Republican Lawmakers Slow The Pace
North Carolina lawmakers officially kicked off the new session two weeks ago, but the work of filing bills and committee meetings began in earnest today. Since gaining control in 2010, the Republican majority has pushed major legislation aggressively from the outset. But in their fifth year, the pace has slowed, intentionally.
You could hear something had changed in President Pro Tempore
Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger’s opening press conference two weeks ago.
When asked if Republicans would pursue more tax changes: “I think it’s something we will continually look at,” said Berger.
Or, how he would respond to the governor’s call for more economic incentives: “I would like to defer until I see specifically what they are proposing,” Berger said.
In fact, Berger would not commit to any specific pieces of legislation he would push.
“I’m sure there will be bills introduced—as for what will be taken up and what will be passed, well, we’re going to be here for awhile,” he said.
That’s far different from the past couple of years, when Berger and then-House Speaker Thom Tillis entered with plans for a tax overhaul, relaxed state regulations, and a slew of other changes.
On the first work day in 2013, lawmakers introduced 53 different bills—including key initiatives, such as an overhaul of unemployment insurance and compensation for victims of North Carolina’s eugenics program. On Wednesday, there were 32 and none of the same prominence.
House Majority Leader Mike Hager says part of the reason is that Republicans have accomplished major parts of their agenda.
“There was a lot of low-hanging fruit out there, now it’s starting to become a little more difficult. You’re getting into second, third, fourth tier issues,” Hager says.
Republican leaders have announced some priorities — more changes to education and taxes, dealing with state incentives, and their annual regulatory reform bill, for instance. But they haven’t worked out details like previous years. Hager says this year he, and new House Speaker Tim Moore, will leave that to members.
“We’ll vet any major decisions through the caucus. And we’ll let our 75 [Republican] members who have varied experiences in life make these major decisions.” Hager says. “And I think that might be some of the difference.”
House and Senate leaders also say they want to wait and see the effect of past changes.
That may be a response to a push from rank-and-file members to slow down, says Representative Chuck McGrady.
“A lot of my colleagues feel like we need to let things settle a bit before perhaps pushing the ball a little further,” says McGrady.
On day one, at least, that happened.