35 years of legislative reform

September 14, 2007

Back in 1971 when I was a political science graduate student at Chapel Hill, I started hanging around the General Assembly. I was fascinated by a Ford Foundation funded book published that spring, The Sometime Governments, a scathing attack on all 50 state legislatures through the eyes of reformers. (Of course, not everyone’s definition of reform is the same, and what seemed like a reform in 1971 may seem antiquated or even counterproductive now.)  The book suggested 23 specific reforms for North Carolina. 

I finally got a job at the General Assembly in 1977, and eventually got around to writing my Masters Thesis in 2004, tracking the implementation of those reforms in North Carolina from 1971-2004.  (11 implemented, 10 partially implemented) The audience for that document was, to say the least, rather limited. 

Earlier this year, I decided to update and shorten the document, give it more of a historical slant, and then dropped it from 98 to 64 pages and picked up actions from 2005-2007.  I’ve posted it to the web.  It includes tables on lengths of session, number of committees, committee assignments per member, and legislative budgets. It tracks the development of professional staff, electronic roll-call voting, open meetings, members’ staff, interim committees, the end of single-term speakers, the evolution of single-member districts, and a host of other topics.

So for all of you who asked when I was going to get around to writing everything down, here it is, 35+ years of the history of legislative reform at the North Carolina General Assembly.

Oh, and if you want to read my Masters Thesis, it’s posted too.

There’s no copyright on either.  Feel free to quote with attribution.