In North Carolina, the state legislature — known as the General Assembly — has all the power.

Here are common questions about the N.C. General Assembly, answered.

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How many seats are there in the General Assembly?

The North Carolina House has 120 members. The North Carolina Senate has 50 members.

Each serves a two-year term, and elections are held in even years. There are no term limits.

Who are the current leaders of the General Assembly?

Republicans currently hold a veto-proof majority in both the House and Senate. They took over control of the General Assembly in 2010.

The N.C. House is run by the House Speaker, currently Rep. Tim Moore of Kings Mountain. The Republican has served eight terms.

N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore. Photo via Facebook.

The leader of the N.C. Senate is Sen. Phil Berger, a Republican from Eden. He has served nine terms.

Phil Berger, N.C. Senate president pro tem. Photo by NCDOT via Flickr (Creative Commons).

How much does the General Assembly get paid?

The state House and Senate are both part-time, and the pay is pretty poor — only $13,951 per year, with a $559 monthly expense allowance.

The House speaker and Senate president pro tem make more, but their pay only comes out to $38,151 per year.

How often does the General Assembly meet?

The General Assembly works by the biennium, meaning two years. That coincides with each lawmaker’s term.

In the first year, the odd-numbered year, the General Assembly holds what is called the “long session.” This lasts most of the year and it is when the state legislature creates a budget for the state for the next two years.

In the even-numbered year, the General Assembly holds its “short session.” This only lasts a few weeks, and the body is limited in what they can consider. The General Assembly makes adjustments to the budget passed the year before, considers constitutional amendments and weighs bills that passed one chamber the year before.

In today’s legislature, though, you are liable to be called to a special session on just a few days notice any time of the year.

Who serves in the General Assembly?

With the low pay and odd work hours, you have to be in a somewhat unusual financial position to hold a seat.

Potential state legislators generally must either be retired, independently wealthy, a business owner with top-notch employees or an executive with a very understanding boss. And wouldn’t you know it? That’s exactly who we find in the General Assembly.

The No. 1 job that members of today’s legislature have is attorney. This makes sense for a lot of reasons. For one, if you’re in charge of making the laws, it helps to have experience working with them. But law firms also thrive on influence, and being an elected official will bring in business.

Here’s the 2018 breakdown of the N.C. House. Of the 120 members, attorneys are by far the most common occupation, with a number of realtors and other real estate professionals filling in the gaps.

And here’s the 2018 breakdown of the N.C. Senate. There are 50 members. Attorneys still make up the lion’s share, with real estate making up a large sphere.

So, bottom line: Become an attorney, start a business or retire from education or healthcare and you’ll be all set to get elected to the General Assembly.

Cover image of the General Assembly building by James Willamor via Flickr (Creative Commons


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