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.
While Republicans held onto their veto-proof majority in the House in the 2016 elections, the new leader of the chamber’s Democratic Party caucus is hoping this year’s session can bring more bipartisan compromises.
Rep. Darren Jackson, a soft-spoken attorney from Knightdale, is replacing Rep. Larry Hall of Durham as the House Democratic leader. He’s been in the House since 2009, but he became more prominent last year as one of the leading voices opposing House Bill 2.
While Hall was more likely to oppose Republican bills than some of the more moderate Democrats, Jackson, 46, is hoping to keep the caucus together.
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“It will make us a lot more effective in negotiations with Republicans,” he said. “Gov. (Roy) Cooper as a leader of our party hopefully will help with that.”
As leader of the minority party, Jackson said he’ll look for common ground with GOP leaders. “My whole legislative philosophy has always been to make a bad bill better,” he said. “I think to the extent you can run amendments and make things better, you have a duty to do that instead of sitting on the sidelines and saying no to everything.
“I’m not a flamethrower. We are going to try that style out and see if it will work.”
But don’t look for Jackson to soften his opposition to HB2. “We certainly are not willing to support a moratorium” on local nondiscrimination laws, he said. Senate leaders called for such a moratorium last month as part of a proposed repeal of the state LGBT law.