Simpson, Hughes earn 'taxpayer champion' grade as interest groups rate lawmkaers

Wednesday, August 3, 2011 - 9:33pm

Longview, TX — School might be out for summer, but it’s report card season for Texas lawmakers.

With the 82nd Legislature and special session concluded in Austin, advocacy groups from hard-right conservatives to air-dependent environmentalists are ranking legislators left and right.

Longtime Austin political observer Harvey Kronberg, publisher of the online Quorum Report, said the rankings have gained weight in recent years.

“Typically, the report cards are only of passing interest,” he said. “But over the last couple of years, with the rise of the tea party, they have become perceived to be more influential.”

One reason for that is the 21-member Republican freshmen elected last year under the tea party banner, a number that includes Longview Rep. David Simpson, who don’t have the long voting record many of the incumbents they defeated did.

When you are a familiar face at the podium during Rotary lunches, or in the school superintendent’s office, constituents feel they have a pretty good idea what you’re about, Kronberg said.

“That’s far, far more important than any report card,” he said. “This time, they really paid attention because the huge number who are in the freshman class give (a report card) credibility. Your long-time veterans, who have been in the Legislature a while, know that if you pay attention to your district, that’s what matters. ... So, if somebody gets a low score, it really doesn’t have a huge impact.”

Kronberg said the annual report cards largely are a staple of the right.

“The left is fragmented and much less structured than the right is,” he said. “There is no equivalent on the left.”

Perhaps an irony: Report cards don’t do much, if anything, to sway voters. People tend to read things they agree with, anyway, so the report cards they read serve more as reinforcement to their beliefs than as information, he said.

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