The 64th Legislative Assembly concluded April 29th, consuming 78 of their authorized 80 days for the biennium and leaving one bill in the unfinished business file. The session had unique elements, such as the drastic changes of revenue forecasts from the beginning of the session until the end, and the budget jockeying that had to occur in between.
The property tax “reform” facade will continue, bringing with it more state spending without any significant effort to actually reform anything. Thus we can look forward to two more years of local governments and school districts putting your state tax money, identified for relief, in their pocket; simultaneously raising your property taxes and thumbing their nose at legislative intent for property tax “relief”. In short, there was a little something for everyone to perhaps welcome, but also get frustrated with.
Another piece of unfinished business, as far as SAB is concerned, is the final score of our Legislative Rankings for the session. This post will seek to wrap up that unfinished business for both chambers.
Before we begin, we will go over a few reminders for your consideration.
First, we look at “the score” through a relatively conservative to libertarian lens. Democrats won’t score well, and that’s ok as I am sure they would not want to. Since they are effectively marginalized in the Legislature, it doesn’t matter much anyways.
But, as you are aware if you followed this methodology from last session as well as halftime of this one, many Republicans (too many in the opinion of several in the grassroots) do poorly as well (I am looking at you especially, Rep. Hawken and Sen Flakoll). Our “marker bills” (see below) and the preferred votes for those bills do support the NDGOP ideals and platform, although not by design. But, it (still) goes without saying that conservatism is a foreign concept for too many “Republicans” in the Legislature.
The defense offered of course is “we are just representing the wishes of those in our district”. That is completely understandable on the surface of the argument. But, if that really is the case, why do they seek the endorsement of the NDGOP? Why not seek the ND Dem-NPL endorsement, or better yet, run as an independent? After all, if they are truly representing the wishes of their district, and are accomplishing this, they should not need a “label”.
If they do need a label (a label which was on the ballot next to their name for all voters to see), why is that? Is there a chance they may also have been elected with the expectation to govern based somewhat on the values of their letter?
Granted, it is reality that each Legislator (regardless of letter) has reasons for voting a specific way on each bill. If you have concerns about specific votes, ask them. But, this is also a primary reason why we pick so many bills from each chamber to score — the more you pick the more reliable the trend, and those trends tell the story better than a vote on a specific bill. No system (including this one) is perfect, but we feel ours does give you all a good feel for the Assembly as a whole and each member. There will never be a perfect voting record for any conservative or liberal, but trends will lend you insights.
The scoring methods remain unchanged from that used at the crossover break. We did hear a little complaining from some individual Legislators, but to stay consistent we won’t change the system to wrap up final scores for the 64th.
Some simply thought they were more conservative than the score showed. That may be the case, but the scorecard is based on actual actions taken through voting (which can be measured) versus words. Some did not like 3 points being given or taken away based on co-sponsorships, stating co-sponsorship doesn’t mean a lot. Perhaps true, and we will consider it for next time, but why does the Legislature have provisions for co-sponsorship if it doesn’t mean much? Why not just eliminate co-sponsorships altogether?
Here are how points were assigned, however, for each marker bill:
- 1 point was earned or lost for every floor vote on each marker bill for non-sponsors. Points were gained if the votes were cast in agreement with our desired vote on a bill, and lost for the opposite.
- 5 points were earned or lost if a legislator was the primary sponsor on a bill we thought should pass or fail (respectively).
- 3 points were earned or lost by co-sponsors similar to the methodology for primary sponsors.
- Sponsors and co-sponsors do not gain or lose the 1 point allocated for the floor vote that non-sponsors gain or lose.
- Co-sponsor points are also counted or lost for bills introduced in the other chamber which they are part of sponsoring.
- 1 point was gained or lost by a sponsor or cosponsor if they ended up voting against a bill they were part of sponsoring (depending on if we thought the bill should pass or fail). Sponsorship points are thus not counted.
- 0 points were awarded if a Legislator was absent for a floor vote on a bill they did not have a part of sponsoring. They still earned or lost their 5 or 3 points for sponsorship even if they were absent for the floor vote.
- Points are awarded or lost regardless of if a bill passes or fails overall.
For example, a House member introduces a “do pass” (from the perspective of SAB) bill (+5), co-sponsors a “do not pass” bill (-3) in the House and a “do pass” bill in the Senate (+3), and votes for ten “do pass” bills (+1 each). Total points earned is 15. We went this direction because we felt those who are part of sponsoring bills should get more credit, or be held more responsible for, the bills they introduce. In using the +/- approach, we also get a better feel for the “bell curve” of the Assembly, and where each member fell, than we did last year when we relied primarily on percentages.
Marker bills chosen are listed towards the end of the post. Some bills were removed from the first half simply because they did not have a recorded vote in one or both chambers. It is pretty hard to score them if you can’t see how the votes were cast. Personally, I would like to see every vote recorded, but the Legislature has rules which ensure some votes are not identified in the respective journals. Still, this isn’t really in keeping with a spirit of transparency.
These scores show the final results, not just those from the second half of the session. We will not publish second half scores because, through the conference committee process, some marker bills went through a second vote in both chambers. We want to use the last vote taken by each as the final score for a bill. Also, in certain cases, the bills were amended in such a manner that a “Yea” desired vote in the chamber of origination became a “Nay” desired vote for each chamber in the second half. In these cases sponsor and co-sponsor points may have also been eliminated as well.
The most egregious example of this was HB 1283 relating to a parents right to opt their children out of testing not related to teacher-taught material. This bill passed the House, but when it reached the Senate it was given the “hoghouse” treatment by Sen Tim Flakoll (??-44) and the Senate Education Committee. The bill was changed 180 degrees from original intent. It is dirty pool; Flakoll and committee know it and should be ashamed. But it is allowed, and thus the bill had to be killed to avoid a worse circumstance than we have now.
The “Top 10” finishers in the House, by our scoring system, are as follows:
No surprises here really. Many of the names listed above are mentioned in “I wish Rep (insert your chosen name or names from the Top 10) was representing my district” discussions. Special recognition goes to Rep Becker for a very solid finish; District 7 is lucky to have you. So are the other districts with Legislators at or near the Top 10.
Since the Senate is half as big as the House, the top finishers will be limited to the first five. They are:
Again, there was nothing shocking with this final finish in the Senate. Sen Larsen also posted a strong finish, with the rest of the pack much closer than what was seen in the House.
Back of the Pack
The bottom 10 in the House finished as follows:
Rep Hawken (??-46) was the lowest ranking Republican, coming in 72nd with a dismal -14 score. If you were surprised, you were not paying much attention. One Democrat, Rep Boe (D-9) was a place over her, but posted a score of -4. This can provide some perspective.
The last 5 in the Senate ranked as follows:
The Senate finished along party lines, with all Republicans finishing ahead of the Democrats. Sen Flakoll finished 32nd with 1 point to bring up the NDGOP tail. This should also not be surprising to anyone who follows the Legislature.
The below charts can give you a great fell for where each Legislator falls in comparison to each other, and where the “bell” (granted, not really a true bell like a classroom grading curve) is in the chamber as a whole.
Full Ranking and Marker Bill List
The final rankings of each Legislator, along with the final marker bill list, is included below: