General Assembly Freedom Index & Legislator Scorecard
October 16, 2014, Providence, RI — Not a single legislator in either party earned a positive score based on their floor votes on this year’s most important bills, according the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, which released today its third-annual General Assembly Freedom Index and Legislator Scorecard for 2014. As a whole, the 2014 RI General Assembly rated deep in negative territory at (-49.6) for the third straight year.
In considering 99 distinct pieces of legislation (including companion bills), the 2014 Freedom Index rated 75 votes in the House and 90 votes in the Senate based on whether or not they preserved or infringed upon individual, economic, or educational freedom. It is the core tenet of the Center that with greater freedom comes greater prosperity, or conversely, as in the Ocean State’s case, that a continued loss of freedom leads to the type of economic stagnation that Rhode Islanders have suffered from over the past decade.
In 2012, 15 individual legislators earned positive scores, just two legislators did so in 2013, but no-one scored above zero in 2014. Every legislator has the opportunity to achieve a indexed score ranging from +100 to (-100) depending on how they voted on each bill.
Neither the House nor the Senate scored above zero in 2014, nor did any political party. In fact, not since 2012 has either party achieved a positive score. In 2014, the Republican caucus scored lower than it did in 2013, while the Democrat caucus’ scores were not as negative.
“What we are likely seeing here is a go-along to get-along approach,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Over the past few years, there has been virtually no alternative voice or opposition to counter our state’s continued slide away from free-market principles. This is yet another reason why a Constitutional Convention should be approved.
Despite talk from General Assembly leaders about improving Rhode Island’s dismal economy and educational system, their actions clearly demonstrate that there is no grand strategy or vision to improve our state. Both parties are drifting and appear rudderless.”
At a time when our state is struggling to regain its economic footing, legislators, for example, somehow saw it appropriate to place further regulations on music therapists and plumbers and to increase gas taxes and marriage licensing fees. Such regulations and taxes not only take private money out of the state’s economy, but also serve to protect the larger and more established business insiders in these industries by creating new barriers to competition.
NO-SHOWS. In a related and disturbing finding, a number of legislators were “no-shows” on a large percentage of these votes. The fact that ten legislators missed at least one dozen of these important votes should set off alarm bells among their constituencies. Among the worst offenders were: Senator Frank Ciccione who missed of 65 of 90 Senate votes; Representative William San Bento who missed 64 of 75 House votes; and former House of Representative’s Speaker, Gordon Fox, who missed 51 of 75 House votes.
Because of the way legislator scores are calculated, the secondary effect of “no-show” voting is to moderate legislators’ scores, as is the case with all three legislators mentioned above, each of whom likely would have received a significantly lower score had they voted on more bills.
Of the 99 bills ranked, the ten worst “no show” legislators in 2014 were:
1. Sen. Frank Ciccone – missing 65 of 90 Senate votes
2. Rep. William San Bento: missing 64 of 75 House votes
3. Rep. Gordon Fox: missing 51 0f 75 House votes
4. Rep. Peter Palumbo: missing 25 of 75 House votes
5. Rep. John Edwards: missing 18 of 75 House votes
6. Rep. Robert Jacquard: missing 15 of 75 House votes
7. Sen. James Sheehan: missing 14 of 90 Senate votes
8. Sen. Louis DiPalma: missing 14 of 90 Senate votes
9. Rep. Patrick O’Neill: missing 13 of 75 House votes
10. Sen. Daniel DaPonte: missing 12 of 90 Senate votes