The North Carolina General Assembly's long session began last Wednesday, welcoming new legislators for the year.
Rob Schofield, director of NC Policy Watch, said one of the most important legislations passed each year is the state budget. This includes funding for services such as health care, education and tax policy for the state.
Schofield said there will be big debates about whether N.C. will join other states around the country in expanding Medicaid. This would be a significant step in health care access, as more than half a million North Carolinians could gain health insurance through the decision, according to Schofield.
Ferrel Guillory, founder and board director of EducationNC, said the relationship between the Republican majority and Gov. Roy Cooper in the Democratic party will make up many topics of debate for legislators.
“Polarization is not just a national issue, it's a state condition too,” Guillory said. “I'm gonna be looking and thinking about it and I hope other people are not only aware of how individual issues are handled, but how the legislature operates in the spirit of an open participatory democracy.”
Schofield said N.C. residents will need to be on the lookout to see whether the state continues to move politically right, especially in regard to gerrymandering and abortion.
“Now, of course, the Republican advantage here is that they're able to gerrymander the maps and they've been able to do that — to draw the map so that even if the turnout's fifty-fifty, Democrat or Republican,” Schofield said. “Republicans still win three-fifths of the districts and I think it'll be fascinating to see whether they can sustain that.”
Wednesday's session was the first time new legislators began in their roles for 2023. A few leaders representing the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area were among them.
N.C. Sen. Graig Meyer (D-Caswell, Orange, Person), who was elected in November, said he was pleased to be joined by family on the floor to celebrate his first term in the state Senate.