The latest report cards from special interest groups ranking Utah's Legislature show that Utah County's delegation at the state capitol favors conservative principles more than the top priorities of Utah's leading education lobbying group.
In two separate ranking reports, legislators from Utah County scored an average of 81 percent on conservative think tank Sutherland Institute's report card, while the county's lawmakers only averaged about 40 percent with the positions favored by the Utah Education Association.
"In my area people are more philosophically aligned with the issues that Sutherland supports," Rep. David Lifferth, R-Eagle Mountain, explained.
Lifferth, who scored 47 percent with the UEA and 79 percent with Sutherland, said he thought he should have scored higher with the UEA since he is a supporter of public education. He did acknowledge, however, that there were key votes where he did go against what the association wanted.
UEA scored lawmakers on whether they voted for or against UEA's position on 17 different pieces of legislation. The bills ranged from amending the school grading system that is set to go into effect this year to using a percentage of the revenue from liquor sales in the state to fund education needs. UEA does state with its report card that the results are only one factor that should be used to judge whether a lawmaker is a supporter of education. UEA did give regular updates to lawmakers throughout the session as to what bills they supported or opposed.
In Sutherland's case the scoring comes a little different.
Sutherland selected legislation drafted during the recent session that fell in line with or opposed what the institute calls "sound conservative public policy." The organization used legislation such as HB 50, which allows a person to seek a protective order when a dating relationship goes bad, as one of the bills to measure lawmakers' conservative judgement. That bill passed with large majorities in both the House and Senate, but Sutherland opposed it.
It also used legislation that created a commission on marriage as a measuring stick for lawmakers. Sutherland supported the creation of the commission as did 81 of the 104 state lawmakers when the bill came up for final passage. Those voting against the commission were dinged by Sutherland in its final lawmaker ranking report.
While the reports could be used to characterize what types of legislation a certain lawmaker supports, legislators say they don't vote a certain way just to obtain a good score from their favorite special interest group.
"They're kind of fun to look at but it is not a driving factor in my voting," said Rep. Brian Greene, R-Pleasant Grove, who scored a 38 percent score from the UEA and a 73 percent with Sutherland.
Both Greene and Lifferth said their main goal is to represent the people living within their district and to not get lost in worrying about scores or rankings. Lifferth said he even conducts online polls with his constituents to guide him on how he should vote on certain issues.
Many organizations release legislator scorecards following each general legislative session. Other organizations that rank the legislators include the Utah Taxpayers Association, the Libertas Institute, Equality Utah and the Utah Sierra Club.