There have been questions recently regarding two organizations that rate Idaho’s legislators and assign them a score, based on the votes they cast. Is it a fair measurement and is it fair to the legislators?
The task of the Supreme Court of the United States is to judge each law that comes before it as to whether it upholds the principles of our Constitution. After all, isn’t the Constitution the supreme law of the land and the gold standard?
At the beginning of each legislative session in Idaho, each legislator raises his right hand and swears an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Idaho. These are similar documents as to their stated purpose of limiting their respective governments to “few and defined” powers.
The American Conservative Union (ACU) is a national organization that evaluates all legislators in all states, and the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF) is an in-state organization that evaluates Idaho’s legislators. During each session, both of these groups select a cross-section of bills to evaluate as to their alignment with these two constitutions. Their metrics are distinct but similar.
For example, they ask such questions as are summarized below:
- “Does this bill expand state government’s influence or cost to businesses or individuals?”
- “Does this bill transfer functions of the private sector to the government?”
- “Does this bill give government any expanded power to restrict or regulate activities in the free market?” Etc.
It is important to understand that this rating is applied to the same pieces of legislation for all legislators and then each legislator is assigned a score depending on his or her votes.
So, are these rating systems fair? Yes they are! The playing field is level. No one legislator or group of legislators is favored or penalized. It is non-partisan and is applied to Democrats as well as Republicans.
The bottom line is that these rating systems are simply tools to be used by the legislators to help them fulfill their oath to these two constitutions and to the public they serve. Moreover, it is an educational tool which voters can use to help them better understand a legislator’s voting record–a tool to help citizens determine whether their values align with those they elect to represent them. It is as simple as that.