RALEIGH — Lawmakers convened last week to get themselves sworn in and organized. It also allows them the opportunity to get new lawmakers some background information on the issues they will be voting on in a few weeks.

“Just to make sure that our folks are up to speed and have the information,” said Rep. Julia Howard, a Davie County Republican and Finance Committee chairwoman, “and look through it for the next two weeks. And have access to the staff to ask questions that they might want to pose to the staff.”

The Finance Committee deals with all things revenue and tax related and legislative leaders have made no secret that those issues are top priorities in 2013.

“Tax reform is critically important,” Senate Pro-Tem Phil Berger said last week. “We have talked for years about how our relative tax rates put us at a competitive disadvantage to our neighbors to really states around the country.”

As the state decides what areas of taxes need to be reformed, members of the state’s fiscal research division updated lawmakers on Tuesday about how North Carolina’s current tax system is currently structured, including the area of income taxes.

“30 states have a lower rate than North Carolina,” said Trina Griffin with the NC Fiscal Research Division. “One state has the same highest tax rate. Eleven states have a higher rate and seven states do not have an income tax at all.”

Finance committees will also immediately be tasked with dealing with the state’s unemployment insurance debt and coming into compliance with last minute tax changes approved by congress.