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As legislators begin voting on elements of Gov. Jerry Brown’s half-taxes, half-cuts budget proposal, it has quickly become clear both to decision-makers and those of us watching at home that bipartisanship under the Capitol dome is no easy feat to achieve.
In fact, given the voting histories of the Assembly and Senate during their most recent full session, perhaps the biggest surprise is that the five Republican members who have been open to negotiating with Brown do not have histories of crossing the aisle.
Just for fun, California Watch analyzed legislators’ propensity to vote across party lines during the entire 2008-2010 legislative session. The graphs, which you’ll see below, require a little explaining.
Apologies for the small images. We still haven't figured out the best way to visualize these these things on the Web. Click for full size images of the Assembly and Senate, where the labels appear more clearly.
In each of the graphs, a line connects two legislators if they voted with each other on the Assembly or Senate floor at least two-thirds of the time during the entire legislative session. The method comes from this similar analysis of the U.S. Senate. The nodes are organized such that lawmakers who voted frequently with members of the other party appear toward the center, and those who voted primarily with their own party members appear on the edges.
It's interesting to note that beyond knowing whether to make a node red or blue, the algorithm that generated these graphs has no idea which party each member is from. It simply clusters the members based on with whom they vote most often. The natural division between Republicans and Democrats in these graphs is due to the nature of partisanship. The same phenomenon happens in similar visualizations of the U.S. Senate.
There are a few notable omissions. Former Republican Senator-turned-Lieutenant-Governor Abel Maldonado, notorious for his tendency to join forces with Democrats, does not appear on the Senate graph because his Senate term was cut short. The same goes with Sens. Dave Cox and Jenny Oropeza, who died last year, or Sen. Pat Wiggins, who spent limited time in Sacramento due to medical issues.
Among the most notable things in the graphs, at least where the budget vote is concerned, is that the so-called “GOP 5” – the Republican lawmakers who have openly negotiated with Gov. Brown on the budget – includes several members who only rarely allied last session with legislative Democrats.
Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Modesto, was among the most die-hard Republican voters during his last two years in the Assembly, as was newly minted Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, the former Assembly Republican leader.
Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach, tended to vote primarily with his fellow Republican senators as well. Our system didn’t tally the performance of Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Hemet, because he left his Assembly post for the Senate before the end of the session. The fifth senator, Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, was elected in November.
The five Republicans, who are using their negotiating positions to push issues like a spending cap and pension reform, also earned top conservative bonafides last year on the California Republican Assembly's annual scorecard [PDF]. Out of 100, Berryhill scored 92, Harman 81, Emmerson 67 and Blakeslee 53.
Ironically, whereas the Republican die-hards have demonstrated a willingness to throw him a bone, Brown doesn’t look like he’ll get much help from more moderate members who demonstrated a greater tendency to cross the aisle.
Assemblyman Anthony Adams, the Hesperia Republican who was pilloried by party die-hards for helping Democrats pass the 2009 budget, left office last year. Assemblyman Brian Nestande, R-Palm Desert, has reportedly signed a pledge not to put a tax measure on the ballot.
Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, has praised Brown's efforts but not his specific plan, which he has argued would hurt small businesses.
State Sens. Bob Huff, R-Walnut Creek, and Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, have already spoken out against tax increases. Huff was the target of a recall effort for supporting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Proposition 1A, which would have allowed voters to extend tax increases in 2009.
Former Senate Republican Leader Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, had a history of joining with Democrats on critical budget votes, but he retired last year.
If any wonks want to take a closer look at the raw data, we have it available for download (Assembly, Senate). The files are formatted as projects that can immediately be opened in the open source visualization software Gephi.
The graphs are based on publicly available vote data, which you can download here. As stated before, these graphs are based solely on Assembly and Senate floor votes. We plan to refine and expand our methods in the future.