Baton Rouge – Louisiana legislators take hundreds of votes affecting the lives of millions of their fellow citizens. Collectively, these votes determine the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink, the education our children receive, the fairness of our criminal legal system and the ability of Louisianans to access affordable health care. They determine how much revenue the state will raise to pay for these services – and who pays the tab.
But how do all these votes add up? How well do individual legislators score on the issues that matter? Starting this month, Louisianans have a new tool they can use to evaluate the people they elect to office every four years.
The How They Vote scorecard tracks how legislators voted on 60 instruments across seven issue areas: Jobs & Workplace, Fair Taxes, Crime & Criminal Justice, Clean Air, Land & Water, Children & Families, Corporate Welfare and Democratic Rights.
“How my legislators vote matters to me, my family and my neighbors,” said Medria Taylor Buford, a leader with Together Louisiana from Monroe. “I want them to better understand what we expect from them. I want them to know we’re watching.”
The scorecard is a joint effort between Louisiana Budget Project, Together Louisiana, the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy (GCCLP) and the Power Coalition for Equity & Justice. These organizations collectively have decades of experience advocating for policies that make life better for ordinary people.
“The scorecard is explicitly and unapologetically rooted in a perspective — votes that either are for or against the interests of everyday Louisianans,” said Jan Moller, executive director of the Louisiana Budget Project. “We carefully selected legislation to score that affects citizens who don’t have paid lobbyists at the Capitol.”
Overall, legislators scored the lowest on issues involving Clean Air, Land & Water and Corporate Welfare. “Louisiana’s air and water are some of the dirtiest in the nation, and the legislature made the problem worse this session,” according to Kendall Dix, Policy Lead at GCCLP. “We expect this scorecard will compel them to work on behalf of the people and do their jobs to save the state from climate change and transform the economy to work for all Louisianans. We’re running out of time.”
“As a parent, if I got my child’s report card back with these grades, I would be mortified,” Mrs. Buford said.
Lawmakers did much better on Crime & Criminal Justice, where they passed bills to increase good time allowances, reduce fees, strengthen police accountability and reduce penalties for marijuana possession.
The scores don’t tell the whole story on Jobs & Workplace, a category in which no substantial legislation was advanced, particularly in the Senate. House Concurrent Resolution 77, which would have created a task force to simply study the feasibility of increasing the state minimum wage, garnered 10 GOP votes but ultimately didn’t make it past the House floor.
“Democratic engagement does not end when we vote at the ballot box,” said Ashley Shelton, president and CEO of Power Coalition. “Elected officials must be held accountable throughout their terms and the scorecard is an opportunity for community members to see in real time if their legislators are voting in their best interests.”