RALEIGH — State Sen. Michael Walters, who represents Robeson and Columbus counties, has been ranked by the North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation as the No. 1 pro-business Democrat in the Senate.
In the 2013 Legislative Business rankings released Wednesday, Walters received a rating of 81.88. The highest overall rating in the Senate, 95.78, went to Sen. Harry Brown, a Republican from Onslow County.
The rankings, determined after each “long” session of the General Assembly, are based on how individual legislators vote on issues of importance to businesses across the state.
“I’m just acting on my pledge to support small businesses when I ran for this office,” Walters, president of Claybourn Walters Logging Company of Proctorville, said Thursday. “I’m pro-business. I’m a small-business person and I understand the hurdles that small businesses have to overcome to be successful.”
According to Walters, it is small businesses that make up the “backbone” of the state.
“To move the state forward, we have to keep focused on our small businesses,” he said.
Bo Biggs, a Lumberton businessman who serves on the Enterprise Foundation’s board of directors and is the legislative chairman for the Lumberton Area Chamber of Commerce, said he is “tickled” to see a state representative from Robeson County recognized as one of the strongest supporters of business interest in the state.
“Former Sen. David Weinstein (from Lumberton) was always among the top Senate Democrats in the rankings, but he never made it to No. 1,” Biggs said.
In the House, Rep. William Brisson of Bladen County had the the highest rating for Democrats, 82.73. He was immediately followed by Ken Goodman of Richmond County, who had a rating of rating 72.67. Goodman’s district extends into a small part of Robeson County.
The remainder of Robeson County’s legislative delegation, Reps. Ken Waddell, Garland Pierce and Charles Graham — all Democrats — had ratings of 57.15, 33.61 and 28.96 respectively.
Foundation officials said in a statement that business interests fared well during the 2013 General Assembly.
“Without a doubt, these ratings show that the 2013 session was positive for free enterprise principles and the overall business climate of North Carolina,” said Matt Bales, research director for the foundation. “Overall, 70 percent of the Senate and 64 percent of the House members are rated at 70 or above, revealing a strong majority of business-minded legislators in both chambers.
“However,” Bales said, “inter-party tensions that arose during the legislative session had a negative impact on the promised laser-like focus on business issues and played a role in survey respondents’ ratings of legislators.”
Joe Stewart, the foundation’s executive director, said that his nonprofit has no legislative agenda and doesn’t lobby for or against specific legislation.
“… The 2013 Legislative Business Ratings represent a truly objective nonpartisan analysis of legislators based on insights from a broad base of individuals within the business community most familiar with the recent legislative session,” he said. “This methodology has proven over time to best serve NCFEF’s mission to provide impartial, objective analysis useful to the business leaders and the public on the intersection of politics and public policy that impacts North Carolina’s economic vitality.”