Blake, Boles Rank Low in Effectiveness
Moore County's legislative delegation falls into the lower rankings in the latest effectiveness survey by the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research.
However, both state Sen. Harris Blake and state Rep. Jamie Boles are Republicans serving in chambers controlled by Democrats.
State House Speaker Joe Hackney, an Orange County Democrat whose district includes a small portion of Moore County, ranks No. 1 in the House for the second consecutive year. Hackney has ranked among the top 10 representatives in effectiveness since 1983, regardless of whether his party was in the majority or the minority.
Blake, a Pinehurst businessman who has served in the Senate since 2003, ranks 48th among the 50 members of the Senate. Boles, a freshman representative, ranks 116th among 120 House members.
"It's interesting that not too many Republicans are up there at the top," Boles said. "That's because we've all voted and held conservative positions. That Public Policy group is more liberal, in favor of big government and big spending."
Blake said the survey does not really reflect effectiveness because the groups polled did not respond in large percentages.
The center asked for opinions from all legislators, from retired lobbyists and members of the media covering state government. The overall response rate was 40 percent, with 156 of the 471 lobbyists responding, eight of the 14 capital news correspondents responding, 71 of 119 House members (one member did not take office until late in the year and was not surveyed) and 28 of 50 senators responding.
Blake's standing was also affected by his absence from the Senate for all or part of 11 days during the 2009 session because of the serious illness and death of his wife, Barbara.
"A lot of bills were voted on during those days I missed," Blake said. "It's amazing the number of bills coming before the General Assembly."
GOP Hopes for Majority
Blake observed that the top rankings in both chambers are the leaders, people who have the most longevity and chair the most significant committees.
Six of the 20 Republicans in the Senate finished in the top 22 in effectiveness, despite being in the minority party.
"We had two Republicans who did an especially good job," Blake said.
He mentioned Fletcher Hartsell, of Cabarrus County, who ranked seventh - ahead of Phil Berger, of Rockingham County, the minority leader - and Richard Stevens, of Wake County, who ranked 13th. Blake said Stevens is a former Wake County manager, an experience that enhanced his effectiveness.
Blake repeated his belief that Republicans have an excellent opportunity this year to wrest control of both chambers from the Democrats.
"Whoever leads the legislature next year will face some awesome tax issues. Our revenue flow is not looking good at all," Blake said.
Blake said the state is already a couple of billion dollars short on its obligations under this year's budget and has other significant economic issues to address.
"Medicaid has gone crazy again," Blake added, explaining that critical economic conditions have led to an increase in the number of eligible participants.
Boles said he was pleased with his standing, especially considering that 2009 was his first year in the legislature.
"My attendance was above average, and I voted on all the issues," Boles said.
Boles tied for 69th place on attendance ranking. He missed three days and part of a fourth day out of the 114 days the House was in session last year.
Senate Losing Big Names
In a news release accompanying publication of the legislative effectiveness report, the Center for Public Policy Research said that some of the most effective state senators will not be returning to the legislature next year.
Among them are Tony Rand, a Cumberland County Democrat and longtime majority leader, who resigned to accept an appointment by Gov. Bev Perdue to chair the Parole Commission; and David Weinstein, a Robeson County Democrat, who left the Senate in October to become director of the Governor's Highway Safety Program. Rand ranks second, Weinstein 16th.
Also leaving the Senate is David Hoyle, a Gaston County Democrat, who ranks third. He chairs the Rules Committee and has co-chaired the Finance Committee for years.
"Over the last 20 years, turnover in the North Carolina legislature has averaged about a fifth of each chamber each session," said Ran Coble, executive director of the center. "This year, the Senate has hit that mark before a single vote has been cast, and some of its most effective members are not coming back."
The groups participating in the survey are asked to rate each legislator's effectiveness on the basis of participation in committee work, skill at guiding bills through committees and in floor debates, and general knowledge or expertise in special fields.
Respondents are also asked to consider the respect that legislators command from their peers, his or her ethics, the political power they hold, ability to sway opinions and aptitude for the overall legislative process.
The N.C. Center for Public Policy Research is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research corporation formed in 1977 to evaluate state government programs and to study -public policy issues facing the state.
Contact Florence Gilkeson by e-mail at email@example.com.
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