A Kinder, Gentler Legislature?

by | May 19, 2015 | Carolina Strategic Analysis, Features, NC Politics, NCGA | 6 comments

The General Assembly of 2013-14 was slash-and-burn, aggressive and merciless when it came to restructuring the dynamics of North Carolina. Their tenacity sparked a major backlash, manifesting in the Moral Monday movement. Even though 2014 was a GOP wave year nationally, NC was the only state in the South which saw Democrats gain seats in the legislature. While the leader of the State House, Thom Tillis, defeated incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan, it was the narrowest win for Republicans in a U.S. Senate race that night.

Now that the GOP has stamped its ideological mark on the state, they’re retreating to basic governing. That means not a whole lot of sexy headlines, panicked editorials, and time on late-night comedy shows – the latter of which Roy Cooper says was a motivation for his running for governor.

Instead, we’re seeing a kinder, gentler legislature. The GOP has followed political best practice and got the most controversial stuff out of the way early on. Case in point: the redistricting of the Wake County Commission. There’s still some hot-button issues that remain, but those are fewer in number.

Two years ago, it was cut, cut, cut. Now, it’s spend, spend, spend. As Rep. Craig Horn said: “This is the first time I’ve been here I get to talk about what we’re adding, not what we’re cutting.” The draft budget from the State House adds over a $1 billion dollars in new government spending, including raises for teachers and state employees and funds for emergency reserves and economic incentives. In addition, they want to bring back historic preservation tax credits and allocate $60 million to grants for film production companies. Governor McCrory wanted only $10 million.

To be sure, raises for state employees and teachers aren’t likely to arouse the wrath of liberal groups like in 2013, even though they’ll complain the budget doesn’t go far enough. But the higher spending is causing consternation in conservative ranks. Americans for Prosperity sent out an e-mail blast opposing the bill. Their biggest concern seems to be that too many tax incentives, in particular solar credits, are being extended.

It’s likely the Senate will propose something completely different, probably more in line with what AFP wants. One thing’s for sure, though: with 2016 being a presidential year and with Gov. McCrory up for reelection, the “reinventing North Carolina” approach taken by the General Assembly in 2013 is on the backburner, for now.


  1. Dwight Willis

    “Kinder, gentler.” What a joke. They are neither. What is “kind” or “gentle” about not expanding Medicaid and providing health insurance for 350,000 NC citizens? What is “kind” or “gentle” about dismantling NC public schools from Kindergarten to graduate school? What is “kind” or “gentle” about destroying the ground water and beaches for generations to come with fracking and offshore drilling? They continue to wreak havoc on the most vulnerable of our citizens. I’m not buying “kinder” or “gentler.”

  2. Lee Mortimer

    John — I don’t know where your data comes from that “Democrats gained seats in the legislature.” In fact, the overall split went from 61 Dems/109 Reps in 2012 to 62 Dems/108 Reps in 2014. With Rep. Paul Tine switching to unaffiliated, the Democrats remain at 61 seats — where they were in 2012. The 2011 gerrymander plan gave Republicans exactly what they were after — entirely undeserved super-majority control of the legislature. Democrats need to understand that nothing changes until there is redistricting reform.

    • verlainsko

      A count by chamber gives a better picture. In November, NC House Democrats defeated four incumbent Republicans and lost one seat. Tine’s switch reduced the House gain to two seats. Senate Democrats lost one seat for a total NCGA gain of one seat. The details show the considerable success of the NC House Democratic caucus – the best in the nation for any minority House Democratic caucus. That counts.

      With four more seats and a more cohesive caucus in 2016, NC House Democrats could sustain a Democratic Governor’s vetoes. Six seats are well within reach.

  3. Someone from Main Street

    So now that 2016 looms, NCGOP will appropriate Democratic ideas and spending practices – risking the wrath of Koch brothers and AFP. Hmm.


  4. Nortley

    Until they agree to expand Medicaid any “kinder, gentler” talk is just another song and dance spin.

  5. Apply Liberally

    There you go with your stand-up comedy act again, John. “Kinder, Gentler”? Haha! More abortion restrictions, concealed guns in more places, public magistrates allowed to wave doing same-sex marriage ceremonies, criminalizing of employees when they gather info/report employer misdeeds, further overlooking of raises for the state’s most experienced teachers, higher DMV fees, more tax breaks for corporations, continued intransigence about expanding Medicaid (leaving 400,000 NC’ers w/o health coverage). I could go one.

    Only a myopic and ideologically callous conservative Republican would view all the above as reflecting a shift to a kinder and gentler state government.

    Oh, and that zinger of yours —“they’re retreating to basic governing”— really has me RAOTFLMAO.
    The NCGOP-led legislative and executive branches couldn’t govern a two-car parade. Can you say Medicaid personal data mis-mailings, food stamp application delays, DENR coal ash oversight bungling, sea level rise ignorance and ignoring, and several courts ruing GOP laws and efforts to be unconstitutional?
    And, if anything, they are “retreating” on their “no government incentives” approach because they have no jobs program to speak of, and they just lost another car plant to SC. They are “retreating” on holding the reserve/surplus so small and will now build it up because they got very lucky that drought and hurricanes were not factors over the last year. And they are “retreating” on their ending of senior medical expense tax credits because they got hammered by criticism from too many older white voters who filed their taxes this year and who they desperately need at the ballot box come 2016.

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