New, old faces atop legislative committees 

RALEIGH — When the General Assembly returns Wednesday for the traditional long session, the work of legislative committees will begin in earnest. 

Committees are where the bulk of the day-to-day work is done. The House and Senate have upwards of a dozen committees both standing, which are permanent, and non-standing, which are stood up to address certain issues, such as the ongoing work of the hurricane recovery subcommittee.  

The primary responsibility of the legislature each year is to pass a state budget. This is done first through the Appropriations Committee in each chamber. This year, the House will write the first draft of the state’s budget. 

The senior chairmen of the House Appropriations Committee are the same three as last session: Republican Reps. Dean Arp of Union County, Donny Lambeth of Forsyth County and Jason Saine of Lincoln County. 

Their counterparts in the Senate will be Ralph Hise of Mitchell County, Brent Jackson of Sampson County and Michael Lee of New Hanover County. Lee joins Hise and Jackson for the first time as a “big chair” in the budget-writing process. 

How floor debates are structured, the processes in which both chambers use to debate and which bill are even heard by the full body are decided by the powerful rules committees in each chamber. 

Both House and Senate Rules Committee chairmen return to their posts this session: Rep. Destin Hall of Caldwell County and Sen. Bill Rabon of Brunswick County. 

One development that caught the attention of many following the legislature are three Democrats who received chair slots. 

Democratic Rep. Tricia Cotham of Mecklenburg County will be one of three chairs of the House K-12 Education Committee, joining two Republicans: Hugh Blackwell of Caldwell County and John Torbett of Gaston County. Cotham served in the House for nearly 10 years through 2016 before launching a successful campaign to return to the chamber. 

A former teacher, Cotham served with both Democratic and Republican leadership during her initial stint in Raleigh. 

Two other Democrats, Reps. Shelly Willingham of Edgecombe County and Michael Wray of Northampton County, will also help lead committees. Willingham is one of three chairmen on the Alcoholic Beverage Control Committee and Wray is one of the four senior chairs of the House Finance Committee. 

One other notable committee chair this year is the return of Alamance County Rep. Stephen Ross, who was defeated in 2020 after serving for eight years. The Republican reclaimed the seat last November and will be one of two House Commerce Committee chairs. 

In the Senate, the returning Buck Newton is a co-chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee along with Sen. Warren Daniel of Burke County.  

After the departure of Sen. Deanna Ballard from the chamber, he Senate Education Committee is now led by Lee and Alamance County Sen. Amy Galey. 

After attaining a supermajority in the midterm elections, Senate Republicans will lead all of the chamber’s committees this session. 

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Matt Mercer is the editor in chief of North State Journal and can be reached at [email protected]