Capitol Weekly’s Legislative Scorecard

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 Legislative Scorecard.

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 junkies.

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 they think.
With that, let’s go to the scorecard…

Take a closer look and download the Legislative Scorecard.

How we scored
We derived our scores based on 19 bills selected by Capitol Weekly editors. The score reflects a  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.

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