Consider the following statement one might hear if they stay around the capitol very long: “If there is one consistent thing about that legislator, it is that he is consistently inconsistent!”
This fact has been quite aptly demonstrated by what a first glance appears to be a confusing conundrum: Over the past year, the House of Representatives has considered a tax increase proposal, over, and over again. Upon observation, the observer will note that it’s principally the same proposal each time it appears before the House; new taxes are added with each new iteration but at its core the proposal is a massive increase on gas and tobacco.
Here’s a second component of the conundrum: Legislators will vote against the tax increase on one day, only to subsequently flip and vote for it in a subsequent vote.
Imagine the confusion and frustration of the voter who’s legislator has been on both sides of the issue. How do they hold this slipply critter to account at the ballot box?
The average observer and voter will likely forgive a legislator for voting differently on issues than they would prefer. But very little likely frustrates an observer more than a legislator who votes according to inconsistent and illogical philosophy.
Legislators cast as many as 1000 votes each year. With that many votes, it is vital for each legislator to apply a consistent voting criteria.
It is tempting for legislators to cast votes based on the emotion of the moment, change their votes while the vote is ongoing (depending on whether the bill is winning or losing), or vote based on personality and friendship.
Legislators may cast a vote on an issue that is contrary to the principles he/she campaigned on because of their relationship with a special interest group or a particularly outspoken constituent. This creates frustration for those voters and observers who can’t predict how their legislator will vote.
Don’t think that inconsistent voting is monopolized by legislators who espouse a particular ideological point of view. Both conservative and liberal lawmakers are subject to acquiring the “change-itis” disease which sways their votes according to the most illogical of criteria.
It is a moral imperative for legislators to do their best to resist the temptation to cast votes according to emotion. Legislators must be prepared to explain their votes in a logical way according to a consistent philosophy for which their voters and observers can hold them to account.
I learned this lesson during my second term in office.
After I cast a vote, I often walked to the back of the House chamber on my way back to my office. This required walking past the new freshmen legislators who are traditionally seated towards the back of the House chambers.
I tend to vote no on more proposals than the average legislator. The freshmen noticed this and invariably my trek back to the office was subject to interruption from one of the freshmen. They were new to the Legislature and wanted to know why I voted against a bill that most were supporting.
I quickly learned that I better be prepared to explain my vote before I headed back to the office.
Over the years, I put in place a system of criteria through which I filter my votes. These criteria are based on the principles that I campaigned on. They also allow me to explain my votes in a clear, understandable way and in just a sentence or two.
I plan to describe some of these criteria in my article of next week.