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Republicans Start The Year In Control Of NC House, Senate, And Governor's Mansion

Republicans now hold the North Carolina Governor’s Mansion and have majorities in both the state House and Senate for the first time in more than a hundred years. This week, Pat McCrory was sworn in as governor and the General Assembly convened its 2013 session. So now, the question is, “what will the GOP do now that it has control in Raleigh?”

Professor Michael Bitzer talks to Morning Edition host Duncan McFadyen.

MCFADYEN: What’s next, how is McCrory going to interact with this new legislature?

BITZER: Well I think it was telling that on the first day, Governor McCrory went to the legislature and sat in on both chambers---both the senate and the House---during their opening sessions. That’s rare for a governor to be so publicly visible and present when the legislature---a separate branch of government---opened up their business. I think this sends the signal that Republicans are certainly going to be working together because they control state government, they’re going to need each other. But certainly McCrory was making the first pitch effort of setting a tone of welcoming and saying “I’m going to be working with these folks here in the General Assembly.”

MCFADYEN: Regardless of part, governors and legislators are going to have differences. With Perdue, it was very contentious; a battle of whether vetoes were going to stand or if there were enough votes to override them. How much push-back are we going to see. What’s going to be the give and take between them?

BITZER: For all of us who watch Raleigh and the happenings there, that’s the $64,000 question: what kind of Republican philosophy will emerge? It seems like in my mind, both Speaker Tillis and Gov. McCrory are cut from the same cloth and are focusing in on things like regulatory reform, and in particular tax reform. The big question mark and the big player in all of this, I think, is going to be the state Senate, with Phil Berger as the leader there. It’s going to be interesting to see the dynamics, and in particular with the number of freshmen in the House and Senate. Will they try to be more conservative and push for social issues, or will they stay on economic and fiscal issues? That’s going to be the dynamic that most of us are watching.

MCFADYEN: Remind us, by how much did Republicans expand their majority in this past election?

BITZER: Well, they have super-majorities in both chambers. So, if for some bizarre reason, Governor McCrory were to veto anything, there are 77 Republicans in the state House, so that’s well over the numbers needed. In the state Senate, Republicans added two more seats. They have control, they have complete control. The question in my mind is: if they go too far, knowing that they have the power, knowing they can literally do anything they want, will they go perhaps to extreme? And there could be backlash during the next election cycle.

MCFADYEN: Let’s go back to Gov. McCrory for just a minute. He’s been criticized in the past for being not Republican enough. Are there signs that he’s becoming more conservative?

BITZER: I think he’s looking at things, certainly like the economics impact. His big focus, I think what we’re going to hear in his inaugural address on Saturday, it’s going to be about jobs, recruitment, expanding the tax base and perhaps lowering some rates. From that point of view, he’s very much a fiscal conservative. The big question is going to be, how much of the social issues will he be pushed by the legislature on things like abortion, or perhaps the voter ID bill? These are issues that are going to have to be dealt with within the conference, because you’ve got a wide range of conservatives, from the very conservative to the more moderates.

MCFADYEN: Speaker of the House Thom Tillis hinted that he might be willing to work with Democrats a little bit. Meanwhile, Phil Berger, the president pro tem of the senate, also elected to a second term, also a Republican, had this to say when he was sworn in:

“Our leaders had lost their way, and our state lost its place as the leader of the South and the envy of the nation.” –N.C. Senate President Pro Tem, Phil Berger (R, Rockingham County)

MCFADYEN: Wow, big difference, huh?

BITZER: Exactly, two very distinct differences, two very distinct styles. Berger, in fact, attached Democrats, saying for too many years, North Carolina tried to tax and spend itself to prosperity. I think there are going to be big differences between how the two, and how they reconcile between the two is going to be fascinating to watch in Raleigh.