Pass/Fail: A Mid-Term Report Card of Colorado’s State Legislators

A team report by Kerri Rebresh, Sandra Fish and Wendy Norris.

While Colorado Confidential may not be able to foist CSAPs on our state legislators yet – hold on, we’re working on it – we can issue a good old-fashioned mid-term report card to gauge who are the classic overachievers and whose dog ate their homework.

Over the next five days, we’ll reveal:

Which senators and representatives are having success (or not) pushing their bills through committee, on to the floor, and, ultimately, to Gov. Bill Ritter’s desk for signature?

Who is the most popular co-sponsor at the Capitol?

What lawmakers are willing to take one (or five) for the team?

Who wins the Shrinking Violet Award for introducing no bills yet this session?

And how does the leadership in each chamber compare in the number of bills they’ve personally introduced?

Look under the fold for our scoring methodology.Time frame
Bill were considered from the opening session on January 10 through March 11, which represented the 61st day of the 120-day of the legislative session.

Documents
We downloaded the House status sheet [PDF] and Senate status sheet [PDF] from the start of the business day March 12.

At that point, 565 bills had been introduced. We excluded the supplemental budget bills from this analysis and we’re not counting resolutions, memorials or that sort of thing.

Analysis
We used a utility called Able2Extract to get the PDF information into spreadsheets. Then, over the next two weeks, we came up with tallies of:

  • How many bills each lawmaker introduced in her or his own house
  • How many of those bills passed their initial committee
  • How many were killed in the initial committee
  • How many passed the originating house’s floor
  • How many were killed on the floor
  • How many passed the initial committee of the opposing house
  • How many passed the floor of the opposing chamber
  • How many were signed by the governor
  • How many were vetoed by the governor

We also looked at prime sponsors of bills on the opposite floor (i.e., senators carrying House bills):

  • How many bills each lawmaker co-sponsored
  • How many of those bills passed their committee
  • How many passed the floor
  • How many were signed by the governor
  • How many were vetoed

Then we came up with a point system. It isn’t cumulative – each bill gets the highest number of points possible. For instance, a bill signed by Gov. Bill Ritter gets 6 points, nothing more. Here’s the point breakdown for the primary sponsors:

  • 6 points for a bill signed by the governor
  • Negative 6 for the bill vetoed by the governor
  • 4 points for passing both houses
  • Negative 2 for failing the opposite house floor
  • Negative 1 for being killed in committee in either house
  • 2 points for passing the original house floor
  • 1 point for passing the original commitee of reference

For co-sponsoring a bill in the opposite house, the points went like this:

  • 3 points for a bill signed by the governor
  • Negative 3 for the bill vetoed by the governor
  • 2 points for getting the bill passed on your floor
  • Negative 2 for losing it on the floor
  • Negative 1 for losing it in committee
  • 0.5 points for getting it through the orginating committee

We’ll be the first to agree that this system is, shall we say, “quibble-acable.” So is the math used for, say, school report cards or ranking universities.

It is just a tally of bills. We aren’t looking at the substance of the bills – a criticism lawmakers had of the mainstream media in our poll earlier this month. For sure, some are cakewalks (can you say, revision of statutes?) and others are serious uphill battles (wasn’t there some brouhaha about that pesky Amendment 41 recently?)

Plus, there’s been a lot of action in the ensuing two weeks – bills signed, bills passed, yes, Virginia, even bills killed. But this is a snapshot of how things looked at at the legislature’s midpoint.

In the meantime, this is the system we came up with. And we’ll stick with it, giving you a final update after the deadline for Gov. Ritter to sign all bills. We may need some adjustments, such as does a bill that goes into law without a signature get the same weight as one that was signed?

You tell us!

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About the Author

Wendy Norris

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