Labor Day Report Shows CA Legislators Present But Not Working

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Analysis: Non-Voting a Factor in 2/3 of Failed Bills

Santa Monica, CA — A new award-winning study conducted by graduate students at the University of Southern California (USC) School of Policy, Planning and Development, found that "nonvoting" (when a politician intentionally leaves the room or simply stays silent when called upon to vote) played a role in the outcome of more than 2/3 of the bills defeated in the California legislature and was a deciding factor in the defeat of more than 1/3. The study actually found that legislators are violating rules already in place but not enforced. Interviews with legislators conducted by the graduate students confirm that legislators often refuse to vote on legislation in order to avoid angering either special interest groups or the public.

"Politicians should not get paid when they treat work days like holidays," said Carmen Balber of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR). "Not voting is an epidemic that can only be stopped by enforcing existing rules and creating new standards."

The California Legislature should enforce rules requiring members to vote, and legislators should lose a day’s pay every time they skip a vote, according to the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) which released the new study today. Click here to read the study.

The findings of the study, which analyzed voting records of the previous legislative session, were corroborated by a series of recent bills that were defeated by nonvoting this year. Those bills included popular consumer and environmental protections such as environmental toxin monitoring, clean water protections, renter’s health rights, and cleaning up deceptive practices in consumer lending.

The study reveals that nonvoting is most prevalent among members of the Assembly’s moderate caucus, comprised of "business" Democrats, and is so common that it could have changed the fate of failed bills over 2/3 of the time.

The report concludes:

** In 68.9% of bills that were defeated during the legislative process, the number of nonvoters was high enough to have affected the bill’s outcome;

** Nonvoting played the decisive role in bill failure in the 37.5% of bills which failed with more yes votes than no votes;

** Nonvoting rates are higher in committee votes than in floor votes, where public visibility and media attention are increased.

Republicans Go On Record, Democrats Avoid Accountability:

** Among California Assembly members returning from the 2001-02 legislative session, the 15 members with the worst non-voting records are Democrats, and 12 of the 15 are members of the Mod Squad ("moderate" democrats) caucus.

** The legislator with the highest non-voting rate on failed bills was Jerome Horton (D-Inglewood), who failed to vote 60% of the time.

** Manny Diaz (D-San Jose) was second with a 49.5% nonvoting record.

In contrast, 12 of the best 15 voters on the 2001-02 session’s failed bills, that returned to the Assembly this session, are Republicans. Dave Cox (R-Fair Oaks) was the only legislator who voted on every bill, with a 0% non-voting record. Tony Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks) had the second-best non-voting record — he failed to vote 4.3% of the time. The average Assembly nonvoting rate on failed bills was 25%. Democrats’ average was 32%, while it was 13.5% for Republicans.

Many bills which would have implemented popular consumer and environmental protections failed due to nonvoting in the legislative session that concluded last week, including:

** SB1397 (Escutia) changing heavy-duty and nonroad vehicular retrofit requirements, railroad emissions impactmitigation fees, fair share emissions targets for locomotives, and makes findings re emission impacts from railroads

** AB2012 (Chu) requiring disclosure of all chemicals in cosmetic products that cause cancer or reproductive toxicity

** AB1468 (Kehoe) adopting the long-term petroleum reduction goal recommended by CARB and CEC, to reduce on-road petroleum use by 15% below2003 levels by 2020.

** SB1168 (Ortiz) establishing a biomonitoring program to detect toxics in the environment and consumer products that endanger human health ****SB1477 (Sher) strengthening clean water protections in wetlands
** SB1474 (Escutia) preventing insurers from refusing to sell or renew homeowners insurance policies when clients make a claim after a natural disaster

** AB2999 (Lieber) increasing consumer protections with country-of-origin labeling on beef

** SB1634 (Alarcón) giving building inspectors and renters the tools to get tough on slumlords who put tenants’ health at risk

** SB1327 (Kuehl) prohibiting unapproved uses of state parks

** SB1721 (Bowen) increasing consumer lending protections by specifically outlawing the deceptive practice of adding extras to contracts without the consumer’s knowledge

WORST 15 NonVoting Records on Failed Bills in 2001-02 Session

Member — NonVoting Record
Jerome Horton, D-Inglewood 60.0%
Manny Diaz, D-San Jose 49.5%
George Nakano, D-Torrance 44.1%
Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana 43.5%
Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino 43.3%
Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto 43.3%
Barbara Matthews, D-Tracy 43.2%
Simón Salinas, D-Salinas 42.7%
Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach 41.5%
John Dutra, D-Fremont 39.2%
Ed Chavez, D-La Puente 39.1%
Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego 33.8%
Juan Vargas, D-San Diego 33.7%
John Longville, D-San Bernardino 33.3%
Dario Frommer, D-Los Angeles 32.8%

BEST 15 NonVoting Records on Failed Bills in 2001-02 Session

Member — NonVoting Record
Dave Cox (R-Fair Oaks) 0.0%
Tony Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks) 4.3%
David Cogdill (R-Modesto) 4.7%
Russ Bogh (R-Beaumont) 5.6%
Dennis Mountjoy (R-Monrovia) 10.8%
Jay LaSuer (R-La Mesa) 12.1%
Ken Maddox (R-Dana Point) 12.3%
Lynn Daucher (R-Brea) 12.5%
Keith Richman (R-Northridge) 13.6%
Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood) 13.9%
Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) 15.6%
Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles) 15.6%
Tom Harman (R-Huntington Beach) 15.9%
Robert Pacheco (R-Walnut) 16.2%
Herb Wesson (D-Los Angeles) 16.7%

The nonvoting analysis, "Out For The Count: An Analysis of Nonvoting in the California Legislature," received the 2004 Robert Biller Award for Best Policy Analysis presented by the University of Southern California (USC) School of Policy, Planning and Development.

NonVoting Issue May Go To Voters

FTCR vowed to take the issue to the voters in 2006 if the legislature fails to enforce rules which require legislators to vote in their house chambers, or if it does not extend those rules to require voting in committee. The group has drafted a "No Vote, No Pay" ballot initiative which would incentivize voting by taking away legislators’ salary for each day they fail to vote. The proposal would also require reporting of legislators’ nonvoting record online, and in the ballot pamphlet.

"If the legislature doesn’t start enforcing rules that require legislators vote, we will submit a ballot initiative to dock legislators’ pay for every day they don’t," said Balber.

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Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
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