The annual Goldwater Institute Legislative Report Card scores Arizona lawmakers on their support of principles of limited constitutional government. Each piece of legislation is assessed in one of four categories for whether it expands liberty consistent with the Arizona Constitution, or restricts liberty.
This report card assesses 517 votes. Average scores were 56 percent in the House and 59 percent in the Senate, indicating that slightly more votes upheld liberty than undermined it. These scores are respectively 23 percent and 20 percent higher than the scores first reported in 2003. The increase reflects a long-term trend of improvement in voting patterns. Education scores, in particular, were sharply higher in both major parties this year. The highest overall score was Sen. Steve Smith’s 76 percent. Rep. Eddie Farnsworth received the highest score in the House, which was 73 percent. These high scorers received overall grades of A-. As in 2011, not a single legislator in this year’s report received an overall score of A or higher.
Beyond the individual legislator grades, this report card includes an assessment of each bill’s impact on the status quo with “high impact,” “moderate impact,” and “incremental impact” categories. It reveals a significant narrowing of the difference in voting patterns between the major political parties with respect to high-impact bills as compared to prior years. This year the difference between the parties with regard to high impact bills was only 37 points; in 2011, by contrast, the difference was a dramatic 71 points. No such dramatic narrowing of scores occurred with regard to moderate or incremental impact bills.
The 2012 Legislative Report Card also compares traditionally funded and publicly funded candidates. As with all previous years, the source of campaign funding appears to have no significant impact on voting behavior.
The report card is not an absolute measure of a legislator’s merit and does not constitute any endorsement. It is meant to be a tool for general research and for accountability, helping voters assess the work of their elected representatives.