The morning after North Carolina voters elected Republicans to a supermajority in the state Senate and brought them closer to one in the House, their leaders are talking more about what they’ll do. Based on unofficial results, and with several races not yet called by The Associated Press, the House would have 71 Republican-held seats, which is just one short of a veto-proof supermajority. The Senate would have 30 seats, exactly what they would need for a supermajority. With both chambers’ gains over Democrats, they are closer to being able to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto stamp. Senate leader Phil Berger of Eden and House Speaker Tim Moore of Kings Mountain both ran uncontested races and plan to keep their Republican leadership roles in the General Assembly.
Here’s what Berger and Moore are saying about key issues to come.
Talking to reporters at the Legislative Building in downtown Raleigh on Wednesday, Berger noted that he has previously told reporters where he stands on abortion. Berger said over the summer that he thinks abortion should be restricted after the first trimester, which ends at 13 weeks of pregnancy.
“We have still not had a conversation with our members, particularly with our new members. We’ll see where the caucus is and we’ll see what is possible for us to do, if anything,” Berger said. North Carolina abortion law currently restricts abortion after 20 weeks. Moore has previously told reporters he favors earlier restrictions, after a heartbeat can be detected.
Regulating how schools teach race and LGBTQ issues
Previous legislation that would regulate how public schools teach about race and LGBTQ issues did not become law, with Cooper vetoing an anti-Critical Race Theory bill, and a Parents’ Bill of Rights failing to pass both chambers. Berger said legislation about those issues would return. He said he wouldn’t get into specifics about how a bill might look this coming session, but that there is support for it.
“I think parents have made it clear that they are not happy with some of the things that are going on in our public schools. A number of members who supported that [Parents’ Bill of Rights] we passed in the Senate this past year are coming back. I suspect that there will be good support for moving forward with that,” Berger said. The Parents’ Bill of Rights would have required schools to inform parents if their student has changed their pronouns. It also would have banned instruction or curriculum about LGBTQ issues in kindergarten through third grade and created a list of requirements for parental and school communication. Moore told The N&O earlier this fall that he would want to bring back the anti-Critical Race Theory bill that Cooper vetoed. That 2021 bill, which Democrats called dangerous and insulting, regulated how to teach about race in schools.
Taxes and Inflation
Republicans did not include any new tax cuts in the 2022 budget bill signed into law by Cooper, beyond what was already planned. Both the individual income tax and corporate income tax are being lowered over several years. Berger said he “continues to believe that our tax rates are too high. I’m comfortable at this point with the step down that we’ve got with the corporate rate, but I think the individual rate could stand a little trimming even beyond what we currently have on the books. “As long as we continue to see revenue outpace the budget in ways that we’d seen, that means clearly that we’re taxing too much. And I think it’s something that will be a personal priority of mine, to continue to move our rates down,” Berger said.
He doesn’t think the state has done much “to enhance the inflationary pressures that are out there. I think we will continue to try to find ways to cut people’s tax bill. We will continue to make sure that the state’s budget is balanced and make sure that we don’t do what they’re doing at the federal level and grow government spending at rates that are inflationary.”
Medicaid expansion is still on the table between the House and Senate, which both support the idea but have stalemated over the specifics. Berger said “I think we’ll deal with that next year.”
Moore said they’re “close on some things, other things we’re not,” and would come back in 2023 for a “more comprehensive discussion.”
Working with Democratic Governor?
On Tuesday night, Cooper tweeted that “We stopped a GOP supermajority tonight when North Carolinians voted for balance and progress. I’ll continue to work with this legislature to support a growing economy, more clean energy, better health care and strong public schools.” Previously, Cooper and Republican leaders have found common ground on economic development and job growth and an energy bill.
Berger said Cooper called him Wednesday morning to congratulate him. “I expect that we will continue to look for ways where we can reach agreement with him. But there will be some things that we will not be able to agree on and we’ll see how that works out,” Berger said. Moore said he had not heard from Cooper.
Moore previously floated the idea to hold a December legislative session to consider drawing new congressional district maps, beyond the monthly gavel in-and-out sessions that will finish out the calendar year. Berger hasn’t been interested. They both confirmed Wednesday there would not be votes until the 2023 legislative long session. “I think I’m gonna go tell Santa Claus what my wishes are for Christmas rather than spending time with my friend,” Berger said, referring to Moore.