CHARLOTTE – District 39 Republican N.C. Sen. Dan Bishop is hopeful the General Assembly will be able to work in a bipartisan manner when the 2019 session convenes next week in Raleigh.
Bishop was elected to a second term in the State Senate last November when he defeated Democratic challenger Chad Stachowicz 53 to 47 percent, winning by over 5,000 votes. Bishop won the Republican primary over challenger Beth Monoghan with 71 percent of the vote.
Bishop bucked a trend in Mecklenburg County as three N.C. House Republican incumbents lost re-election bids while Republican Jeff Tarte was ousted from his Senate seat in November. That means Bishop will be the only Republican from Mecklenburg County in the General Assembly when the 2019 session starts Jan. 9.
Bishop said he attributed his re-election to being “plain-spoken” and honest with voters on where he stands on the issues.
“My view has always been, I don’t hide who I am,” Bishop said. “I don’t seek to endlessly modulate or copy someone else’s position to try and chase the last vote. My view is that I am a conservative and that conservative principles are best for opportunities and for liberty and prosperity, particularly if they are followed in a disciplined way. I am as plain as an old shoe, as they say.”
Statewide, Democrats ended the Republican’s super-majorities in each chamber which means the GOP no longer has the ability to override vetoes from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper on straight-line party votes. That makeup means the two parties need to find common ground on issues as Republicans control the N.C. Senate 29-21 and the House of Representatives 65-55. Since taking office, Cooper has vetoed 28 bills and 21 have been overridden by the General Assembly. It takes 30 votes in the State Senate and 72 votes in the House to override a gubernatorial veto.
“I am certainly willing and eager to do things on a bipartisan basis,” Bishop said. “I have been pretty dismayed at the absence of bipartisan spirit. Everything seems to be fraught with partisan antagonism, and it is not very encouraging in terms of signs of bipartisanship. But I think the way it is going to work is if there is no cooperation from the governor’s mansion or inclination to work together, we probably won’t accomplish much. On the other hand, there is much to be accomplished and many things need attention. I’m willing to proceed on a bipartisan basis and I am hopeful to see that reciprocated.”
Last month, Bishop was a leading voice as the General Assembly enacted a new voter ID law after voters added an amendment to the state’s constitution requiring a voter needs an acceptable identification to be able to cast a vote.
In addition to IDs issued by the DMV and county election boards, the new law counts college and university identification cards as acceptable forms of identification among several others.
Some forms of expired identification cards would be allowed and any identification card that was valid when the holder turned 65 is also an acceptable form of identification.
Free voter photo ID cards will be available upon request from the county board of elections office. Equipment will be provided by the state and every county board of elections is required to begin making ID cards available to voters no later than May 1, 2019.
If a voter can’t produce an acceptable form of identification when voting, they will be given a provisional ballot. That ballot would count if the voter can produce an acceptable ID at least a day before the county’s votes are certified.
Gov. Cooper vetoed that voter ID bill and a separate elections bill but the General Assembly overrode both vetos, allowing both bills to become law. One of election law’s provisions ended a two-year battle between Cooper and the GOP-dominated General Assembly over control of the state’s elections board. Another provision in the election’s legislation keeps campaign finance investigations confidential until evidence is presented to back up any charges.
Two years ago, the General Assembly changed the law that had given the governor’s political party the majority on local and state boards that oversee elections to a bipartisan elections board. Cooper sued and eventually won his lawsuit against the measure. The legislation largely returns elections, ethics enforcement and lobbyist reporting to how they were before the General Assembly changed them just before Cooper took office after the 2016 general election.
“The veto (of Voter ID) was kind of astonishing,” Bishop said. “The people after all voted to do it via a constitutional amendment and the statute that was passed really bends over backwards. Just about any accommodation that anyone can imagine has been made. In fact, the governor nor the Democrats had an articulate objection to the statute. They think voter identification is a bad thing but the people spoke to the contrary.”
Cooper said in his veto statement the Voter ID bill will make it harder for certain groups of people to be able to vote.
“Requiring photo IDs for in-person voting is a solution in search of a problem,” Cooper said. “Instead, the real election problem is votes harvested illegally through absentee ballots, which this proposal fails to fix. In addition, the proposed law puts up barriers to voting that will trap honest voters in confusion and discourage them with new rules, some of which haven’t even been written yet. Finally, the fundamental flaw in the bill is its sinister and cynical origins: It was designed to suppress the rights of minority, poor and elderly voters. The cost of disenfranchising those voters or any citizens is too high, and the risk of taking away the fundamental right to vote is too great, for this law to take effect.”
Voters in November also passed a constitutional amendment that caps the state income tax rate at 7 percent. Bishop said the Republican-led General Assembly has consistently lowered taxes since taking control in 2013. The personal income rate is now at 5.25 percent while the corporate rate is now at 2.5 percent, which is the lowest among Southeastern states that have a corporate tax.
Bishop said the lowering of tax rates has benefited the state’s economy tremendously, and he will work to keep that trend going.
“The results have been outstanding as we have had revenue surpluses,” Bishop said. “People think that when you are cutting tax rates that you are not going to have the revenues that you need. We have had revenue growth throughout as the tax reforms have been aimed at improving economic performance. When you have an economy that performs better, you generate more revenues from that and this has played out throughout a series of years very well. We have had revenue surpluses every single year since 2015 and we are going to have another one this year. We are $100 million ahead of revenue projections for this fiscal year. Other states are starting to emulate us. This has been a tremendous success for the Republican General Assembly.”