Oct 7, 2016

NCGA Week in Review: Spotlight on Parties in Political Power

Laws Effective October 1

Twenty laws passed during the short session went into effect on Saturday, October 1, including:

HB 632: Student Online Protection Act: Regulates the release of data related to personal and other information of students by independent educational applications. The data and information can be released with the approval of the parent of guardian of the student.

HB 972: Law Enforcement Recordings/ No Public Record: On October 1, the portions of the bill which deal with law enforcement recordings went into effect and applies to recordings made after that date, the section of the bill that establishes needle exchange programs went into effect when the bill was signed by the Governor on July 11.

HB 1044: Law Enforcement Omnibus Bill: Effective October 1, the legislation gives the Division of Motor Vehicles authority to refuse registration or issuance of a certificate of title if they have been notified by the State Highway Patrol that the owner has not paid a civil penalty or fees. The remainder of the legislation went into effect when it was signed by the Governor on July 11.

SB 770: NC Farm Act of 2016: Makes numerous regulatory changes effecting the agricultural community, including the following provisions which went into effect on October 1:

  • Excludes minor repairs, such as replacement of windows and doors, from building permit requirements.
  • Authorizes certified well drillers to install certain water pipes and electrical wiring in a single ditch.

The remainder of the bill went into effect on July 26, when it was signed by the Governor.

Interim Committee Meetings

Joint Legislative Administrative Procedure Oversight Committee

On Tuesday, the Joint Legislative Administrative Procedure Oversight Committee met to discuss occupational licensing boards. The committee heard presentations from the Program Evaluation and Legislative Analysis Divisions and reviewed recommendations to consolidate and eliminate certain occupational licensing boards.

Click here to view all of the presentations made at Tuesday’s meeting.

Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Unemployment Insurance

The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Unemployment Insurance met on Wednesday where they heard updates from the Division of Employment Security and their partnership with the NC Government Data Analytics Center.

Click here to view all of the presentations made at Wednesday’s meeting.

Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee

The Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee is meeting this morning to hear numerous presentations including an update on the Map Act and decision in Kirby vs. the NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and a review of NCDOT’s legislative requests for the long session.

Click here to view all of the presentations made at today’s meeting.

Spotlight on Parties in Political Power

History of the Parties in Political Power

Federal Period to Civil War

In 1787 there were no political parties in the United States; as the country began to build a political system, parties became necessary for campaigns to win popular support. The first five governors of North Carolina, as well as President George Washington, did not belong to a political party.

Although documents from the early history of the NC General Assembly do not recount the partisan affiliations of members, NC tended to favor Democratic-Republican candidates in both state and federal elections. The Democratic-Republican party was opposed to powerful central government, while its counterpart, the Federalist Party supported the ratification of the US Constitution. North Carolina was one of the last states to ratify the constitution as Federalists and Democratic-Republicans debated their concerns regarding centralized power.

Leading up to the Civil War, NC was politically divided between eastern and western regions of the state. Like much of the Southeast, the primary source of disagreement between political parties rested upon slavery. In the eastern part of the state, the cash-crop based economy relied heavily on slave labor and tended to favor the Democratic Party. The western region of the state, where yeoman farmers did not rely on slave labor, was supportive of the Whig Party, and then later, the Republican Party.

Post-Civil War

Immediately after the Civil War, Republicans, including newly freed slaves, controlled the state’s government. From 1866 to 1871, the Republican Party had a strong majority over the Democratic Party in both the House and Senate and held control of the Governor’s Office until 1877.

From 1871 to 1895, the Democrats controlled both chambers but were briefly ousted by a Republican-Populist alliance from 1895 to 1898 before regaining the majority in the 1896 elections. During this time, the Democratic Party passed legislation to disenfranchise black voters through literacy tests and poll taxes. By 1904, these laws effectively eliminated the African-American vote.

20th Century

With the exception of some western parts of the state that continued to vote Republican, NC became part of the “ Solid Democratic South” in 1900.

In the General Assembly, Democrats outnumbered Republicans in at least one chamber from 1899 through 2010. Throughout the early half of the 20th century Democrats held a strong supermajority, holding anywhere between 84 and 115 of the 120 seats in the House and between 38 and 49 of the 50 seats in the Senate between the years of 1900 and 1950. In the second half of the 20 th century, the supermajority of the Democrats became less pronounced and the Republicans held a slim majority in the House from 1995 to 1998.

Though NC was a solid blue state in statewide races, after the Civil Rights Movement, the Republican Party gained the support of many white voters in federal elections. Aided by the landslide reelection win of President Richard Nixon, Republicans elected their first governor and US senator of the 20th century in 1972. United States Sen. Jesse Helms, said to be one of the most conservative politicians in the post-1960s era, is often credited with renewing the Republican Party in the state and turning NC into a two-party state once more. With the exception of Jimmy Carter’s 1976 election, NC voters favored Republicans in all presidential elections following the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

21st Century

The past 16 years have been marked by a political shift in NC. After a century of the Democratic Party having control over most state and federal offices, the state has become a red state.

In presidential elections, NC continued to favor Republican candidates in the early 2000s, supporting President George W. Bush in his 2000 and 2004 campaigns. President Barack Obama turned the state blue in his first campaign but was narrowly defeated in NC by Mitt Romney in 2012. In the US Congress, NC has been represented by both Republican and Democratic members in recent years.

The most dramatic shifts in NC’s party politics have occurred at the state level, where Republicans have secured political control.

In the state legislature, the Democratic Party retained a slim majority in the early 2000s before losing both chambers in the 2010 elections. The Republicans have held a growing majority in both the House and Senate since. Governor Pat McCrory was elected in 2012 as the first Republican Governor in the 21 st century, following Democratic Governors Mike Easley and Beverly Perdue. With a veto-proof majority in the legislature and a Republican Governor, the party currently has substantial control over policy in NC.

Current Political Dynamics

Both the sitting Governor and Lieutenant Governor are Republicans completing their first terms and running for re-election against Democratic opponents. In the General Assembly, Republicans hold a supermajority in both chambers with 34 seats in the Senate and 74 seats in the House.

In the US Congress, both of the state’s senators are Republicans and the Party holds 10 of the 13 seats in the US House.

2016 Election Forecast

As a battleground state in the presidential race, NC has become a frequent stop for this year’s presidential candidates and campaign surrogates. In the polls, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have been locked in a close race. Polls have also demonstrated that down ballot races, especially the US Senate race between Republican incumbent Sen. Richard Burr and Democratic challenger Deborah Ross, are tied to the presidential ticket.

The governor’s race between Gov. Pat McCrory and Democratic challenger Roy Cooper has been similarly close. According to the most recent poll, Cooper leads McCrory by 6 points. Should Cooper oust McCrory, the dynamics between the governor’s office and the legislature could change significantly.

In the legislature, the Democratic Party has set sights on ridding the GOP of its veto proof majority. The NC Civitas Institute has identified 20 legislative races to watch, most of which are in the metropolitan areas in Wake and Mecklenburg counties.