by Scott Orr and Roger Koopman, Montana Conservatives
Taxpayer’s Advisory Bulletin (TAB)
2013 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
This is the fourth legislative session surveyed by Montana Conservatives through its now well-known TAB voting report. By reviewing every floor vote on every bill and amendment, TAB provides an exhaustive analysis of each legislator’s tendency toward increasing or decreasing the size, reach, power and cost of state, as well as federal and local government.
Unlike the many voting indexes released by interest groups on the left and right – each using a narrow selection of bills that concentrate on their industry or area of focus – Montana Conservatives considers all bills and applies accepted conservative values and principles across the full spectrum of legislative issues. Our only “special interest” is the cause of freedom, and our singular strategy is public information and voter awareness.
In developing our TAB reports, we ask one fundamental question in all cases: Does this bill increase or decrease the presence of government in our lives? The resulting analysis of legislator voting habits is the most thorough and objective conservative “scorecard” available to Montana citizens.
Issues and Take-aways
Over the years, mainstream (i.e., conservative) Republicans have grown increasingly concerned over the apparent inability of the Republican Party to govern. In theory, we assume that holding a majority in both houses of the legislature would afford the GOP the opportunity to advance its traditional Republican agenda of less government, lower taxes and greater personal and economic freedom, consistent with its state party platform, which asserts these principles on virtually every issue.
But the difference between theory and practice is astonishing, and the gap grows wider with each legislative session. Republicans, when in numerical “control,” seldom become change agents, even on those issues (liberty, limited government, etc.) that the electorate has identified as central to the GOP’s message. State government ends up looking no different than it did before. Just a little fatter. And while Republican legislators fight among themselves, their message (and their opportunity for positive leadership) are all but lost in the clamor for compromise.
When the electorate rewards the Democrats with a legislative majority, there is no question what direction they will take the state. They do not hide the fact that they believe in regulated markets and regulated people. They don’t shrink from their belief that there is a governmental solution for just about everything. Moreover, when in power, they exhibit little interest in “compromising” their party’s agenda of more expensive and more expansive state government. They only talk about compromise when they are in the minority and need Republican crossover votes to pass their bills.
As we have seen in all four TAB reports, the Democrats always have more than enough GOP crossovers to keep government growing. Whether in the minority or the majority, they advance their agenda either way. Even a wide Republican majority has not been enough to stem the tide of government expansionism, and its increasing encroachment on our property, our paychecks and our personal liberties.
Is party majority even relevant?
The 2013 session of the legislature, which featured hefty Republican majorities 61-39 and 29-21 in the House and Senate respectively, was a poignant example of why traditional Republicans have become increasingly angry and frustrated with their own party. Even while enjoying these wide numerical advantages in party alignment, the philosophical advantage still clearly favored the Democrats, as this latest TAB report will once again demonstrate.
Yet this session was different, because for the first time, liberal-voting Republicans came out of the closet – swinging. Stung by a series of primary challenges, defeats and near-defeats, they took the offense, and in the Senate, actually waged open warfare against their conservative Republican leadership. Their tactic was to paint mainstream conservatives as extremists who refuse to compromise (taking a page right out of the Democrats’ playbook.) Calling themselves “Responsible Republicans,” they asserted that they were the true representatives of the party’s platform, values and beliefs.
Exposing the deception
While Montana Conservatives tries not to involve itself in party politics, we are compelled to point out that the hard facts – the individual voting records – prove the claims of the “Responsible Republicans” to be delusional at best, and a carefully concocted deception at worst. Unless the Republican Party stands for essentially the same thing as the Democrats (big government), there is simply no way that these distinctly left-wing Republicans can claim to reside at the center of their party.
We would start by pointing out that the variation of individual TAB scores among Democratic legislators is very narrow – indicating a strong alignment and loyalty to their party’s fundamental beliefs. If you asked them, they would probably say that congruity with their state platform only makes sense, because the platform pretty much defines who they are as Democrats – and why they run as Democrats.
Thus, Democrat TAB scores range from a low of 0 to a high of 7, with a combined House and Senate conservative voting average of 2%. Note that these Democrats, who generally love to extol the virtues of compromise and “reaching across the aisle,” in fact stay on their side of the aisle 98% of the time. Sadly, the Montana media has never picked up on this. They listen to the rhetoric and ignore the facts.
What about the Republicans? How often do they remain true to the positions and principles of the GOP state platform? How often do they vote with their fellow Republicans in the legislature, and how often do they join with the big government Democrats? The answer may shock you. Republican TAB scores vary from a low of 4 to a high of 94 – a spread of 90 percent, as compared to the Democrat variance of only 7 percent. The House-Senate Republican TAB average is 44, meaning Republican legislators, taken in total, cross over and join with the Democrats 56 percent of the time – freely casting their votes for more government and less freedom.
It isn’t rocket science to figure out why, no matter how strong the Republican majority, a smaller government agenda is always “Dead on Arrival” in Helena. Given the ideologically divided nature of GOP legislators, repealing bills, lessoning regulations, lowering taxes and promoting freedom, free markets and free choice has become largely impossible. A good example is a classic GOP issue: school choice. Five choice bills were forwarded this session; all were killed in the “Republican” Senate Ed Committee.
Another very specific example of what we are talking about from the last session, involves the HB 2 appropriations bill – the legislature’s primary government funding measure. While the House, through prior agreement, offered no floor amendments to HB2, the Senate was unrestricted, and proposed numerous amendments – most of which either increased or decreased total spending on specific state agencies and programs.
So with a 29 to 21 majority, what was the “fiscally conservative” Republican Party able to accomplish? While a majority of the spending hike amendments passed, all 10 amendments to reduce spending were heavily defeated. As is the familiar pattern in the Montana legislature, all 21 Democratic senators voted against all of the spending cuts. No surprise there. But they were joined by a large number of Republicans who crossed over to kill these amendments. (They also crossed over to pass many of the spending hikes.) In both cases, the Democrat minority could have accomplished nothing without Republican support. They won, while the Republican Party – its platform and all those voters who elected Republicans in order to keep spending under control – lost.
Four Republican state senators voted against every amendment to reduce spending. They could not find a single area of government that could get by with less. Six others voted against most of the amendments.
We seriously doubt that any of these GOP senators got elected by promising to oppose state spending cuts, or to increase (as they did) the state budget by 13 percent. We would further note that this list of big spending Republicans corresponds directly to the list of self-described “Responsible Republicans” who publicly attack their GOP colleagues for being “ineffective” and “too conservative.”
Yet as schizophrenic as the Republican Senate was, the Republican House was even worse, with an average conservative TAB score of 42, compared to GOP senators’ 47. Incredibly, ten House Republicans scored conservative ratings of 10 percent or less:
|Republican House||TAB Score|
(David Moore, Roger Hagen and Brian Hoven were only slightly higher at 12, 12 and 16% respectively, while Greg Hertz, Ron Ehli and Jeff Welborn each ascended to 21%.)
An often-repeated defense of their voting records by liberal Republicans (31 GOP legislators scored solidly in the liberal category on TAB), is the alleged necessity that they moderate their votes and views because of the nature of their districts. The argument goes that in order to get re-elected in swing or Democratic-leaning districts, they must look more like Democrats.
We would suggest that there are a couple of fatal flaws in this argument. First, we should note that most of the liberal Republicans do not represent swing districts. From the lists above, for example, we would do well to note that senators like Jones, Peterson, Tutvedt, Brown and Olson, and representatives like Cook, Hollandsworth, Shaw, Connell, Clark, Berry, Ehli and Welborn represent some of the most conservative and most heavily Republican districts in the state. Indeed, it has been suggested that many liberals run as Republicans in areas like these because they couldn’t get elected as Democrats.
Secondly, we are compelled to ask the question, why run for office at all if you are not going to have the courage of your convictions, stand for what you believe, and try to make a difference? Moreover, how can you say you have strongly-rooted Republican principles, if you can so easily abandon those principles for fear of losing votes?
And here is the clincher that makes us conclude that these liberal-voting Republicans are “protesting too much.” We would suggest that you ask them this simple question: How many Democratic legislators can you point to, who have altered their liberal/big government point of view, to better suit the voters in the swing districts they may be representing? How many Democrats compromise their core principles when voting on the floors of the House and Senate, for fear of losing their seats in the next election? The answer to this literally jumps off the pages of the TAB report. The highest recorded conservative rating of any Democratic legislator is 7 percent. They do not compromise.
The reality about liberal Republicans
We have a shocking truth to share about liberal Republicans. The reality is, liberal Republicans are liberal. It is not so much that they are politically pragmatic and merely wish to get re-elected, although that may also be the case. What we primarily need to understand about liberal Republicans is that they are liberal.
Speaking from our own experience, we find that when we argue with a liberal Republican, it is like arguing with a Democrat. They don’t get it. They may be very sweet and kind people (as are many Democrats), but they have a huge cognitive void when it comes to understanding the principles of a free society. They, like Democrats, have given up on freedom without even realizing it. They, like Democrats, cannot envision the miracles of the marketplace, nor the mischief caused by intervention. They embrace top-down, governmental solutions to just about everything.
Occupations must be licensed, businesses must be regulated, choices must be limited, (“right” choices subsidized, “wrong” choices outlawed) and government spending must be seen as the ultimate answer to all ills, real and imagined. Liberty is fine in the abstract, but when legislating, it is viewed as our enemy, not our friend. And the Constitution (like the Republican platform) is little more than an inconvenient scrap of paper that gets in the way of “doing what government needs to do.”
The TAB Report is primarily informational. It is not meant to be a guide for political activism, but rather, as a reliable source for evaluating the performance of both individual legislators and the Montana State Legislature as a whole. On both levels, conservatives have cause for profound disappointment.
It would, of course, be unfair to say that the Republican legislature failed in all respects, or that leadership did not accomplish some important legislative victories. They did. The mere fact that Democrat Steve Bullock vetoed 72 bills tells us that some good legislation, from a conservative perspective, made it to our liberal governor’s desk.
But once again, it was a session of lost opportunities and of continued government expansionism. The best bills stayed bottled up in committee. The big government bills, thanks to a Republican Party philosophically split down the middle, generally sailed through. The formula has been the same for many years now: all Democrats plus liberal and liberal-leaning Republicans = a liberal majority. And at the end of the day, Republican voters once again have a reason to feel deserted and betrayed.
Truth in Packaging
One prominent Republican official with whom we recently spoke put it this way:
“If I go to a McDonald’s anywhere in the world and order a Big Mac, I am confident that the product I get will be true to the McDonald’s name. The franchise owner isn’t going to switch recipes on me and feed me a charbroiled Whopper. If I want charbroiled, I’ll go to Burger King. In much the same way, I expect the politicians I vote for who self-identify as Republicans, to be true to the franchise agreement – the party platform – and true to the brand name. I do not vote Republican in order to get a Democrat. If that’s what I end up with, I’ll ask for a refund and try again.”
As the TAB report that follows will clearly show, Republican voters have been buying far too many Whoppers wrapped up to look like Big Macs. We conclude that for the two party system to work, there must be more “truth in packaging,” and the opportunity for voters to have a real choice in the general elections – not just a choice between Liberal A and Liberal B. That’s why involvement in the primary process is so very crucial for disenfranchised conservatives around the state.
Because Montana has open primaries with no party registration, Republican primaries are often “invaded” by large numbers of “crossover” Democratic partisans, bent of choosing the Republican’s candidate for them. There is not question that a significant number of liberal Republicans now in office got there through concerted Democratic help.
For conservatives, the only effective way to “take back their party” is to replace liberal Republicans with genuine, “true to the brand” Republicans who do not run from their party’s platform. That will require getting actively engaged in our local primary elections, identifying those office-holders who have abandoned their commitment to Republican principles, recruiting and supporting qualified conservative challengers, and sharing reliable information on incumbent voting records with everyone you know. Go beyond your local central committees, and other traditional sources, in finding principled, motivated challengers, and reach out to disenfranchised conservatives in other areas of the state who may need help, advice, referrals and encouragement.
Since the mainstream media largely ignores the TAB data, Montana Conservatives relies heavily on its dissemination by supportive individuals and organizations. Social media is one great way to pass along this vital information, by saving it on your computer and linking it to your Facebook messages, etc. We give full permission, and indeed greatly encourage, anyone to post the full, unaltered TAB Report on their websites, weblogs, etc., to send it off to your e-mail contact lists, and to copy and pass it out at every opportunity. Over the next month (primary filing deadline is March 10), we want TAB to “go viral” all across Montana. The truth shall make us free!
The full TAB results are provided below. Please note that our new website is under construction, so this report is not available online at the moment. However, for the first time, we are also making available, upon request, the complete EXCEL spreadsheets that show how each legislator voted on every key bill or amendment. A listing and brief description of every TAB-selected bill is included at the end of this report.SCOTT ORR, President, Montana Conservatives firstname.lastname@example.org ROGER KOOPMAN, Vice President, Montana Conservatives email@example.com
Senate Average: 29%
Senate Republicans: 47%
Senate Democrats: 4%
House Average: 27%
House Republicans: 44%
House Democrats: 1%
TAB 2013 Senate Republicans
|Senate Republicans||TAB Score|
Note: The TAB scores of all 10 of the liberal Republicans dropped significantly from the previous session. Clearly, they were more organized, more contentious, and as a “block”, they voted 43 percent more liberal (from a 27% average down to 15%.).
TAB 2013 Senate Democrats
|Senate Democrats||TAB Score|
|Jonathan Windy Boy||7|
|Kendall Van Dyk||5|
|Bradley Maxon Hamett||4|
TAB 2013 House Republicans
|House Republicans||TAB Score|
TAB 2013 House Democrats
|House Democrats||TAB Score|
|Frosty Calf Boss Ribs||2|
|Ellie Boldman Hill||0|
2013 TAB BILL DESCRIPTIONS
Montana Conservatives position shown in Score.
TAB 23 Bills
|HB2||N||Primary state government appropriations bill; includes many spending hikes (NO)|
|HB 3||N||Appropriates $117 million in supplemental state spending (NO)|
|HB 5||N||Appropriates $49.6 million from the general fund for various long-range building projects (NO)|
|HB 6||N||Implements the Renewable Resource Grant and Loan program (NO)|
|HB 10||N||Appropriates $11.5 million from the general fund for information technology capital projects (NO)|
|HB 12||N||Appropriates an extra $6.5 million in state payments to non-physician Medicaid providers (NO)|
|HB 13||N||Increases state employee pay schedules, based on comparison with other states (NO)|
|HB 15||N||Agency bill, appropriating $150,000 for school facilities grant program (NO)|
|HB 20||N||Creates a permanent appropriation for the payment of vendor lottery fees (NO)|
|HB 57||N||Agency bill, increases regulation of alcoholic beverage licenses, creates uniform penalty standards for state license violations and requires state investigation of all written complaints. (NO)|
|HB 58||N||Creates new class of business licensing and regulation: brew-on-premises licenses (NO)|
|HB 63||N||Increases state regulation of retail installment sales, adds new penalties, has Montana joining nationwide licensing system (NO)|
|HB 65||N||Expands government regulation of consumer lenders, increases penalties (NO)|
|HB 67||N||Gives additional powers to the Commissioner of Political Practices to inspect campaign records (government snooping) (NO)|
|HB 71||N||Establishes a restorative justice grant program, funded by federal, state and local governments and by other grants (NO)|
|HB 72||N||Gives judges the power to defer criminal sentences and order offender participation in a restorative justice program, funded in part through increased penalties (NO)|
|HB 76||N||Creates a new governmental office of state child and family ombudsman, at a cost of $353,000 (NO)|
|HB 68||N||Creates and funds new statewide multi-agency u201cre-entry task forceu201d for released criminal offenders (NO)|
|HB 87||N||Increases power of state insurance commissioner to review and regulate private health insurance rates, costing $240,000 (NO)|
|HB 95||N||Requires employers and the state (i.e., the taxpayers) to make contributions to the PERS public retirement systems of retirees who return to work (NO)|
|HB 116||N||Expands state regulatory power over deferred deposit lenders, including increased penalties and a national licensing system (NO)|
|HB 117||N||Institutes nationwide licensing system of escrow business (NO)|
|HB 122||N||Expands eligibility for Public Retirement Systems benefits; establishes federal compliance (NO)|
|HB 124||N||Provides special exemptions from campaign finance regulations to school trustee candidates in most districts (NO)|
|HB 125||N||Denies a candidate access to the ballot if any required statement or report has not been filed (NO)|
|HB 128||N||Circumvents legislative appropriation process in spending of water law fines (NO)|
|HB 131||N||Allows the state to release private information on an alleged child abuser to officials who filed the report|
|HB133||N||Fifty-nine page agency bill revising and strengthening professional and occupational licensing laws (NO)|
|HB 155||N||Makes school bus safety laws stricter, increases the required motorist distance from a bus when stopped and lights are flashing (NO)|
|HB 158||Y||Requiring a state agency to present their newly-proposed administrative rules to a legislative review committee|
|HB 203||N||Increases state spending on public libraries by $296,000 per year (NO)|
|HB 206||N||Increases justice court filing fees from $25 to $40 by 2015, and doubles certain other fees (NO)|
|HB 210||N||Appropriates $300,000 to the Montana Digital Academy (NO)|
|HB 213||Y||Provides a tax credit for tuition paid to non-public schools (YES)|
|HB 245||N||Gives county commissions the power to dedicate land as county park land (NO)|
|HB 250||N||Implements provisions of u201cObamacare,u201d establishes u201cnavigatoru201d certification and training, mandatory fees, etc. (NO)|
|HB 280||Y||Authorizes consumer choice for out-of-state health care insurance (YES)|
|HB 287||N||Increases penalties for violations of MMT Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act when it involves older or developmentally disabled persons (NO)|
|HB 290||Y||Allows defense attorneys in criminal cases to inform jurors that they have the authority to judge both the facts and the just application of law in arriving at a verdict (YES)|
|HB 315||Y||Establishes public charter schools in Montana (YES)|
|HB 377||N||Increases funding of Teachers Retirement System, at a cost of $27 million per yr. (NO)|
|HB 420||N||Appropriates funds for the Montana Food and Agricultural Development program (NO)|
|HB 447||N||Provides state funded higher education scholarships for Purple Heart recipients (NO)|
|HB 454||N||Increases funding of the Public Employee Retirement System, costing an additional $34 million per year (NO)|
|HB 489||N||Creates the governmental u201cMontana Health Care Databaseu201d (NO)|
|HB 583||N||Establishes Montana Suicide Review Team, at annual cost of $95,000 (NO)|
|HB 590||N||Blast motion to bring to the floor a bill that increases the number of people eligible for Medicaid, in accordance with u201cObamacareu201d (NO)|
|HB 623||Y||Motion to overrule the chair; has the effect of opposing a bill that supports u201cObamacareu201d implementation of expanded use of Medicaid funds and the creation of a wellness pilot program (YES)|
|HJ 3||Y||Resolution to Congress, urging a constitutional amendment limiting federal powers under the commerce clause (YES)|
|SB 14||N||Expands state funds to public schools, to include counting 19-year olds in school AND funding calculations (NO)|
|SB 20||N||Imposes heavy regulation and government registration requirements on multi-level marketing companies (NO)|
|SB 29||N||Makes it easier for certain businesses to qualify for workforce training programs (NO)|
|SB 47||N||Expands role of Department of Labor and Industry to provide more safety training and onsite safety & industrial health services (NO)|
|SB 48||N||Creates a regional authority to establish rates and charges for water and wastewater services (NO)|
|SB 81||Y||u201cSchool choiceu201d bill, providing tax credits for contributions to scholarship organizations (YES)|
|SB 93||N||Creates stricter regulation of the mortgage industry, restricting advertising, expanding state rulemaking, etc. (NO)|
|SB 108||N||Adds new requirements and restrictions in determining a u201cqualified endowmentu201d that can offer tax credits to donors (NO)|
|SB 112||N||Creates the u201cProtection of Youth Athletes Act,u201d broadly regulating youth sports for concussions and other injuries (NO)|
|SB 123||N||Creates another government program, u201cHunters Against Hungeru201d (NO)|
|SB 150||Y||Prohibits state government from owning or using unmanned u201cdronesu201d with anti-personnel devices (YES)|
|SB 192||N||Exempts state employee positions dealing with licensing and permitting from u201cvacancy savingsu201d requirements (NO)|
|SB 238||N||Imposes further regulation on Consumer Reporting Agencies (NO)|
|SB 270||N||Imposes state insurance coverage requirements on telemedicine services (NO)|
|SB 395||N||Expands Medicaid eligibility to be in accordance with u201cObamacare,u201d and establishes a Medicaid Wellness Pilot Project (NO)|
|SJ 11||N||Resolution calling for the governor to establish an economic development center in Calgary, Alberta (NO)|
|SJ 29||N||Creates interim study of the benefits of adopting u201cgreen school standardsu201d (NO)|
|A003||Y||Reduces legislative committee spending by 50%, saving $629,000 per biennium (YES)|
|A008||Y||Eliminates the energy promotion and development function of the Office of Economic Development, saving $195,000 annually (YES)|
|A018||N||Funds an in-house legal counsel for Commissioner of Political Practices (NO)|
|B012||Y||Reduces state spending $169,000 and federal spending $331,350 on placements from Montana Developmental Center (YES)|
|B019||Y||Prohibits funds going to entities performing abortions (YES)|
|C005||N||Adds $150,000 in federal and state funds to Fish, Wildlife & Parks annually (NO)|
|D010||N||Increases general fund spending for the Supreme Court by $396,000 annually (NO)|
|D018||Y||Removes funding for an attorney career ladder in the state Public Defender office and Appellate Defender office, saves approximately $1.3 million (YES)|
|D019||Y||Reduces funding of State Public Defender program $500,000 annually (YES)|
|E001||Y||Reduces funding to the Office of Public Instruction 10% in each year of the biennium, saving over $2 million (YES)|
|E021||Y||Reduces Montana Extension Service funding 10%, a biennium savings of approximately $1.1 million (YES)|
|E036||Y||Reduces funding to Public Broadcasting System (PBS) $2 million per biennium (YES)|
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are 4 frequently asked questions about TAB:
1. If the standard you apply to legislators’ votes is less government vs. more government, how do you handle social issues like abortion?
Interestingly, everyone associated with Montana Conservatives and TAB is fiercely and actively pro-life. Yet for the purposes of our TAB ratings, we typically do not use recorded votes dealing with abortion or other so-called “social issues,” unless there is public funding involved (which we would strongly oppose) or unconstitutional regulations (as with “gay rights.”) We would also oppose government growth through the passage of so-called “hate crimes” legislation, and would always support bills advancing parental rights and school choice. But in general, abortion-related bills do not fall within the strict TAB parameters that track the size, cost and power of government.
Unfortunately, there have been irresponsible statements disseminated, charging that TAB actually rates legislators down for supporting pro-life bills! Nothing could be further from the truth, as our list of tracked bills will clearly show. Others allege that TAB is not a “true” conservative rating system because we generally leave off abortion bills. We acknowledge that there is no “perfect” rating system that takes into account the full spectrum of conservative thought, but we feel we come the closest to unifying all conservatives around those issues that mutually burn in our hearts, and will try, to the best of our abilities, to continue fulfilling that mission.
2. Does TAB count all the bills you track equally in your ratings, or weigh some votes more heavily than others?
The TAB approach assigns one point to each bill used, with no weighting. While it’s understandable why some systems treat certain key or large impact bills as “more important”, we have resisted this, with the goal of developing the clearest picture possible of each legislator’s “ideological compass.” Bills that receive less attention (by lobbyists, party leadership and the media) are often the best indicators of a lawmaker’s personal philosophy and true grasp on the proper roles of government. When no one is looking, what do their values and instincts tell them to do? For this reason, we research and use many lesser known bills for our voting survey, and count each bill as of equal value.
3. Why does TAB use so many bills? Most voting indexes are a lot simpler, concentrating on far fewer pieces of legislation.
There are several reasons for this. First, we need to understand that most legislative scorecards and voting indexes are produced by defined interest groups – some on the left, some on the right, some (e.g. industry associations) that represent a very mixed bag of big and small government positions. TAB seeks to span all legislative subject areas and all issues of concern to conservative citizens. We are thus able to say that we have no ties to any industries, organizations or special interests.
Second, rating a lawmaker on 70 or 80 recorded votes creates far greater accuracy and objectivity than judging them on 7 or 8 bills. Small vote samples create lots of anomalies and potential false scores; these are avoided by averaging together roughly ten times more votes. A legislator may complain about one or two votes used, but he or she can hardly allege “unfairness” as a whole, when looking at the voting pattern TAB reveals by using many votes across many issues. Finally, the extensive voting data TAB generates can be a very valuable resource, both to candidates opposing incumbent legislators and to the voting public as a whole.
4. Why does TAB use such a high percentage of negative bills (“no” votes) in its survey, rather than trying to have a roughly equal number of good and bad bills on which to rate the legislators?
The short answer is that, unfortunately, there is a preponderance of bad bills (increasing government) introduced, and a preponderance of bad bills enacted into law – often, even with heavy Republican majorities. The tendency of lawmakers is to go to Helena and “solve problems” with government solutions. The impetus is always to grow government. Thus, an honest voting survey must attempt to use a proportional number of good and bad bills, which requires the tracking of considerably more bills that expand the power, cost and reach of government.
TAB believes, however, that there is an added advantage to using a high number of “no” votes to establish conservative ratings. The truth is, in politics, it is much easier to vote “yes” (for almost everything, good or bad) than to vote “no” and get some interest group or entitlement-minded voter mad at you. “Yes” is therefore always the “safe” vote. Voting “no” generally takes more of the kind of courage and conviction that we truly need in public office. This is especially true, for example, when legislators are expected to analyze complex, 100-page agency bills (i.e., written by the agency) that may affect 30 or 40 different areas of current law. Most lawmakers automatically “trust” those who wrote the bill and vote “yes.” On the other hand, for conservatives, the axiom is “when in doubt, vote no.” TAB rewards that kind of courage, independence and legislative prudence.MONTANA CONSERVATIVES 811 South Tracy Avenue, Bozeman, MT 59715