Benton missed 2nd-most floor votes in recent sessions

Only one other senator had more absences than his 79

By Kathie Durbin, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 

State Sen. Don Benton, a Vancouver Republican, missed more votes in the just-concluded 2011 regular and special legislative sessions than all but one other state senator.

Benton missed 79 of 648 floor votes, according to WashingtonVotes.org, a nonpartisan organization that prepares the annual tabulations. He was second only to Sen. Jerome Delvin, R-Richland, who explained that some of the 120 votes he missed were because of the unexpected death of his father.

Among the votes Benton took a pass on were the state operating and capital budgets and a bill to lease state liquor warehousing and distribution. All three passed the Senate on May 25, the last day of the special session.

Benton’s explanation: “In addition to taking excused absences for unforeseen conflicts due to the unusual nature of special sessions, I also miss votes on occasion while meeting with constituents and while negotiating with members of the House on issues to affect a better outcome.

“I do this only when I already know that votes I miss are on issues where the outcome will not be affected by my absence,” Benton told WashingtonVotes.org. “In other words, when the bill is clearly going to pass anyway without my vote, I will choose to meet with constituents who have come to the Capitol to see me.”

In 2010, Benton missed 56 of 541 Senate floor votes, placing him among the top five senators for missed votes.

In 2009, he missed 157 of 847 Senate floor votes, more than all but two other members.

In the 2008 session, Benton missed only 11 Senate floor votes out of 549 held.

Among other state senators in the Clark County delegation, Sen. Joe Zarelli, R-Ridgefield, missed 35 votes during the just-concluded sessions; Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, missed 17 votes; and Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver, missed 5.

On the House side, five members of the Clark County delegation — Republican Reps. Bruce Chandler of Granger, Paul Harris of Vancouver and Ed Orcutt of Kalama, and Democratic Reps. Jim Moeller and Sharon Wylie, both of Vancouver — had perfect voting records, with no missed votes. Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, missed one vote, Rep. Tim Probst, D-Vancouver, missed two votes, and Rep. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, missed 38.

Brandon Housekeeper, director of WashingtonVotes.org, said the report is one of many tools available on the site that voters can use to track the actions of their elected officials in Olympia.

“As part of our free public-service website,” he said, “the Missed Votes Report works to hold lawmakers accountable with their constituents without having to read and record information from thousands of pages of legislative documents.”

Housekeeper noted that there are many reasons legislators miss votes, including unexpected emergencies.

That apparently was the case not only with Delvin but with Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, who missed 77 votes. She said her husband suffered a medical emergency during the session.

On the House side, Rep. Jay Rodne, R-North Bend, said he missed 120 votes due in part to the death of two of his wife’s relatives. “Additionally,” he told WashingtonVotes.org, “the Legislature worked several weekends this session that coincided with my military service obligations, from which I could not be excused.”

Kathie Durbin: 360-735-4523 or kathie.durbin@columbian.com.