Suits and ties are more like it as the N.C. General Assembly opens its first session of the new millennium.
While each legislator has his or her own agenda of big issues, they all agree that building a budget and using Census data to redraw the N.C. House and Senate and U.S. congressional districts will take up much of their time.
But first, let's peek backstage, where the legislators are busy getting organized. The General Assembly starts over every two years by reassigning committees and other legislative duties, which could take up to three weeks.
In the House, representatives have been forging alliances for their ringmaster, the House speaker. The speaker is a powerful position, appointing chairmen for House committees.
Two years ago, current Speaker Jim Black, D-Mecklenburg, rewarded Republicans who voted for him with committee chair positions. Word is that he's built another cross-party alliance to hold on to the speaker's seat this time around, but others have been busily working to cement rival alliances.
The Republican party is threatening to expel from its caucus anyone breaking party lines. It might take until the session opens at noon today for the parties to decide who to nominate.
Keep your eye on ring one and redistricting efforts after North Carolina's Census data becomes available in March. Rob Lamme, spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, D-Dare, said the Senate and House committees draw districts for their respective houses with the understanding that the other house will approve.
But the two houses must work together to redraw all the state's congressional districts to include a new one.
This will be a challenge because each party and interest group will be vying to maximize its own interests. Ten years have passed since North Carolina last drew congressional districts, but the controversial 12th District was never settled after multiple judicial reviews. "None of those (redistricting) tasks will be easy, and taken together they'll take an enormous amount of time," Lamme said.