Life in the legislature: Long stretches of harmony punctuated by intense bursts of partisan furor

With controversial bills on fracking, tax cuts and abortion regulations getting much media attention, along with passionate protests filling the N.C. legislature last year, one might think state lawmakers are constantly locked in a fiery partisan battle day in and day out.

The reality is a bit more tame. Some 442 bills passed both chambers of the Republican-controlled N.C. General Assembly in 2013, successfully becoming law.

The average vote tally of these measures: 45-2 in the Senate and 106-7 in the House.

With the GOP holding a 33-17 seat majority in the Senate and a 77-43 advantage in the House, the vast majority of legislation approved last year enjoyed broad bipartisan support.

In fact, of the bills passed with a recorded vote last year in the Senate, 78 percent were approved unanimously, 61 percent in the House. When broadened to include bills that received just one or two dissenting votes, that percentage expands to a whopping 85 percent in the Senate and 77 percent in the House.

Now, this is not to say that lawmakers are about to break into an across-the-aisle rendition of Kumbaya, nor entertain a motion for a group hug anytime soon.

Indeed, a handful of bills that arguably have the greatest impact on North Carolina – among them the state budget, tax reform and election-law changes – were largely passed along party lines in 2013 after hours of contentious debate.

And as seen in the past few weeks, the turf battles between the GOP-led chambers can be just as fierce as the divide between Republicans and Democrats.

But as these numbers show, a great portion of the General Assembly’s work is far more mundane and staid than the less frequent – but intense and important –  moments of high-profile controversy might indicate.

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