next session starts.

Voters helped Democrats regain control of the State House from Republicans. But what will that mean for you?

Some people say Democratic control means good things for schools,Smart Startand the environment. Others say it will mean an increase in taxes. No matter which side you are on, most people say it could be an end to the gridlock.

Before the election, Democrats held a 30 to 20 seat advantage in the Senate. Now it is 35 seats for the Democrats and 15 for the Republicans.

But the big change that shifts control comes in the State House. The Republicans lose their slim, two seat majority. Democrats now regain control 65 seats to 55 seats.

"I think it means that we're going to move past gridlock, and we're going to really focus on things that the people care about, their children. They want them to get a smart start; they want them to have good schools and excellent teachers; they want the schools to be safe," said Governor Jim Hunt.

It is no surprise that a Democratic governor is happy with Democratic control.

But, Hunt says he will now be able to win more money for his Smart Start program. He says everyone will benefit from a less divided state government that gets things done faster and with less divisive debate.

UNCpolitical scientist Thad Beyle, says voters will see a return to the way Democrats and Republicans used to do business at the State House.

"We're liberals, and we're conservatives, but the business of government has got to go on. We have to get it done, so I think we're going to get back to that sort of model," Beyle said.

There are still some contested races in the House, so the numbers may be changing.

GOP spokesman Richard Hudson says Democratic control may end gridlock. But he says he would rather have gridlock than tax increases speeding through at 90 miles per hour.

Political analysts say one of the biggest winners was education.

"My guess would be, we'll see more money appropriated for schools," former professor Abe Holtzmann said.

However, more money for schools could mean one of the biggest losers is your pocketbook.

"They're talking about one-point-something billion dollars for the next six, seven or eight years," Holtzmann said. "That's a lot of money. How are we going to raise that? By raising taxes or raise it by bonds?"

Another winner in the election will probably be the environment.

"My guess is there will be more money spent for protecting the environment, and more regulation on what business and farmers can do to the environment," Holtzmann said.

This change means hog farmers could be the ones that lose, as well as developers who may be in store for stricter scrutiny from Wake County commissioners.

With both houses of the General Assembly controlled by Democrats, the state could definitely see many winners and losers.


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