RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A look at North Carolina's 2013 General Assembly, which begins in earnest Wednesday.
ALREADY HERE: The General Assembly met Jan. 9 to elect House and Senate leaders and approve chamber operating rules. Legislators approved the one-day session last summer as a time- and cost-saving measure based on the idea that lawmakers would swiftly get to work upon reconvening. House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, and Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, each were re-elected unanimously to second two-year terms leading their respective chambers.
WHO'S ARRIVED: Republicans now outnumber Democrats 77-43 in the House, or a nine-seat GOP increase compared with the 2011-12 session. Republicans have a 33-17 advantage over Democrats in the Senate, or a net increase of two seats. More than 50 legislators this year are freshmen or are returning after absences. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who succeeded Democrat Beverly Perdue, will be the chief executive, receiving bills to sign and negotiating with legislators over the budget and other issues. New GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Forest will preside over Senate debate.
FIRST UP: Tillis said he expects that the first legislation approved will make clear that group homes can tap into nearly $40 million over the next five months to help them deal with Medicaid service rate reductions for their residents with mental illness or developmental disabilities.
WHEN THEY'LL LEAVE: The legislature will aim to adjourn this year's session by mid-June — about the same time the General Assembly went home in 2011.
OTHER ISSUES: General Assembly leaders will draw up a new state government budget through mid-2015, plan to approve changes to the unemployment insurance system, create ID requirements to vote in person and consider overhauling the tax system. Here are some other issues that are likely to come up in 2013:
— Medicaid: The legislature and McCrory will have to decide whether take on an additional 500,000 Medicaid recipients provided for but not required through the federal Affordable Care Act. Berger said his caucus is wary about increasing the state's Medicaid enrollment — even though the federal government would pay for nearly all the costs — when the Medicaid program keeps ringing up shortfalls. The governor and legislators also will work through what role, if any, it wants North Carolina to have in developing health insurance exchanges that the federal health care law requires.
— Regulatory reform. There was some surprising bipartisan support at times during the 2011-12 session for regulatory reform. Tillis said the House will take the lead in the General Assembly this year on the topic.