If you are ever asked what you do for a living and you reply, “I am a lobbyist” what usually follows is a rant about how the Legislature can never get anything done, that everything is so partisan and that there is incredible gridlock. Spurred on by the 24/7 media attention on high profile legislation, the average citizen has come to believe that our American legislative process is a gridlocked, do nothing, overly partisan-charged set of institutions.
And that perception, at least in Arizona, would be wrong. Dead wrong!
Most legislative proposals are bills designed to provide a legislative solution to a problem that an interest group faces. Most bills go through a fairly complete set of stakeholder meetings, committee hearings, more stakeholder meetings, floor debates and so on. Some stakeholder meetings are formal sessions with several stakeholder groups and legislators in attendance. Some are quick one-on-one meetings among and between lobbyists and legislators. And by the time most of these bills get to a floor vote many of the disagreements have been ironed out.
It is true that not all bills get consideration. Of the 1252 bills, resolutions and memorials introduced this passed session, 380 passed – roughly 30 percent – made it through the entire process.
Nevertheless to prove our point, for the last two years we have done a purely statistical evaluation of all the floor votes taken in both the Senate and House of all bills considered. That includes all third reads and all final passes. (It does not include procedural motions that require a floor vote.)
The current partisan makeup of the Arizona Legislature reflects that 60 percent of the House is Republican and 40 percent is Democrat and that 56 percent of the Senate is Republican and 44 percent is Democrat.
Of the 1,190 total floor votes taken throughout the legislative process, 75.46 percent (or 898 of them) received a two-thirds vote; 70.25 percent (or 836 of them) received a three quarters vote; and, 46.97 percent (or 559 of them) passed unanimously. That means that bipartisan support was achieved in a significantly large number of floor votes. Think about that – almost half of all recorded floor votes were unanimous!
And one more thing – 32 of all the floor votes failed to achieve the necessary majority to pass. That also generally requires a bi-partisan vote.
Yes, there were bills that passed with less than a two-thirds vote that were bi-partisan. It is also true that there were a fair number of votes that did in fact reflect a clear partisan divide – that is to be expected in our two-party system.
But when you look at the body of work from this year’s session it is important to recognize that a lot of legislation is crafted, compromised and then passed with a bi-partisan vote and that speaks to how well our legislative process actually does work.
– Wriiten by Barry M. Aarons and members of his staff at The Aarons Company LLC, a Phoenix lobbying, public policy and consulting firm.