At least two major “known unknowns” complicate predictions about the course of the N.C. General Assembly’s 2017 session.

I admit I’m not using “known unknown” in the exact same way as former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who helped popularize the term during a news briefing 15 years ago. But the same general principle applies.

We know this new General Assembly will reconvene at noon Jan. 25. We know lawmakers will draft and consider bills, including a new state budget. We know the legislature will aim to finish that budget by July 1 and wrap up much of the rest of its work shortly afterward. We also know from past experience that there’s a good chance lawmakers will miss the July 1 deadline.

These are all “known knowns.” It’s also helpful to consider the likelihood of “unknown unknowns.” These are developments no one has anticipated. Throw one of these curveballs into the mix, and all predictions could fall flat.

While one can plan for “known knowns” and realize that “unknown unknowns” might scramble those plans, it’s also useful to consider “known unknowns.” These are “factors we can be sure will shape the outcome but can’t confidently offer predictions about at the moment,” as defined by John Locke Foundation Chairman John Hood.

The two “known unknowns” that have attracted this observer’s attention involve new Gov. Roy Cooper and the state’s legislative election maps.

After four years of working with a Republican governor, a GOP-dominated General Assembly is relearning the rules of working with a Democrat in the Executive Mansion. This is not completely foreign territory for Republican legislative leaders. Their first two years in power coincided with the last two years of Democrat Beverly Perdue’s tenure as governor.

But Cooper is not Perdue. And it’s not yet clear how he will interact with the General Assembly on a daily basis.

So far, signs point toward conflict. The governor has taken lawmakers to court over legislation adopted last month that shifts some state government power away from his office, while also subjecting more of his actions to legislative oversight.

That dispute is not necessarily a great indicator of future interactions, since one would expect any governor of any political persuasion to fight to keep as much turf as possible. Cooper’s Republican predecessor, Pat McCrory, sued lawmakers — and won — over the issue of state board appointments. It’s a case the Democrat Cooper is now using to bolster his own legal arguments.

More troubling as an indicator of future relations between the executive and legislative branches is Cooper’s effort to secure Medicaid expansion as a parting gift from the Obama administration. Whether you agree with Hood’s assessment of Cooper’s move as a “colossal blunder,” it would be hard to argue that the Medicaid expansion gambit does anything to defrost relations with leaders on Jones Street.

Cooper can do much to influence the General Assembly moving forward. A savvy operator would realize that Republican supermajorities in both the state House and Senate have the power to stymie his agenda. To the extent he can present that agenda in ways that have bipartisan appeal, he’s likely to win support. To the extent that he decides instead to pick fights with Republicans over their core issues — such as spending and regulatory restraint — he’s likely to emulate Perdue in uniting House and Senate Republican caucuses against a common foe.

At this point, Cooper’s general approach toward the legislative branch remains unknown.

What might not remain unknown much longer is the state of North Carolina’s legislative election maps. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to consider Thursday its order blocking new districts and a special legislative election this year.

The high court’s decision could have major implications for the course of this year’s legislative session. If justices allow a lower court order to stand, legislators must draw new election maps by March and prepare for an election in the fall, just one year after winning their current terms.

That electoral timetable could turn the 2017 session into one that more closely resembles those typical of an even-numbered year. That’s when lawmakers tend to eschew complicated issues, focus intently on business that must be completed, then wrap up work relatively quickly before hitting the campaign trail.

Alternatively, the U.S. Supreme Court could continue to block a special 2017 election, leaving legislators free to pursue business typical of the “long” legislative sessions held during odd-numbered years. That means legislators would feel free to consider reforms that require much debate, negotiation, and heavy lifting behind the scenes.

We know Cooper and the U.S. Supreme Court will help shape the outcome of this year’s legislative debates. At this point, the way their influence will play out remains unknown.

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation.