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The Idaho Capitol rotunda in Boise.

Most Magic Valley lawmakers ranked low on this year’s “Freedom Index.”

The Idaho Freedom Foundation, a conservative group that, among other things, ranks lawmakers on a “Freedom Index” based on certain votes, released its final index for the 2016 session Wednesday.

Rep. Pete Nielsen, R-Mountain Home, had the highest ranking of the Magic Valley delegation, with a C+ rating, meaning he voted with what the IFF wanted 78 percent of the time. He was followed by Rep. Steve Miller, R-Fairfield, and Sen. Kelly Anthon, R-Rupert, who each got Ds. Sen. Jim Patrick R-Twin Falls, got a D-minus.

House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, and Reps. Clark Kauffman, R-Filer, and Steve Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, got F+, while Reps. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, Donna Pence, D-Gooding, Fred Wood, R-Burley, Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, and Maxine Bell, R-Jerome; and Sens. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, and Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, got F-minus.

A handful of lawmakers, mostly but not all from the northern part of the state, got A scores, with the highest being Reps. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, and Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, whose votes agreed with the IFF 97 percent of the time and got A+ ratings from the group.

Take a look at the scorecard attached to this blog entry.

While Democratic lawmakers tend to get low ratings, the IFF’s biggest public clashes have more often been with Republican lawmakers who view themselves as conservative but who vote for policies that, the IFF says, lead to bigger government and more taxes and regulation. This year Rep. Kelley Packer, R-McCammon, accused the group of bullying lawmakers, prompting the IFF to hold a news conference at the Capitol to respond and to cut a robocall calling Packer a liberal.

This year’s ranking were based on 97 bills the IFF scored during the session.

“We are proud of the Freedom Index because it provides Idahoans the tools they need to compare their legislators’ rhetoric against the reality of their voting records,” Lindsay Russell Dexter, the group’s policy analyst, said in a news release Wednesday. “We encourage every taxpaying Idahoan to contact lawmakers to discuss their 2016 Freedom Index scores.”

The Freedom Index is likely going to be an issue in at least a couple of primaries this year — Reggy Sternes, who is mounting a primary challenge to Bell, has said he is running against her because she had the lowest Freedom Index score out of the district’s three lawmakers. And Nate’s primary challenger, Doug Ricks, has criticized Nate for being too close to the IFF and voting with the group’s recommendations too often.


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