This has been a crazy and exciting General Assembly session! VAPLAN has been tracking bills all session, and recording votes. For the last two years since we began, we have put together a cross-issue legislative scorecard, ranking legislators based on how progressively they voted. Although special interest groups often create scorecards for particular issues like guns, the environment, or business, ours is the only one we’ve seen that covers multiple legislative areas to measure overall progressiveness. With that, we’re happy to announce the third annual VAPLAN legislative scorecard!
Before we get to the scores, though, a few important caveats are in order:
- Our list of included bills is not necessarily a comprehensive list of all progressive bills—our strategy is typically to focus on bills that are not straight party-line votes (either in committees or on the floor), to enable us to tease out differences among Democrats and differences among Republicans.
- We discovered this year in particular that a number of bills were “continued” — which we consider similar to killing — by unrecorded voice vote in House (sub)committees as well as in the Senate Rules Committee. Often this included patrons voting to continue their own bills. Additionally, some House (sub)committees left a number of bills behind without docketing them or bringing them up for vote—many closely-watched bills died in this manner this year, such as banning the death penalty for those with severe mental illness, right to work repeal, the ban on campaign donations from public utilities, etc.
- A simple scorecard is also unable to capture lousy amendments that water down a bill and votes on these amendments, unspoken or backroom deals to water down bills, as well as heroic attempts to save bills from dying, all of which were especially important this year. In other words, the scorecard mainly reflects votes on final versions of bills, which do not necessarily match what votes might have been cast on more or less progressive versions of these bills.
- Because legislators vary in the number of opportunities to vote on bills depending on their committee assignments, the scorecard is sometimes unduly affected by one unprogressive vote. A legislator on many committees can make up for that vote more easily, while one on few committees or less contentious committees (i.e. Cities, Counties and Towns) has a more difficult time overcoming that vote. Thus, while the rankings approximately measure how progressive legislators are, it’s probably better to think of them as ballpark ranges of progressiveness—the difference between #8 and #9 isn’t likely significant, but the difference between #8 and #20 probably is.
- Lastly, and most importantly, a scorecard does not measure anything other than votes on a set of bills—it does not measure extremely important legislative skills, like ability to build a coalition to get bills through, writing good bills, presenting your bills well in committee, ability to find compromises to reduce opposition, mentoring younger members, helping save or block bills in committee, being a good committee chair, etc. This is a fun and useful tool, but not a complete measure of the quality of legislators.
Without further ado, here are the highlights. Full scores are available here.
Top Scores in the House:
1. Patrick Hope (HD-47)
2. Ibraheem Samirah (HD-86)
3. (tie) Marcus Simon (HD-53) and Don Scott (HD-80)
5. Mark Levine (HD-45)
6. Josh Cole (HD-28)
7. Jay Jones (HD-89)
8. Lashrecse Aird (HD-63)
9. Cia Price (HD-95)
10. Elizabeth Guzman (HD-31)
Top Senate Scores:
- Ghazala Hashmi (SD-10)
- Jennifer Boysko (SD-33)
- Joe Morrissey (SD-16)
- Barbara Favola (SD-31)
- Jeremy McPike (SD-29)
- Scott Surovell (SD-36)
Least Progressive Delegates:
91. Mark Cole (HD-88)
92. Rob Bell (HD-58)
93. Charles Poindexter (HD-9)
94. Emily Brewer (HD-64)
95. (tie) Kathy Byron (HD-22) and Margaret Ransone (HD-99)
97. Todd Gilbert (HD-15)
98. (tie) Ronnie Campbell (HD-24), Matt Fariss (HD-59), Kirk Cox (HD-66)
Least Progressive Senators:
35. Mark Peake (SD-22)
36. Bill DeSteph (SD-8)
37. (tie) Frank Ruff (SD-15) and Steve Newman (SD-28)
39. Amanda Chase (SD-11)
40. Mark Obenshain (SD-26)
The Delegates voting closest to the center are Democrats David Bulova (HD37), Mike Mullin (HD-93), and Steve Heretick (HD-79); and Republicans Glenn Davis (HD-84), Carrie Coyner (HD-62), and Terry Kilgore (HD1). In the Senate, the centrists were Democrat Chap Petersen (D-34), and Republicans Dunnavant (R-12), Hanger (R-24), and Vogel (R-27)—the exact same squad as in last year’s scorecard.
The scorecard is calculated from the votes on 89 bills that came up this year, on topics from the environment, campaign finance reform, criminal justice, gun violence prevention, LGBTQ discrimination, and more. For every progressive vote a legislator cast on a bill (either in subcommittee, committee, or on the floor, depending on where the last vote was taken), they scored one point; for every non-progressive vote, -1. Additionally, we assigned plus or minus points for signaling intent to vote by co-sponsoring a bill. Any bill that the legislator had no vote on (either from abstaining, absence without recording intended vote, or from not being on the committee where the bill was voted on) is scored a zero.
The legislator’s total score is the sum of all the bill scores, divided by the number of bills that he or she could have cast a vote on, so that the final score measures the percent of votes cast on these bills that were progressive. The measure ranges from 1 (all votes cast were progressive) to -1 (no progressive votes were cast).