I almost deleted the email without reading it: “North Carolina Chamber Announces 2017 Jobs Champions”
But when I saw the long list of General Assembly members appended to it, I got curious. How does one become a job champion? And who’s not one?
Turns out, a total of 106 out of the 170 state lawmakers are job champions, according to our most influential statewide business interest. This very nearly matches up with the number of Republicans in the N.C. House and N.C. Senate.
But there are a small number of each party who buck the orthodoxy. There are a few Democrats who make the list, and a few Republicans who do not.
I quickly found myself wrapped up in finding out why.
The personalities of the lawmakers on both lists provide a fascinating look at the different factions in North Carolina politics.
How does one become a “job champion”?
The formula is pretty simple, really. Lawmakers must vote at least 80 percent of the time the way the Chamber prefers on business-related bills over the course of the year.
The Chamber tracked 58 bills for 2017 for the purposes of the rating — 39 they wanted “yes” votes on, and 19 they wanted “no” votes on.
As one measure of their strength, none of the 19 bills the Chamber opposed was signed into law. Thirteen of the 39 they liked made it through.
A lot of the bills they support are fairly arcane, like SB 470, which changes the order of when claims are filed during civil discovery in asbestos personal injury cases (it didn’t pass).
Others are broadly known, like measures to decrease the corporate tax rate. Many of them deal with streamlining regulations and regulatory bodies.
“Bad bills” included ones to freeze toll lane contracts, raise the minimum wage, curtail coal energy, and get rid of Common Core.
The Chamber did not list party affiliation anywhere in their document. I did my best to cross-reference party membership with the jobs champion role.
I’ve asked the N.C. Chamber to check my math and will update if I hear I missed one.
Meet the 5 Democrats who are “jobs champions.”
Rep. Howard Hunter III and Rep. Michael Wray both represent rural counties in northeastern North Carolina. Rep. Ken Goodman represents five counties in the south-central part of the state.
Both are areas hurting for jobs, so it’s not super surprising for them to make a point of being on this list.
The other two are urban county Democrats who are known for bucking their party.
Rep. Edward Hanes of Winston-Salem has been called “controversial” by the liberal N.C. Policy Watch for his penchant for forming alliances with Republicans.
Similarly, Rep. Rodney Moore of Charlotte has caught flack for supporting vouchers to send low-income children to private school and advocating school choice.
Meet the 9 Republicans who voted against jobs.
Here are the 9 Republicans failed to make the list. There are a couple different factions here.
First, you have the representatives who just don’t like going along with Republican orthodoxy.
Rep. Hugh Blackwell of Valdese, a former school board member, who joined 12 Democrats in voting against House Bill 90 a few weeks ago — the bill that fixed the class size issue and changed the state Board of Elections again.
Rep. John Blust, the “maverick” from Guilford County who is not running for re-election after being drawn into a solid blue district.
Then you have the rogue legislators who show up in the headlines a lot.
Rep. Dana Bumgardner, a firebrand from Gaston who memorably called a critic a “snowflake” by email and has strong opinions on transportation funding — particularly opposing the Garden Parkway toll lane project in his district.
Rep. Chris Millis of Pender County, who called on Republicans to impeach Secretary of State Elaine Marshall in some dust-up over notaries public. He’s already resigned his seat.Finally, there are the religious conservatives.
Rep. Jeff Collins, a Nash County pastor, was one of the fiercest critics of a compromise that ended House Bill 2.
Rep. Larry Pittman, Rep. Michael Speciale and Rep. Carl Ford all supported a bill that would end North Carolina’s recognition of same-sex marriage in opposition to the Supreme Court. Speciale and Pittman also endorsed the state’s right to secession from the United States.