Friday, October 7, 2011

MUTH'S TRUTHS 10/07/2011

Ratings of the 2011 Nevada Legislature 
Executive Summary
by Dan Burdish & David Mansdoerfer
“I’m never quite sure what the point of legislative report cards are. To give the elected officials – or their opponents – fodder for the next campaign? To show how lawmakers voted on issues of import to the special interest? To get media coverage? Maybe some of all of the above.”

– RalstonFlash, 8/29/11

In accordance with our motto – “Putting the Public Back in Public Policy” – Citizen Outreach believes legislative ratings are extremely useful to Nevada citizens in helping them determine how their elected officials voted up in Carson City.

In this, most citizens have neither the time nor inclination to sift through scores of legislative histories, summaries and reports in order to determine, as the American Conservative Union (ACU) explains it in their own Ratings of Congress, which legislators “protect liberty as conservatives and those who are truly liberal.”

Additionally, these ratings are used to hold elected officials accountable for their campaign rhetoric. Often, candidates say things just to get elected. Our ratings help conservatives differentiate between what a candidate says on the campaign trail and how they actually vote once in office.

Nevada’s 76th legislative session saw 1,114 bills or resolutions introduced in the two chambers of the Legislature. While many of these bills were harmless, there were several bills dealing with government regulations, taxes/fees and individual liberty that we felt should be rated.  For a full list of these bills and our reasoning for rating them please click here.

In reviewing the bills, Citizen Outreach generally adopted the following version of the criteria used by the House Republican Study Committee to determine which bills to support or oppose in Congress.

1.Less Government – Does the bill reduce government regulations, the size of government, or eliminate entitlements or unnecessary programs?

 2.Lower Taxes – Does the bill promote fiscal responsibility in spending or reduce taxes/fees?

 3.Personal Responsibility – Does the bill encourage responsible behavior by individuals and families and encourage them to provide for their own health, safety, education and general welfare.

 4.Individual Freedom – Does the bill increase opportunities for individuals or families to decide, without hindrance or coercion from government, how to conduct their own lives and make personal choices?

 5.Stronger Families – Does the bill enhance the American family and its power to rear children without undue interference from the government?
Using this as a guide, Citizen Outreach analyzed every bill in the legislative cycle and selected 31 Assembly bills and 31 Senate bills which we believe fall under one or more of these categories.

Using these bills, Citizen Outreach scored each legislator by giving them 1 point for each bill in which they voted in accord with Citizen Outreach’s position. A vote in opposition of Citizen Outreach’s position would result in a score of 0 for that vote.

Rating legislators on factors such as “accessibility” to lobbyists – as the teachers union did in its own “report card” earlier this year – is inappropriately subjective.  As such, our ratings are based on actual recorded votes on bills which, as the ACU puts it, provide “a clear ideological distinction among those casting them.”

Two bills this session were deemed especially important and were double-weighted.  AB561 increased taxes on Nevada residents by over $600 million despite assurances in 2009 that those “temporary” tax hikes would expire in June 2011.  And SB231 would have allowed a person licensed to carry a concealed weapon to do so on any Nevada System of Higher Education’s campus for self-protection.

In addition, as in our 2009 ratings, legislators who signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge were given one extra-credit point for doing so.  All legislators were advised of this prior to the start of the session and afforded an additional opportunity to sign the Pledge even if they didn’t sign it during their campaigns.

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