Fourteen of the 50 senators are new this year, as are 25 of the 120 House members.
In the House, changes are already evident in the rules House members set for themselves. This year's rules call for more public notice about proposals, a more predictable voting schedule and a slightly slower legislative process.
House Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis said most bills will go through at least three committees before they're heard on the floor, with most floor debates being held on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
"One of the concerns and one of the objectives this year is to make sure that the members understand the schedule, and the public has an opportunity to participate," Lewis, R-Harnett, said Thursday. "We heard some of the frustrations about the House is supposed to go in at 2 [p.m.] but doesn’t actually start till 4. The speaker’s really committed to not having that happen this year. The only way we can do that is to have a pretty strict schedule that we stick by."
Rules can always be suspended – and they often are – but Lewis said Republican leaders in the House are committed to more transparency and more public input.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown said he doesn't expect major changes in how the Senate functions this session.
"Most of the time, we agree on things up here. It's just a few things that you don't [agree on] that you get all the headlines," said Brown, R-Onslow. "I've always been able to work with [political opponents]. I'll continue to do that. I think most members feel the same way."
Lawmakers have started filing bills for consideration, but it will take another week or two for legislative committees to get cranked up. Medicaid expansion, school construction funding and hurricane relief, along with the $24 billion state budget, are likely to be among some of the major issues during the session.
Lewis said legislative leaders also are in the final stages of setting a date for Gov. Roy Cooper's State of the State address to outline his political priorities for the year.
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