It’s that time of year again, when the editorial team
and mathematicians here at Capitol Weekly go about
the exercise of reducing our 118 legislators to simple numerical statistics. Yes, boys
and girls. We are proud to present the Third Annual
Now for the usual round of disclaimers and preemptive
apologies. Every political scorecard has its problems,
and this one is no exception. The selection of bills
is subjective, chosen after conversations with Capitol
staff and experts, and our own observations of big
debates over the last year under the dome. We also
took our cues from other organizations who do this
kind of thing on a regular basis. In fact, the Capitol
Weekly scorecard is, in many ways, a compilation or
synthesis of other scorecards that have been floating
around insider circles in recent weeks.
We did try to insert a little Capitol Weekly flare.
For example, we chose the vote on renewed oil drilling
for our scorecard, even though the vote was purged
on the Assembly side. No worries. We’ve got the vote tally, and it’s there on our list for the world to see. The bills
we chose were not necessarily the most publicized,
or even the most hotly contested in all cases. But
we sought to pick a variety of bills dealing with diverse
topics that lawmakers have been asked to tackle over
the last legislative session.
For all of its imperfections, once again, we found
this scorecard to be a worthy exercise. Terms like
“liberal” and “conservative” are crude political shorthand, but we think the results
give a pretty fair representation of the ideological
makeup of the Assembly and Senate.
Also, our scorecard reflects what most Capitol observers
know to be true: Democrats in contested districts like Alyson Huber
and Lou Correa earn more centrist marks than those
lawmakers in more solid, partisan districts.
We expect the usual round of griping and harrumphing
that comes with our annual publication of this scorecard
– in fact, we welcome it. That’s what this scorecard aims to be – a conversation piece for our fellow California political
As always, we look forward to your feedback. If experience
has taught us anything, it’s that our readers are not shy about telling us what
With that, let’s go to the scorecard…
Take a closer look and download the Legislative Scorecard.
How we scored
derived our scores based on 19 bills selected by Capitol Weekly
editors. The score
0-100 scale. A “perfect” liberal score is 100, and a “perfect”
conservative score is zero.
On all but three of the bills, the “yes” vote was considered the more
liberal vote. The three
exceptions to that rule were the LA football stadium
bill, AB 81 3x; the oil drilling bill, AB 23; and the air pollution
credits bill, SB 827. In all three cases, the measures were opposed by
environmental groups, so the no vote received the liberal
scoring in those cases. Each vote was worth about 5.5 points. A member
received or was docked, three points
if he or she did not vote on a particular measure.
The rationale was that an abstention is often a member’s way of expressing displeasure with a bill, and effectively
serves as a vote against the bill, although it is not
quite as strong as a “no” vote. If the member had a formally excused absence,
the vote did not affect the lawmaker’s final score.