September’s Legislative News

Paul Fogleman,

Go For The Gold:

Two top legislators have resigned from the General Assembly to start new careers: as lobbyists.

Harold Brubaker, former House Speaker and top appropriations leader in the 2011-12 Legislature, two months ago announced his resignation to open a lobbying operation with his son. Brubaker was the longest-serving member of the House and was in his 18th term. Sen. Richard Stevens, a senior appropriations chair in the Senate, resigned in earlier this month and soon after announced he is joining a Raleigh lobbying firm.

Both are Republicans whose party controls both chambers in the General Assembly. Polls suggest the GOP will maintain control in upcoming sessions due to redistricting. As top leaders, Brubaker and Stevens are likely to attract major clients in banking, healthcare, insurance, and utilities. Stevens and Brubaker will earn much more than the average $50,000 earned by legislators, including salary and per diem.

Presidential Race – Cloudy For Business:

Polls show that the presidential race will be close, with Pres. Obama showing a slight lead in toss-up states following the conventions. GOP contender George Romney’s numbers however are close enough to move ahead if the economy drives down support for the incumbent president.

But which candidate will lead a recovery for U.S. business? Neither has laid out specific plans or concepts. Jobs, jobs, jobs has been the mantra. But which administration would aggressively pursue a review of regulations and eliminate thousands that tie the hands of small business. How would a national healthcare plan emerge? Romney recently said he would retain parts of Obamacare. Will there be more or less oversight of U.S. financial institutions and the flow of money?

Romney’s track record as a very successful businessman suggests he would surround himself with savvy advisors unshackled from ideology. Would Obama bring more advisors with business experience in contrast with the former ivy-tower recruits? And will the fog start to clear before November? Will the results of the election set the stage for Congress to finally find common ground to avoid going over the fiscal cliff?

2013 Legislature:

With at least 65 percent of the North Carolina legislators having less than two sessions of experience, there is bound to be major developments ahead. If the elections put more Tea Party standard-carriers in office, look for more polarization. Many of the Republicans leaving were considered moderate, an anathema to most newcomers. Fewer moderates also are found in the Democratic stable which has moved to the left. And who will lead the Democratic caucus the in House with the departure of former Speaker Joe Hackney?

As North Carolina grows in population, and experiences demographic changes, state government is going to confront more challenges that will test an ideological agenda.

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