01/17/11 — Senate Republicans: Democrats' input will be welcome

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Senate Republicans: Democrats' input will be welcome

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on January 17, 2011 1:46 PM

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Congressman G.K. Butterfield speaks at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast sponsored by the city of Goldsboro early today.

With Republicans taking control of the state Legislature for the first time in 112 years, nowhere will the change in leadership be more evident than in the Senate.

In the House, former Speaker Joe Hackney will still be leading the Democrats, but in the Senate, long-term stalwarts Majority Leader Tony Rand and Senate President Pro Tem Marc Basnight have both stepped down -- Rand to accept a job in Gov. Beverly Perdue's administration and Basnight for health reasons.

That means that not only is a new Republican leadership taking control of the chamber's key positions, but their opposition also will lack the strength of their combined nearly 50 years of experience.

And already, the two senators representing Wayne County, Sen. David Rouzer, R-Johnston, and Sen.-elect Louis Pate, R-Wayne, say they can tell a difference in the chamber's approach to business.

"We're obviously going to be making a lot of changes, but we're not going to be sitting around for the first two weeks figuring out what to do," Pate said. "I believe the leadership team will certainly have its act together and be ready to put its stamp on the North Carolina Senate."

Which, he and Rouzer said, is why not only are leadership positions and committee chairmanships already being given out -- weeks ahead of past timetables -- but the power is being shared among more members than ever before.

For example, Rouzer said, the majority leader and rules committee chairmanship are being split between two members, unlike in years past when Rand held both positions.

"Every decision's not going to be made by one or two people. It's going to be done by the consensus of the (Republican) caucus as a whole, and the committee leaders will be responsible for coming up with the agenda to drive that vision," he said. "I'm looking forward to helping bring about a change in culture of state government. I've always said we need government to work for us, not against us."

But, Pate said, that does not mean the Republicans will run roughshod over the Democrats. He said he believes there will be plenty of opportunity for the opposition party to offer input and collaborate on legislation.

"If people really want to participate in turning our state around, they'll have that chance," Pate said.