Grading state lawmakers on their performances during the regular and special legislative sessions is an annual tradition for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. On Tuesday, the chamber unveiled this year’s Legislative Report Card to show voters which lawmakers were committed to promoting a pro-jobs agenda in 2015.
Due to a tumultuous regular legislative session, this year’s grades reflect fewer scored votes cast than previous years. Both chambers were tied up in an impasse over whether or not to expand Medicaid in Florida, a disagreement which ultimately pushed the Legislature into a special session in June.
“The Florida Chamber’s Legislative Report Card lets Florida’s families and small businesses know if legislators voted in favor of job creation and a stronger economy, and provides them with valuable information as they begin to consider the 2016 election cycle,” said David Hart, executive vice president of the Florida Chamber.
The chamber counted nearly 3,400 votes cast during the 2015 regular and special legislative sessions, approximately just half of the scored votes in previous years. Still, nearly 54 percent of state lawmakers earned an “A” (90-100) on the priority pro-jobs issues outlined in the Florida Chamber’s 2015 Business Agenda.
Legislators were graded for their commitment to the chamber’s agenda for this year’s legislative session. Targeted tax reforms, regulatory reform initiatives, championing education reforms and securing long-term solutions for Florida’s water needs were some of the chamber’s top priorities coming into the 2015 legislative session.
“Despite philosophical differences, lawmakers passed 20 Florida Chamber-backed measures during the two recent legislative sessions,” said Steve Knopik, chair of the Florida Chamber. “Unfortunately, there were a number of missed opportunities, resulting in fewer votes taken on issues that could help make Florida more competitive.”
Half of Florida’s senators earned an “A” grade, with eight of them (including Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando) earning a perfect “100” score.
House members didn’t fare quite as well as they had done in previous years — only 61 of them earned an “A” this year, a drop from 71 who received the same grade last year.
Two House members, Reps. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights, and Matt Hutson, R-Naples, earned a perfect score on this year’s report card.
Other legislators didn’t fare so well on the report card. Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, received the lowest score of all representatives and senators in the Legislature, receiving an overall grade of 33 percent — an “F.”
Several other Democratic representatives also fell toward the bottom of the list, including Reps. Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach, and John Cortes, D-Kissimmee.
Sens. Dwight Bullard, D-Cutler Bay, and Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, fared the worst of all the senators, both receiving “F” grades.
In total, nearly 1,800 bills were filed during this year’s legislative session, with 232 of them passing both chambers. The actual votes used to calculate the report card are those votes that tie directly to the Florida Chamber’s agenda for jobs.
“While I wish the regulations process would have allowed more courageous votes, I’m extremely proud of the great work of the Florida Chamber’s board of directors, local chambers, and the more than 30 lobbyists that have worked aggressively in support of free enterprise and job creation,” Hart said.
Check out the full report card and see how your local lawmakers fared here.