The Arizona Constitution declares that "governments . . . are established to protect and maintain individual rights." As the lawmaking branch of government, the legislature has the potential to be the greatest guardian or the greatest offender of those constitutionally enshrined rights.
It is difficult, however, to know whether legislators, individually and collectively, respect the government's limited role of protecting individual rights. During the 2006 legislative session, legislators considered nearly 1,600 bills, memorials, and resolutions on issues from equine dentistry to income tax relief. The sheer volume of legislative action makes it almost impossible for citizens to monitor legislative behavior.
As the most comprehensive analysis of the Arizona Legislature, the annual Goldwater Institute Legislative Report Card measures each legislator's votes against the yardstick of the state constitution. This year's report card considers 422 legislative votes in four categories: Education, Constitutional Government, Regulation, and Tax and Budget.
By using a straightforward scoring system, this analysis brings transparency to the mass of legislative action during the second regular session of the Forty-seventh Legislature. That transparency is crucial to a free society that depends on a well-informed electorate. As President Andrew Jackson charged, "eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty...you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing. It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your States as well as in the Federal Government."
This year's scores reveal a trend toward more expansive government. Average scores fell seven points in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, indicating that legislators were more inclined this year than last to create or expand programs, regulation, and spending. Between 2003 and 2005, average scores rose nine points in both the House and Senate. This year's scores have returned to 2003 and 2004 levels. The Regulation category continues to be the major point of weakness, with legislators imposing more rules and limitations on the free market. Average scores are highest in Constitutional Government.
Legislators earning grades in the "A" range for the greatest number of votes cast respecting individual rights and limited government are Reps. Andy Biggs, Judy Burges, Eddie Farnsworth, Russell Pearce, and Collette Rosati; and Sens. Ron Gould, Jack Harper, and Thayer Verschoor.