7 Non-Voting Politicians Duck Public Accountability by Refusing to Vote
Santa Monica, CA — A half million dollars in campaign contributions and heavy lobbying by the insurance industry late last night killed a bill in the Assembly to prevent the sale of “junk” health insurance in California. According to an analysis by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR), the health insurance industry made $497,578 in campaign contributions to state Assembly Members since 2005.
Seven members of the California Assembly, all of whom took money from the insurance industry, refused to vote on the bill. By declining to vote, legislators hope to avoid scrutiny for protecting the insurance industry and its powerful lobby at the expense of patient protections, said the nonprofit, nonpartisan Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). A lawmaker’s abstention has the same effect on legislation as voting “no” because a bill needs a majority of the full Assembly to vote “yes” in order to pass. FTCR said politicians who failed to vote deserve more scrutiny than those who voted, because a non-vote is an attempt to deceive constituents.
“Legislators who voted ‘no’ on this common sense measure put the interests of insurers above those of patients in their districts but at least they took a public position on the bill,” said Jerry Flanagan of FTCR. “Those who skipped out on the vote, even though they were in the Capitol, are substituting cowardice for taking a stand on important issues.”
AB 2281, by Assembly Member Wilma Chan (D, Oakland), would have prevented the sale in California of health policies that do not limit a patient’s out-of-pocket expenses in the event of medical catastrophe. During testimony on the bill, Dana Christensen of Playa Del Rey told how such a policy left her with nearly a half-million dollars in medical debt when her husband died of bone cancer. See her story and other examples of such policyholders.
“The insurance industry is just as happy with a non-vote as with a ‘no’ vote,” said Flanagan. “By taking a walk on key votes, politicians escape the taint of bowing to special interests and just as effectively kill the bill.”
Chan’s bill, although it received a majority from those who did vote, fell short of the 41-vote majority of all members required for passage in the Assembly.
An award-winning study by the University of Southern California School of Policy, Planning and Development found that “non-voting” played a role in the outcome of more than 2/3 of the bills defeated in the California legislature and was the deciding factor in the defeat of more than 1/3 of those bills.
Such death of legislation by non-voting is increasingly common in the Legislature, said FTCR. “The practice is a rejection of democracy,” said Flanagan. “Lawmakers who decline to vote are refusing to stand on behalf of the voters who elected them.”
The nonvoting on Chan’s health insurance bill is further evidence of the need to take corrupting corporate power out of state government, said FTCR, and the most effective tool is the Clean Money Elections Initiative headed for the ballot this November.
The initiative, sponsored by the California Nurses Association, would publicly fund the campaigns of candidates who voluntarily participate. Similar public funding has diminished the perception of corruption in Arizona and Maine state elections, said FTCR. Click here for more on the initiative.
List of Non-Voters on AB 2281:
Juan Arambula (D, Fresno)
Ronald Calderon (D, Montebello)
Joe Canciamilla (D, Pittsburg)
Ed Chavez (D, La Puente)
Rebecca Cohn (D, Campbell)
Paul Koretz (D, West Hollywood)
Juan Vargas (D, San Diego)
Members voting “No” on AB 2281:
Greg Aghazarian (R, Stockton)
John Benoit (R, Palm Desert)
Sam Blakeslee (R, San Luis Obispo)
Russ Bogh (R, Beaumont)
David Cogdill (R, Modesto)
Lynn Daucher (R, Brea)
Chuck DeVore (R, Irvine)
Bill Emmerson (R, Redlands)
Bonnie Garcia (R, Cathredal City)
Tom Harman (R, Huntington Beach)
Ray Haynes (R, Murrieta)
Shirley Horton (R, Chula Vista)
Guy Houston (R, San Ramon)
Bob Huff (R, Diamond Bar)
Rick Keene (R, Chico)
La Malfa (R, Richvale)
La Suer (R, La Mesa)
Tim Leslie (R, Tahoe City)
Barbara Matthews (D, Tracy)
Bill Maze (R, Visalia)
Kevin McCarthy (R, Bakersfield)
Dennis Mountjoy (R, Monrovia)
Alan Nakanishi, (R, Lodi)
Gloria Negrete McLeod (D, Chino)
Roger Niello (R, Fair Oaks)
Nicole Parra (D, Hanford)
George Plescia (R, San Diego)
Keith Richman (R, Northridge)
Sharon Runner (R, Lancaster)
Todd Spitzer (R, Orange)
Audra Strickland (R, Moorpark)
Van Tran (R, Costa Mesa)
Michael Villines (R, Clovis)
Mimi Walters (R, Laguna Niguel)
Lois Wolk (D, Davis)
Mark Wyland (R, Del Mar)
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The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights is California’s leading nonpartisan and nonprofit consumer watchdog organization. For more information, visit us on the web at: http://www.ConsumerWatchdog.org