All 170 members of the North Carolina General Assembly returned to Raleigh on Wednesday to officially open the Long Session of the 2017-18 biennium.
Both Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and Rep. Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) were unanimously re-elected to be the heads of their respective chambers.
Senate President Pro Tempore Berger will be leading the Senate for a seventh year while Moore will take the mantle for his third year as Speaker of the House.
After the swearing-in, Moore welcomed the new members to the chamber, as well as the returning representatives and all of their families.
“My words cannot express the gratitude and appreciation I feel to have your support today,” he said. “I am honored to serve as your Speaker. North Carolina is such a special state, not only to us, in our own hearts and minds as natives and residents, but in the history books of our great nation.”
Moore praised the work the legislature has done to put the state on solid financial footing thanks, in large measure, to the hard work of this House through major changes to tax policies and frugal budgeting while building a friendly environment for business in the state.
“We are one of the fastest growing states in the country, and poised to continue creating jobs in so many key sectors of commerce like finance, information technology and medical research among many others,” he said. “While sustaining our small businesses with tax relief and regulatory reform, North Carolina is also cultivating core industries that can sustain investment in our rapidly changing economy.”
Moore also noted the responsibility lawmakers have to the people of North Carolina.
“All this means we have an immense responsibility to our fellow North Carolinians, we are called to serve them, and there is no greater honor than serving. As Jesus said, the greatest among you will be the servant,” he said. “So let us each have a servant’s heart throughout this biennium.”
Moore called for disagreements to be handled with respect and kindness despite the rivalry and division that exists in the state. He called for the legislature to unite around the common goals of job creation, diversification of the economy, and working to pass balanced budgets at the state level.
He closed with a promise, a show of gratitude, and a call for a blessing over the state.
“I promise to work with you to give North Carolinians from Murphy to Manteo, from Cherokee to Swan Quarter. the representation they deserve here in Raleigh,” he said. “Thank you, again, members and distinguished guests, for a meaningful and very special opening day of the 2017 legislative session of the North Carolina House of Representatives. God bless you and may God continue to bless our beloved state of North Carolina.”
Berger expressed many of the same sentiments, thanking those present for their confidence in his leadership as well as the families of the legislators.
Berger extolled the responsibility that each senator has to his or her constituents.
“Today is a day to celebrate the call to public service,” he said. “After reviewing each candidate’s platform, millions went to the polls this past November and elected the members of this chamber to represent their communities and to be their voices in state government. With that comes tremendous responsibility, and a duty to work hard and remain laser-focused on fulfilling the promises you made.”
But Berger also shared a warning to the new senators.
“Boy, will you work hard,” he said. “While we are technically a part-time legislature, you all know, or will soon find out, there is nothing ‘part-time’ about being a state senator. It will require a steadfast commitment to put the best interests of your neighbors, your community and your state above yourself.
“You will devote long, hard hours at the legislature most days for the next several months – away from your families, neighbors and the comforts of home. For most of you, you will somehow have to find time to fulfill the obligations of your regular full-time job to support your family. And when you finally reach the end of your work week here, you will likely spend your weekends engaged in your communities and attending civic events. There will be little to no time for rest.”
Berger shared his goal of building the state’s financial reserves to prepare for events like Hurricane Matthew and the forest fires that ravaged the western part of the state at the end of the year.
“Colleagues, thank you again for your commitment to public service and to our great state,” he said. “May we enjoy a collegial and productive session. May we come together to achieve positive and lasting change. And may God continue to bless this body and the people of North Carolina.”
Now the Legislature will take a two-week recess before getting to the work of penning policies to lead the state forward.