Will Sandstrom’s immigration bill pass the Senate?

If the Senate votes on HB 70 without any amendments, I predict that it will pass easily

On Friday, the Utah House passed H.B. 70, Rep. Stephen Sandstrom’s illegal immigration enforcement bill. Now it goes to the Senate. If the Senate votes on HB 70 without any amendments, I predict that it will pass easily with between 19 and 23 “aye” votes and between 0 and 8 “nay” votes. If I had to be more precise, I would predict 20 “aye” and 5 “nay” votes. That adds up to 25 votes total. I have no prediction for the remaining 4 votes.

I base these predictions on ideology scores that I have calculated for each legislator. In brief, I calculated a score between 0 and 100 for each legislator based on their voting record in the 2010 legislative session. An extreme liberal would score 0; an extreme conservative would score 100. In practice, scores range between 25.3 and 88.7. I have discussed these ideology scores in previous posts (e.g. here and here). See those posts for more explanation about these ideology scores. Note that I only have scores for legislators who served in 2010, so I ignore freshmen in this analysis.

In Friday’s House vote, every Representative with an ideology score above 53 voted for H.B. 70. Every Representative with a score below 38 voted against it. Of those with a score between 38 and 53, 3 voted “nay” while 1 voted “aye.”

Based on this pattern, I predict that any Senator with a score below 38 will vote against HB 70 and any Senator with a score above 53 will vote for it, assuming no amendments. I have no prediction for Senators between these scores.

Here are my 5 predicted “nay” votes, with 2010 ideology scores in parentheses: Romero (27.2), McAdams (35.0), Robles (38.5), Davis (40.2), Mayne (46.2). I sorted those “nay” votes from most to least liberal. That means I’m most certain about Romero’s vote and least certain about Mayne’s.

Here are my 20 predicted “aye” votes: Dayton (88.7), H. Stephenson (88.7), Madsen (86.0), Waddoups (85.3), Buttars (84.8), Jenkins (82.2), Knudson (81.5), Adams (80.2), Stowell (79.7), Valentine (79.5), Niederhauser (78.8), Hillyard (78.7), Okerlund (78.7), Hinkins (77.5), Christensen (77.5), Urquhart (76.7), J. Stevenson (76.3), Bramble (75.3), Liljenquist (74.7), Van Tassell (70.2). I sorted those from most to least conservative, so I’m most certain about Dayton’s vote and least certain about Van Tassell’s.

There are four votes that I can’t call. For two votes, that’s because their ideology scores lie between 38 and 53: Jones (52.5) and Morgan (50.5). For the other two, that’s because they are freshmen: Thatcher and Reid.

This analysis is obviously imperfect. Consider two caveats.

First, my ideology scores are based on voting over many, many bills, most of which have nothing to do with immigration. It’s possible that a legislator could be more conservative on taxes and the environment than on immigration, which would make my predictions incorrect. In particular, I see that this analysis predicts that Senator Bramble would vote for HB 70–yet he has made clear that he prefers a more comprehensive approach to reform.

Second, it’s also likely that the Senate will amend HB 70 before voting on it. These predictions assume that the Senate votes on the exact same bill as the House. Given how many amendments were attempted on HB 70 while it was in the House, it seems nearly certain that the Senate will amend it.

Still, it’s telling that the ideological cutpoint on H.B. 70 appears to lie somewhere between Rep. Duckworth (most liberal “aye”) and Rep. Janice Fisher (most conservative “nay”). Both are Democrats.

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About Adam Brown

Adam Brown is an associate professor of political science at Brigham Young University and a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. You can learn more about him at his website.
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