Rankings Held to Assign Proper Accountability

October 13, 2021, 12:01 pm
Rankings Held to Assign Proper Accountability

By this time of the year our full General Assembly rankings sets would normally be published. However, we made the decision last month to hold back our 2021 releases and re-factor our Environmental Rankings to ensure the utmost accountability is properly assigned to all members of the General Assembly. Much of the delay lies in the way the House does business. Unlike the Senate which publishes the results of its committee votes online, the RI House of Representatives does not do this. While the votes still happen, unless a bill is passed out of committee, the actual tally is undisclosed. Last year, in the interest of time due to the election we made the decision to assign committee vote accountability solely to the House Speaker. As a result, House committee members escaped accountability for bills killed via the “hold for further study” gimmick, and their scores were a bit higher than they otherwise would have been.

This year, we investigated the feasibility of retrieving the vote tallies using a variety of methods, ranging from watching every committee vote recording to filing APRA requests. It was important to get the process right and to ensure it would be repeatable each year in a timely fashion, especially for next year’s election. We found that using APRA requests to gather the committee vote totals would be the most accurate and least time consuming process. However, these requests take time for a response and as a result we have had to hold back this year’s rankings releases until these House committee votes tallies are counted.

We have made another change this year that was originally planned to take effect next year: as we do with the House Speaker, the Senate President will be scored as a committee vote for all applicable bills, since it is he who instructs the various committees (technically it is a recommendation, but committees follow this recommendation 99% of the time) on how they are to vote for each bill. All rankings this year will incorporate this change, including the Environmental Rankings, which have been updated accordingly.

Lastly, this year we moved to an automated system to tally votes and eliminate any possibility of human error. Although we accounted for many scenarios to ensure every vote is counted accurately, we could not account for bills in which the vote was posted online without the applicable bill number and under a different title than it was voted on in committee. This resulted in two senate votes for the Environmental Rankings being scored incorrectly. While the results did not change the rankings dramatically, the proper results are now updated.

Greg Brailsford
Executive Director
RI Rank