The U.S Capitol is seen at sunrise, March 24, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
How do you measure how good or bad of a job your Congressional representative did?
It’s a surprisingly hard question to answer.
Alan E. Wiseman, a Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University, and Craig Volden, a University of Virginia Professor of Public Policy and Politics, have spent more than a decade trying to figure it out.
The co-directors of the Center of Effective Lawmaking, a joint project of the University of Virginia and Vanderbilt University, Wiseman and Volden are also the authors of the 2014 book, Legislative Effectiveness in the US Congress.
“We were trying to understand why some members of Congress are more successful of advancing their agenda or legislation in Congress,” Wiseman said. “In workshopping the book, people were presenting us with all sorts of interesting questions.”
But no single measure can tell the whole story.
“There’s lots and lots of things that lawmakers do that they and their constituents value,” Wiseman said, including legislators’ work overseeing the federal government and constituent services.
Probably the easiest thing to do is measure the number of bills introduced and how many got signed into law.
Members of Congress representing Southern California voters were more likely than the average to get bills passed in the last session of Congress.
In the 117th session of Congress, which ran from Jan. 3, 2021, through Jan. 3, 2023, 7% of introduced bills were signed into law, according to an analysis by GovTrack.us, a non-partisan website that tracks Congressional data. (The data includes bills that were later absorbed into larger omnibus bills.)
That’s about average: Since the 93rd Congress, which ended on Dec. 20, 1974, 5.88% of bills introduced became law, according to GovTrack.us data. Individual sessions range between a 4% and 9% rate of bills becoming law.
In the 21st century, about two-thirds of that legislation has been non-binding resolutions, voicing support or opposition to something, rather than setting the law of the land.
Los Angeles-area representatives in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties got 11.98 % of the bills they introduced signed into law in the 117th Congress, according to a new Southern California News Group alliance. California’s senators, Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, got 5.04% of the bills they introduced passed.
Southern California members of Congress doing better than average in the 117th Congress isn’t a surprise to Marcia Godwin, a professor of public administration at the University of La Verne.
“The House is a majoritarian institution, meaning that the predominantly Democratic California delegation would have been expected to do relatively well in the last Congress,” where Democrats were in control, Godwin wrote in an email. “There also have been seasoned members like Ken Calvert…