RALEIGH — North Carolina Republicans expanding their majorities at the General Assembly in 2012 are now wielding even more influence, according to a biennial effectiveness survey released Tuesday by a nonpartisan research group.
Republicans held the top 15 spots for effectiveness in the House and first 16 in the Senate during the 2013 session, according to survey results accumulated by the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research.
Two years earlier, after Republicans took control of the Legislature for the first time in more than 140 years, Senate GOP members claimed the highest 10 spots and House Republicans 12 of the top 15 slots in their respective chambers. Republicans won an additional 11 seats during the 2012 elections. They now hold 33 of the 50 Senate seats and 77 of the 120 House seats, giving the majorities the ability to override a governor’s vetoes if they largely remain united.
As expected, House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, and Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, held the No. 1 spots in their chambers for the second time in a row based on the surveys of legislators, lobbyists and state government reporters.
Here’s a closer look at what the survey found:
NEAR THE TOP: In the House, Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, ranked No. 2 in effectiveness, followed by Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie and senior co-chairwoman off the House Finance Committee at No. 3. Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, was 4th. Lewis is a finance panel chairman and helped shepherd a voter identification law through the House in 2013.
Rules panel chairman Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, was No. 2 in the Senate, followed by ex-Sen. Pete Brunstetter, R-Forsyth, at 3rd and Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Onslow, at No. 4. Brunstetter resigned in December to become an executive at a hospital network. Brunstetter and Brown were both Senate Appropriations Committee co-chairmen in 2013.
SECOND WIND: Some second-term legislators saw their effectiveness ranking rise substantially in 2013. Sen. Rick Gunn, R-Alamance, rose 22 places from two years ago to 11th, with Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, rising 19 places to 8th and Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, 11 spots to No. 7. The House member with the largest second-term increase was Rep. Susi Hamilton of New Hanover County, going up 60 spots to No. 42.
TOP DEMOCRATS: In the Senate, Minority Whip Josh Stein of Wake County was considered the most effective Democrat in the chamber, ranked 17th. The late Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, who died last month, wasn’t included in the rankings. His successor, Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake, was No. 23. The top House Democrat was Rep. Rick Glazier of Cumberland County at No. 16, followed by Minority Leader Larry Hall of Durham County at No. 23.
FIRST STEPS: Sen. Jeff Tarte, R-Mecklenburg, was ranked the top Senate freshman at No. 24, while Rep. Dean Arp, R-Union, ranked the highest among first-term House members at No. 38.
STEPPING DOWN: Tillis isn’t seeking re-election — he’s running for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. Republican Conference Leader Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg, who also decided not to run again, ranked 5th in the House. Among departing senators, Neal Hunt, R-Wake, was 10th and Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, was 14th.
PERFECT MARKS: The center’s report also counts how many days legislators attended the 2013 session and how many recorded voters they cast. Twenty-one House members and six senators had perfect attendance, while only three legislators voted in all of their chamber’s recorded votes — Sens. Ben Clark, D-Hoke, and Shirley Randleman, R-Wilkes, and Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake.