As the North Carolina General Assembly’s 2011-12 biennium got under way last week, leaders were formally elected, committee assignments were handed out, and a small number of bills — some tackling such weighty subjects as involuntary annexation and the use of eminent domain — were introduced, perhaps providing clues as to what might be coming as the Republicans take control. During 2009-10, more than 2,000 House bills and almost 1,500 Senate bills were introduced.
Republican leaders take the reins
As anticipated, Rep. Thom Tillis of Mecklenburg County was officially elected speaker of the House, and Sen. Phil Berger, representing Guilford and Rockingham counties, became Senate president pro tempore. Sen. Harry Brown of Jones/Onslow counties became Senate majority leader, replacing Buncombe County Democrat Martin Nesbitt.
Western North Carolina’s Republican legislators assumed some leadership roles in standing committees, with Democrats serving as committee members. Republican Sen. Tom Apodaca of Hendersonville will chair Ways and Means, as well as Rules and Operations of the Senate; he’s also co-chair of Appropriations on Education/Higher Education and vice-chair of Appropriations Base Budget, along with several other co-chair or vice-chair positions.
Rep. Roger West of Marble became chairman of Environment; Rep. Phillip Frye of Spruce Pine will chair the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and serve as vice chair of Transportation.
History lesson and annexation rebuff
Other early legislation — including a rebuff of federal health-care mandates — was reviewed in our Jan. 27 entry, “Republicans Step Up to Bat,” but two additional bills introduced last week are of particular interest to WNC. One honors Transylvania County’s 150th anniversary; the other would implement a statewide moratorium on involuntary annexation.
Introduced by Republican Rep. David Guice of Brevard, the Transylvania resolution (HB 10) contains a host of historical tidbits, including the county’s origin (it was carved out of Jackson and Henderson counties in 1861) and mentions of such leading families as the Gillespies, a “famed clan of gunsmiths.” It also notes that Transylvania’s public school system was the first in the state to begin integration (in 1963).
Under “An Act to Adopt a Moratorium on Involuntary Annexations” (HB 9), co-sponsored by Guice and freshman Buncombe County Republican Rep. Tim Moffitt, involuntary annexations would cease from the time of the bill’s passage until July 1, 2012. The delay would allow time for the General Assembly to consider permanent changes to its annexation laws.
For a complete list of WNC legislators’ standing-committee assignments, go to mountainx.com/special/ncmatters.
— Contributing editor Nelda Holder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.