Publisher's note: This post, by Leah Byers, was originally published in Civitas's online edition.
This week, Civitas Action released its annual state legislative rankings for 2019. The Civitas Action Freedom Rankings are designed to inform North Carolinians about the performance of their elected representatives on expanding and defending freedom.
The Freedom Rankings grade select legislative votes, with a freedom-minded vote earning a 100 and a vote against freedom earning a zero. Civitas Action selects votes to grade based on legislation that most clearly represents issues of freedom, specifically the "ideals of the free-market, limited government, personal responsibility, and civic engagement."
The 2019 Civitas Action Freedom Rankings score a total of 124 House Representatives and 51 Senators, due to mid-session resignations and appointments. In the House, three representatives tie for first place with a perfect score. It is worth noting, however, that only one of those - Rep. Michael Speciale (R-Craven) - has a true perfect score with no missed votes. Reps. Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort) and Kelly Hastings (R-Gaston) also scored 100s, with two and three missed votes, respectively. In the Senate, the highest score went to Sen. John Alexander (R-Franklin) at 90.9.
This year, legislative scores broke directly along party lines, with Republicans at the top of the scoring and no crossover with Democrats. The highest scoring Democrats were Sen. Don Davis (Greene) and Rep. Charles Graham (Robeson) who each had a score of 53.3. (with the exception of Rep. Ken Goodman, who resigned his House seat in April). The partisan divide is fairly typical. However, the Senate did have some crossover as recently as 2018, when Democratic Senator Erica Smith ranked ahead of Republicans David Curtis and Jim Davis.
This year's Freedom Rankings graded 13 bills, three amendments, and one veto override in the House, for a total of 17 graded votes. The Senate was graded on 13 bills, one amendment, and one veto override for a total of 15 graded votes. See the full list of graded votes here
Since Republicans lost their supermajorities in the 2018 election, this year's voting reflected a different political reality than the last several years. For that reason, the content of the graded votes may tend to be more incremental - for better or worse - whereas votes graded in years past may have dealt more with larger-scale reforms.
The content of the graded votes ranged from issues of property rights to government transparency to healthcare to corporate welfare. Most votes were graded with a "yes" vote denoting the freedom-expanding choice. Some noteworthy positive legislation included the creation of Association Health Plans as well as a bill to combat absentee ballot fraud.
Votes graded to favor a "no" vote often dealt with the expansion of government handouts targeted to select companies or industries. Civitas Institute believes defending the freedom of all North Carolina businesses means allowing them to keep as much of their money as possible. Lawmakers who do so favor across-the-board, fair tax reductions over selective tax exemptions or credits. By providing tax relief to a specific company or industry, government puts itself in the position of picking winners and losers in the marketplace since the non-targeted businesses are left to bear a heavier tax burden than their competitors.
The rankings include a grade for the veto override of Senate Bill 359, the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (the original bill vote was graded, as well). The amendments graded in both chambers were proposed amendments to the state budget bill (HB966). Some amendments were graded in favor and others were graded against.
The full Civitas Action Freedom Rankings are available HERE
, and you can see how your legislator did by finding your House and Senate districts on the interactive map below.