by Max Brantley
Ah, the computer age. Latest digital marvel is how it has upgraded reporting on the legislature. The General Assembly's own website worked pretty well for me. But private reporting services have added all kinds of bells and whistles.
Rep. Steve Harrelson's Under the Dome blog called to my attention the fact that you can use the venerable Arkansas Legislative Digest's many services now to draw voting comparisons among lawmakers. Fascinating stuff.
The information is proprietary, available only to subscribers. But Roger Potts of the Legislative Digest ran a few samples for me.
For example: I asked him to see which legislators voted most often with my state representative, Kathy Webb, a generally liberal representative of a decidedly liberal district.
Here's the ranking. It's based on all votes, except unanimous votes (typically on appropriations) were thrown out of the comparison.
Most like Webb: With her 86 percent of the time, Gene Shelby; at 85 percent were Green Party rep. Richard Carroll, Steve Harrelson, Bubba Powers, Joan Cash, Ann Clemmer and Jim House. Clemmer is the only Republican in that group.
Worst legislators in the world, as defined as those least likely to vote with a Hillcrest liberal? At 35 percent, the scourge of Eureka Springs, Bryan King; at 38 percent, Davy Carter and Jonathan Dismang; at 52 percent, Steve Cole, and at 53 percent, James McLean and John Paul Wells. Those last three are all Democrats, sort of.
Here's a ranking on 36 tax votes. Interesting, too. Rep. Barbara Nix's voting record was most similar. Republican Ann Clemmer was again near the top of those most likely to vote as Webb did (about two-thirds of the time). Mark Martin's at the bottom, just ahead of .... Speaker Robbie Wills, reputedly a Democrat.
Roger also ran some numbers for me on Lindsley Smith of Fayetteville, another solid representative of a liberal district who, significantly, voted all alone in opposition to the bill to close concealed weapon permit records. Tops in matching her voting record on more than 500 votes: Shelby, Harrelson, Powers, House and Carroll. Worst of the worst: Bryan King.