Pass/Fail: Colorado State Legislators’ Final Report Card

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


It’s the perpetual political question: “Does Lawmaker Johnny play well with others?”

This week, Colorado Confidential reviews the effectiveness of state Senate and House members in passing the 642 bills introduced in the 2007 legislative session:

Who’s getting things done and who should be wearing a dunce cap?

Which Democrats and Republicans do you want on your team as a co-sponsor?

How did the 33 freshmen lawmakers fare?

Who are the classic over-achievers and who responded to the wake up call from our mid-term scorecard?

Purpose
Our scoring methodology focuses on effectivess in passing bills and is quite straightforward: (1) did a lawmaker introduce a bill and (2) did it get signed by Gov. Ritter.

The results we’ll share this week are not a direct reflection of one’s political power, parliamentary skill or personal popularity though they are certainly important elements in bill passage. To validate this claim, as you’ll read later this week, plenty of neophyte legislators passed significant laws this session.

Time
All bills introduced and voted upon from the opening session on January 10 through May 4, 2007 were considered in the scoring matrix.

Documents
We downloaded the House and Senate status sheets from the Colorado General Assembly web site on June 5, the day after Gov. Ritter’s deadline to sign/veto legislation or allow bills to become enacted without signature.

As we did with the mid-term scorecard, supplemental budget bills, resolutions, and memorials were excluded from this analysis.

Analysis
We used a utility called Able2Extract to get the status sheets PDFs into spreadsheets. Then, over the last week, we tallied:

  • 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 March media poll. Look for bill critiques in future posts.

Ranking
We used an ordinal ranking system to determine top and bottom order for the legislators’ individual total scores. In some categories, there were two- and three-way ties between lawmakers with the same score. The ordinal system allows us to provide a more clear cut representation of Top 10 and Bottom 10 rankings.

Let the games begin!

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About the Author

Wendy Norris

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