Government officials in both Raleigh and Washington have started work in 2021. In Raleigh, the Council of State, which includes Gov. Roy Cooper, has taken office, and the North Carolina General Assembly has started its session. In Washington, President Joe Biden was sworn in this week and Congress has begun its work.
North Carolina Council of State
Seven members of the Council of State, which is composed of 10 statewide elected officials, were reelected. They are Gov. Cooper (D), Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler (R), Attorney General Josh Stein (D), Auditor Beth Wood (D), Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey (R), Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (D), and Treasurer Dale Folwell (R).
The three new members are Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R), a former furniture worker, day care center co-owner, and Army Reserve medical specialist; Labor Commissioner Josh Dobson (R), a former N.C. House member; and Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt (R), a former teacher, senior education advisor to Gov. Pat McCrory, and chancellor of Western Governors University North Carolina.
North Carolina General Assembly
State legislators began their session on Jan. 13. This year’s odd-year session, which is often referred to as the “long session,” is expected to last through the summer as members enact a two-year budget and consider hundreds of bills.
Republicans continue to hold majorities in both houses (28-22 in the Senate and 69-51 in the House). Both these margins are short of the number necessary to override a gubernatorial veto (60% of those present and voting) if members vote by party.
The chief business for opening day was election of leadership. The Senate reelected Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) as President Pro Tem and Sen. Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) as Deputy President Pro Tem. Sen. Dan Blue (D-Wake) was re-elected as Democratic leader.
The House re-elected Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) as Speaker and Rep. Sarah Stevens (R-Surry) as Speaker Pro Tem. Rep. Robert Reives (D-Chatham) was elected as the new House Democratic leader.
Senior Chairs of the House Appropriations Committee will be Reps. Dean Arp (R-Union), Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth), and Jason Saine (R-Lincoln). Senior Chairs of the House Finance Committee will be Reps. John Bradford (R-Mecklenburg), Julia Howard (R-Davie), Mitchell Setzer (R-Catawba), and John Szoka (R-Cumberland). Rep. Destin Hall (R-Caldwell) remains as Chairman of the House Committee on Rules, Calendar and Operations of the House.
Chairs of the Senate Appropriations/Base Budget committee will be Sens. Kathy Harrington (R-Gaston), Ralph Hise (R-Mitchell) and Brent Jackson (R-Sampson). Chairs of the Senate Finance Committee will be Sens. Warren Daniel (R-Burke), Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus) and Bill Rabon (R-Brunswick). Sen. Rabon will chair the Senate Rules and Operations Committee.
A number of important issues may be considered during this year’s session. These include development of a two-year State budget, funding to battle the COVID-19 virus, expansion of health care coverage, revising transportation funding, and a bond package for schools and infrastructure. In addition, Legislators have indicated that they will return later in the year to redraw congressional and legislative district lines.
Members will return to Raleigh on Jan. 27 to begin substantive work.
President Joe Biden and his Administration
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn in on Jan. 20 and their administration is discussing an ambitious policy agenda.
The new President has indicated that his initial focus will be to address the COVID-19 virus by increasing vaccinations and their availability. In addition, he has announced that he will propose a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package to Congress and has signed a number of executive orders that among other things, have the United States rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, extend a moratorium on foreclosures and a pause on student loan repayments, and require masks and physical distancing on federal lands and by federal contractors.
The Senate has started to consider the President’s Cabinet nominees and senior officials. Among those is Michael Regan, who is currently the secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). President Biden has nominated Regan to be Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Regan has served as DEQ Secretary since 2017 and formerly worked at the EPA and the Environmental Defense Fund.
Republicans Richard Burr and Thom Tillis continue to represent North Carolina in the U.S. Senate. Tillis was re-elected in November. They will now serve in a chamber with different membership with 48 Democrats plus two Independents who caucus with the Democrats, 50 Republicans, and Vice President Harris (a Democrat) who can vote in case of a tie.
All of North Carolina’s 10 incumbent U.S. House members were re-elected and three new members won their contests. Democrats gained a net two seats in the State’s delegation and Republicans now hold an eight to five margin. Democrats have a 221 to 211 majority in the House with three vacancies.
The North Carolina incumbents that were re-elected are GK Butterfield (D-1st), Greg Murphy (R-3rd), David Price (D-4th), Virginia Foxx (R-5th), David Rouzer (R-7th), Richard Hudson (R-8th), Dan Bishop (R-9th), Patrick McHenry (R-10th), Alma Adams (D-12th), and Ted Budd (R-13th).
The new members from North Carolina are Deborah Ross (D-2nd), a former N.C. House member from Raleigh; Kathy Manning (D-6th), a lawyer and nonprofit leader from Greensboro; and Madison Cawthorn (R-11th), who is now the youngest member of Congress at age 25.
For more information, contact a member of the Brooks Pierce Government Affairs Team, linked below.