NC Republicans ascend to top of lawmaker rankings

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 9, 2012

RALEIGH (AP) — Republicans dominated the top spots of a biennial effectiveness survey for the North Carolina Legislature released Monday by a nonpartisan think tank, but a handful of Democrats now out of power still wield significant influence.
Senate GOP members claimed the highest 10 spots and House Republicans 12 of the top 15 in surveys of their respective chambers for the 2011 sessions accumulated by the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research.
The findings of GOP ascendancy in the report were not surprising given that party members held majorities simultaneously in the House and Senate for the first time since 1870. Rank-and-file Republicans soared and Democrats fell in the rankings as General Assembly chairmanships and other key positions changed hands.
Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, was ranked No. 1 in effectiveness in the House, while the top Senate spot went to President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham. Their Democratic predecessors — Joe Hackney in the House and Marc Basnight in the Senate — held No. 1 rankings in the 2009 survey.
Now as minority leader, Hackney, D-Orange, ranked 13th among the 120 representatives in the House effectiveness rankings, which is based on surveys from lobbyists, legislators and reporters.
Basnight resigned from the Senate before the 2011 session began.
Five other House Democrats who voted for the Republican-penned budget — canceling out Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue’s veto — ranked among the top 33 in the chamber, led by 14-term Rep. Jim Crawford, D-Granville, at No. 7. Tillis announced in September that Crawford had been appointed co-chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Eleven-term Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, R-Cabarrus, one of a few Republicans who held a committee chairmanship in 2009, was ranked No. 7 — the same spot that he held two years ago.
“Being a member of the political party which has a majority in the Legislature is one of four factors that historically lead to a higher effectiveness ranking — but only one factor,” center director Ran Coble said. Other factors include length of service, chairmanships and personal skills, Coble added.
Survey respondents ranked Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, 11th among 49 senators ranked, down from his No. 6 position in 2009. Sen. Dan Clodfelter, D-Mecklenburg, was next among Democrats at No. 14.
Rep. Harold Brubaker, R-Randolph, senior co-chairman of the House budget committee and a speaker in the mid-1990s, ranked No. 2 in the House survey, followed by Majority Leader Paul Stam, R-Wake, at No. 3. The top-ranked House freshman was Rep. Tom Murry, R-Wake, at No. 30.
Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, was identified as the second most-effective senator, followed by Sen. Richard Stevens, R-Wake, a budget co-chairman. The highest ranked first-term senator was Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, at No. 16.
Sen. Andrew Brock, R-Davie, who was ranked dead-last in effectiveness at No. 50 in 2009, ascended to No. 12 in the 2011 survey. Rep. Marilyn Avila made the largest jump in the House in 2011, soaring 90 spots to 21st.
The 2011 Senate survey did not include Sen. Jim Forrester, R-Gaston, who died in October.
North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research: