By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
January 15, 2015
RALEIGH – Amidst much pomp, lawmakers who will make up the North Carolina General Assembly for the 2015-2016 Legislative Biennium met at the Legislative Building in Raleigh on Wednesday. Before electing their leaders or performing any business, prayers were offered in both chambers. There were presentations of the colors, pledges to the flag, the singing of the national anthem, roll call of the members, and the administering of the oath.
Election of their leadership would follow. In the House, Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) was voted to be House Speaker and Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) as Speaker Pro-Tempore. In the Senate, Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) was re-elected to a third term as President Pro-Tempore, and Sen. Louis Pate (R-Lenoir, Pitt, Wayne) was elected to a second term as Deputy President Pro-Tempore.
Party officers for the House include:
Majority Leader: Rep. Mike Hagar (R-Burke, Rutherford)
Deputy Majority Leader: Rep. Marilyn Avila (R-Wake)
Majority Whip: Rep. John R. Bell, IV (Craven, Green, Lenoir Wayne)
Conference Chair: Rep. Charles Jeter (Mecklenburg)
Joint Caucus Leader: Rep. Pat B. Hurley (Randolph)
Majority Freshman Leader: Rep. John A. Fraley (R-Iredell)
Majority Freshman Whip: Rep. John R. Bradford, III (R-Mecklenburg)
Democratic Minority Leader: Rep. Larry D. Hall (D-Durham)
Deputy Democratic Leader: Rep. Susan C. Fisher (D-Buncombe)
Secretary: Rep. Bobby Richardson (D-Franklin, Nash)
Executive Liaisons: Rep. Henry M. Michaux, Jr. (D-Durham), Rep. Michael H. Wray (D-Halifax, Northhamption)
Democratic Conference Chairs: Rep. Garland E. Pierce (D-Hoke, Richmond, Robeson, Scotland), Rep. Grier Martin (Wake)
Freshman Caucus Co-chairs: Rep. Graig R. Meyer (D-Durham, Orange), Rep. Robert T. Reives, II (Chatham, Lee)
Party officers in the Senate include:
Majority Leader: Sen. Harry Brown (R-Jones, Onslow)
Majority Whip: Sen. Jerry Tillman (R-Moore, Randolph)
Majority Caucus Secretary: Sen. Fletcher Hartsell (Cabarrus, Union)
Minority Leader: Sen. Dan Blue (D-Wake)
Minority Whip: Sen. Terry Van Duyn (D-Buncombe)
Minority Caucus Secretary: Sen. Robert B. Clark, III (D-Cumberland, Hoke)
House and Senate Make-up:
Republicans hold a 75 to 45 advantage over Democrats in the House, while in the Senate the Republicans possess a 34-16 majority over the Democrats. Committee assignments have not yet been released.
Highlights from the speeches given:
Speaker Moore’s speech emphasized bipartisanship, suggesting lawmakers ought to consider funding for after-school programs. He said it would be something both parties would likely agree on. Moore also said, “The answers are never Republican or Democrat, they’re North Carolina answers. Eighty-five percent of the time, we’re generally in agreement. It’s that 15 percent that gets talked about more.”
Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) spoke about the Magna Carta of 1215 and the way many of its principles were still relevant today. Stam contended religious liberty is always an issue and that it had especially become relevant lately. He cited the Little Sisters of the Poor, a charitable organization of nuns, threatened with massive fines by the federal government. Stam argued that there needs to be a restoration of religious freedom and announced a legislative briefing on the subject when the legislature returns on January 28th.
Senate President Pro-Tempore, Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) emphasized the progress the state had made under Republican leadership in the last four years. Berger noted the unemployment rate had dropped by half, the state’s businesses had created more than 263,000 new jobs, and the number of working North Carolinians had climbed to historic highs. He said reductions in state income and sales taxes had put more money in the pockets of hardworking families. Berger promised to further such policies in the coming legislative biennium.
Berger added, “We are here to increase opportunity for those who are working hard and doing their best to provide for their families. We are here to support the entrepreneurs, innovators, small business owners and job creators who are fueling our economic recovery. We are here to provide reasonable solutions that improve state government for our citizens. We are here to come together to do what is best for North Carolina.”
In a moment of humor, Sen. Louis Pate (R-Wayne), Senate Deputy President Pro-Tempore, said in his speech, “The swearing-in is taking place today; the swearing-at probably begins tomorrow.”
Both chambers adopted new rules:
Both chambers adopted new rules for governing the 2015 session. The new Senate rules, (1) banned filing any bills until the session’s work is scheduled to begin on January 28th, (2) set the crossover date, which is the deadline for non-spending measures to have cleared at least one chamber to be further considered, for May 7th. The new House rules included, (1) banning votes on Sunday, (2) allowing two minutes to explain an amendment offered before it can be tabled, and (3) substitute bills heard in committee must be sent out before 9:00 pm. the night before and cannot be introduced the day of the committee meeting.
Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said concerned citizen Christians shouldn’t let down their guard because Republicans are firmly in control of both chambers. “My sources tell me there will be some challenges coming our way on matters important to us – some good and some bad. We have to be vigilant and prepared. People need to watch for our alerts and follow closely what we post on the CAL Insider,” he said.
Dr. Creech also noted and quoted the session’s opening-day prayer delivered by Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston) in the House. “It was a prayer taken from the first to ever be offered in the United States Congress,” he said. “What Rev. Jacob Duche said in his prayer on that day, and what Rep. Torbett highlighted on our state’s opening-day of a new session, is exactly what we should pray now for our state lawmakers as they start their work.”
The prayer reads:
Be thou present, O God of wisdom, and direct the councils of this honorable assembly; enable them to settle things on the best and surest foundation…That…order, harmony, and peace, truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish amongst the people. Preserve the health of their bodies and vigor of their minds; shower down on them and the millions they here represent, such temporal blessings as thou seest expedient for them in this world and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come.
“That’s a prayer we would all do well to adopt for our state’s leaders in the North Carolina General Assembly,” said Dr. Creech.