13 July 2008

Legislative regular session wrapup and rankings: Senators and Governor, 2008

This week, the final report until the next session, will be presented the scorecard for Senate members and governor for the 2008 session. Senators will be graded on their votes on 10 bills, seven of which passed both chambers. The highest score of 100 represents a perfect conservative/reform voting record, while the lowest score of 0 represents a perfect liberal/populist voting record. The 10 bills and their weighings are:

HB 939 – gives a raise from $45,000 to $75,000 to Public Service Commissioners; a conservative/reform vote is against (10 percent)

HB 1122 – extends the period of early voting; a conservative/reform vote is for (5 percent)

HB 1198 – makes the state able to judge and punish campaigns for “false” information; a conservative/reform vote is against (10 percent)

HB 1347 – sets up a scholarship program for vouchers to be used by students in New Orleans for any public or private school; a conservative/reform vote is for (15 percent)

SB 51 – permits storage of a gun in vehicles on commercial property; a conservative/reform vote is for (10 percent)

SB 672 – raises legislators’ base annual salaries from $16,800 to $37,500 and indexes them; a conservative/reform vote is against (20 percent)

SB 807 – makes it easier for franchising for cable television thus stimulating competition and reducing pricing; a conservative/reform vote is for (10 percent)

SB 61 – forces insurers to provide homeowner’s insurance to members of the military for which they provide vehicle insurance; a conservative/reform vote is against (5 percent)

SB 134 – allows certain classified employees to engage in political advocacy; a conservative/reform vote is against (5 percent)

SB 653 – increases money to senators for staffing and for legislative aides; a conservative/reform vote is against (10 percent)

(Last votes for passage were used. Since an absence is treated the same as a “nay” vote, unless a legislator requested a day of leave any votes for which he was absent was counted as such. For those who did request leave, their scores are adjusted by the votes they missed.)

Below is listed the rank and scores in descending order of senators, with their party affiliations. The Senate was notable for producing some stunning turnarounds in voting behavior by some veterans. Sen. John Smith went from being one of the lowest scorers in the House last year to one of the highest in the Senate. Not quite as dramatic but still significant were the swings from liberalism/populism to conservatism/reformism by Sens. John Alario and Nick Gautreaux (perhaps as the latter became a Gov. Bobby Jindal floor leader). By contrast among Republicans, Sen. Mike Michot (also a Jindal floor leader) dropped from a high scorer to below the Senate average, while Sen. Sherri Smith Cheek added almost as many points as Michot lost.

This lead to some unexpected partisan mixture at the top and bottom of the scale. The four highest scorers at 80, Republican Sens. Bill Cassidy, Neil Riser, and Mike Walsworth, and Democrat Sen. Willie Mount, included the Democrat Mount. In fact, there were a majority of Democrats among the top 13 scorers. While the two lowest scorers, Sens. Cheryl Gray and Eric LaFleur, at 15 and 16, respectively, are Democrats, the next two, at 20, are Republican Sens. Robert Adley and Dale Erdey (although Adley switched from Democrat within the past year). Pres. Joel Chaisson and Pres. Pro-Tem Sharon Weston Broome, Democrats both, scored below the Senate and Democrat averages.

As a whole, the Senate was below the House in scores, averaging about a 43. Partisans also scored below their House counterparts, with Republicans at around 52 and Democrats close to 39 on average. Taken together, it seems that despite the 2007 elections being billed primarily about reform and Republican gains expecially in the House, the legislature did not seem to behave in the regular session in the direction of reform or become any more conservative.

Cassidy 80 Republican
Mount 80 Democrat
Riser 80 Republican
Walsworth 80 Republican
Amedee 77 Democrat
Gautreaux, N 75 Democrat
Long 70 Republican
Quinn 70 Republican
Smith, J 70 Democrat
Alario 65 Democrat
Cheek 65 Republican
Hebert 65 Democrat
McPherson 65 Democrat
Crowe 60 Republican
Donahue 60 Republican
Heitmeier 60 Democrat
Kostelka 60 Republican
Morrish 55 Republican
Shaw 55 Republican
Martiny 50 Republican
Shepherd 50 Democrat
Cravins 45 Democrat
Duplessis 45 Democrat
Dupre 45 Democrat
Thompson 45 Democrat
Gautreaux, B 40 Democrat
Michot 40 Republican
Chaisson 35 Democrat
Jackson, L 35 Democrat
Nevers 35 Democrat
Broome 30 Democrat
Dorsey 25 Democrat
Marionneaux 25 Democrat
Murray 25 Democrat
Adley 20 Republican
Erdey 20 Republican
LaFleur 16 Democrat
Gray 15 Democrat

Finally, Jindal himself was scored, using the seven items utilized for scoring the chambers that passed both of them, where for him a vote for was signing the bill or allowing it to become law without his signature and a vote against was vetoing the bill. The weighings to compute Jindal’s score were HB 939 10 percent, HB 1122 5 percent, HB 1198 15 percent, HB 1347 20 percent, SB 51 10 percent, SB 672 25 percent, and SB 807 15 percent.

Jindal scored an 85, voting in the liberal/populist direction only on the anti-free-speech HB 1198, higher than all Senators and almost all House members.

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