Last revised 26 Feb. 2005
See the following link for a breakdown of the spreadsheet format.
The 2003 Wyoming Liberty Index (an Office 97 Excel file) is an attempt to rank the state legislators according to their support for liberty, based on recorded votes for all bills in the legislative session. This was done by first rating each bill with a weight denoting how much the bill harmed or helped freedom in Wyoming, and then summing the weighted votes each legislator made on these bills to produce a score for him or her. The legislators were then ranked, from most liberty-supporting, to most liberty-harming, based on these scores.
Due to shortage of resources in 2003, the Index exists only for the Wyoming House. Also, the bills considered were only the House-originated bills, not bills sent to the House from the Senate.
There are two main segments of the Index, which is in the form of a spreadsheet. The first page of the spreadsheet (the "Votes" sheet) contains all House-originated bills for which a recorded vote exists for the entire House. This typically accounts for around 80% of the legislator's score, and is most important also because it gives a feel for how each legislator does in direct comparisons to the others.
The second segment is the Bill Sponsors page. This records who the sponsors were for every bill, even those that did not make it out of committee and therefore did not face a vote before the entire House (and did not show up on the above Votes sheet). I have taken these into consideration because they are an important component of the problem of the loss of liberty, for reasons I will explain later. This component typically accounts for around 20% of a legislator's total score.
Rep. Brechtel was far and away the most liberty-supporting member of the House. The dozen best legislators were, in order, Brechtel, Baker, Wostenberg, Semlek, Luthi, Anderson, Jones, Landon, Philp, Hageman, and Dierks; with Bucholz, Childers and Miller tying in score for 12th place.
The following, starting with the worst, need improvement: Esquibel, Warren, Tipton, Walsh, Thompson, Reese, Lorna Johnson, McOmie, Harshman, Ross, Meyer and Boswell. However in this case it is not possible to say with any confidence which was really the worst. But they were all bad.
Apparently, not very well. While Wyoming is hardly California, we are seeing the same trends in government there: increasing regulation and control of citizen's lives. The losses are not in big chunks, but you might say liberty is dying the "death by 1000 cuts". Each assault is so small that few show up on our radar screens, but the cumulative effect is bad, and definitely in the wrong direction. Besides the ranking of your individual legislator, this is the other important message you should take from the Index-that the trend is significantly in the wrong direction, away from freedom.
My weighing of the bills was based on positive and negative numbers. If a bill had no effect on liberty, it got a weight of 0, and in most cases I did not even bother to put it in the sheet since it did not contribute to the scores. If it helped liberty a little, it was weighed as a +1, if it harmed it a little, a -1. Although my scoring system went from -4 to +4, no bill was that bad or that good. I found a few -3's, but most were -2, -1, +1 or +2. As I said, liberty being nibbled to death.
The average score for legislators was -29.3. That is, the average legislator substantially harmed freedom last year. That is not a good thing. It means they are going in the wrong direction, and if this course is maintained Wyoming will eventually end up looking like Nevada, or Oregon, or finally, California.
Republicans; but both were shamefully bad. The average Republican score was -25 while the average Democrat score was -43. However, you cannot "take this to the bank"; this information is useless when selecting (for example) someone to vote for. Why? Because the worst dozen included 5 Republicans.
Some of the disparity in the score between the parties is also probably because there were substantially more bills concerning economic issues than personal freedom issues. In the latter, at least historically, Democrats have done better.
In this Index, apparently only 4 of the 60 legislators had a net positive effect on liberty.
Actually, it may not be as bad as that. The reason is, the bias of the evaluator might cause the bills to be rated as perhaps more harmful than they really are. This would have the effect of driving all legislators' scores downward. Another evaluator might rank the bills differently, giving the legislators different scores. Yet it is probably the case, that their positions relative to other legislators would not change much.
Also, the Index never was designed to be an absolute measure of liberty tendencies, and for various reasons cannot work this way unless some changes are made.
For this reason, I would rather emphasize the ranking of the legislators, rather than the particular scores they ended up with. Worry about what position your legislator is on the chart, not what his score is.
As soon as I can find the time to do it. Better yet, I could use some help, particularly from a Wyoming resident if possible. Most of the work involves reading bills and assigning a plausible rank. Tedious, but not all that hard.
I decided to include these when I found how strong the preponderance of liberty-harming bills was, compared to liberty-enhancing bills. In fact it was so strong that I decided to add a row for an imaginary representative who simply, mindlessly voted no on all bills; and another who voted yes on all bills. The imaginary yes voter would have ended up in the bottom of the pack. The imaginary no voter would have obtained a score of +41, far better than any legislator did get! That is, if citizens just elected a guy who promised to vote no on every bill (and he actually delivered on that promise), they would be helping liberty tremendously!
What that was telling me, was that there was no balance in the bills introduced. Someone was loading up the committees with liberty-harming bills, and I decided it was worth finding out who, and dinging them for it. It turned out Rep. McOmie, one of our worst dozen, was the worst culprit in this respect. Walsh, Illoway, Esquibel, Tipton, Parady and Edwards were also very bad.
Yes, I was amazed how much money-grubbing was going on in the 2003 session. This is a state in about the best fiscal shape in the nation, due largely to the mineral fund and historical low government spending; and yet there were many bills to raise taxes and fees. That is the normal behavior of a legislature that is strapped for funds (because they've taken too much on, as in Oregon)-not of one that is solvent. I found the tax hike on tobacco particularly bad; there's no excuse in a free state for piling the cost of government on a small subset of the population.
Now, I've noticed lately in Wyoming, there is a lot of pressure to spend all that money. This will backfire when revenues start to come down in an economic downturn, while the obligations remain. It has caused a fiscal disaster in Oregon.
If your legislator is near the top of the chart, thank him; particularly, because he was doing so well "when no one was looking." And support his candidacy.
If your legislator was in the middle range (which in this case, means harming liberty substantially since the average was so bad), I'd call him up, and ask, "Why?" Tell him you expect liberty to be the highest priority when deciding what to do with these bills, not the lowest.
If your legislator is at the bottom of the chart, file to run against him. There is no excuse for people in a state like Wyoming, to be represented by politicians with such disdain for freedom.