No Vote, No Pay

There’s no more basic job description for being a lawmaker than evaluating and voting on bills. But an analysis released this week by Jim Miller at the Sacramento Bee says everyone in California’s Legislature doesn’t have the same work ethic.

Lawmakers were recorded as “not voting” – meaning they didn’t vote yes or no – on an average 4% of votes in committee and on the Senate and Assembly Floors. Assemblymember Travis Allen was the legislature’s top non-voter, missing an astonishing 26.1% of votes in committee.

It’s the most cowardly of political calculations: Refusing to take any position on a controversial bill because it may offend donors on one hand or voters on the other. But withholding a vote is the same as a no vote in California’s legislature, where bills need a majority of eligible members, not voting members, in order to pass.

This year, critical consumer and environmental protection legislation fell victim to lawmakers "taking a walk." Among many others, bills to: stop doctors from springing surprise out of network bills on patients (AB 533, Bonta), cement in law California’s commitment to reducing climate emissions by 80% by 2050 (SB 32, Pavley), and, require monitoring of groundwater after oil companies were discovered injecting fracking wastewater into underground aquifers (AB 356, Williams), all died thanks to not voting this year.

When Consumer Watchdog studied not-voting more than a decade ago, we found it was the deciding factor in the death of 1/3 of the bills that failed to pass the legislature in 2004.

Lawmakers learned the hard way in the following 2006 elections that the public expects better.

Then-Assemblymember Jerome Horton lost his bid for the state Board of Equalization with the worst voting record in the Assembly. A campaign mailer against him read: "When Assemblyman Jerome Horton isn't voting for the tobacco companies ... Jerome Horton is just not voting."

Two other former Assemblyman, John Dutra and George Nakano, also lost primary bids after opponents called out their record of not voting in campaign mailers.

The members with the worst not-voting records on the Senate Floor this year were:
Sharon Runner - 15.2%
Fran Pavley - 12.1%
Tom Berryhill - 11.0%
Isadore Hall - 10.8%
Anthony Cannella - 8.0%

On the Assembly Floor:
Rocky Chavez - 14.9%
Nora Campos - 10.9%
William Brough - 8.7%
Shannon Grove - 8.7 %
Matthew Harper - 8.6 %

Committee voting records were even worse.

In the Senate:Tom Berryhill - 21.8%
John M. W. Moorlach - 20.3%
Jean Fuller - 20.2%
Ted Gaines - 19.4%
Anthony Canella - 13.8%

In the Assembly:
Travis Allen - 26.1%
Roger Hernandez - 23.3%
Shannon Grove - 18.8%
Susan Bonilla - 18.5%
Brian Dahle - 14.1%

There can be legitimate non-votes. Senator Pavley, for example, was absent for family illness for part of the year. Aside from excused absence, the Legislature should enforce rules requiring members to vote when they are present, and legislators should lose a day's pay every time they skip a vote to sidestep the issues.

Capitol Watchdog is owned and operated by nonprofit Consumer Watchdog. For more information about Consumer Watchdog visit