Rise of the nonlegislator

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Sacramento Bee

It’s Labor Day, and some legislators are voting as much today as during some days they spent working at the Capitol, which means not at all, according to a University of Southern California report on who abstained from voting on certain bills during the 2001-02 session.

The report found that on average, 34.3 percent of Assembly and Senate members abstained from substantive votes on bills that ultimately failed.

Because a nonvote has the same power as a “no” vote, the nonvote is a common way of voting against a bill without going on record as being opposed.

“I think not voting is easier than taking a position your contributors or voters aren’t going to like,” said Carmen Balber, a consumer advocate with the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

In looking specifically at Assembly members, the report authors found that those most likely to abstain on failed bills were moderate Democrats. Along party lines, Assembly Democrats didn’t vote on 32 percent of failed bills while Republicans didn’t vote on 13.5 percent of them.
The Bee’s Kevin Yamamura can be reached at (916) 326-5548 or [email protected]
Gary Delsohn of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.

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