The report cards are out, and three dozen state lawmakers got top marks from one of Florida’s leading advocates for economic freedom.
On Tuesday, Americans for Prosperity-Florida (AFP-FL) released its annual Economic Freedom Scorecard. To tabulate the grades, the organization recorded more than 4,300 individual votes on 59 legislative proposals.
“A big part of our mission is to help Florida taxpayers hold their elected officials accountable,” said Chris Hudson, the state director of AFP-FL in a statement.
Hudson said the organization produces the scorecard so taxpayers can “clearly identify which members of the Senate and House are focused on voting and sponsoring legislation that will actually improve the quality of life and long-term prosperity for all Floridians.”
The organization awards one point for each vote cast in support of a “pro-economic freedom issue,” such as eliminating the manufacturing business tax and expanding school choice, or against an “anti-economic freedom issue,” such as a resolution to ban fracking in Florida and expanding Medicaid. The organization awards one point for the prime sponsorship of a priority bill; and deducts a point for sponsoring bills AFP-FL opposes.
Of the 59 issues included in the scorecard, 24 were never brought to a vote. According to the report, these bills are “still included in the scorecard via positive or negative sponsorship points.”
So who got top marks during the 2016 legislative session? According to the Economic Freedom Scorecard, 36 state lawmakers received an A-plus grade in 2016.
Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican, received the highest score with 114.3 percent; followed by Rep. Manny Diaz, a Hialeah Republican, with 112.2 percent. Other A-plus lawmakers included Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Fort Myers Republican; Rep. Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican; House Speaker Designate Richard Corcoran; and House Majority Leader Dana Young.
“It was great to see 36 members earn an A-plus this year,” said Hudson. “I hope that by including some of the new features we added this year that Floridians can better assess how their lawmakers have voted on key issues like corporate welfare spending, health care reforms, and education choice since we first launched this product in 2013.”
The 2016 scorecard includes a few new features, including a historical reference on how lawmakers scored on economic freedom issues every year since 2013. The annual report also includes comments from staff and volunteers about why they got involved.
Not all lawmakers received top marks. Several legislators — including Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat; Sen. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat; Rep. Dwight Dudley, a St. Petersburg Democrat; and Rep. Reggie Fullwood, a Jacksonville Democrat — received an F grade.
“Our scorecard lets hardworking citizens of this state connect to what their elected officials are doing when they go to Tallahassee for legislative Session,” said Hudson.