In sports, it’s often said, “The game was closer than the final score indicates,” or, “It wasn’t as close as the score indicates.” It reveals that the final score is not always indicative of how close, or not, a game may have been. Often, there’s more to the story.
The most popular document created by The Family Foundation Action is our semi-annual General Assembly Report Card. In it you’ll find the “score” of every member of the General Assembly based on their legislative votes on Family Foundation priorities over a two-session period. The snap-shot of votes taken by their elected representatives gives citizens a good idea of where their legislators stand on key issues.
The Report Card also serves as a reminder to legislators that they can’t hide from the public. Every session our legislative team is asked over and over again by legislators, “Will this be a score card vote?” The message is: the Report Card matters. Legislators, at least those who are in more conservative districts, want to be able to prove their pro-family “credentials” with a good score. On the flip side, more liberal legislators often trumpet their low scores as proof of their “progressive” values. All in all, everybody wins!
Well, except that no document, or score, is a perfect reflection of the whole game. We make clear on the Report Card that it isn’t meant to be used as a measure of one’s personal faith. It is a great measure, as close as we’ve been able to come up with, of one’s commitment to conservative, pro-family, pro-life principles, but it really is just part of the story. It’s based only on votes and can’t measure one’s motives or reasoning behind a vote. That’s for the legislators to explain to their constituents.
Some of the “100 percenters” on the Report Card are tried and true heroes of our values. They lead, they vocalize our values, they carry our legislation, and they work behind the scenes to advance our agenda. Some “100 percenters,” however, simply vote right when the time comes, but either offer no help or actually work behind the scenes in some instances to derail our agenda. At the same time, legislators who vote against our position in some situations may lead more than some “100 percenters.” An example of that would be Delegate Todd Gilbert, who was our Legislator of the Year for 2013 with a score of 95 percent on the Report Card. But Delegate Gilbert leads on, fights for and carries our legislation.
And sometimes, there are issues that are just very complicated, though our position is very clear, that makes a vote more difficult to understand. For example, at last year’s veto session, an amendment to a “Healthcare Exchange” bill relating to ObamaCare that prohibited the insurance companies in the exchange from offering abortion coverage was a high priority for The Family Foundation. The amendment passed and is now part of the law. But a couple of House of Delegates members, Barbara Comstock and Rick Morris, voted against the amendment. Was it a vote against life? Well, no. They made it clear to us that they will not vote in favor of anything having to do with ObamaCare. It wasn’t about the amendment; it was about the overall policy. Of course, we also made it clear that if we’re going to have an exchange, we had the responsibility to make sure it included pro-life language. Also, last year, Delegate Bob Marshall voted incorrectly on a floor amendment granting special protections based on sexual behavior, but he did so out of an objection to how the House was operating on amendments, and not the underlying policy. Again, something that is impossible to explain in the Report Card.
The best answer to the problem is t make sure you know your legislators. The Report Card is the absolute best document in Virginia to get a picture of how dedicated to pro-family, pro-life values our legislators are during a two-year period. But if you see a vote that you don’t understand, call them, or call us. Ask. Dig deeper and learn more. Stay involved during session so you know what’s happening and how your delegate and senator are voting. We don’t want the Report Card to be the final authority, we want it to be a document that doesn’t just educate, but motivates you to learn more and get more involved.
Don’t just read the final score. Watch the whole game.