The most striking finding of the Freedom Index for the 2016 legislative session — which the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity released this week — is the difference that it makes when the people pay attention and give their representatives feedback. In 2012, 14 legislators scored in positive territory on the index. That first iteration turned out to be a sort of beginners luck, though, as the positives dropped to just two in 2013 and none in 2014 or 2015.
This year was the first that the Center made a point (as much as the legislature makes it possible) of reviewing legislation before it received a floor vote, and here are the results:
We’re back to 11 positive legislators, and another 10 are separating from the sinking pack in a way that’s different from the results of previous years. Despite the race to the bottom evidenced by legislative leaders and those who blindly vote with them 21 legislators are pulling away.
Of course, the fact that it’s an election year may have made a difference by itself, but elections can’t be but so effective if people aren’t paying attention and, more importantly, politicians know that tools exist to let voters know how they’re doing. Step 1 is to make it clear which side a given legislator tends to take. Step 2 is to bring that information to the voting booth to ensure that the number of legislators who will vote the right way actually increases.