Consumer Federation of California’s 2008 Scorecard for Legislators

SAN MATEO – The Consumer Federation of California released today its 2008 Scorecard for State Lawmakers. The scorecard rates legislators on their votes cast on key consumer rights bills. State Assembly members and Senators were evaluated on a number of issues, including campaign finance reform, financial privacy protection, health care reform, telecommunications subscribers’ rights, assistance to low-income consumers, and safety standards for consumer products.

Click here to view complete scorecard.

Lawmakers are graded on legislative proposals that the CFC sponsored, supported or opposed. We assessed final substantive floor votes. Committee votes were included in cases where important consumer bills died in committee.

Average scores were 59 percent in the Senate and 62 percent in the Assembly. The scorecard highlighted a deep ideological split between the two parties when it comes to consumer rights protections. Assembly Democrats had an average score of 90 percent, with Senate Democrats averaging 81 percent. Assembly Republicans took the side of consumers only 20 percent of the time, and Senate Republicans scored slightly better with 23 percent.

In all, four Senate Democrats scored 100 percent and another 12 Democrats in the Assembly earned a perfect score. In contrast, nine of the 32 Republicans in the Assembly scored 14 percent or less as did five of the 15 Republicans in the Senate. No Republican scored higher than 29 percent in the Assembly or 36 percent in the Senate. The lowest scoring Democrats were 57 percent in the Assembly and 50 percent in the Senate.

Not all Democratic lawmakers received passing grades. An informal caucus of corporate Democrats in the Senate routinely joined their Republican colleagues to kill consumer bills. However, corporate Democrats in the Assembly saw their influence decline in 2008. Still, three Assembly Democrats received grades of 64 percent or below (down from eight in 07). In the Senate, corporate Democrats saw their numbers increase just slightly, with six Senators scoring 69 percent or below (up from five in 07′).

“The scorecard should help Californians evaluate how their lawmakers voted on consumer protection bills that affect our pocketbooks but get little news coverage.” said Richard Holober, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of California.

Lawmakers were graded on legislative proposals that the CFC either sponsored or supported. A number of substantive floor votes and committee votes that decided the fate of some bills were assessed. Scores reflect the percentage of votes cast in favor of consumers. These scores include votes cast and non-votes by members present at the time the vote was cast. This practice, known as “taking a walk” is a ploy some lawmakers use to avoid a recorded vote while actually affecting the outcome of legislation.

The Governor’s record on consumer protection issues is not included in the scorecard.  Many of the strongest pro-consumer bills are killed in the legislature. Only a limited number reach his desk. Therefore, grading the Governor on those bills that do survive would not be a meaningful comparison with the scores assigned to legislators.

Consumer Federation of California is a non-profit organization that has fought for consumer rights since 1960.