GOP forges ahead with legislative agenda

Posted March 18, 2011 4:16 p.m. EDT
Updated March 18, 2011 6:19 p.m. EDT

— After 30 days in office, the Republican-led General Assembly has filed hundreds of bills and passed seven, but lawmakers disagree on whether any progress is being made.

Republicans took control of both the House and Senate on Jan. 26 after more than a century of Democratic leadership. They hit the ground running, setting up committees before the session opened and pushing ahead with their legislative agenda.

In the first 30 days of the legislative session, more than 410 bills have been filed in the House and 380 in the Senate.

"We're moving at probably the fastest pace anyone who's in the legislature has ever experienced," House Speaker Thom Tillis said.

Democrats maintain, however, that the leadership hasn't focused on the most pressing issues in North Carolina.

"I think the Republican Party has gotten distracted from the business of the day, and the business of the day is the creation of jobs (and) the preservation of public education," said David Parker, chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party.

He and other Democratic leaders point to bills pushed by Republicans that would require people to present photo identification before voting, repeal the ban on plastic bags being used at coast stores and override the federal health care reform law.

"The Health Care Freedom Act is a jobs bill because to fund the current state of health care or the proposed state of health care is a jobs killer," Tillis said.

A bill calling for a temporary halt to new state regulations likewise will create jobs, according to the GOP leadership.

"The verbiage would seem to indicate that (jobs are) what we're all about, but the activity does not mesh with the rhetoric," said Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake.

"I suppose (Democrats) would like for everybody else to just sit on the sidelines and do nothing while the budget committees are working, but that's not the way it works," Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger said.

Gov. Beverly Perdue has vetoed two of the seven bills lawmakers have passed so far – the health care reform override and a measure that would have cut funding to several economic development funds. In her first two years in office, she vetoed only one bill.

Republican lawmakers said they hope to hold weekly meetings with Perdue to reach compromises on some issues.

Still, Tillis says, the transition in power has been the greatest challenge of the legislative session so far.

"We're two different parties. We come from two different ideological perspectives," he said. "We've dreamed about being in the majority. We conceived of what we would do once we got there. I doubt seriously many of the people in the minority ever dreamed about it and envisioned how they'd have to operate. So, there's that cultural transition that's going on."