Spin Control

2011 WA Lege: Counting the votes

OLYMPIA -- With the Legislature a full week in the books, the group WashingtonVotes, has released its annual statistics about the number of bills introduced and passed, the votes taken...and the votes missed.

Topping the list of missed House votes was Rep. Larry Crouse, R-Spokane Valley, which was a surprise initially because Crouse is usually far down in that tally. He missed 143 votes in the just-finished regular and special sessions, because of medical problems.

"In the past 16 years, I don't think I missed that many votes, total," Crouse said Thursday.

He had back surgery last October, and his back started acting up again after the session started. "It was miserable," he said. "It got so bad that I h ad to schedule surgery again. I didn't have a choice."

He scheduled it for  May, which would have been after the session, had the Legislature finished on time. Instead, the surgery fell in the middle of the special session. He made it in several days while recuperating, but otherwise stayed away.

"I was in contact, on the phone, with leadership. If they needed me there, I would be there," he said. As it turned out, there weren't  many 714 roll call votes in the House that were close.

No. 4 on the list of missed votes for House members was John Ahern, R-Spokane, with 66 missed votes.  Ahern returned to the Legislature after a term off, and had better voting attendance in previous sessions.

"I had a couple of family emergencies, two hospitalizations," he said Thursday. First his wife was ill, then his son was in a car accident, and he was back in Spokane for those votes. He said he enterred in the House record how he would have voted, had he been there.

Topping the Senate list was Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland, who told the organization many of the 120 votes he missed were a result of being away for the unexpected death of his father. Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, was second with 79 votes. Some were a result of the "unforeseeable conflicts due to the nature of special sessions," he said, while others occured during votes that weren't close and he chose to be off the floor "to meet with constituents who have come to see me." 

Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, missed 36 of the 648 Senate votes cast, and Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, missed 30. But that put them 10th and 13th from the top, respectively.

Some Spokane-area legislators had perfect scores. In the House, Republicans Joel Kretz of Wauconda, Joe Schmick of Colfax; Matt Shea of Spokane Valley, and Shelly Short of Addy, as well as Democrats Andy Billig and Timm Ormsby, made every roll call vote. So did Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville.

Having a perfect voting record in the Senate is a bit more difficult, because senators have to be present to vote by voice when the roll call is taken. The House votes by machine, in a very short allotted time, and it is possible for a representative who is off the floor to leave instructions with a seatmate which button to push.

But representatives do have to be in the chamber that day. They can't call in a vote from Spokane after watching the debate on TVW.

Other fast facts from Washingtonvotes.org: Legislators introduced 2,093 bills and passed 444.




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Jim Camden
Jim Camden is the Olympia bureau chief, covering the Legislature and state government. He also is a political columnist and blogger for Spin Control.

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