Advocates blast industry-influenced representatives during budget deadline at State Capitol, using newly announced Courage Scores
Sacramento – This week, Courage California, the largest statewide multi-issue progressive organization, was joined by Senator Aisha Wahab, Taina Vargas, founder and executive director of Initiate Justice Action, Melissa Romero, senior legislative manager at EnviroVoters and a group of passionate community members at a press event, held at the California State Capitol on Tuesday, January 9, to announce the release of its highly anticipated 9th Annual Courage Score, a statewide, multi-issue annual report card that grades California state legislators on how courageously they have — or haven’t — represented their constituents against the corporations that exploit our communities.
Outside of the capitol, surrounded by community members holding large versions of the newly released All-Star and Hall of Shame Courage Scorecards, Courage California’s Executive Director Irene Kao unveiled the new Courage Scores, months before its expected release date to ensure that constituents and voters have access to scores, voting records, and its online comprehensive tools ahead of California’s 2024 Primary Election.
Kao, Sen. Wahab, Vargas, and Romero highlighted the critical role Courage Score plays in our democracy and spoke about the importance of voters having clear, transparent, and trustworthy information about their elected officials’ voting records and corporate donors and influencers, to effectively hold their representatives accountable.
SEE THE NEW COURAGE SCORE REPORT CARD HERE: COURAGESCORE.ORG
“Last year, the California legislature passed historic legislation on workers’ rights, environmental justice, housing, and single-payer healthcare, leading the nation on important issues that our 1.4 million members and California voters care about,” said Irene Kao, Courage California’s Executive Director. “But even with a Democratic supermajority and a Democratic governor, our leaders also fell short on many bills, and Californians must have easy access to information on how their legislators voted on progressive bills and what wealthy special interests legislators get contributions from, so they can hold their representatives accountable and vote their values at the ballot box this election year.”
When Californians understand how representatives vote on the issues they care about and how industry campaign contributions can influence policymakers — constituents can better hold their legislators accountable year-round by visiting couragescore.org and during elections at the ballot box.
“We’d like to thank Courage California for holding our elected leaders accountable when it comes to justice reform and keeping our community safe,” said Taina Vargas, Founder and Executive Director of Initiate Justice Action. “Some legislators continue to operate from the misguided view that we can deter crime by creating new penalties, rolling back progress, and locking people up longer. They’re wrong.
“That is why it is critical that we have transparency and accountability measures such as the Courage Scorecard. The voters of California deserve to co-govern, hold legislators accountable for the harm that they cause to the community with their votes, and also thank them when they have the courage to make decisions to serve the people and not corporations or law enforcement,” said Vargas.
“There is so much that happens in Sacramento that goes unseen and often these are things that have major impacts on critical issues that impact people’s lives directly,” said Melissa Romero, Senior Legislative Manager of California Environmental Voters. “It’s our job, all of our jobs, as advocates here in Sacramento – to pull back the curtain and tell the public how their representatives are voting on progressive issues. When we have this transparency and this accountability, our democracy is better for it.
“The average Courage Score of a legislator who accepts oil money is drastically lower than those who do not accept oil money. The impact that corporate interests have on the outcome of environmental bills couldn’t be more obvious. Californians can use Courage Score to see exactly how their representatives voted on issues that matter to them, give them a call to thank them or tell them to do better and remind them who they work for – the people,” said Romero.
Courage Score allows Californians to see their state representatives’ “Courage Score” on a scale of 0-100, with a corresponding letter grade, A+ to F. The Courage Score is a rating of each legislator’s willingness to stand up for people over corporate profits. Below are the legislators who made it into the 9th Annual Hall of Shame, representatives who are out of step with their constituents by voting against their districts’ values and interests, and All-Star, representatives who consistently stand up for their constituents, demonstrating, through their votes, lists.
9th Annual Courage Score 2023 Hall Of Shame:
- Asm. Stephanie Nguyen
- Asm. Carlos Villapudua
- Asm. Tim Grayson
- Asm. Blanca Pacheco
- Asm. Avelino Valencia
- Asm. Cottie Petrie-Norris
- Sen. Bill Dodd
- Sen. Steve Glazer
9th Annual Courage Score 2023 All-Stars:
- Asm. Mia Bonta
- Asm. Chris Holden
- Asm. Eloise Reyes
- Asm. Rick Chavez Zbur
- Asm. Miguel Santiago
- Asm. Isaac Bryan
- Asm. Tina McKinnor
- Asm. Chris Ward
- Sen. Mike McGuire
- Sen. Nancy Skinner
- Sen. Aisha Wahab
- Sen. Scott Wiener
- Sen. María Elena Durazo
- Sen. Henry Stern
- Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas
- Sen. Lena Gonzalez
Legislators were evaluated on how they voted on 56 bills across issues from the 2023 legislative session — selected based on a survey of progressive ally organizations — and the extent to which their votes accurately reflect how their constituents have voted in recent elections.
“We have continuously pushed for bills that really are big ideas,” said Sen. Aisha Wahab during her remarks. “In particular, I’m very proud of SB 555, the Affordable Housing Act of 2023, the very first state social housing legislation in the United States that was signed into law, and I’m proud of the work that all of the advocates who came together and really push other legislators to have the courage to support this.
“Representation doesn’t just mean checking a box, it means elevating the voices of communities that have historically not been heard. I’m very proud to do that and I can only do that with all of you. So I really appreciate Courage California’s entire work, not only through the election process but through the legislation process,” said Sen. Wahab.
According to Irene Kao, Courage Scores were extreme this year, due to the 2023 Courage Score bills being more weighted towards criminal justice reform and public safety, environmental justice, and workers’ rights – issues that require bold solutions that reveal differences in values quickly – and corporate democrats are not voting on a large number of progressive bills.
“As we look towards a new legislative cycle with a budget deficit and head into the 2024 elections, we are calling on our state legislators to show courage by representing the values of Californians, being a champion for our state’s diverse communities, and fighting against the outsized influence of wealthy corporations and industries that spend millions of dollars to protect a status quo.
“By utilizing our 9th Annual Courage Score, legislative insights, and accountability tools, Californians will be ready to ensure their legislators do better this year and hold them accountable if they do not at the ballot box on March 5,” said Kao, executive director of Courage California.
On January 12, the 9th Annual Courage Score was distributed to Courage California’s 1.4 million-strong membership base and statewide partners.
A full list of the bills used to calculate the 2023 Courage Score report card can be found here: https://couragescore.org/bills/ Representatives who objectively voted in ways that did not reflect their communities’ values are featured in the Courage Score “Hall of Shame,” whereas those who consistently put their communities first are named to the Courage Score “All-Star” team.