NC Politics 101: PART I – The General Assembly

Politics.  Government.  The most confusing conversation to have if you don’t have a Political Science degree.  And even then, I have heard from those in politics that have said in regards to this short session, “In all my years, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

When I blogged last week, I still received numerous calls and messages exclaiming, “I don’t understand.” and “I’m so confused!”  Yeah, no kidding.  So perhaps I can help with adding a little state government 101 to the blog.  Okay, here we go.  Let’s start with the basics.

We are dealing with two teams in the legislative branch:  The House and the Senate.  Now who are they, what are their differences, and what does each do?

Plain and simple, the Legislative Branch makes laws.  When you put the House and the Senate together, they are called the General Assembly.   Every two years, we vote them in and vote them out.

Although the state is already divided by counties, we are also divided by districts.  House members have theirs districts and the Senate has their own as well. Some members of the Senate, for example, represent five counties. And there are multiple House representatives in some counties as well.

The NC House has 120 folks on their team.  Right now we have 77 Republicans and 43 Democrats. They serve 2 year terms.  Each House member serves about 79,000 NC residents, folks like you and me, in their district.  They call us “constituents.” The head of the House is called The Speaker(of the House).   Right now the Speaker of the House is Thom Tillis.

The NC Senate has only 50 folks on their team.  Right now we have 31 Republicans and 19 Democrats. They serve 2 year terms.  Each Senate member serves about 190,000 constituents in their district.  The head of the Senate is called President Pro Tempore. Right now the Pres. Pro Temp is Phil Berger.

Now that being said, the Lieutenant Governor is President of the Senate and oversees the daily sessions. Currently, we have Dan Forest.  He was elected by us, not the Senate, for a four year term. He doesn’t vote in the Senate unless it is to break a tie. (Like what Bev Perdue did in 2005 to create our state lottery).

Besides that, their is not much difference between the two.  The General Assembly is “bicameral.”  That’s just a fancy way of saying it takes both the House and the Senate to agree in order for things to become law.  Of course the Governor needs to sign it into law after the General Assembly agrees (more in another blog about that).

There are two main sessions that take place with the folks that represent us.  The Long Session and the Short Session.

The Long Session happens during odd-numbered years.  It starts in January and can go all the way into the summer months.   This is where the state budget is crafted.

Right now, we are experiencing the Short Session.  Not so short, right?  A short session is always during  even-numbered years, as in now, 2014, and usually the General Assembly meets from May to July.  As you are experiencing, it can go waaayyyy longer.  The short session happens so that our legislators can make tweaks and fixes to the budget which they wrote up during the Long Session.  We will be back in the Long Session this coming January.

Members of the House and Senate will change as the general elections are on Tuesday, November 4th.  Here is a link to the board of elections with 100 counties listed.  Click on your county and visit their web site to see who is running. GO TO BOARD OF ELECTIONS NOW  (If you haven’t registered to vote yet, the deadline is around October 10th.  Get on it!)

Stay tuned for PART II: WHAT THE HELL ARE THEY SAYING?

Any questions?  Comment below!

Advertisements