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Key Points to Watch in N.C. Politics

By Brent Laurenz

RALEIGH - The new year is off to a big start with the inauguration of Gov. Pat McCrory and the swearing in of the N.C. General Assembly. While 2012 was dominated by campaigns, this year the focus will shift toward the actual governing of North Carolina. Of course, there will still be plenty of time for politics.

As we move into 2013, here are some things to keep an eye on in the world of North Carolina government.

Will McCrory experience any growing pains as he takes control of the governor’s mansion?

McCrory prided himself on being a Raleigh outsider during the campaign so it will be interesting to see how he settles into his new position, especially since he has never held elected office in state government before. In fact, by winning he broke the “Charlotte Curse,” becoming the first current or former mayor of Charlotte to win statewide office after eight previous tries by McCrory and his four predecessors.

Speaking of McCrory, will there be any strain in his relationship with the Republican-controlled General Assembly?

It’s generally safe to assume that there will be a good working relationship between McCrory and lawmakers, but when one party controls state government so resoundingly there is bound to be some tension every now and again. And it wouldn’t be all that surprising if McCrory tried to stake out some independence from the legislature on certain issues. For the most part, though, it will likely be a pretty rosy affair.

Aside from the new governor, how will the state House and Senate get along this year now that both have veto-proof majorities?

It is rumored that the leaders of both chambers – Speaker of the House Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) – are considering a run for the U.S. Senate in 2014 against incumbent Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan. If those rumors are true, we could see some interesting jockeying between the two during this year’s legislative session in advance of next year’s Republican primary.

With Republicans in control of state government, how will Democrats respond as the minority party in 2013?

For the past two years, Democrats had a backstop in Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto power and enough members in the House to sustain any vetoes if their caucus was united. This year they will have to adapt as they face a Republican governor and a veto-proof GOP majority. One of the big storylines of 2013 could be how legislative Democrats respond and if they can cohesively operate as a minority party.

Is this the year for sweeping tax reform?

One of the most prominent issues sure to come up during the 2013 legislative session is reforming North Carolina’s tax code. McCrory and Republicans in the legislature place this issue near the top of their priority list. Legislative debates on taxes and revenue don’t always generate the most interest among average citizens, but with the prospect for a significant overhaul of our tax structure we could see much more involvement from the public, along with interest groups and the business community, as the issue takes center stage in the General Assembly.

We might not be able to predict what will happen in Raleigh in 2013, but it’s a pretty safe bet that we will see some significant changes in public policy as Republicans take complete control of state government for the first time in more than 100 years.

Brent Laurenz is executive director of the N.C. Center for Voter Education.