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Medicaid Expansion, Other Issues To Be Addressed By Nominee For NC House Speaker

Photo: Rep. Tim Moore and NC House GOP Leadership
Jorge Valencia

North Carolina Republicans have nominated a new State House Speaker to succeed U.S. Senator-elect Thom Tillis. Tim Moore is an attorney and small business owner from Kings Mountain, a small town about 30 miles west of Charlotte. He's been in the House for six terms.

The Republicans in the House of Representatives chose Moore in a closed-door meeting. They locked themselves in a conference room at Randolph Community College. Moore needed at least half the votes plus one to win, and that was exactly what he got.

When Republicans opened the door to reporters, it was like they were singing a song of unity. They even claimed they didn’t remember who came in second. The Speaker Pro-Tem, the Majority Whip and other leaders huddled behind Moore has he addressed reporters. One of the first questions was how Moore would be different from Tillis.

"You know, Speaker Tillis, umm, the first comment was that he was taller," Moore said to laughter from his colleagues.

He Sets The Agenda

'And we're going to go forward and take this House in the direction of bringing more jobs to the state, improving education, improving transportation, addressing health care and making the state more competitive than it has been.'

The job is one of the three most influential ones in state government, along with that of the Senate Leader and the governor. So Moore will play a crucial role in setting the agenda.

"And we’re going to go forward and take this House in the direction of bringing more jobs to the state, improving education, improving transportation, addressing health care and making the state more competitive than it has been," Moore told reporters.

But getting specifics on that agenda is difficult because so far Moore is non-committal about it.

For example, K-12 schools.

"We have a lot of leaders in this caucus," Moore said. "We have teachers in this caucus. I'm a parent of two children in public schools. We have a lot of folks who have a lot of input, who have a lot of things to bring. I see the cameras are pointed at me, but this isn't about me, this is about a lot of the folks standing behind me and the members of this caucus and the folks here."

The one subject Moore is clear about is the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. Some 500,000 people in North Carolina have gone without insurance because the state won't expand it.

"My concern would be the Federal government may give you more money in year one and year two," Moore said. "Well, what about in year three and the state has picked up more obligations without the federal money there to support it?  So there are legitimate policy discussions and debates, but that's the kind of process that's going to come through the committee process."

How Will He Differ From Tillis?

If you’re hearing a common denominator here, it’s that Moore pledges to respect the process. Rep. Mike Hager (R-Rutherford) is a former engineer with Duke Energy and the new Majority leader.

"Tim is going to look more to the caucus to try to develop the issues rather than dictating issues. He's more of a team player, team leader, not a dictator, if that makes sense," Hager said.

Hager says it will be a similar style to Speaker Tillis. But there are some ways in which Moore might be different. Thomas Little, a professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, says the relationship between the House, the Senate and the governor’s office might shift. They’re still all Republicans, but Little says ideologically, Moore might be more of an ally to Senate Leader Phil Berger. Tillis was closer to Governor Pat McCrory - in part because they agreed more on fiscal matters.

"Where social issues, they may have conservative positions, but they are not as significant to them," Little said. "Whereas Berger and I think from what I read about Moore, may be a little more concerned about the social issues."

Medicaid expansion might be one of the biggest issues next spring. It could lead to a repeat of this year's tense fights between the House, Senate and governor - except this time the speaker's office could take on a more conservative position.

Jorge Valencia has been with North Carolina Public Radio since 2012. A native of Bogotá, Colombia, Jorge studied journalism at the University of Maryland and reported for four years for the Roanoke Times in Virginia before joining the station. His reporting has also been published in the Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, and the Baltimore Sun.
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