State lawmakers return Wednesday to start their work for 2017, their first session sharing Raleigh with the Cooper administration. The News & Observer takes a look at four people and five issues that will matter this year. Get to know Dale Folwell, Darren Jackson, Bill Rabon and Sarah Stevens. Find out what the General Assembly could consider on taxes, election law, teacher and principal pay, House Bill 2 and Hurricane Matthew relief. And learn more about how the legislative process works.
Sen. Bill Rabon steps into a pivotal role this session as the senator who controls the flow of legislation in his chamber.
The 65-year-old Southport veterinarian, a Republican, is succeeding former Sen. Tom Apodaca as Senate Rules Committee chairman. Apodaca was a colorful floor manager who stepped in at critical moments to shut down opposition with parliamentary maneuvers as he shepherded controversial bills to votes.
Rabon was co-chairman of the Finance Committee, but even with tax policies at top of the GOP agenda, he was one of the quieter members. Former Sen. Bob Rucho, Rabon’s mentor, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown took the lead in debating tax policies.
Senate leader Phil Berger picks the Rules chairman, along with other committee leaders and members. Rabon, who is entering his fourth term, said he brings these principles to the job: “a willingness to work, try to treat everyone well, and respect their opinion.”
Rabon was quiet during the rollicking argument in the Senate over the repeal of House Bill 2 last month, a night when it was easy to imagine Apodaca jumping in to steer the arguments. Rabon said that session tells nothing of what kind of Rules chairman he’ll be, because he hadn’t taken over the job then. Rabon said he was still a Finance chairman, and the repeal bill “did not have a financial component.”
The gatekeeper job is one of the more taxing. Rabon joked about the heart medication on his desk. He didn’t give any clues to how he’ll handle the legislative combat that’s sure to come. “If situations do arise, we’ll just have to go from there,” he said.