Sunday, May 23, 1999

An Ohio legislative scorecard

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        One measure of an active, effective lawmaker is his or her ability to offer legislation and guide it through the process to become law.

        To gauge Cincinnati's delegation in the Ohio General Assembly, we studied how many pieces of legislation each lawmaker submitted as principal sponsor during the full 122nd General Assembly, which held sessions in 1997 and 1998, and tracked how these measures fared.

        The chart below lists the results, along with each legislator's ''batting average'' -- the percentage of bills that became law during that complete, two-year session.

        Since the current 123rd General Assembly just began in January, not many bills have had a chance to go through the legislative process, so those weren't considered.

        That's why the delegation's one new member, Rep. Catherine Barrett, is not listed, while one former member who dominated area billmaking in 1997, Rep. Mike Fox, is.

        Some cautions:

        • Submitting or passing a large number of bills doesn't automatically make one a top-notch legislator. Some lawmakers' averages are padded with such yawners as highway-naming bills. Crafting a few good laws is better than churning out dozens of unnecessary ones, and sometimes a legislator's best contribution may be preventing bad bills from becoming law.

        • A lack of bill production isn't necessarily bad. As Senate President, Sen. Richard Finan has submitted no legislation -- but he runs the whole show. Others, as committee chairs and in other leadership posts, wield influence over many bills that become law.

        • A low pass rate doesn't mean failure. Some members excel in creating ideas that wind up in other bills, or in improving bills through amendments. Mr. Fox, who resigned from the House in September 1997, submitted nearly as many bills as the rest of the Cincinnati-area House delegation put together. Not a single one passed -- but many of his ideas bore fruit in other bills and in the legislative debate.

        • Party affiliation matters. Republicans control both houses of the General Assembly, so Democrats have a difficult time getting any of their measures past committee.

        • GOP domination in Columbus also helps explain why the Southwestern Ohio delegation -- 15 Republicans out of 19 -- has a higher pass rate than the legislature in general.

        Sources: Ohio Legislative Service Commission; Enquirer archives. Enquirer research by Ray Cooklis.

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