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Thursday, September 4, 2003

Whose session was this?

There was a really informative chart in The Oregonian on Sunday (which you'll never find on its web site), logging all the Oregon legislators' votes on 18 defining measures that passed in the legislative session just concluded.

As regular readers of this weblog may recall, this year I pledged to follow the Salem solons more closely, so that I could get a better read on the internal workings of our state's legislative branch. Heaven knows, I've been dissatisfied with their output, and I resolved it was time to watch things in that realm a bit more closely.

Studying the chart in The O is a great way to do that, and I've been fooling around with the vote tallies there to try to see who really called the shots in the House and the Senate.

Here's one game I decided to play. I counted up how many times each of the legislators voted no on the 18 measures that were passed and selected by The O as key. My hypothesis was that the more times a legislator voted no on the bills that passed, the less influence he or she had in the session.

Talk about unscientific. There's so much to argue with in that supposed logic. First of all, the chart in the paper doesn't show the votes on bills that were voted down -- only on those that passed. Surely people who voted yes on bills that were shot down should be "dinged" in an influence tally, just as those who voted no on bills that passed. And alas, the chart doesn't include measures that were rejected.

Moreover, just because one is in the majority most of the time does not mean that one is influential. Perhaps a legislator who voted yes on all the bills that passed is just, well, easy. And of course, who's to say The Oregonian picked the 18 most significant bills (although its list looked pretty good to me)?

Anyhow, for what it's worth, I ran the numbers (with a ruler and my eagle eye, so there could be a mistake or two), and here's what I came up with:

Legislators who voted no the fewest number of times on the 18 selected passed bills (and thus were arguably the most influential):

In the Senate (drum roll, please): With 0 no votes, Ryan Deckert (D-Beaverton), Rick Metsger (D-Welches), and Jackie Winters (R-Salem). Following close behind were Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) and Frank Morse (R-Albany), with 1 no each.

In the House: With 0 no votes, Mary Gallegos (R-Cornelius) and Vicki Berger (R-Salem). Eight others tied with 1 no each.

How about on the other side of the coin? Who were the naysayers, who voted no most often on the 18 bills that passed (and thus were arguably the least influential)?

In the Senate, Roger Beyer (R-Molalla) and Lenn Hannon (R-Ashland) voted no 9 times out of the 18. Following close behind were Jason Atkinson (R-Jacksonville) and Gary George (R-Newberg), with 8 no's apiece.

And in the House, the Champ of No was Betsy Close (R-Albany) with 13, trailed closely by Tom Butler (R-Ontario) and Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point) with 12 each, and Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg) with 11.

We need to add an asterisk to that last batch, as there were two House members who were absent for quite a few key votes, and who probably would have voted no had they been on the floor. These are Cliff Zauner (R-Woodburn) who was absent for 12 out of the 18 votes, and who voted no on 3 of the 6 measures that he actually did vote on. Randy Miller (R-West Linn) voted no 6 times out of 12, and was absent for 6 other votes.

So does that mean that the session belonged to folks like Deckert, Berger, and Metsger, and not to folks like Close and Beyer? In some important ways, I think the answer is yes.

Yes and no: Deckert, Close.

Anyhow, here's my whole chart, with legislator and number of no votes. (Corrections will be gratefuly accepted and acknowledged; the master chart that I used as my source was on page A6 of Sunday's paper, if you haven't pitched it yet.)


Deckert, D-Beaverton, 0
Metsger, D-Welches, 0
Winters, R-Salem, 0
Burdick, D-Portland, 1
Morse, R-Albany, 1
Brown, D-Portland, 2
Carter, D-Portland, 2
Courtney, D-Salem, 2
Devlin, D-Tualatin, 2
Nelson, R-Pendleton, 2
Ringo, D-Beaverton, 2
Westlund, R-Bend, 2
Starr, C., R-Hillsboro, 3
Messerle, R-Coos Bay, 4
Schrader, D-Canby, 4
Walker, D-Eugene, 4
Ferrioli, R-John Day, 5
Gordly, D-Portland, 5
Shields, D-Portland, 5
Starr, B., R-Hillsboro, 5
Corcoran, D-Cottage Grove, 6
Dukes, D-Astoria, 6
Harper, R-Klamath Falls, 6
Minnis, R-Wood Village, 6
Morrisette, D-Springfield, 6
Fisher, R-Roseburg, 7
Atkinson, R-Jacksonville, 8
George, R-Newberg, 8
Hannon, R-Ashland, 9
Beyer, R-Molalla, 9


Berger, R-Salem, 0
Gallegos, R-Cornelius, 0
Backlund, R-Keizer, 1
Bates, D-Ashland, 1
Dalto, R-Salem, 1
Farr, R-Eugene, 1
Hass, D-Raleigh Hills, 1
Jenson, R-Pendleton, 1
Patridge, R-Medford, 1
Shetterly, R-Dallas, 1
Barker, D-Aloha, 2
Beyer, D-Springfield, 2
Hopson, D-Tillamook, 2
Hunt, D-Milwaukie, 2
Johnson, D-Scappoose, 2
Morgan, R-Myrtle Creek, 2
Schaufler, D-Happy Valley, 2
Williams, R-Tigard, 2
Hansen, D-Portland, 3
Kafoury, D-Portland, 3
Mabrey, R-The Dalles, 3
Macpherson, D-Lake Oswego, 3
Wirth, D-Corvallis, 3
Zauner, R-Woodburn, 3 (12 absences)
Ackerman, D-Eugene, 4
Barnhart, D-Eugene, 4
Brown, R-Newport, 4
Greenlick, D-Portland, 4
Krieger, R-Gold Beach, 4
Krummel, R-Wilsonville, 4
Minnis, R-Wood Village, 4
Anderson, L., D-Gresham, 4
Nolan, D-Portland, 4
Prozanski, D-Eugene, 4
Smith, P., R-Corbett, 4
Tomei, D-Milwaukie, 4
Verger, D-Coos Bay, 4
Anderson, G., R-Grants Pass, 5
Avakian, D-Beaverton, 5
Knopp, R-Bend, 5
March, D-Portland, 5
Dingfelder, D-Portland, 6
Kitts, R-Hillsboro, 6
Merkley, D-Portland, 6
Miller, R-West Linn, 6 (6 absences)
Rosenbaum, D-Portland, 6
Smith, T., R-Molalla, 6
Garrard, R-Klamath Falls, 7
Gilman, R-Medford, 7
Scott, R-Canby, 7
Flores, R-Boring, 8
Kropf, R-Sublimity, 8
Smith, G., R-Heppner, 8
Doyle, R-Salem, 10
Nelson, R-McMinnville, 10
Kruse, R-Roseburg, 11
Richardson, R-Central Point, 12
Butler, R-Ontario, 12
Close, R-Albany, 13

Whether you like what the Legislature did this time around or not, there's one very rough measure of who made some important things happen.

Comments (1)

I actually work in a legislature, which is what makes me so long-winded and insufferable about politics. So what follows are unscientific (in the sense of "anecdotal") observations as well.

I think it's actually not a bad measure you've chosen. My top addition would be that huge amounts of influence are exercised in committee, at least in my part of the world. A committee chair who sits on a bill and never brings it up for a committee hearing can be ten times as influential by doing that as by anything they do with floor votes. Some of the biggest power moves I've ever seen have been in committee. And as you pointed out about wishing you could count things that didn't pass, you'd also get a better picture if you could somehow analyze things that never saw floor votes at all.

There are also times, I think, when a group of members who may be out of the mainstream in general may be able to sharply influence a particular issue to which they're very devoted, particularly in closely divided chambers. So sometimes a person's influence isn't broad, it's just piercing, if that makes sense.

But overall, it's probably a good gauge of influence, I bet.

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