The North Carolina General Assembly has returned to work, with the state facing its worst fiscal crisis in a generation.
The House and Senate gaveled in the new two-year legislative sessions at midday Wednesday.
Lawmakers must wrestle with what could be a $2 billion state budget shortfall and are expected to focus heavily on how to cover the gap.
Gov. Beverly Perdue has already ordered cuts in state spending since taking office earlier this month.
Democrats are still in charge of both chambers, and are expected to re-elect Rep. Joe Hackney as House speaker and Sen. Marc Basnight as Senate leader.
Former Sen. Walter Dalton was elected in November to succeeded Perdue as lieutenant governor and will preside over Senate debate.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)