Guide to the NC General Assembly

Guide to the NC General Assembly

The Academy has created this short guide to inform members of the workings and makeup of the North Carolina General Assembly. The North Carolina General Assembly can be found online at Key links at the General Assembly include:

NC General Assembly Overview

There are three branches of government established by the North Carolina Constitution: the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judicial branch. The legislative branch is composed of the General Assembly and its administrative support units. The Constitution of North Carolina gives the General Assembly the authority to make or enact laws; to establish rules and regulations governing the conduct of the people, their rights, duties and procedures; and to prescribe the consequences of certain activities. The General Assembly has the power to make new laws and amend or repeal existing laws that affect all the people of the State as well as laws affecting the local communities.

Organization Overview

The 50 members of the Senate and 120 members of the House of Representatives make up the General Assembly of North Carolina. They are elected every two years, in the even numbered years, from districts established by law. In order to qualify for election, a person must live in the district they wish to represent for at least one year and be registered to vote in North Carolina. To serve in the Senate, a person must be at least 25 years old. To serve in the House of Representatives, a person must be at least 21 years old. Newly-elected legislators take office on January 1, following their election in November. In the House of Representatives, the members elect a Speaker, who presides over the House when in session. The Speaker has many responsibilities, one of which is to preserve order in the House when in session. The Speaker Pro Tempore is also elected from the membership. In the absence of the Speaker, the Speaker Pro Tempore presides over the House. The Lieutenant Governor is the President of the Senate and presides over the Senate. The Lieutenant Governor is elected in a statewide election that is held every four years. The members of the Senate elect a President Pro Tempore and Deputy President Pro Tempore from among their membership, who in their turn, preside in the absence of the Lieutenant Governor. The Legislative Committees do much of the legislative work of the General Assembly. Soon after the beginning of the legislative session, standing committees are appointed. The Speaker appoints the members of the committees in the House and the President Pro Tempore appoints the members of the committees in the Senate. Each committee has one or more Chairs and Vice-Chairs. Normally, as soon as a bill is introduced and assigned to a committee, the committee members will carefully study the bill and make recommendations. If the committee approves the bill, it reports this fact and the bill is placed on the Calendar. Each house also elects a Principal Clerk. The Principal Clerks are responsible for documenting all of the actions that are taken on bills and recording these actions in the Journal. The Principal Clerks carry out the administrative duties of their respective chambers. The Senate also elects a Reading Clerk and a Sergeant-at-Arms. The Speaker appoints a Reading Clerk and a Sergeant-at-Arms for the House. The members elect other officers in each respective house from their political parties. These officers include a majority leader, minority leader, majority whip, and minority whip.

Legislative Sessions

The General Assembly meets in regular session beginning in January of each odd-numbered year, and adjourns to reconvene the following even-numbered year for a shorter session. The regular session of the Senate and House of Representatives is held biennially beginning at 12:00 Noon on the third Wednesday after the second Monday in January next after their election. The Senate and the House of Representatives meet in their respective chambers on Monday evenings; in the middle of the day (usually at 1:30) on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday; and on Friday mornings. The members return to their districts to take care of their affairs and be available to their constituents during the weekend. During the week, committee meetings are held in the morning and late afternoon. A great deal of the legislative work is done in the committee meetings. To determine your state Senator or Representative, visit the NC General Assembly's Representation page When the House and Senate meet in daily sessions, they assemble in their respective chambers. When a Joint Session of the General Assembly is held, the members of the House and Senate meet in the House Chamber. A Joint Session would be held to hear invited guests address the General Assembly. Such guests might include the Governor, for the State of the State address; the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, for the State of the Judiciary Address; or perhaps even the President of the United States. The invited guest speaks from a podium known as the "Well of the House".

Daily Calendar

The Daily Calendar is the daily schedule of business for the consideration of bills by the full membership of the bodies of both houses. The Senate and the House of Representatives make up their own calendars each day for session. The House uses the color yellow for the Calendar and their bill jackets and the Senate uses the color blue for their Senate Calendar and bill jackets. The House of Representatives and the Senate work as two separate memberships during their daily sessions, but all legislation must pass three readings in each body.