Medial Release: First Annual General Assembly Freedom Index

A Legislative Scorecard for Rhode Islanders

View all information about the Freedom Index here …

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 20, 2012

The non-partisan Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity published today its first annual General Assembly Freedom Index, which ranks Ocean State lawmakers on their level of support of principles of freedom during the 2012 legislative session.

“It is clear that the undesirable -25.4 Freedom Index for the entire General Assembly means that significantly more votes undermined freedom than preserved it and that, in our state, citizens have fewer liberties today than a year ago,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity. The House of Representatives scored -24.1, with House Democrats at -32.2 and Republicans at +28.8. The Senate scored -27.9, with Senate Democrats at -36.3, Republicans at +1.0, and the lone independent at -18.3.

“We believe freedom is necessary for prosperity. It’s all too common for legislators to trade the intent of a bill for an infringement on our liberties – and this practice must stop,” continued Stenhouse. “This index provides important transparency for citizens and raises some compelling questions: Will voters accept this continued loss of liberty and hold their elected officials accountable? How much will voting records become a campaign issue this fall?”

Per the index, the highest ranked lawmaker in the whole General Assembly in 2012 was Representative Doreen Costa, a Republican from District 31, who achieved a score of +59.2. The top-ranked Democrat was Representative Peter Palumbo, District 16, who scored at +0.5 and was the only member of his party above zero. Ninety-eight (98) of the one-hundred and thirteen (113) legislators earned a negative index score.

In total, 96 legislative bills that received a floor vote were selected for evaluation; bills that were deemed to have a positive or negative effect on individual or economic liberty. The bills were then weighted by their perceived impact from -3 to +3. Depending on how legislators actually voted on each bill, they received positive or negative scores for each vote in the amount of the weighting. Dividing his or her total the score for all of the bills evaluated by the ideal score for the relevant chamber determined each legislator’s Freedom Index score.

The bills evaluated were divided into five categories: Tax & Budget, Regulatory Environment, Constitutional Government, Public Sector Labor, and Education Reform.

Other findings include;

* Overall Democrat Index of -33.5

* Overall Republican Index of +16.5

* Overall Regulatory Environment Index of -49.0

* Overall Tax & Budget Index of -26.0

* Overall Public Sector Labor Index of +16.7

Additional information is available on the Center’s Web site, including multiple tables, charts, breakdowns by category, criteria, and a methodology description, as well as links to a PDF of the scorecard and a legislator-by-legislator breakdown of each bill evaluated in the 2012 index, including category rankings and bill descriptions.

The Freedom Index score generated for each legislator is a direct reflection of the perspective of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity when it comes to the weighting of each bill. The Freedom Index is not an absolute measure of a legislator’s merit and does not constitute any endorsement or criticism. The Freedom Index is a tool designed for general research and for accountability, helping voters make their own assessment of the body of work of their elected legislators.

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, a non-partisan public policy think tank, is the state’s leading free-enterprise advocacy organization. With a credo that freedom is indispensable to citizens’ well-being and prosperity, the Center’s mission is to stimulate a rigorous exchange of ideas with the goal of restoring competitiveness to Rhode Island through the advancement of market-based reform solutions.

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