When it comes to healthy legislators, Greg Hughes set a new record this year for missing votes
Utah Legislators considered 831 bills during the seven-week 2015 General Session, passing 528 of them. Debating so many bills in so little time inevitably means that legislators leave the floor to court allies, negotiate language, meet with lobbyists, and generally keep things moving.
The time crunch is especially pronounced in the Senate, where responsibilities are divided among only 29 Senators as opposed to 75 Representatives. Perhaps that’s why absentee rates are consistently higher in the Senate than the House. During the 2015 General Session, the typical Senate floor vote had an absentee rate of 12%. The average rate in the House was 6%. (For absentee rates in previous years, click here.)
Of course, some legislators miss far more votes than others. I’ll start with the (almost) perfect attendance awards. The 10 legislators who missed the fewest votes:
|DiCaro, Sophia M.||R||House||0%|
|Peterson, Val L.||R||House||1%|
|Christofferson, Kay J.||R||House||1%|
|Westwood, John R.||R||House||1%|
|Handy, Stephen G.||R||House||1%|
|Thurston, Norman K.||R||House||1%|
|Chew, Scott H.||R||House||1%|
|Miller, Justin J.||D||House||1%|
Those are some impressive records. Rep. Sophia DiCaro missed only one vote out of 699 held in the Utah House.
Aaaaaand now we come to the other end of the table. Here are the 10 most absent legislators:
|McIff, Kay L.||R||House||17%|
|Hillyard, Lyle W.||R||Senate||21%|
|Urquhart, Stephen H.||R||Senate||22%|
|Stevenson, Jerry W.||R||Senate||22%|
|Dee, Brad L.||R||House||24%|
|Madsen, Mark B.||R||Senate||29%|
|Adams, J. Stuart||R||Senate||35%|
|Hughes, Gregory H.||R||House||37%|
I think we’ve got a record here, folks. Two of them, actually.
My data span 9 years. And in that span, the two highest absentee rates went to legislators with serious health issues. Rep. Bowman missed 48% of votes in 2008 while dying of cancer. And Sen. Buttars missed 36% in 2011; he retired at the end of the session due to his health issues.
Though he is apparently healthy, the new Speaker of the Utah House, Greg Hughes, was conspicuously absent from the dais throughout the General Session. He missed 37% of floor votes. When we look over the past 9 years, that puts him behind only Rep. Bowman, who was dying; even Sen. Buttars missed fewer votes than Greg Hughes, despite his severe health issues.
To be fair, it’s common for presiding officers (House Speakers and Senate Presidents) to miss floor votes. They leave the floor to negotiate budget compromises and deal with other matters. But still, Hughes is off the charts. As Senate President, Wayne Niederhauser missed 17% of his votes this year. And the previous Speaker, Becky Lockhart, missed 22% of floor votes in 2014 and 24% in 2013. Those are more typical rates for presiding officers.
So when it comes to healthy legislators, Greg Hughes set a new record this year for missing votes (at least looking over the last 9 years). And if Speaker Hughes hadn’t set the record, Sen. Stuart Adams would have; after Bowman-2008, Hughes-2015, and Buttars-2011, Sen. Adams’s 35% absentee rate is the fourth highest we’ve seen in the past 9 years.
Visit http://adambrown.info/p/research/utah_legislature/absent for absenteeism rates for all legislators over the past 9 years.