The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday May 26th

N.C. policy research group releases effectiveness ratings of state legislators

State legislators learned this month graduation doesn't mean the end of the grading scale. 

The North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research released effectiveness rankings Thursday for all of the members of the 2015 N.C. General Assembly.

Nancy Richmond Rose, executive director of the center, said they survey legislators, lobbyist and capitol news reporters and ask them to rate legislator’s effectiveness on a scale from one to ten.

“(We asked them to rate) participation and committee work, skill at guiding bills through floor debates and expertise in their field,” she said. “We also ask them to consider the respect that they garner from their peers, the political power that they hold, and their personal skills and their ability to sway the opinions of other legislators.”

Rose said the center has used the same criteria since they started conducting the rankings back in the 1977-78 legislative season.

Jacob Smith, a UNC Ph.D. student who teaches in the political science department, said senior legislators tend to have more power and authority in the legislature compared to new legislators.

“First-year members aren’t typically given the most important roles — they typically don’t run a committee, they typically don’t sponsor bills, they typically sit back and don’t do much,” he said.

North Carolina Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Orange, is ranked 93rd in the House according to the report. He said the highest ranked in the report are members of the majority party. 

“Power is everything, and they’re able to get things done," he said. "And those of us who are in the minority party don’t have very much tenure, don’t really have any real power in the legislature — we’re at the bottom of the list."

Meyer said effective legislators are able to pass laws and budgets that help North Carolina residents regardless of the rankings.

This year’s rankings revealed a large number of the state’s most effective legislators will not be returning next year, which Rose said is atypical.

“What I thought was even more surprising is that when we counted up, seventeen of those legislators who are also not coming back are also committee chairs,” she said. “That’s a lot of effective legislators that are holding committee chairs that are not returning.”

She said it is difficult to know what effect the legislators' exits will have on the overall General Assembly since most are still here in the short session.

Monday marked the beginning of the state legislature’s short session, one month after House Bill 2 was passed during a special session.

Meyer co-sponsored House Bill 946, which was filed at the start of Monday’s short session and aims to repeal the controversial law.

Meyer said he thinks the law will be overturned if the people of North Carolina express their dissent with the law to their representatives.

“They know that it’s too damaging to use economically and we don’t want to legislate discrimination,” he said. “If enough people speak up and make it clear that that’s their desire, then any individual member in our legislative body has the ability to vote to overturn the bill.”


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