Most legislators do poorly in ratings from conservative organization

By Steve Wilson
January 3, 2019

According to a recent scorecard, the GOP-dominated Mississippi legislature isn’t as conservative as members would like their constituents to believe.

The American Conservative Union Foundation released its annual ratings of the Mississippi legislature Thursday. Most Magnolia State lawmakers scored poorly on their votes on several bills selected by the ACU for their importance to the cause of limited government and economic freedom.

The average score for the legislature was 50.35 percent, up slightly from last year’s score of 50.31 percent.

Only six out of 122 House members won awards with ratings of 80 percent on their votes on the bills. The average Republican rating in the House was only 61 percent, with Democrats at 46 percent.

The Senate was even worse, as the average score was 46 percent with no senators winning awards. Democrats in the upper house averaged only one point less on average than their Republican comrades.

“In the 2018 session, lawmakers of the Mississippi legislature voted to continue hiking harsh requirements for people seeking to enter the workforce,” ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp said in a news release. “They also voted to fund crony government agencies that exclusively benefit select industries, including The Egg Marketing Board, whose mission is to persuade taxpayers to consume more eggs. We urge Mississippi lawmakers to reverse course and listen to the handful of conservatives in the legislature who are fighting for policy solutions that will create job opportunities and protect taxpayers from government waste.”

The bills that the ACU used to tabulate their ratings included ones that provided funding for the state’s Cosmetology Board, Mississippi Public Television, Mississippi Arts Commission and the Egg Marketing Board.

There were also bills that concerned alcohol policy (such as transportation of unopened alcoholic beverages through dry counties and ‘to-go cups’), occupational licensing, burdensome insurance mandates and limiting local government overreach on agricultural policies and the Second Amendment.

State representatives Joel Bomgar (R-Madison), Dana Criswell (R-Olive Branch) and Steve Hopkins (R-Southaven) were the only lawmakers to win the Award for Conservative Excellence, which went to lawmakers who scored 90 to 100 percent.

Three other state representatives — Chris Brown (R-Amory), Ashley Henley (R-Southaven) and Robert Foster (R-Hernando) — earned the Award for Conservative Achievement by scoring at least 80 percent.

In the House, the lowest scoring Republican member was state Rep. Donnie Bell (R-Fulton) with a score of 42 percent, while the highest-scoring Democrat in that chamber was state Rep. Kevin Horan (D-Grenada) with a 65 percent.

The lowest scoring Republican in the Senate was state Sen. Dean Kirby (R-Pearl) with a rating of 20 percent. The highest scoring Democrat in the upper chamber was state Sen. Juan Barnett (D-Heidelberg) with a 57 percent score.

The ACU is a non-profit organization that advocates for conservative policies such as economic and religious liberty, limits on the scope and size of government, pro-life policies and personal freedom at both the state and national levels.

Update: ACUF issued the following statement on a minor change to the scorecard:

In the originally published version, changes made by the Senate to HB 1083 were overlooked, and the ACUF description and position statement reflected the original version of the bill as passed by the House. Therefore, we have removed the bill from the Senate portion of our scorecard and retained the bill in the House. As a result, some members may find that their scores have slightly changed.

ACUF continues to fulfill our unique mission to reflect the voting records of every one of the nation’s over 8,000 elected officials, and we strive to provide our members and the general public with accurate scorecards to evaluate their elected officials. We sincerely apologize for our error and any confusion it may have caused.


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