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Lawmakers miss fewer votes this year

The Arizona House of Representatives held 575 floor votes in the 2010 regular session, but Rep. Chris Deschene, a Democrat from Window Rock, didn’t show up for 197, about one-third of them.

The Senate held 551 floor votes, and Sen. Albert Hale, a Democrat from Window Rock, didn’t participate in 137 of them, or about one-quarter of the total.

An analysis by the Arizona Capitol Times shows that the 2010 regular session saw big improvements in attendance and floor-vote participation compared with 2009. Perfect daily attendance doubled, and 25 of the state’s 90 lawmakers voted on every bill that reached the floor, but four lawmakers still missed more than 20 percent of their chamber’s floor votes.

David Berman, a political science professor at Arizona State University and member of the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, said the concept of representative government relies on elected officials showing up to vote. When lawmakers don’t live up to that responsibility, they send a message that voters’ interests don’t matter, he said.

“It’s somewhat irresponsible, and you run the risk of looking like your shrugging off your duties,” Berman said.

Hale and Deschene weren’t the only lawmakers who missed a lot of votes. Sen. Amanda Aguirre, a Democrat from Yuma, and Rep. Tom Boone, a Republican from Peoria, each missed more than 20 percent of their chamber’s floor votes.

Aguirre and Hale each missed 137 floor votes — about one-fourth of the total — during the 2010 session.

Aguirre said she has no regrets about missing the votes and thinks the members of her district will understand that she had to fly to Detroit to be with her domestic partner when he had unexpected surgery. Aguirre missed 101 floor votes during her trip to Detroit in April.

“I had an emergency,” she said. “I’m not worried what people will say. I’m not going to leave one of my family members alone in a hospital.”

Hale did not return several phone calls from the Arizona Capitol Times to seek an explanation for his voting record. Members of his staff said he was out of town and unreachable.

In the House, Deschene missed more than one-third of the floor votes, and Boone missed more than one-fifth of them. Deschene didn’t return multiple phone calls.

Boone said the reason he missed so many votes is the same reason he’s not running for a seat in the Senate this year: He’s too busy running his insurance company, and he can no longer maintain the balance between his business and political careers.

“Other than the one day I was actually ill, it was purely business,” he said. “I was either out of town or making a presentation.”

Boone also said he always checked with leadership before missing a day at the Legislature, to make sure his absence wouldn’t be the deciding factor on a vote.

“I never just didn’t show up,” he said.

Overall, though, there were far fewer missed votes than last year, when 21 state lawmakers missed more than 20 percent of the floor votes.

This year, 10 senators and 15 House members had perfect voting records, and 59 lawmakers missed less than 5 percent of the total floor votes.

House Speaker Kirk Adams said the nature of a citizen Legislature, like Arizona’s, can lead to the high number of absences and missed votes. But he said he was satisfied with the improvement in attendance and voting participation this year.

“After last year, we tried to emphasize the importance of being here,” Adams said.

The speaker said this year was different because Senate President Bob Burns decided to allow bills to move through the legislative process earlier than in 2009, when Burns imposed a moratorium on non-budget bills that eventually back-loaded hearings and resulted in a rush to approve hundreds of bills in the final days of the session.

“People who had been here faithfully from January to June, maybe they didn’t miss one vote during that time, but then missed a lot at the end,” Adams said. “So this year, having votes all along the way made a big difference.”

Many lawmakers blamed Burns’ moratorium and the long session for their missed votes last year, but Burns said he doesn’t regret the decision, even though it meant many lawmakers were absent — and missed dozens of votes, in some cases — at the end of one of the longest sessions in state history.

“I’m not prepared to apologize for that decision,” Burns said. “We had run longer than most people had anticipated. I had a trip to Europe (in 2009) that I cancelled. So, it’s up to the individual member. Whatever their plans might be, they may have to be changed.”

The 2010 session, though, ran much smoother and lasted only 109 days which made it easier for businessmen such as Rep. Rich Crandall to attend floor sessions.

Crandall, a Republican from Mesa, missed more than two-thirds of the floor votes in the House in 2009, but he rebounded this year by logging a perfect voting record.

Still, Crandall said, attendance doesn’t really matter.

“I did nothing different this time, except that I didn’t have any commitments before June 15,” Crandall said. “And the number of votes missed isn’t very important anyway.”

Crandall said the residents of his district don’t put a high priority on voting for what he sees as unimportant bills.

“Do we expect someone to be there to vote on the state beverage?” Crandall said. “Are we upset at people who missed that vote? Not one person has asked me about it on the campaign. It hasn’t come up once.”

Berman, the political science professor, said big problems would arise if all lawmakers adopted Crandall’s attitude about voting attendance.

“If everybody felt that way, you’d never have anything passed,” Berman said. “You have to have some sort of quorum. Why should (Crandall) be the one who doesn’t have to show up? Is he an exceptional case? I don’t buy that.”

House vote percentages
Name Party Floor Votes Cast Days in attendance
Total Missed
Christopher Deschene D 65% 81% 197
Tom Boone R 78% 81% 125
Lucy Mason R 82% 83% 101
Kyrsten Sinema D 83% 91% 96
Matt Heinz D 85% 86% 85
Andy Biggs R 86% 93% 79
David Lujan D 87% 83% 70
Tom Chabin D 88% 88% 68
Eric Meyer D 88% 95% 66
David Bradley D 90% 85% 56
Martha Garcia D 90% 93% 54
Rae Waters D 90% 90% 52
Barbara McGuire D 92% 81% 45
Anna Tovar D 92% 90% 44
Russ Jones R 92% 95% 44
Chad Campbell D 92% 95% 43
Lynne Pancrazi D 92% 91% 41
Vic Williams R 93% 86% 40
Ray Barnes R 93% 91% 40
Warde Nichols R 93% 88% 36
Doug Quelland R 94% 88% 32
Cloves Campbell, Jr. D 94% 91% 31
Phil Lopes D 94% 85% 30
Robert Meza D 95% 80% 28
Jack Brown D 95% 96% 25
Ben Miranda D 96% 83% 22
Edward Ableser D 96% 93% 22
Frank Pratt R 96% 96% 21
David Schapira D 96% 98% 21
David Stevens R 96% 93% 20
Bill Konopnicki R 96% 90% 19
David Gowan R 96% 93% 19
Laurin Hendrix R 96% 95% 19
Name Party Floor Votes Cast Days in attendance
Total Missed
Steve Court R 97% 96% 17
Doris Goodale R 97% 96% 15
Patricia Fleming D 97% 100% 15
Cecil Ash R 97% 96% 12
Rick Murphy R 97% 96% 12
Nancy Young Wright D 98% 98% 11
Jim Weiers R 99% 77% 5
Daniel Patterson D 99% 93% 5
Michele Reagan R 99% 98% 5
Steve Farley D 99% 98% 3
John Kavanagh R 99% 98% 3
Nancy McLain R 99% 95% 1
Steve Montenegro R 99% 98% 1
Jerry Weiers R 99% 100% 1
Sam Crump R 100% 76% 0
Frank Antenori R 100% 86% 0
Kirk Adams R 100% 96% 0
Nancy Barto R 100% 96% 0
Olivia Cajero Bedford D 100% 96% 0
Rich Crandall R 100% 96% 0
Judy Burges R 100% 98% 0
Debbie Lesko R 100% 98% 0
Carl Seel R 100% 98% 0
Adam Driggs R 100% 100% 0
John McComish R 100% 100% 0
Amanda Reeve R 100% 100% 0
Andy Tobin R 100% 100% 0
Ted Vogt R 100% 100% 0
Steve Yarbrough R 100% 100% 0

Senate vote percentages
Name Party Floor Votes Cast Days in attendance
Total votes missed
Amanda Aguirre D 75% 85% 137
Albert Hale D 75% 85% 137
Jorge Luis Garcia D 88% 91% 63
Carolyn Allen R 89% 95% 58
Rebecca Rios D 90% 95% 52
Chuck Gray R 92% 95% 42
Debbie McCune Davis D 94% 95% 29
John Huppenthal R 95% 93% 26
Meg Burton Cahill D 95% 91% 25
Jonathan Paton R 96% 82% 25
Robert Burns R 95% 93% 24
Richard Miranda D 96% 96% 22
Paula Aboud D 96% 88% 18
John Nelson R 97% 88% 15
Barbara Leff R 97% 98% 15
Jay Tibshraeny R 97% 82% 12
Leah Landrum Taylor D 98% 100% 8
Manuel Alvarez D 98% 96% 7
Ron Gould R 98% 93% 6
Ken Cheuvront D 99% 88% 3
Linda Lopez D 99% 100% 3
Frank Antenori R 99% 96% 1
David Braswell R 99% 97% 1
Pamela Gorman R 100% 61% 0
Jim Waring R 100% 69% 0
Jack Harper R 100% 98% 0
Thayer Verschoor R 100% 98% 0
Sylvia Allen R 100% 100% 0
Ed Bunch R 100% 100% 0
Linda Gray R 100% 100% 0
Al Melvin R 100% 100% 0
Russell Pearce R 100% 100% 0
Steve Pierce R 100% 100% 0

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