FiscalNote’s 20 Most Productive State Legislators

Zach Schloss
Jul 27, 2018 · 8 min read
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State legislatures across the country dealt with more than 113,000 different pieces of legislation over the first half of 2018, with nearly 23% of those bills becoming law. Given the growing importance and role of the states in shaping national policy, FiscalNote makes it a priority to help organizations identify and manage the stakeholders that have the greatest impact on the issues affecting their business. One of the most important groups of these stakeholders is, of course, those that are responsible for drafting and passing new state laws: state representatives and senators.

FiscalNote ranks all representatives and senators in accordance with their legislative productivity, defined as how successful a legislator is at sponsoring and steering legislation through each stage of the legislative process. Our proprietary algorithm considers the quantity, endurance, and substantiveness of all bills each legislator sponsors and introduces in their state legislature:

  • Quantity — Legislators are scored higher if they sponsor a greater number of bills.
  • Endurance — Legislators are scored higher depending on how far their sponsored bills progress in the legislative process. For example, a bill that makes it to the senate floor is weighted more than a bill that never makes it out of committee, and an enacted bill is weighted more than a bill that makes it only to the senate floor.
  • Substantiveness — Legislators are scored higher if their sponsored bills are substantive (i.e., attempt meaningful change) rather than non-substantive (e.g., a resolution, memorial, or commendation).

Values for each factor are then normalized and used to rank multiple legislators together and identify a percentile of productivity for each individual. State legislators are compared only to their peers within their own state and chamber — and not to legislators from other states.

Below, we have listed the 10 most productive state senators and representatives nationwide, while providing key data points that help contextualize and explain their success in generating policy change. In particular, the “Closest Bipartisan Colleague” for each legislator represents an opposing-party member of his or her state chamber that exhibits the most similar voting and sponsorship behavior to the individual in question. The “Top Policy Issues” represent the specific categories of bills for which the given legislator has the highest productivity score. And the “Ideology Rating” is an evaluation of the given legislator’s standing on the liberal-conservative spectrum based on FiscalNote’s model that analyzes voting history relative to colleagues within the same chamber.

All data points provided represent a legislator’s cumulative achievements (through May 2018) within the scope of FiscalNote’s legislative data set, which varies by state but typically encompasses activity dating back anywhere from five to 20 years. As a result, longer-serving legislators have an advantage over younger legislators with regard to their productivity score — a purposeful decision designed to acknowledge the importance of seniority and experience in enacting state policy. Legislators first elected in 2016 or later have been omitted from the below lists due to insufficient historical legislative data. Finally, because productivity scores are based on legislative passage proficiency, scores also tend to be higher for legislators who are a member of their chamber’s majority party. Legislators who have maintained high levels of productivity under politically unfriendly circumstances — or those who have exhibited little productivity despite a favorable political environment — are perhaps deserving of particular attention.

Top 10 Most Productive State Senators:

The list of the 10 most productive state senators is markedly balanced, including five Republicans and five Democrats, six men and four women, and individuals representing 10 different states. Of those on the list, Sen. Lonnie Randolph (D-IN) and Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-TX) stand out as the only senators to crack the top 10 despite serving in their chamber’s minority party. Sen. Missy Irvin (R-AR) has the fewest years of state policymaking experience of those on the list, having been elected in 2010, while Zaffirini’s (D-TX) 1986 election makes her the veteran of the group.


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  1. Sen. John Bonacic (R-NY)

Election Year: 1998

Top Policy Issues: Families & Children; Sports & Recreation; Indigenous People

Ideology Rating: Fairly Conservative

Bills Sponsored: 2738

Bill Passage Percentage: 84%

Closest Bipartisan Colleague: Sen. Dave Carlucci (D-NY)

Chamber Control: Republican

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2. Sen. Curt Bramble (R-UT)

Election Year: 2000

Top Policy Issues: Travel & Leisure; Crime; Public Resources

Ideology Rating: Moderate

Bills Sponsored: 750

Bill Passage Percentage: 79%

Closest Bipartisan Colleague: Sen. Karen Mayne (D-UT)

Chamber Control: Republican

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3. Sen. Lonnie Randolph (D-IN)

Election Year: 2008 (previously served in IN senate 1992–1998)

Top Policy Issues: Travel & Leisure; Legal Affairs; Law Enforcement & Public Safety

Ideology Rating: Very Liberal

Bills Sponsored: 761

Bill Passage Percentage: 71%

Closest Bipartisan Colleague: Sen. Vaneta Becker (R-IN)

Chamber Control: Republican

4. Sen. Judy Lee (R-ND)

Election Year: 1994

Top Policy Issues: Labor & Employment; Health; Social Issues

Ideology Rating: Moderate

Bills Sponsored: 331

Bill Passage Percentage: 66%

Closest Bipartisan Colleague: Sen. Larry Robinson (D-ND)

Chamber Control: Republican

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5. Sen. Jerry Hill (D-CA)

Election Year: 2012 (previously served in CA assembly 2008–2012)

Top Policy Issues: Trade; Food & Beverage; Consumers

Ideology Rating: Fairly Liberal

Bills Sponsored: 232

Bill Passage Percentage: 61%

Closest Bipartisan Colleague: Sen. Anthony Canella (R-CA)

Chamber Control: Democrat

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6. Sen. Dick Sears (D-VT)

Election Year: 1992

Top Policy Issues: Legal Affairs; Civil Rights; Health

Ideology Rating: Moderate

Bills Sponsored: 314

Bill Passage Percentage: 60%

Closest Bipartisan Colleague: Sen. Richard Westman (R-VT)

Chamber Control: Democrat

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7. Sen. Missy Irvin (R-AR)

Election Year: 2010

Top Policy Issues: Agriculture; Health; Social Issues

Ideology Rating: Moderate

Bills Sponsored: 146

Bill Passage Percentage: 60%

Closest Bipartisan Colleague: Sen. Eddie Cheatham (D-AR)

Chamber Control: Republican

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8. Sen. Margaret Henry (D-DE)

Election Year: 1994

Top Policy Issues: Taxes; Food & Beverage; Social Issues

Ideology Rating: Fairly Liberal

Bills Sponsored: 474

Bill Passage Percentage: 59%

Closest Bipartisan Colleague: Sen. Cathy Cloutier (R-DE)

Chamber Control: Democrat

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9. Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-TX)

Election Year: 1986

Top Policy Issues: Government Administration; Transportation; Families & Children

Ideology Rating: Fairly Liberal

Bills Sponsored: 1,259

Bill Passage Percentage: 58%

Closest Bipartisan Colleague: Sen. Kel Seliger (R-TX)

Chamber Control: Republican

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10. Sen. Emmett Hanger (R-VA)

Election Year: 1995 (previously served in VA assembly 1983–1991)

Top Policy Issues: Agriculture; Technology; Government Administration

Ideology Rating: Moderate

Bills Sponsored: 444

Bill Passage Percentage: 57%

Closest Bipartisan Colleague: Sen. Louise Lucas (D-VA)

Chamber Control: Republican


Top 10 Most Productive State Representatives:

The list of the 10 most productive state representatives lacks the diversity of the most productive senators list, as all the representatives are male and three are Republicans representing the state of South Carolina. Overall, the list is comprised of six Democrats and four Republicans. Three Democrats — Rep. Jody Richards (D-KY), Rep. Jim Keane (D-MT), and Rep. Jerry Kearns (D-IA) — stand out as the only representatives to make the list despite serving in their chamber’s minority party. Finally, the list emphasized again the importance of legislative experience: Kearns (D-IA) has the least experience of the group, having been elected in 2008, while Richards (D-KY), Rep. Calvin Say (D-HI), and Rep. Michael Madigan (D-IL) were all initially elected in the 1970s.

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  1. Rep. Alan Clemmons (R-SC)

Election Year: 2002

Top Policy Issues: Foreign Affairs; Government Administration; Health

Ideology Rating: Fairly Conservative

Bills Sponsored: 4,002

Bill Passage Percentage: 84%

Closest Bipartisan Colleague: Rep. Mike Anthony (D-SC)

Chamber Control: Republican

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2. Rep. Jim Hughes (R-OH)

Election Year: 2016 (previously served in OH senate 2008–2016 and OH assembly 2000–2008)

Top Policy Issues: Families & Children; Education; Government Administration

Ideology Rating: Moderate

Bills Sponsored: 365

Bill Passage Percentage: 58%

Closest Bipartisan Colleague: Rep. Martin Sweeney (D-OH)

Chamber Control: Republican

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3. Rep. Jody Richards (D-KY)

Election Year: 1976

Top Policy Issues: Education; Sports & Recreation; Government Administration

Ideology Rating: Fairly Liberal

Bills Sponsored: 1,110

Bill Passage Percentage: 57%

Closest Bipartisan Colleague: Rep. David Osborne (R-KY)

Chamber Control: Republican

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4. Rep. Jim Keane (D-MT)

Election Year: 2016 (previously served in MT senate 2009–2017 and MT assembly 2001–2009)

Top Policy Issues: Infrastructure; Energy; Public Resources

Ideology Rating: Fairly Liberal

Bills Sponsored (excluding first stint in MT assembly): 72

Bill Passage Percentage (excluding first stint in MT assembly): 56%

Closest Bipartisan Colleague: Rep. Frank Garner (R-MT)

Chamber Control: Republican

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5. Rep. Jerry Kearns (D-IA)

Election Year: 2008

Top Policy Issues: Travel & Leisure; Communications; Legal Affairs

Ideology Rating: Fairly Liberal

Bills Sponsored: 392

Bill Passage Percentage: 17%

Closest Bipartisan Colleague: Rep. Kevin Koester (R-IA)

Chamber Control: Republican

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6. Rep. Calvin Say (D-HI)

Election Year: 1976

Top Policy Issues: Travel & Leisure; Arts & Humanities; Taxes

Ideology Rating: Fairly Conservative

Bills Sponsored: 2,534

Bill Passage Percentage: 11%

Closest Bipartisan Colleague: Rep. Gene Ward (R-HI)

Chamber Control: Democrat

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7. Rep. Michael Madigan (D-IL)

Election Year: 1970

Top Policy Issues: Arts & Humanities; Government Administration; Budget

Ideology Rating: Fairly Liberal

Bills Sponsored: 8,383

Bill Passage Percentage: 4%

Closest Bipartisan Colleague: Rep. Michael McAuliffe (R-IL)

Chamber Control: Democrat

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8. Del. Alfred Carr (D-MD)

Election Year: 2007

Top Policy Issues: Housing & Property; Social Issues; Communications

Ideology Rating: Fairly Liberal

Bills Sponsored: 919

Bill Passage Percentage: 50%

Closest Bipartisan Colleague: Del. Chris West (R-MD)

Chamber Control: Democrat

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9. Rep. Garry Smith (R-SC)

Election Year: 2003

Top Policy Issues: Education; Technology; Indigenous People

Ideology Rating: Fairly Conservative

Bills Sponsored: 3,849

Bill Passage Percentage: 79%

Closest Bipartisan Colleague: Rep. Mike Anthony (D-SC)

Chamber Control: Republican

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10. Rep. Michael Pitts (R-SC)

Election Year: 2002

Top Policy Issues: Agriculture; Law Enforcement & Public Safety; Sports & Recreation

Ideology Rating: Fairly Conservative

Bills Sponsored: 3,734

Bill Passage Percentage: 82%

Closest Bipartisan Colleague: Rep. Mike Anthony (D-SC)

Chamber Control: Republican

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