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Analysis shows some lawmakers crossing party lines

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The Senate’s reputation for bipartisanship in Tallahassee appears to be well-earned, while the names of House and Senate members who most frequently voted against their parties included a few surprises, according to an analysis of votes in the 2017 legislative session.

Among the lawmakers who cast the most-frequent crossover votes: Rep. Kimberly Daniels, D-Jacksonville; Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando; Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee; and Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah.

The News Service of Florida analyzed more than 90 votes from the regular legislative session to determine the partisan makeup of those votes and the number of times each lawmaker voted against his or her respective party.

Many bills, particularly on noncontroversial issues, receive unanimous or near-unanimous support each Legislative Session.

But the News Service analysis looked at issues where at least 20 percent of the members of the House or Senate voted on each side of the issue. Votes were deemed partisan if less than 10 percent of the membership crossed party lines.

Members’ individual rates of following their parties were calculated separately. A member voted with his or her party if he or she voted the same way as two-thirds of the caucus on one of the divided votes tracked by the analysis. The votes counted were those initially cast, not those recorded or changed by members afterward.

Any divided votes where a party split by a narrower margin were disregarded. That also meant that the counts in one chamber could be different between the parties. For example, House Republicans were graded based on 67 votes, while House Democrats were graded on 59.

For longtime observers of Tallahassee, where the Senate is generally considered a more genial and less partisan chamber than the House, the top-line numbers will not come as much of a surprise.

Exactly half of the divided Senate votes tracked were partisan – though it should be noted that almost none of the votes on amendments are roll-call votes in the Senate, which could mask some differences. Of the 22 votes, 11 fell more or less along party lines; 11 saw substantial cross-party voting.

Things were more hard-edged in the House, though perhaps not as much as the chamber’s reputation would suggest. Less than two-thirds of the votes analyzed – 43 of 69 – were considered partisan. Another 26 saw a good deal of partisan crossover.

Part of that is because of the difference in party discipline in the House. Among the GOP caucus, 21 members — many of them members of the leadership team — voted with the party 100 percent of the time. Another member – Rep. Manny Diaz, R-Hialeah – would have voted with the party all the time had he not mistakenly voted against a compromise version of a bill (HB 7069) he shepherded through the process.

The median Republican, meaning no more than half of the members of the GOP voted along party lines either more or less often, stuck with the caucus 97 percent of the time. (Four members hit that mark.) Democrats had far less party cohesion. Just one Democrat, Rep. Lori Berman of Lantana, voted with her party every time. Eleven more members voted with Democrats at least 95 percent of the time. The median Democrat, Rep. Larry Lee of Port St. Lucie, voted with his party 91.5 percent of the time.

In the less partisan Senate, oddly, the individual party scores were more pronounced. Twelve of the Republicans’ 23 members and six of the Senate’s 15 Democrats voted with their respective parties all the time on divided issues where their parties largely voted together.

The analysis largely discounted two GOP members of the Senate – Sen. Dorothy Hukill of Port Orange, who missed the legislative session because of cancer treatments, and former Sen. Frank Artiles of Miami, who resigned after a racially tinged tirade at a members-only club near the Capitol.

The member of either chamber to vote the least with his or her party was Daniels, a freshman Democrat. She voted with the party 64.8 percent of the time, more than six points below the next-closest Democrat.

Among House Republicans, Plasencia was the least partisan by percentage, voting with the GOP almost 76.8 percent of the time.

The member who voted against fellow Republicans the largest number of times was former Rep. Eric Eisnaugle of Orlando, who left the Legislature this spring after he was appointed as a judge on the 5th District Court of Appeal. Eisnaugle, though, cast more votes overall and ended up with a slightly higher percentage (77.6 percent).

In the Senate, the least partisan member was Garcia, who voted with fellow Republicans about 71.4 percent of the time. Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, voted against the GOP the same number of times but cast two more votes along party lines and ended up siding with fellow Republicans 75 percent of the time.

Montford, whose sprawling district includes conservative rural areas, was the most likely member of his caucus to break ranks. Montford sided with fellow Democrats 72.2 percent of the time while casting the most votes (five) against his party on either side of the aisle.

On legislation, the least-partisan divided vote in the House came on legislation (SB 106), which would have repealed a state law requiring liquor to be sold in separate stores from most retail goods. The measure became infamous, and was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott, after it passed by one vote, only to have five members say afterward that they would have voted against it and another say he mistakenly voted for it. Republicans narrowly favored the bill and Democrats opposed it by a relatively slim margin. The same was true of the bill in the Senate, though it more cleanly passed that chamber.

BREAKING RANKS

The 10 House Democrats most likely to cross party lines, based on an analysis by The News Service of Florida. They are ranked by the percentages of votes they cast with the Democratic caucus on divided issues where the party largely hung together:

Rep. Kimberly Daniels, D-Jacksonville — 64.8 percent
Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Plantation — 71.1 percent
Rep. Roy Hardemon, D-Miami — 74.1 percent
Rep. Nicholas Duran, D-Miami — 78.4 percent
Rep. Matt Willhite, D-Wellington — 79.7 percent
Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs — 80.0 percent
Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach — 84.0 percent
Rep. Richard Stark, D-Weston — 84.8 percent
Rep. Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach — 85.5 percent
Rep. Robert Asencio, D-Miami — 86.4

The 10 House Republicans most likely to cross party lines. They are ranked by the percentages of votes they cast with the Republican caucus on divided issues where the party largely hung together:

Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando — 76.8 percent
Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-Treasure Island — 77.6 percent
Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando* — 77.6 percent
Rep. Bill Hager, R-Delray Beach — 80.8 percent
Rep. Jay Fant, R-Jacksonville — 81.0 percent
Rep. Sam Killebrew, R-Winter Haven — 81.8 percent
Rep. Rick Roth, R-Loxahatchee — 86.6 percent
Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City — 86.8 percent
Rep. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota — 87.3 percent
Rep. Don Hahnfeldt, R-The Villages — 88.1 percent
* Eisnaugle has resigned from the House.

The Senate Democrats most likely to cross party lines. They are ranked by the percentages of votes they cast with the Democratic caucus on divided issues where the party largely hung together:

Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee — 72.2 percent
Sen. Daryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg — 76.5 percent
Sen. Daphne Campbell, D-Miami — 83.3 percent
Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando — 88.2 percent
Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation — 88.9 percent
Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville — 88.9 percent

The Senate Republicans most likely to cross party lines. They are ranked by the percentages of votes they cast with the Republican caucus on divided issues where the party largely hung together:

Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah — 71.4 percent
Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater — 75.0 percent
Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami — 82.4 percent
Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa — 88.9 percent
Four senators tied at — 94.4 percent.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

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The News Service of Florida provides journalists, lobbyists, government officials and other civic leaders with comprehensive, objective information about the activities of state government year-round.

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