Legislators returned to Raleigh this week to begin the regular business of the 2015 legislative “long” session. Following the 2014 elections, Republicans maintained strong majorities in both chambers. Senate Republicans gained one seat in November, giving them a 34-16 majority. In the House, Republicans hold 74 seats to Democrats’ 45. Representative Paul Tine, elected as a Democrat from Dare County, announced earlier this month that he is switching his party affiliation to unaffiliated and will caucus with Republicans. Senate leadership remains the same, with Senator Phil Berger remaining at the helm as President Pro Tempore. Senator Tom Apodaca will remain in his role as Rules Chair, and Senator Harry Brown will continue in his role as Majority Leader and chief budget writer.
The House is undergoing a significant change in leadership, with former Speaker Thom Tillis moving on to Washington. In its organizational session, held January 14, the chamber unanimously elected Representative Tim Moore as Speaker. Moore, in his seventh term, is an attorney from Kings Mountain who is seen as an even-handed leader. In addition to selecting the next Speaker, House Republicans also elected Rep. Mike Hager as majority leader, re-elected Rep. Skip Stam as speaker pro tem, Rep. John Bell as majority whip, Rep. Marilyn Avila as deputy majority leader, Rep. Charles Jeter as majority conference chair, and Rep. Pat Hurley as joint caucus leader.
Committee assignments have now been announced. Of interest to parks:
Senate Natural and Economic Resources Appropriations Subcommittee: Senators Andrew Brock (Davie, Iredell, Rowan), Trudy Wade (Guilford), and Bill Cook (Beaufort, Camden, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans), chairs.
Members: Sen. John M. Alexander, Jr. (Wake), Sen. Angela R. Bryant (Halifax, Nash, Vance, Warren Wilson), Sen. Ben Clark (Cumberland, Hoke), Sen. Tom McInnis (Anson, Richmond, Rowan, Scotland, Stanly), Sen. Ronald J. Rabin (Harnett, Johnston, Lee), Sen. Jane W. Smith (Columbus, Robeson), Sen. Jeff Tarte (Mecklenburg).
House Agriculture and Natural and Economic Resources Appropriations Subcommittee: Representatives Jimmy Dixon (Duplin, Wayne), Pat McElraft (Carteret, Jones), Roger West (Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon), chairs. Representatives Rick Caitlin (New Hanover) and Garland Pierce (Hoke, Richmond, Robeson, Scotland), vice chairs.
Members: Representatives Pricey Harrison (Guilford), Chris Millis (Onslow, Pender),
Michelle Presnell(Haywood, Madison, Yancey), Bobbie Richardson (Franklin, Nash), Brian Turner (Buncombe), Michael Wray (Halifax, Northampton), and Larry Yarborough (Granville, Person).
Parks Issues in 2015
With the elimination of dedicated funding in 2013 for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, all eyes will be on the budget process. We will be seeking millions of dollars in appropriations for the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. Last year, the trust fund received $14 million. This year, we will look to increase that number. Please join us at the 2015 Friends Conference on Feb. 10 so that you’ll have a chance, in person, to let legislators know how important the Parks & Recreation Trust Fund is to our state parks system!
We’ll also be educating legislators about the upcoming State Parks Centennial celebration! The Centennial presents a unique educational and promotional opportunity for our parks system. Stay tuned for more information!