The Republican majority in the North Carolina House of Representatives was often divided this year. In July, members met for hours behind closed doors and narrowly approved re-organizing the seats on the Greensboro City Council. In September, the 74 members of the Republican caucus were divided and eventually defeated a plan that would have overturned city and county nondiscrimination ordinances across the state.
House Speaker Tim Moore said he negotiated with libertarian members of his caucus to approve a plan to offer incentives to companies willing to move to North Carolina. He said he held regular meetings to negotiate other compromises. Yet, in his opinion, divisions were few.
“If you get your family together around the Thanksgiving table, you’re going to probably have a range of opinions,” Moore said. “At the end of the day, majority rules. Whatever the majority wants to do is what will happen, whether it's on abortion issues, gun issues or anything like that.”
In an interview at his General Assembly office, Moore, a lawyer from Cleveland County serving his first term as Speaker, spoke about navigating the Republican spectrum from moderate business conservatives to tea-party conservatives, state spending on public school teacher pay and the selection of a new president of the University of North Carolina system.
WUNC: Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger described the Republican Party as having a "big tent." There's a lot of diversity within the House Republican caucus. How do you work through some of the divisions?
Moore: The differences we have tend to get exaggerated when we're in session, but in real life it's probably not that big of a difference. One thing that comes to mind is economic incentives. I have been a staunch supporter of responsible economic incentives to be done from the state because other states do it. Either you're in the game or you're not. Some members of the caucus feel very strongly that we shouldn't do any incentives of any kind; that we should simply lower the tax rate enough to where we're the most competitive state. We came up with a compromise position.
There was also disagreement on social issues, such as same-sex marriage. How do you navigate that?
If you get your family together around the Thanksgiving table, you’re going to probably have a range of opinions setting around that table of family members who love each other very much, just as we have as Republicans. At the end of the day, majority rules. Whatever the majority wants to do is what will happen, whether it's on abortion issues, gun issues or anything like that.
North Carolina continues to be one of the states that on average pays its public school teachers the least. Meanwhile, the Wake County school board voted this month to increase the amount they pitch in for teacher salaries. What role should counties have in increasing pay for teachers?
Public education in North Carolina has always been a partnership between the state and the local governments. The local governments are in charge of the facilities, and are in charge of the supplements to pay on top of the base state pay. I think local communities, just as my community does, should invest in both aspects.
I think it’s important to point out that every teacher this year gets more money than they did last year. The big demand that we were hearing was in new teachers, that there was a high turnover in those first five years. We wanted to make sure that we made it attractive to recruit and retain those new teachers.
You and the President Pro-Tem sent a letter to the University of North Carolina Board of Governors as they were selecting Margaret Spellings, a U.S. Education Secretary under President George W. Bush, for system president. Do you see the General Assembly becoming more involved in this process in the future?
If the General Assembly ever has a significant disagreement with the direction the board has taken, I certainly think it's within the legislative prerogative to adjust that in some manner. At the end of the day, the General Assembly does have the final say over the university system through the (budget) appropriations process.
Hear also an interview with President Pro-Tem Phil Berger reviewing the 2015 legislative session.