Looking into the Senate Chamber of the Maine State Legislature, March 2015In the Maine State Legislature, most bills are introduced with a primary sponsor — a legislator who is responsible for the idea behind a bill. On the other hand, cosponsors (usually up to ten in number but occasionally more) do not introduce a bill but sign their names to the bill as an indication of their strong support.  Sponsorship of bills is one of the primary activities of a state legislature, but not all legislators are equally active in this regard.

In the early months of the new 127th Maine state legislature, these are the ten most active sponsors of bills (not counting symbolic sentiments or resolutions):

1. Senator Tom Saviello (R-Franklin County): 164 sponsorships (47 as primary sponsor)
2. Senator David Burns (R-Washington County): 153 sponsorships (28 as primary sponsor)
3. Senator Paul Davis (R-Piscataquis County): 140 sponsorships (25 as primary sponsor)
4. Senator Roger Katz (R-Kennebec County): 129 sponsorships (23 as primary sponsor)
5. Senator Nathan Libby (D-Androscoggin County): 124 sponsorships (22 as primary sponsor)
6. Senator Andre Cushing (R-Penobscot County): 112 sponsorships (28 as primary sponsor)
7. Senator Eric Brakey (R-Androscoggin County): 108 sponsorships (27 as primary sponsor)
8. Representative Joyce Maker (R-Calais): 108 sponsorships (9 as primary sponsor)
9. Senator John Patrick (D-Oxford County): 106 sponsorships (12 as primary sponsor)
10. Senator Brian Langley (R-Hancock County): 101 sponsorships (12 as primary sponsor)

In contrast, these are the ten least active sponsors of bills to date:

1. Representative Pinny Beebe-Center (D-Rockland): 7 sponsorships (0 as primary sponsor)
2. Representative Gary Sukeforth (I-Appleton): 7 sponsorships (3 as primary sponsor)
3. Representative Lloyd Herrick (R-Paris): 12 sponsorships (0 as primary sponsor)
4. Representative Wayne Mitchell (non-voting member, Penobscot Nation): 12 sponsorships (5 as primary sponsor)
5. Representative Gay Grant (D-Gardiner): 15 sponsorships (0 as primary sponsor)
6. Representative Christopher Babbidge (D-Kennebunk): 15 sponsorships (2 as primary sponsor)
7. Representative Stedman Seavey (R-Kennebunkport): 15 sponsorships (2 as primary sponsor)
8. Representative Martin Grohman (D-Biddeford): 16 sponsorships (0 as primary sponsor)
9. Representative Stephanie Hawke (R-Boothbay Harbor): 16 sponsorships (1 as primary sponsor)
10. Representative Tim Theriault (R-China): 17 sponsorships (5 as primary sponsor)

The average number of sponsorships across all 189 members of the Maine state legislature, in case you’re curious, is 47.7.

Taken together, the ten most active legislators have contributed 1,245 bill sponsorships, and among them introduced 233 bills. To reiterate, this total does not count symbolic sentiments and resolutions — these are legislative documents that would change Maine law. On the other hand, the ten least active legislators have to date contributed just 132 bill sponsorships and introduced 18 bills. No legislator has been entirely inactive on this front, and some legislators may have good reasons for their inactivity (the most clear among these being Rep. Beebe-Center, who won a special election and was not sworn in until March 17, long after the early period in a legislative session during which most bills are submitted). Still, the contrast is striking.

Two differences between the most active and least active legislators are immediately apparent. Every one of the ten least active Maine legislators are members of the Maine House, while all but one of the ten most active legislators are members of the Maine Senate. Only four of the ten least active Maine legislators are Republicans, while eight of the ten most active legislators are Republicans. A more subtle difference (which you can verify by checking these legislators’ Open Maine profiles) involves social media activity. Of the ten least active legislators in sponsorship, only one (Rep. Grohman, as @mgrohman) has an active Twitter account…

Tweet of Rep. Martin Grohman on March 18, 2015 posted from the Maine Tourism Show

… while in contrast six of the ten most active legislators in sponsorship maintain active Twitter accounts.

Do these patterns hold across the Maine state legislature overall? The following scatterplots tell the tale graphically:

Average Number of Bill Sponsorships, by Chamber of the Maine State Legislature, as of April 18 2015

A substantive, statistically significant effect (p<.05) of chamber on bill sponsorship activity is clearly visible; on average, Maine Senators are sponsors or cosponsors of 41.5 more bills than Maine Representatives.  Part of this effect is due to the tendency of bills to feature cosponsorship from both chambers of the legislature (since there are fewer Senators to share Senate representation in cosponsorship, Senators cosponsor more bills), but members of the Senate also tend to introduce more bills as the primary sponsor.

Plot of Bill Sponsorship by Twitter Activity in the Maine Legislature as of 4-18-15

A much smaller but statistically significant (p<.05) difference in bill sponsorship can be seen according to social media activity: active Twitter users in the legislature do sponsor more bills.  This difference would be accentuated if we bent the definition of “active Twitter user” a bit; Senator Tom Saviello, the most active bill sponsor in the 127th Maine State Legislature to date, started up different Twitter accounts in 2011 and in 2012.  These accounts are not active, however; he has not posted to them for more than a year.

Number of Bill Sponsorships by Party in the Maine State Legislature, as of April 18 2015

On the other hand, there is no statistically significant difference overall in the average number of sponsorships by Democrats and by Republicans.  A few Democrats and Independents have especially low levels of sponsorship, and a few Republicans have especially high levels of sponsorship, but the bulk of Republicans and Democrats hold comparable levels of bill sponsorship.  In other words, the outliers identified in the Top 10 and Bottom 10 lists at the top of this post are not reflective of their parties in general.

 

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