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Lawmakers Prepare for General Assembly's Opening Day

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RALEIGH — The 144th session of the State Legislature opens Wednesday. Before lawmakers can tackle the issues of a lottery, taxes and the budget, both chambers must decide who is in charge.
If Rep. Jim Black does not get the 61 votes he needs to be elected Speaker of the House, there could be a battle featuring several contenders, including:
  • Rep. Martin Nesbitt (D-Asheville)
  • Rep. Toby Fitch (D-Wilson)
  • Rep. Leo Daughtry (R-Smithfield)
  • Rep. George Holmes (R-Hamptonville)
  • In the state Senate, there is no question of who is in charge. Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue is the president and presiding officer of the Senate. Democrats, led by Manteo's Marc Basnight, have firm control. Perdue makes the history books as the state's first female lieutenant governor.

    "I look forward to being the first woman," she says. "It's a real honor. I'm humbled and actually can't believe it's me."

    Senate and House leaders are not the only ones with opening-day jitters. Members must quickly learn how to work the $500,000, jazzed-up electronic voting system, which is supposed to be more user-friendly.

    The Legislature always opens to a packed house of visitors, family and friends. If you plan to attend, do not forget to bring food. The Legislature's food drive for Second Harvest Food Bank is one of the few causes that lawmakers are not fighting over. Canned food and cash donations will be accepted.