With election season on the horizon, and campaigns heating up, Colorado voters will want some facts about state legislators who proclaim they are “Most Progressive” or “Most Conservative.” A few legislators can lay claim to these titles, based on research at Colorado Capitol Watch, a legislator tracking website on the state house.
Legislators considered 649 bills in 2010. Of those, 470 made it to a final vote in the Senate and 482 made it to a final vote in the House.
Six Dem legislators vye for most progressive position
Since Democrats control both chambers, the majority of bills that passed reflect a Democratic orientation. Based on that inference, 11 legislators, all Democrats, voted Yes on bills 470 times or more. These include Representative Sue Schafer (475- D, Wheatridge), Representative John Soper (473 – D, Thornton) and Representative Max Tyler (473 – D, Lakewood) as the top three Yes voters.
These three legislators, however, are not necessarily the most progressive. Their No votes exceed Senator Chris Romer (2 – D, Denver), Senator Michael Johnston (3 – D, Denver), and Senator Rollie Heath (4 – D, Boulder). SB010-191, the bill on teacher and principal accountability, is probably the most important distinguisher on the No votes, and one of the most important distinguishers for the “Most Progressive” title.
The three “most Yes” legislators all voted No on SB10-191, and the three “least No” legislators all voted Yes on SB10-191. Votes on SB10-191
SB10-191, the education bill of the session, divides progressives
If you’re a progressive who believes that teacher and principal accountability is a critical requirement for progress, the three “Yes on 191” senators most likely top your list. If you’re a progressive who believes that SB10-191 will undermine public education, then the three “No on 191” Representatives probably top your list.
Most Excused Absences title fuzzes up Most Conservative Title
The label for “Most Conservative” is also confusing due to the number of excused absences of Senator Scott Renfroe (R-Greeley). Renfroe missed 64 final, or third reading votes on bills in the 2010 session. He thus receives the title for “Most Excused Absences.” But that title fuzzes another potential title as “Most Conservative.”
Senators Renfroe and Schultheis neck and neck for Most Conservative
Renfroe voted Yes on bills least frequently. He voted Yes 239 times out of a potential 470 votes. His closest challenger is Senator Dave Schultheis (R-ColoSpgs), who voted Yes 245 times.
But Schultheis voted No most frequently, at 228 No votes on bills, while Renfroe voted No only 173 times (which places him in 4th place as the most No voter). Senators Bill Cadman (R-ColoSpgs) and Kent Lundberg (R-ColoSpgs) fill in the 2nd and 3rd places for most No votes and come in 3rd and 4th for least Yes votes. If Renfroe’s 64 missed votes are added to his No votes, he beats Schultheis for most No votes at 237 to 228.
Should receiving farm subsidies count against conservative title?
However, one other caveat exists as to whether Renfroe is really the Most Conservative legislator. From 1995 to 2009 he received $ 8,267.00 in farm subsidies from the federal government. Granted, this amount is much lower than the $546,483.64 received by Representative Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) or the $98,966.38 received by Senator Greg Brophy (R-Wray). (See ewg.org, farm subsidies, and search by name of recipients).
Can the “Most Conservative” title go to a man who has received considerable dollars from the feds as a subsidy, and who missed 64 final votes in the 2010 legislative session, many of them to authorize budgets for state departments to keep state government running?
Schultheis catches first place with Renfroe in tight second
For these reasons, the “Most Conservative” honor should be handed to outgoing Senator Dave Schultheis, although Renfroe has probably earned the title as first runner up.