Blake, Boylan Ranked Near Bottom
According to independent legislative rankings, Moore County may have the least effective representation in the state.
The N.C. Center for Public Policy Research released its 2007 legislative effectiveness rankings last week. Moore County's two top legislators both ranked near the bottom.
Freshman Rep. Joe Boylan, of Pinehurst, ranks 118 out of 119 House members, better than only former Rep. Thomas E. Wright, the New Hanover County Democrat who was recently expelled from the House because of fraud charges.
Wright was later convicted and sentenced to five years. Because of an empty seat, Boylan now owns the dubious distinction of last place.
The rankings came out before Boylan was charged Thursday with driving while im-paired after a single-car accident near Cameron.
State Sen. Harris Blake, of Pinehurst, did a little better. He is ranked 47 out of 50 senators. This is the same rank he held in 2003, his first year in the Senate. In 2005, Blake climbed to 43.
Since 1978, the Center for Public Policy Research has conducted the survey every two years. It asked legislators, lobbyists and a handful of journalists to rank legislators in effectiveness on a scale from 1 to 10.
The center asked participants to base their responses on such things as legislators' participation in committee work, skill at guiding bills through committee and floor debate, general knowledge and expertise in special fields, the respect they command from peers, ethics, enthusiasm with which they execute various legislative responsibilities, political power held by virtue of office, longevity or personal skills, ability to sway opinions of fellow legislators and aptitude for the overall legislative process.
The Pilot interviewed both Boylan and Blake Wednesday, April 9, about the rankings.
Boylan said that the survey is flawed because it doesn't take into account the Democratic majority.
"How many Republican freshmen are above 100?" Boylan said. "None. They're all in the bottom group. Year after year, the Republicans are always shown as least effective."
As for his dead-last ranking, Boylan said that may stem from allegations of voter fraud involving two of his campaign workers and a scandal involving a female legislator, which Boylan has denied.
The attorney general's office looked into the allegations of voter fraud and found nothing there.
"Some people have taken every chance they could to bash me," Boylan said. "Part of it is who I took on last (primary election). There are still people who can't let it go. It never distracted me from my job."
Boylan defeated Richard Morgan in a heated 2006 primary. Morgan had been in the House for 18 years and served as co-speaker and speaker pro tem.
Boylan said that it hasn't stopped him from serving his constituents and getting about a dozen bills passed.
"It's just part of that background noise," he said.
Blake said the survey relies too heavily on the opinion of lobbyists. He said they'll always say the legislators who get most of the lobbying money are the most effective.
"Up to this point," he said, "I don't disagree with them. Where does the lobbyist money go? It goes to (former Speaker Jim) Black, Wright, Morgan and (Sen. Marc) Basnight."
Blake said that he has the support of many fellow legislators and that he is proud of his constituent services and his work forging a long-lasting relationship with China. He said that being in the minority, however, hinders his effectiveness.
"It doesn't matter what that rating is if you're in the minority," he said. "It's the Democrats' show. I don't care about that rating."
Moore County can make claim to the study's most effective lawmaker. House Speaker Joe Hackney represents a tiny sliver of Moore. He ranks No. 1 in effectiveness in the state House of Representatives.
Hackney's district includes one and a half precincts in Moore County. It also includes all or parts of Orange and Chatham counties. Boylan's district covers the remainder of Moore County.
Blake represents a district that includes all of Moore and Lee counties.
All three members of the Moore County delegation ranked high on attendance.
Boylan was in attendance 115 days of the 2007 session, earning a 92 percent ranking, a tie with many House members. Hackney, an Orange County Democrat, attended 115 days as well but his ranking is 98 percent. The difference in percentages is based on the number of total day absences and other differences between their separate schedules.
Blake, also a Republican from Pinehurst, likewise ranked high on attendance. He was present for 113 days, a 94 percentage.
The days differ between the two chambers because the House and the Senate do not always convene on the same time schedule.
The Center for Public Policy Research conducted the survey in December, January and February. During these months, the staff asked all 50 senators, 119 representatives, 614 registered lobbyists and 12 state capital news correspondents to rate the effectiveness of each member of the General Assembly, according to the survey report. The lobbyists included the lead state agency legislative liaisons. Senators were asked to rate only other senators, representatives to rate only fellow House members.
Not everyone responded. The center reports that 78 of the 119 House members, or 66 percent, participated, while 37 of the 50 senators, or 74 percent, participated. Other responses were 30 percent among lobbyists and 50 percent among the capital news correspondents. Overall response was 39 percent.
Factors not mentioned in the center survey information include such things as the Democratic majority and the status of first-time legislators, who are just learning the ropes and lack seniority on committees.
The House membership is 120, but only 119 were ranked, because one member resigned late in the year. Wright was included because his expulsion did not take place until this year.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact Matthew Moriarty at 693-2479 or by e-mail at moriarty@thepilot. com.
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