Consumer Federation of California Releases 2011 Scorecard for State Legislators

The Consumer Federation of California (CFC) released its 2011 Scorecard for State lawmakers today.

The scorecard rates legislators on their votes cast on key consumer rights bills, including banning the sale of expired baby food and over-the-counter medicine, establishing a universal, government run health insurance program, prohibiting a prospective employer from using consumer credit reports in the hiring process, authorizing the Department of Insurance or Department of Managed Health Care to approve, modify or reject proposed health insurance or HMO premium rate increases, banning toxic bisphenol A (BPA) above safe levels from containers of food and beverages intended for consumption by children age three or younger, requiring development of a new smolder resistance standard, and enabling California consumers to purchase furniture that is not filled with toxic flame retardant chemicals, among others.

Click here to view the scorecard and the description of the legislation used to grade lawmakers. If you don’t know who represents you, find out here.

Average scores were 59 percent in the Senate (a 1 point increase from last year) and 65 percent in the Assembly (a six point increase from last year). 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 93 percent (a six point increase from last year), with Senate Democrats averaging 83 percent (a 3 point drop from last year).

Assembly Republicans took the side of consumers just 13 percent of the time (a seven point increase from last year). Senate Republicans scored slightly better, garnering an anemic average score of 18 percent (a five point increase from last year).

In all, 11 out of the 25 Senate Democrats scored 100 percent and another 34 of the 52 Democrats in the Assembly earned a perfect score. In contrast, 22 of the 28 Republicans in the Assembly scored 17 percent or less, with 17 of those receiving a score of 8 or below. In the Senate, 10 of the 15 Republicans scored 22 percent or below, with three receiving scores of ‘0’.

Not all Democratic lawmakers received high marks. An informal caucus of corporate-friendly Democrats often joined their Republican colleagues to kill consumer protection bills. Six Assembly Democrats received grades of 77 percent or below, with four receiving poor or failing grades of 67 percent or less. In the Senate, seven Democratic Senators scored 67 percent or below, with three receiving dismal scores of 50 percent or less.

‘There was an improvement in the State Assembly this year, coupled with the vast improvement in support consumers received from our new Governor,’ said Richard Holober, Executive Director of the Consumer Federation of California. ‘This scorecard should help Californians evaluate how their lawmakers voted on consumer protection bills that affect our pocketbooks, our privacy, and our health and safety, but often get little news coverage.’

Also included are 2005 ‘ 2011 cumulative legislator scores. These scores are based on the annual CFC scorecards issued each year. Percentages represent the total number of right and wrong votes cast by the lawmaker during his or her tenure in the legislature from 2005 through 2011.

Lawmakers are graded on legislative proposals that the CFC sponsored, supported or opposed. CFC assessed final substantive floor votes. Committee votes were included in cases where important consumer bills died in committee before reaching a floor vote. Scores reflect the percentage of votes cast in favor of consumers.

These scores include votes cast as well as non-votes by lawmakers present at the time the vote was cast. Some lawmakers intentionally do not vote on certain proposed bills to avoid recording controversial votes. Since non-votes have the same effect as voting ‘No’, they are scored based on the non-vote’s effect on the forward movement of the bill.

The scorecard does not evaluate the Governor’s record on consumer protection legislation. Many pro-consumer bills are killed in the legislature. Grading the Governor on the bills that reach his desk would not provide a valid comparison to the scores assigned to legislators.