How this scorecard is constructed
In considering what to score, our analysis included:
- Votes on bad bills that would harm Texans.
- Votes on good bills that would help Texans.
- Votes on amendments. Lawmakers sometimes try to revive good and bad bills that died in committee by offering them as amendments to related bills that come up for a vote on the floor. Legislators can attempt to add amendments that would improve bad bills too.
- Individual efforts of legislators to pass or prevent bills outside of the vote that they cast on the floor. For example, Rep. John Bryant persistently used points of order to try to kill bad environmental bills as they came up on the House floor, expending precious political capital in the process. That deserves credit.
What is missing?
- Big omnibus bills that have both good and bad aspects to them. Scoring on Sunset bill votes or the big water infrastructure bill (SB 28), for example, can be tricky because there are good and bad components to them, so we didn’t include many of them.
- Good bills that were filed with no chance of advancing, or good bills that were not pushed for, were, in general, not included because our analysis seeks to assess each lawmaker’s willingness to use their positional power or political capital to advance environmental justice. Simply filing a bill for good PR isn’t necessarily going to earn you points, especially if that member did not use political capital to try and get a hearing.
- We also have limited capacity to advocate for every good bill, and fight every bad bill, moving through the legislature. That reality makes this exercise somewhat subjective and not at all comprehensive. So we tried as much as we could to limit the analysis and assessment to bills that we focused on, which mostly aligned with our legislative agenda.
We start, as always, with a list of floor votes that reflect the consequential moments of key priorities as much as possible. That includes bills we fought for and against, in addition to amendments to bills both good and bad. Most of the time, the votes were on third (and final) reading. Though some were on adoption of an amendment, and one was for a vote on a motion to table a good amendment.
Then, we assign weights to each vote based on two fundamental questions:
- On a scale of 1-10, how high were the stakes on this vote? How consequential would this bill be to the lives of Texans?
- On a scale of 1-10, how difficult was it to persuade legislators to vote the right way?
Based on answers provided by our lobby team, a unique weight was given to each vote. For example, Sen. Eckhardt’s bill to increase the state’s energy efficiency goal (SB 258) scored 7/10 for each question, giving it a weight of 14/20. Whereas Sen. Kolkhorst’s oyster bill (SB 1032) scored 6/10 and 1/10 respectively, for a total of 7/20. Assigning the weight to each of these votes, then, produced a value of 8.38% of the total raw score to the SB 258 vote, and 4.19% of the total raw score for the oyster bill vote. Put simply, SB 258 was weighted twice what SB 1032 was.
For the House votes, the weights and values were:
For the Senate votes, the weights and values were:
After we calculated each legislator’s raw score, we made adjustments to reflect whether an individual legislator made extra effort beyond each of these votes either to advance or stop key legislation. Did they fight for a good bill that did not get to the floor? Did they work behind the scenes to slow down a bad bill? We did our best to capture these moments and make adjustments to their overall scores, usually in the 1-5% range for each action.
We could not have produced this scorecard without the help of the following individuals: Matt Johnson, Cyrus Reed, Alex Ortiz, Emma Pabst, Eric Krueger, Dave Cortez, and Casey Moser. We wouldn’t have anything to report without the passion and commitment of our volunteers either. Thank you to all the Sierra Club members and supporters who stepped up and called, emailed, wrote, and met with their legislators face to face this year. We appreciate you and your drive to make Texas a better place to live.
Finally, Sierra Club is a part of a larger movement to make Texas a more equitable, inclusive, democratic, and anti-racist place. We still have a long way to go, but to that end, we want to acknowledge that this scorecard is missing several votes that would give an even clearer and representative view of each lawmaker’s values. There were terrible bills filed attacking trans Texans for example, as well as bills to re-establish white supremacy in higher education. There was even action to have the state take over the largest school district in Texas - the Houston Independent School District, in the process disenfranchising local voters who had elected local school boards. While our staff and volunteers dropped cards, testified, shared on social media, made calls, wrote emails, and rallied against many of these bad bills, we decided to leave most of the scoring up to our allies and partners.
However, we want to work more closely with allied organizations in the future to collaborate on how to fill out the picture of each elected official through a more comprehensive equity and social justice lens. For a more complete picture of how our scores compare to lawmakers’ positions on other issues such as LGBTQ rights, criminal justice, reproductive healthcare, and more, check out the accountability work of Texas Freedom Network, Equality Texas, AVOW, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, SEIU, ACLU of Texas, Progress Texas, and Mi Familia Vota.
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