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Our scorecard tool connects constituents in hard-to-reach rural areas with what's happening in the New Mexico Roundhouse
Founded in 2000, The Rio Grande Foundation is an economic policy think tank located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As an affiliate of the nationwide State Policy Network, their mission is to “increase liberty and prosperity for all of New Mexico by informing citizens of the importance of individual freedom, limited government, and economic opportunity.”
We spoke with Paul Gessing, President of RGF to learn more about the Land of Enchantment, how they’re tracking legislation, and how our scorecard service has helped them.
The overall issue is New Mexico is consistently ranked towards the bottom of most nationwide issues, including: Health Care, Education, Economy, Infrastructure, Opportunity, Fiscal Stability, Crime & Corrections and Natural Environment. The Rio Grande Foundation wants to see these rankings improve.
Since their state population of 2 million people is rural dominated, it can be hard to reach a substantial amount of people to inform them about this broad issue set.
Their legislature is unpaid – they’re compensated in a daily stipend but are not salaried members. New Mexico is the only state without a salaried legislature. They also have alternating 30-day and 60-day legislative sessions. Meaning, there’s a short window to pass legislation before legislators go back to their primary jobs.
They used to put up an individual scorecard for each session on the website. Then they would have to re-calculate each legislator’s lifetime scores annually, which caused re-work for each new session.
We set up a state scorecard that includes current and previous voting records for all current legislators.
To combat issues like Health Care, Education, Economy, and more, this scorecard allows them and the public to easily see at a glance: who is sponsoring bills and the types of bills sponsored, how a legislator is voting on a specific bill, a legislator’s general track record through their Lifetime Score, how a legislator has voted from one year to the next.
A short legislative session means they need to get information out to the public and to legislators as efficiently as possible. Since our scorecard software includes multi-year and lifetime scores for each legislator, it reduces the amount of time spent setting up a separate website scorecard every year. Since we automatically calculate new lifetime scores, they no longer have to spend time doing that.
To reach a large amount of people in rural areas, we’ve made it web-based and mobile-friendly. Our scorecard checks for new legislation and voting changes every 30 minutes; which allows them to reach a state-wide audience with instant updates to recent legislation changes.
Paul said part of the benefit for them is internal, “The discipline of going through all of the bills and making sure you catch the worst ones is important. We do it because it’s important information to have. The legislature’s website isn’t user friendly in that regard.”
In part due to the scorecard, the Rio Grande Foundation is well-known in the political arena for their attentiveness to legislation, publication of changes, and quick responses.
The scorecard allows the Rio Grande Foundation and citizens to hold state representatives accountable for their votes. Constituents can easily look up their own representatives and see how they voted both in the recent session and in previous ones.
"Regarding the scorecard, it’s a core, functional, deliverable opportunity for organizations like ours to say, “this is a tool, it’s available to anyone, no matter who you are. It’s totally free. You can see that we’re actively looking at and rating legislation that’s happening in your state."
Paul Gessing, President