TALLAHASSEE -- Are they champions for middle-class families and job killers at the same time?
Florida lawmakers routinely get chaffed and praised by Florida's powerful business lobby following the legislative session in report cards released by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Florida, among others. Dutiful Republicans who never waver from the party line on votes are often rewarded with perfect scores, while Democrats who vote lock-step against the majority are typically flunked.
Legislators say they don't care about the rankings, but they stuff their campaign ads with the scores every two years.
Today, the Orlando-based liberal activist groups Florida Watch Action and Progress Florida released a 2013 "Middle Class Champions" list of 18 legislators who voted for 100 percent of the groups' 16 targeted bills, a list that includes voting against an economic-incentives bill (HB 7007), the "parent trigger" bill that failed in the Senate, and the Orange-inspired sick-leave bill awaiting Gov. Rick Scott's signature or veto. The ethics-reform package already signed into law was one of four bills the groups supported.
The 18 lawmakers who earned perfect scores are predictably all Democrats: Sens. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth; and Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa; and Reps. Lori Berman, D-Lantana; Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando; Karen Castor Dentel, D-Maitland; Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville; Dave Kerner, D-Lake Worth; Kionne McGhee, D-Miami; Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach; Sharon Pritchett, D-Miami Gardens; José Javier Rodríguez, D-Miami; Hazelle Rogers, D-Lauderdale Lakes; Joe Saunders, D-Orlando; Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami; Perry Thurston, D-Plantation; and Clovis Watson, D-Alachua.
All but two of them -- Pritchett and Watson -- earned F's on the Florida Chamber's report card. Neither of them cracked 65 percent.
The list is also interesting for the Democrats who didn't make it: people like Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith, D-Fort Landerdale; Orlando's Sen. Darren Soto; and incoming House Minority Leader Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg -- all of whom showed some willingness this year to work with Republicans on bills (and all three of whom earned passing grades on the Chamber score card).
Politicos usually mock these scorecards, and if the business lobby weighted bills equally each year they would be more useful for showing change over time. (Huge numbers of Republicans also get 100 percents -- 41 out of the 160 members this year -- skewing the value). But they still have some worth for identifying the moderates and more ideological members of both parties.