IMPORTANT UPDATE to our Legislator Report Card as of August 17, 2018:
The Alaska Policy Forum has learned that a technical issue has resulted in changes to our Legislator Report Card.
An eagle-eyed reader noticed a discrepancy related to the numeric score a legislator received on a particular bill. Investigation of the matter uncovered that the “BillTrack50” system, a computer program administered by a third-party vendor, had in some cases used preliminary votes rather than final floor votes on certain bills for calculating legislator’s personal scores.
The vendor has corrected the system and the new scores are reflected on the report card that appears on our website.
The values assigned by the Alaska Policy Forum to specific bills have not changed. The changes by the vendor are limited specifically to ensuring that only final floor votes have been used to calculate legislators numeric scores. The corrected numeric scores have also resulted in new letter grades for some legislators.
Both our vendor and the Alaska Policy Forum offer our apologies for any problems this situation may have caused.
It’s here! Our 2018 Alaska Legislator Report Card is now available!
We Do the Heavy Lifting
Hey, we get it—you care about what’s going on in Alaska but it’s tough following all the activity during Juneau’s bill-a-palooza each year (i.e., legislative session). An informed citizenry is essential to maintaining a free society. That’s why we’re here–to do the heavy lifting for you! We greatly desire an Alaska that continuously grows prosperity and we know that comes by maximizing individual opportunities and freedom. We use a 12-metric Freedom Index to rate how bills passed by the Alaska Legislature will affect freedom and opportunity in the Greatland.
We Do NOT Rate Legislators
We don’t rate legislators. We rate policy. We don’t engage in partisan politics. We stick to policy. We rate legislation based upon its merits, not based upon those who support or don’t support it, or their political affiliations. This report card has nothing to do with whether we like or don’t like individual legislators, their personalities, or their quirks. The results might be surprising to you, because some legislators talk about freedom and liberty much differently than the way they vote. This report card is a simple, objective reflection of who voted for policies which restrict or expand freedom for Alaskans, and how often they did so.
Legislator’s votes are not used as part of the bill evaluation process. Each bill is looked at singularly and carefully, measured against the twelve metrics on our Alaska Freedom Index. We give each bill plus or minus one point for each instance of having the effect noted on the Alaska Freedom Index. Bill ratings are input into the BillTrack50 system, which then calculates legislators’ scores based upon each legislator’s Yea or Nay floor vote on the final version of the bill. Thus even those of us doing the bill ratings have no idea how each legislator will score. Most legislators don’t like being rated but we all get report cards in life—our legislators should be no different.
Understanding the Bill Ratings
Click here for tips to understanding and using the Alaska Freedom Index Report Card. The Comments section of the bill ratings lists the justifications. The question number from the Alaska Freedom Index is first, followed by the reason and the plus or minus points on that question. For example, you will see the following on the bill rating comments:
HB 147 Public Accounting, 4-removes minimum age (+1); 7-see fiscal note (-1)
- On the Freedom Index, Question 4 is “Does it increase barriers to entry into the market? (-1) Examples include occupational licensure, minimum wage, certificates of need for medical facilities, and restrictions on home businesses. Conversely, does it reduce or remove barriers to entry into the market? (+1).” Since HB 147 removed a minimum wage requirement, it decreased barriers to entry for public accountants and thus garnered a +1 on Question 4.
- Question 7 on the Freedom Index is “Does it increase government spending (for objectional purposes) or debt? (-1) Conversely, does it decrease government spending or debt? (+1).” Since HB 147 increased government spending, it garnered a -1 on Question 7.
- Thus the overall rating for HB 147 is 0. Question 4 is +1 but Question 7 is -1 = 0.
Each and Every Bill That Passed
There were 113 bills passed in 2018, and we examined each and every one. Only nineteen bills got positive scores—these bills actually advanced freedom. Twenty-five bills got an overall score of zero, meaning that either they had a completely neutral effect, or if they did advance freedom in one way, they restricted it in another way. Unfortunately, 69 bills had negative scores; overall, these bills restricted freedom and opportunity for Alaskans.
Absences and Abstentions
Legislators are elected to legislate. We believe they should take that seriously, should show up for votes and should vote publicly. In general, not voting (whether that is an absence or an abstention) is not okay. We understand that sometimes personal medical situations or family emergencies happen, so we do not treat absences with the full impact of regular votes, but instead weigh missed votes at partial credit of 80%.
The Nature of the Beast
You might notice that nearly all legislators have negative scores. That’s simply because the preponderance of bills restricts your freedom. The saying, “No man’s life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session” has a lot of truth to it. Legislatures and Congress tend to be reactive. A situation is brought to their attention (often by a special interest group) and they want to “do something about it.” As a result, most often, bills are introduced to “fix” something. But most “fixes” result in restricting freedom and opportunity. It’s the nature of the beast.
As you might imagine, the longer the legislature is in session, the more “fixing” they can do. This year, the Alaska Legislature was in session for 118 days and most legislators scores aren’t good. Plenty of other states had much shorter sessions, as shown below. Some states such as Montana, Texas and Nevada didn’t meet at all in 2018. If our legislators want to improve their scores, we suggest they consider shorter sessions—less time to “fix.”
Did We Get It Wrong?
We welcome feedback. While we did our best to evaluate each bill carefully, it’s entirely possible we misunderstood a finer point about a particular bill. If you think we’ve missed something crucial or if you think you’ve found an error, we are willing to engage in that discussion. Give us a call a 907-334-5853 or email us. If we make any modifications, those will be clearly annotated on the report card.
Message to Legislators
We strongly encourage legislators to print a copy of the Alaska Freedom Index and use it when they are deciding how to vote on bills. Ask all 12 questions about each bill under consideration. Doing so will ensure we are moving toward an Alaska that continuously grows prosperity, by maximizing individual opportunities and freedom. And that’s good for everyone.
The Alaska Policy Forum’s Freedom Index is a non-partisan analysis and rating of bills voted on by the Alaska State Legislature each legislative session. This Freedom Index is not intended to serve as an endorsement or rejection of any candidate for public office. We acknowledge the limitations of judging the qualifications of legislators based on only select criteria. Legislative activities such as votes in and performance on committees, bill sponsorship, amendment activity and constituent services are not reflected in the scores of this Freedom Index.