Club for Growth Foundation, as part of a new initiative, launched 2019 state legislative scorecards in four states to provide an in-depth look at votes on economic issues, including Tennessee.
Only one Tennessee legislator, Representative Debra Moody (R-Covington), earned the designation of Defender of Freedom by the Club for Growth, for scoring 90 percent or better.
The non-profit charitable organization was formed with the purpose of educating the public about the value of free markets, pro-growth policies and creating economic prosperity.
Club for Growth Foundation’s congressional scorecard, published annually, is highly regarded when it comes to key votes on economic issues relative to spending, taxes, regulation and trade.
At the state level, in addition to Tennessee, Club for Growth Foundation has launched state legislative scorecards in Florida, New Mexico and Virginia for the 2019 legislative session. Florida’s scorecard also includes votes from the 2018 legislative session.
On August 14, 2019, Club For Growth Foundation President, David McIntosh, announced the launch of the new state scorecards, “The Club for Growth Foundation’s Congressional Scorecard is already the gold-standard in publishing the voting records of Senators and Members of the U.S. House of Representatives on economic legislation, and the State Legislative Scorecards will help educate citizens about which elected officials are champions of pro-growth policies at the state level.”
In developing the scorecards for the four states, Club for Growth Foundation analyzed a total of 37,494 economic votes, scored 275 economic votes and scored 1,760 legislators.
State Scorecards were created by the Club for Growth Foundation to educate the public about the voting records of the legislators who serve in state legislators. It is part of a larger scorecard project that the Club for Growth Foundation has created to educate the public about the economic positions taken by legislators in states across the country, according to the website.
Specifically in Tennessee, the Foundation’s study examined over 4,600 floor votes and included 14 floor votes taken up by Tennessee’s House and Senate in the scorecard.
While lawmakers’ scores are based on a scale of zero to 100, votes are weighted by the Foundation’s determination of relative importance.
The legislators are then ranked one through 33 in the Senate and one through 99 in the House.
The Tennessee Senate snapshot reveals that, with 28 Republicans and 5 Democrats, the average Republican score is 64 percent while the average Democrat score is 37 percent.
The highest rated Republican Senator, with a score of 82 percent, is Ferrell Haile (R-Gallatin).
There are two Senators ranked as the lowest-rated Republicans, Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville) and Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), both with a score of 45 percent.
By comparison, the highest-rated Democrat Senator, Sara Kyle (D-Memphis), is just a few points behind with a score of 42 percent.
The lowest-rated Democrat Senator is freshman Katrina Robinson (D-Memphis) with a score of 32 percent.
The Tennessee House snapshot reveals that, with 73 Republicans and 26 Democrats, the average Republican score is slightly higher than that of the Senate at 67 percent, and the average Democrat score is slightly lower at 34 percent.
The highest rated Republican House member is Debra Moody (R-Covington) with a score of 90 percent.
Like the Senate, there are two Representatives tied for the lowest Republican rating, John Holsclaw (R-Elizabethton) and Kevin Vaughn (R-Collierville), both holding the score of 45 percent.
The highest-rated Democrat Representative, John DeBerry (D-Memphis), with a score of 67 percent holds three distinctions: It is the same score as the average for all House Republicans, is two points higher than the Senate Republicans’ average and exceeds the two lowest-rated Republicans by 22 percent.
With a rank of 28, House Democrat DeBerry is tied with 13 Republican House members.
Meanwhile, 33 Republican House members have a ranking lower than that of Democrat DeBerry.
There are two Democrat Representatives tied for the lowest rating with a score of 17 percent, Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) and Mike Stewart (D-Nashville).
In total, five House members hold a score equal to or higher than the top Senator, with a score of 82 percent or greater: Debra Moody ranked number one with a score of 90 percent; Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro) ranked number two with a score of 89 percent; Timothy Hill (R-Blountville) ranked number three with a score of 85 percent; Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro) ranked number four with a score of 84 percent; and, Andy Holt (R-Dresden) ranked number five with a score of 82 percent.
The 14 bills that made it to floor votes in the respective chambers and scored by Club for Growth Foundation (CFGF) include:
HB0012 – Prohibits local business licensing requirements for minors that is located on private property and generates gross receipts of less than $3,000 per year. CFGF supports.
HB0166 – Requires all public entities to disclose the issuance or default on financial instruments, like bonds or bank loans. CFGF supports.
HB0377 – Requires public utilities’ “round up” to the nearest dollar programs to be “opt-in” starting in 2021. CFGF supports.
HB0597 – Continuation of $0.50 additional hotel/motel tax in Davidson County for six years. CFGF opposes.
HB0620 – Weakens the performance metrics related to certain government subsidies. CFGF opposes.
HB0655 – Allows uninsured patients to barter goods and services with a healthcare provider. CFGF supports.
HB0667 – Makes on-line sales tax collection enforceable. CFGF opposes.
HB0939 – Education Savings Accounts. CFGF supports.
HB1075 – Creates a new taxpayer-funded entity of the Tennessee Wine and Grape Board. CFGF opposes.
HB1138 – Repeals the “amusement tax” on small gyms and health clubs that isn’t applied to larger, competing fitness centers. CFGF supports.
HB1262 – Eliminates the $400 annual “professional privilege tax” assessed on numerous professions. CFGF supports.
HB1270 – Requires state agencies to conduct audits on the impact of federal funding on their budgets. CFGF supports.
HB1280 – Directs the Governor to seek a federal waiver, allowing Tennessee to receive a block grant for TennCare, the state’s Medicaid program, to help control costs and allow flexibility in developing innovative solutions to healthcare funding. CFGF supports.
SB1185 – Exempts hair braiding from state licensure requirements and reduces training hours in order to operate in the state from 300 hours down to 16 hours.
Weighted vote scores ranged from a low of two points for HB0012 and a high of 12 points for HB1280. Three bills, HB0667, HB0939 and HB1262, carried a score of 10 points each.
Compared to the other three states where Club for Growth has launched state legislative report cards in 2019, overall Tennessee lawmakers were more favorable to pro-growth policies than those in New Mexico and Virginia, but lagged significantly behind Florida.
- One State Senator was recognized as a Defender of Economic Freedom.
- 23 Senate Republicans – average score 83 percent; highest rated 94 percent; lowest rated 61 percent
- 17 Senate Democrats – average score 42 percent; highest rated 62 percent; lowest rated 23 percent
- 66 State Representatives were recognized as Defenders of Economic Freedom.
- 71 House Republicans – average score 96 percent; highest rated 100 percent; lowest rated 85 percent
- 46 House Democrats – average score 43 percent; highest rated 82 percent; lowest rated 13 percent
- No State Senators were recognized as Defenders of Economic Freedom.
- 16 Senate Republicans – average score 53 percent; highest rated 72 percent; lowest rated 31 percent
- 26 Senate Democrats – average score 12 percent; highest rated 24 percent; lowest rated 7 percent
- No State Representatives were recognized as Defenders of Economic Freedom.
- 24 House Republicans – average score 69 percent; highest rated 85 percent; lowest rated 48 percent
- 46 House Democrats – average score 11 percent; highest rated 36 percent; lowest rated 2 percent
- No State Senators were recognized as Defenders of Economic Freedom.
- 21 Senate Republicans – average score 55 percent; highest rated 80 percent; lowest rated 43 percent
- 19 Senate Democrats – average score 15 percent; highest rated 31 percent; lowest rated 0 percent
- Two House Delegates were recognized as Defenders of Economic Freedom.
- 51 House Republicans – average score 63 percent; highest rated 100 percent; lowest rated 47%
- 49 House Democrats – average score 19%; highest rated 30 percent; lowest rated 0 percent
David McIntosh, CFGF President, was asked by The Tennessee Star several questions regarding the launch of the state scorecards.
McIntosh told The Star regarding Tennessee’s commitment to defunding economic freedom as compared to other states CFGF reviewed, “I fear that Tennessee is victim to the same phenomenon that we are seeing in other deep red states. Namely, that Democrats are getting elected to office as Republicans because that is their only path to victory.”
“That’s what makes a legislative scorecard so important,” he continued. “We have to hold these politicians accountable. If they say they are conservative, but then vote for more taxes, more spending, and more government, then we need to shine a bright light on their hypocrisy.”
“Compared to other states, Tennessee could do a lot better. If they followed Florida’s example, they would be moving in the right direction.”
“The Sunshine State has a conservative governor and conservative leadership in the legislature. They passed some great policies this year that will have long-lasting positive effects on economic freedom.”
With regard to areas that Tennessee is particularly strong or needs more improvement to be a leader in economic freedom, McIntosh pointed to the Education Savings Accounts legislation, which was the first big initiative by newly-elected Governor Bill Lee.
“Tennessee passed a good school choice bill. That was a good start.”
The Education Savings Account program was controversial, particularly among House members. While the Senate passed the measure with a 20-13 vote, it barely made it through the House Education Committee and the subsequent floor vote.
Commending a different effort initiated in the State House, McIntosh said, “They also passed a couple of bills expanding healthcare freedom. I hope other states do the same.”
With regard to a sticking point with many conservatives, sometimes called “corporate welfare,” McIntosh had strong words.
“Sadly, one of the state’s weakest points is economic cronyism, i.e. favoring one business over another. There is this belief that handing out tax dollars to politically connected businesses is somehow good policy. But it’s a form of soft corruption that eats away at honest government. Politicians pick winners and losers – in the end they are bound to be influenced by campaign contributions rather than what is best for Tennessee’s economy. It has to stop.”
About CFGF’s future plans for scorecards in other states, McIntosh revealed to The Star, “We expect the Club for Growth Foundation to issue scorecards soon in Missouri, Texas, and Oklahoma. After that, the Club for Growth Foundation might do 3-5 more before the end of the year. We believe these scorecards are a great way to educate voters about their elected officials and how well they do in adopting policies that build a strong economy.
Eventually, the goal is to have 50 scorecards in all 50 states. It’s an exciting project that is desperately needed.”
Club for Growth Foundation qualifies that the scorecard is based on selected votes of importance to the organization and does not include the complete voting record of any legislator. The Foundation points out that there are inherent limitations in judging the overall qualifications of any legislator based on roll call votes on the floor of the Tennessee House and Senate and cannot account for a lawmaker’s work in committee, advocacy in caucus meetings, or effectiveness as a leader in advocating pro-growth policies.
The Club for Growth Foundation’s Tennessee State Legislative Scorecard for 2019 can be viewed here.
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