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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey, just wanted to comment on how great the new site looks. good job to everyone. Great new oraganization!! Some of you know me from my foundership of RECON Intelligence Search and Rescue. Do you mind if I use your idea of the Hous Report Card on our site in the victims rights section? I would like to report on who has suported various laws supporting victim's rights such as the majority only requirement for the death penalty. Can you give me some advise and a link of where exactly to find the tally of who voted for what and when?

Thanks for your help.

Hope to see all of you soon.

Good Luck

Premium Member
8,460 Posts
Thanks, the site does take some work but it is worth it. (and according to the steady growth, others like it as well)

I don't mind if you copy just the idea or if you would like I can give you the actual template files that list and grade the report cards (the reportcards now automatically grade the Assemblypeople on historical facts of the bills (vote and sponsorship records) in question and not on political promises or questionares. The only input I have on the grading process is whether a bill should be labeled Pro-Gun, Anti-gun, or neutral. The computer does the rest.

This is a long post because I have put a great deal of thought into how and why grade points are awarded or removed, and summing all that up is diffucult.

The report cards (as well as the entire site) evolved over the last session to where it is now (don't think I am content, there is always room for improvement and new ideas).

The report cards actually started as a simple list of gun bills (pro or anti-gun rights) with a statement of what was good or bad about them (close to how what the Current Bills page looks like today). Pretty much each day during the session, I would check the internet for news reports about gun bills, other websites with a similar interest, and most often those groups that are totally against whatever you are for (if an anti-gun site says it is the worst bill for gun violence victims they have seen in a long time, it is probably a bill I am going to like). Once you have the bill names, the General Assembly website provides the text of the bill, sponsorship data and will also have the vote record if the bill makes it to a vote.

I had no idea how to do a report card so I checked out a few from other groups to see what they did. I found that most others typically had only a letter grade without the reason why, or if they did have reasons they often were based on what the candidate says is their position (as we all know, candidates always keep promises and never lie).

Grades done by the Brady Campaign and NRA's showed me 2 things I did not want to copy.
1. Don't presume that the people reading the report cards agree with every one of your political views on the subject so that no explanation for a grade is needed. (example: If the NRA is fine with an issue like the public gathering law for Georgia carry, they will probably not care if someone votes against it, whereas I might care about that issue greatly)
2. Create a grade scale that is fair, accurate, free from outside bias (even if it's my own), and each grade must reflect the actions of the politician and not the words.

#1 was fairly easy to do by simply determining if a bill was pro-gun, anti-gun, or gun-neutral and listing that information with the actual vote and sponsorship record for each bill.

#2 has taken much more time to figure out and I am still thinking of ways to keep it fair and accurate.
First thing I did was to decide that those who have not taken a totally pro-gun or anti-gun voting history should be given a C or average (not good, not bad).
Next I decided that giving an A or F to everyone who did nothing more than show up for work and press a yes or no button left little room for improvment while also giving little credit to those sponsors that are actually doing most of the work. I decided that while it is great to have legislators that are pro-gun when a gun vote comes around, if you had all 56 senators do nothing but that, the law would change very little since nothing would ever be sponsored to be voted on. So to those that may talk big about gun rights while doing nothing beyond pressing a button when it is time to vote, get a B or D grade. (so if 6 pro gun bills made it to a vote and Sen from dist. 10 votes yes to all of them, if each progun vote is 1 point and each anti-gun vote is -1 then Dist. 10 gets 6 points divided by 6 votes gets a 1.0 or a B) (or 3 pro gun votes and 3 anti gun votes is -3 + 3 = 0.0 or a C)

It took a few tries to get grading for sponsorships right. I finally decided that the best way to deal with sponsorships is to total the voting record grade then add or subtract .5 points to that total for each sponsorship of a pro or anti gun bill. I found it interesting that out of 15 possibilities for sponsorship, several got an A rating by sponsoring 2 bills. Yet none have made it to A+ which needed sponsorship of only 4 bills.

There are still things I am looking at to improve the data even more. The last change I made was to treat those that skip the bill vote either becuase they don't care about gun rights enough to show up for the vote, or they are going to be one of the few that would vote against it so they skip the vote so that there record does not show them voting against a bill the people supported.

I have a few other things that while it would be nice to add them to the report cards, it would be difficult to prove or keep track of equally (like finding out why a subcommittee killed a bill through inaction or un-official sponsorship/stewardship of a bill from someone not documented as an offical sponsor.

Anyway, as I said these report cards have me giving very little input to keep potential errors or bias to a minimum, and it makes it much quicker to update.

Like in your example, say I hear about a death penalty bill in the news. So after a breif search I find that the name is House Bill 1552. Next thing I would do is go to the General Assembly website and look up HB 1552.
I read the bill and decide if it is something that is good, bad, or not really good or bad but is noteworthy. I enter the bill's name/number, if it was good/bad/neutral, and description.
Next I add the district number and bill number to a list of all bill House or Rep sponsorships for the current session. Finally if the bill is voted on, I simply have to choose the bill from those already entered and go down the vote record and place a Y, N, X, or S next to the correct district number. The code I wrote to display the report card is actually looking up all the information provided and calculates the grade and adds the voted for/against and sponsorship information all by itself.

While I had not given any thought to anything other than gun-rights while designing the report card, it would work for many other issues and as long as your website host gives you a database account and it can handle .php script, about 5-10 minutes of work putting in your website information and a few other minor details and it would be ready for R.E.C.O.N. to fill it with bills you want to keep track of.

6,172 Posts

Thanks for the nice website and for the work you put into keeping it nice. Reading about the legislature report card was interesting. It's a cool feature and I've wondered how it works, but now that I know I'm truly impressed. Impressed with what you did and with how it works.

And I really admire your efforts to keep bias out of the grading system. Your report card may well be the only thing involving GA politics that isn't biased. It's certainly the only thing I've observed that isn't. Before moving here, I thought Kentucky was screwed up...

Again, thanks.
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