The 2011 Civitas Action Conservative Effectiveness Scores and Rankings are in and they reveal a legislature much more conservative than in past years. Civitas Action compiles a list of votes that can clearly be defined as conservative or liberal and scores legislators accordingly. Legislators with the highest scores are considered to be the most conservative and conversely, those with the lowest scores are more liberal in relation to other scored legislators.
Both houses of the state legislature scored more conservatively in 2011. The accompanying charts show the average scores for members of the state House and Senate since 2008, the year Civitas Action started scoring the legislature. This year, the state House went from an overall average of 31.5 percent in 2010 to an average score of 62.4 percent. The state Senate demonstrated even greater gains, shifting from an overall average of 26.5 percent in 2010 to 75.7 percent this year.
This year’s list includes 50 votes in the state House and 43 votes in the state Senate. These votes include economic and budget matters, social and cultural issues, and education and regulatory reforms. Civitas Action analyzes recorded votes from several categories to reflect a more balanced picture of each legislator. House and Senate members are scored on an effectiveness scale from 0 to 100 with 0 representing the most liberal voting record and 100 representing the most conservative.
The impact of the 2010 election was most evident in the large number of first time legislators, especially among Republicans. Freshmen legislators accounted for roughly one-third of GOP members in each house. These freshmen helped Republicans score much more conservatively with House Republicans moving from an average score of 58.7 percent in 2010 to an average of 91.2 percent this year. The state Senate Republicans experienced a similar shift, going from 56.6 percent in 2010 to 97.1 percent this year. Many of the freshmen Republican members placed near the top in both houses. A freshman tied for the top ranking in the state House while of the top five House members, four were freshmen legislators. In the state Senate, nine of the 11 freshmen Republican Senators tied for the number two ranking.
The more conservative nature of this year’s legislature is also reflected among Democrats. The average score for House Democrats went from 10.5 percent in 2010 to 25 percent this year. The Democrats in the state Senate saw an even more impressive rise in scores, moving from an average of 7.2 percent in 2010 to an average of 38.4 percent this year.
The main difference in this year’s rankings from years past is easily explained by the very nature of the legislative process. Legislators, by their nature, want to pass bills. When they are presented with liberal bills, as demonstrated in the preceding three years, they vote more liberally. When they are presented with more conservative bills, as represented in this year’s session, they are inclined to vote more conservatively, regardless of party. Legislators want to legislate – that means passing bills.