CARSON CITY — Even so-called conservative Republicans at the 2009 Legislature were not as conservative as they should have been, according to a survey of how legislators voted conducted by Citizen Outreach, a nonprofit, public policy organization.
The survey found that only seven of the 42 Assembly members and one of the 21 state senators received at least a 50 percent conservative score based on their votes on selected issues during the session.
“True limited-government conservative legislators were harder to find in Carson City this year than Waldo,” Chuck Muth, the organization’s president, said about a session in which taxes were raised by a record $1 billion.
In contrast, 27 Assembly members and 10 senators cast what Citizen Outreach considered liberal votes at least 90 percent of the time.
Kerri Bragg, executive vice president of Citizen Outreach, said the ratings that her organization uses to define lawmakers as conservative are derived from their votes on limiting the size of government or for increasing the rights of individuals.
A lawmaker’s rating, or score, is equal to the percentage of times they voted a particular way on bills included in the survey.
“A lot of people are going to disagree with us,” she added. “That is fine, but we wanted to give voters a look at how legislators are voting.”
Included in the survey were all bills that increased taxes and the power of unions and those that Citizen Outreach said wasted time on frivolous matters.
Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, earned a 3 percent score, while state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, received a 10 percent score.
But Republican leaders weren’t rated much higher. State Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, earned a 17 percent score, while Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, was graded at 32 percent.
Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, received a 2 percent score, the lowest of any lawmaker.
“Many liberal Democrats claim to be moderates, while many moderate Republicans claim to be Reagan conservatives,” Muth said. “Anyone can talk the talk, but few in the 2009 Legislature actually walked the walk.”
Liberal-leaning organizations in Nevada have not conducted similar ratings of legislators’ votes.
The most conservative legislator in 2009 was Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, according to Citizen Outreach, based on his votes on 65 bills and his willingness to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a vow not to increase taxes.
Goedhart received an 85 percent favorable score. Muth acknowledged he was paid consultant and adviser for the assemblyman during the session.
The only others whose scores topped the 50 percent mark were Assembly members Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, 82 percent score; Ty Cobb, R-Reno, 77 percent; Richard McArthur, R-Las Vegas, 74 percent; John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, 68 percent; James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, 65 percent; and Chad Christensen, R-Las Vegas, 58 percent.
The most conservative state senator, according to the survey, was Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, who received a 52 percent favorable score, based on votes on 69 bills before the Senate and the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.
Muth said Citizen Outreach did not rate how legislators voted on the domestic partners bill. It will give same- and opposite-sex couples the same right as married couples when it goes into effect on Oct. 1.
“I have no objection to it, but conservatives are split on it,” he said. “People of good conscience can disagree.”
Contact Review-Journal Capital Bureau reporter Ed Vogel at evogel @reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.