News: CJ Exclusives

Collegiality rules on first day of legislative session

Berger, Moore re-elected to top posts unanimously; Blue, Jackson to lead Democrats

Members of the state House of Representatives jointly take the oath of office in January as the 2017 General Assembly session opened. (CJ photo by Don Carrington)
Members of the state House of Representatives jointly take the oath of office in January as the 2017 General Assembly session opened. (CJ photo by Don Carrington)

Bipartisanship ruled the day as lawmakers returned Wednesday to begin the 2017 long session of the General Assembly.

The collegiality on opening day marked a stark contrast with the final days of special legislative sessions held in December, when the GOP-controlled General Assembly whittled away at some of the powers of the governor’s office and was unable to piece together support for a bill to repeal House Bill 2, which, among other things, blocked Charlotte’s transgender bathroom ordinance.

The House and the Senate re-elected their top leaders —House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and Senate President Pro-tem Phil Berger, R-Rockingham — without Democratic opposition.

In the House, Minority Leader Darren Jackson, D-Wake, provided the seconding motion for the nomination of Rep. Sarah Stevens, R-Surry, as speaker pro-tem and for James White as the new principal clerk in the House. White replaces Denise Weeks, that chamber’s longtime principal clerk, who is retiring.

Berger, in his prepared comments to the Senate, noted that many of the things done by legislators are not controversial, adding that it’s disheartening when many focus only on things that divide lawmakers.

“Most laws pass with overwhelming, bipartisan support,” Berger said. “No matter what our political party, we are all here because we want our state to thrive, and for our citizens to reach their full potential.”

Moore, in his remarks, also noted that rivalry is part of the North Carolina culture, whether it’s which basketball team we support, which type of barbecue we favor, or which political party we belong to.

“It seems to me that North Carolina has always existed with a little rivalry and yes, even some division — but, in the end, there is always much more that unites us,” Moore said. “It is my priority to work with each of you to make North Carolina the most competitive and prosperous state economy in the nation.”

Berger was elected to his fourth term as the Senate’s top leader. Moore was elected to his second term as speaker.

Sen. Louis Pate, R-Wayne, was re-elected as the Senate’s deputy president pro-tem. Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, will be the Senate majority leader. The Senate majority whips are Sens. Wesley Meredith, R-Cumberland, and Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph. Sen. Norm Sanderson, R-Pamlico, is the Republican joint caucus leader.

Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake, will be the Senate minority leader. Sen. Terry Van Duyn, D-Buncombe, will be the Senate minority whip. Sen. Ben Clark, D-Hoke, will be the Democratic caucus secretary.

Rep. John Bell, R-Wayne, will be the House majority leader. The deputy majority leader is Rep. Stephen Ross, R-Alamance. Rep. Jon Hardister, R-Guilford, is the majority whip. Deputy majority whips are Reps. Jamie Boles, R-Moore, John Bradford, R-Mecklenburg, and Chris Malone, R-Wake. The joint GOP caucus leader is Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret. The GOP conference leader is Rep. John Szoka, R-Cumberland. The Republican freshman leader is Rep. Destin Hall, R-Caldwell. The majority freshman whip is Rep. Brenden Jones, R-Columbus.

Joining Jackson on the House Democratic leadership team are Rep. Robert Reives, D-Lee, and three Democratic whips — Reps. Verla Insko of Orange County, Garland Pierce of Scotland County, and Bobbie Richardson of Franklin County.

Wednesday’s session was primarily ceremonial and organizational. Lawmakers have gone home for two weeks and will return Jan. 25.