11 July 2009

Legislative regular session wrap-up and rankings: Senate, 2009

This week will be presented the scorecard for Senate members for the 2009 regular session. Senators will be graded on their votes on a bill which passed both chambers, one that passed the Senate but not the House, two which passed both chambers in different forms, and three which failed to pass the House only which are similar bills to those that failed to pass the Senate only. 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 seven bills and their weighings are:

HB 591 (10 percent) – would relax lobbyist rules to allow groups of at least 10 legislators to get more food and drink paid for at certain events; a conservative/reform vote is against.

HB 689 (25 percent) – would reverse tax deductions that began in 2009; a conservative/reform vote is against.

HB 340 (10 percent) – would strengthen religious freedoms in the state Constitution; a conservative/reform vote is for.

SB 183 (5 percent) – would allow universities to raise tuition and fees without requiring a two-thirds vote of the Legislature; a conservative/reform vote is for.

SB 335 (25 percent) – would reverse tax deductions that began in 2009; a conservative/reform vote is against.

SB 37 amendment #2343 (15 percent) – vote on an amendment for the bill which would have forced unelected tax authorities to put millage increases to a vote during regular state or federal elections before they took effect, which removed so many jurisdictions as to effectively moot the bill; a conservative/reform vote is against.

SB 186 (10 percent) – would have banned smoking in almost all commercial establishments that serve food; a conservative/reform vote is for.

(Since an absence is counted as a “no” vote, that also is reflected in these ranking unless the legislator asked for leave on the day of the vote. In that case, the vote if the overall vote was a defeat is removed from the ranking and the score adjusted to reflect only those votes that occurred when the legislator was not on leave. Votes on amendments, which have different passage rules, that are part of the rankings are adjusted for absences regardless of whether leave was taken.)

The Senate turned out much more liberal/populist than the house, with an average score of just under 37. Only eight senators even were above 50, and two of these were Democrats meaning 10 from the GOP scored below. A quintet of Republicans scored as high as 90 but no perfect scores were reached unlike in the House, but two perfect scores in the opposite were registered by Democrats, Lydia Jackson and Eric LaFleur. Some reversals were stunning in their scope as compared to last year among Republicans; swinging at least 30 points away from conservatism/reformism were, in order of magnitude, Danny Martiny, Blade Morrish, Sherri Smith Cheek, Julie Quinn, and (representing a drop from 70 to 25) Gerald Long, while swinging at least that much towards conservatism/reformism were, in order of magnitude, A.G. Crowe, Jack Donahue, and (representing a gain from 55 to 90), Buddy Shaw. Amazingly, last year’s (tied for) most liberal/populist Republican, Robert Adley, actually continued in that direction scoring just a 12 and ranking closer to this end than all but seven Democrats.

In sum, because the six that were above 50 scored well above it, the GOP average was still above 50 at about 57, while Democrats averaged around 26. Nick Gautreaux, a Democrat, and Republicans Mike Walsworth and Neil Riser were the only senators to score high this year as well as last, while making significant moves in the liberal/populist direction (moving down at least 30 points, in order of magnitude) were Francis Thompson, Jackson, Pres. Joel Chaisson, Reggie Dupre and, with an incredible 55 point drop, David Heitmeier.

Next week will feature the governor’s score and a wrapup on all bills. Here is the complete list of senators:

Appel 90 Republican
Crowe 90 Republican
Donahue 90 Republican
Shaw 90 Republican
Walsworth 90 Republican
Riser 85 Republican
Gautreaux, N 75 Democrat
Smith, J 65 Democrat
Alario 47 Democrat
Marionneaux 44 Democrat
Claitor 40 Republican
Hebert 40 Democrat
Kostelka 40 Republican
Gautreaux, B 30 Democrat
Mount 29 Democrat
Quinn 29 Republican
Cheek 25 Republican
Erdey 25 Republican
Long 25 Republican
Nevers 25 Democrat
Broome 24 Democrat
Amedee 20 Democrat
Duplessis 18 Democrat
Martiny 18 Republican
Morrish 18 Republican
Dorsey 15 Democrat
Gray Evans 15 Democrat
Guillory, E 15 Democrat
Michot 15 Republican
Morrell 15 Democrat
Thompson 15 Democrat
Adley 12 Republican
McPherson 10 Democrat
Chaisson 5 Democrat
Dupre 5 Democrat
Heitmeier 5 Democrat
Murray 5 Democrat
Jackson, L 0 Democrat
LaFleur 0 Democrat

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