Leadership changes and new initiatives shape Legislature’s agenda

As the 2011-12 biennium of North Carolina General Assembly got underway last week, leaders were formally elected, committee assignments were handed out, and a small number of bills — some with large subjects such as involuntary annexation and use of eminent domain — were introduced as a prelude to what could be coming as the Republicans take control. During 2009-10, the cumulative totals for bills introduced numbered more than 2,000 House bills and almost 1,500 Senate bills.

Republican leaders take the reins
As anticipated, Rep. Thom Tillis (R)  of Mecklenburg County was officially elected speaker of the House, and Sen. Phil Berger (R), representing Guilford and Rockingham counties, became president pro tempore of the Senate. Sen. Harry Brown (R) of Jones/Onslow counties became majority leader of the Senate, replacing Buncombe County’s Sen. Martin Nesbitt (D), who was the leader of the 2010 Democratic majority.

Western North Carolina’s Republican delegates — also as anticipated — picked up some leadership roles in standing committee assignments, while the Democratic delegates will be sitting as committee members only. Sen. Tom Apodaca (R) of Hendersonville got the plums for WNC. He will chair Ways and Means as well as the Rules and Operations of the Senate; he is 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 (R) of Marble became chairman of Environment; Rep. Phillip Frye (R) of Spruce Pine will chair the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and serve as vice-chairman of Transportation. (For a complete list of standing committee assignments, see below.)

History lesson and annexation rebuff
Other early legislation — including a rebuff to federal health care mandates and restricitions on municipal use of eminent domain — was reviewed in our Jan. 27 entry, “Republicans Step Up to Bat,” but two additional bill introductions last week of particular interest to WNC included a local bill honoring the 150th anniversary of Transylvania County, and action to institute a moratorium on involuntary annexation in the state.

Introduced by Rep. David Guice (R) of Brevard, the Transylvania resolution contains some nice tidbits of history (see full text, HB 10), including the county’s beginning when it was carved away from Jackson and Henderson counties in 1861 and mentioning several leading families through its history, such as the “famed clan of gunsmiths,” the Gillespies. It is also notes that Transylvania became the first public school system in the state to begin integration (1963).

Under “An Act to Adopt a Moratorium on Involuntary Annexations” (HB 9), which was co-sponsored by Guice and Buncombe County’s freshman Rep. Tim Moffitt, involuntary annexations would cease in the state from the time of the bill’s passage until July 1, 2012. The purpose of the bill is ostensibly to delay additional involuntary annexations until the General Assembly has an opportunity to consider permanent changes to its annexation laws.

WNC standing committee assignments
The following is a list of assignments to standing committees in the House and Senate for WNC legislators. Additional non-standing committee and commission assignments are listed on each legislator’s Web site (click on the legislator’s name).

Rep. Susan Fisher (D), Dist. 114: Appropriations, Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government, Banking, Education, Elections, Government

Rep. Phillip Frye (R), Dist. 84: Agriculture, Appropriations, Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation (Chairman), Commerce and Job Development, Commerce and Job Development Subcommittee on Science and Technology,Government, Transportation (Vice Chairman)

Rep. David Guice (R), Dist. 113: Agriculture, Appropriations, Appropriations Subcommittee on Justice and Public Safety (Chairman), Government, Judiciary (Vice Chairman), Judiciary Subcommittee B, State Personnel

Rep. Phillip Haire (D), Dist. 119: Agriculture, Appropriations,  Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government, Banking, Environment, Judiciary,  Judiciary Subcommittee B

Rep. Patsy Keever (D), Dist. 115: Agriculture, Appropriations, Appropriations Subcommittee on Justice and Public Safety, Environment, Government, State Personnel

Rep. Chuck McGrady (R), Dist. 117: Agriculture,  Appropriations, Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation,  Environment (Vice Chairman), Judiciary, Judiciary Subcommittee B, Transportation

Rep. Tim Moffitt (R), Dist. 116: Commerce and Job Development, Commerce and Job Development Subcommittee on Alcoholic Beverage Control, Finance, Government, State Personnel, Transportation

Rep. Ray Rapp (D), Dist. 118: Appropriations, Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Commerce and Job Development, Commerce and Job Development Subcommittee on Alcoholic Beverage Control, Education, Military and Homeland Security, Transportation

Rep. Roger West (R), Dist. 120: Agriculture, Appropriations, Appropriations Subcommittee on Natural and Economic Resources (Chairman), Commerce and Job Development, Commerce and Job Development Subcommittee on Alcoholic Beverage Control, Environment (Chairman), Public Utilities

Sen. Tom Apodaca (R), Dist. 48: Appropriations on Education/Higher Education (Co-Chairman), Appropriations Base Budget (Vice-Chairman), Commerce (Vice-Chairman], Education/Higher Education [Vice-Chairman], Finance [Vice-Chairman), insurance (Co-Chairman), Judiciary I, Pensions & Retirement and Aging (Co-Chairman), Redistricting, Rules and Operations of the Senate (Chairman), Ways & Means (Chairman)

Sen. Jim Davis (R), Dist. 50: Appropriations on General Government and Information Technology (Co-Chairman), Commerce, Insurance, Judiciary II, Mental Health & Youth Services, Pensions & Retirement and Aging, State and Local Government (Co-Chairman)

Sen. Ralph Hise (R), Dist. 47: Commerce, Insurance (Vice-Chair), Pensions & Retirement and Aging (Co-Chairman), Redistricting, Transportation

Sen. Martin Nesbitt (D), Dist. 49: Appropriations/Base Budget, Commerce, Finance, Judiciary I, Mental Health & Youth Services, Redistricting, Rules and Operations of the Senate, State and Local Government

by Nelda Holder, contributing editor


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