Pete Aguilar

As of Friday, Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-San Bernardino, center, has sponsored two bills in the House of Representatives during the 114th Congress. Staff File Photo

By Beau Yarbrough, The Sun
Posted: 09/06/15 – 8:30 PM PDT |

When the House of Representatives and the Senate return to work in Washington on Tuesday, all of the legislators representing the Inland Empire have something in common: None of them have had any bills signed into law this year.

That’s not surprising, according to Marcia Godwin, an associate professor of public administration at the University of La Verne.

“Increasingly, you have omnibus bills, so being the sponsor of a significant number of bills happens less and less,” she said. “Your influence may be more on what makes it into the final appropriations rather than in what you sponsor.”

Although California’s senators, Democrats Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, have introduced far more bills than even the busiest Inland Empire congressman, Ed Royce, their real influence is seen in what makes it into law generally, with Boxer’s influence most keenly felt over her career in environmental policy, while Feinstein’s impact has been largest in foreign affairs, Godwin said.

But the Republican control of Capitol Hill also has an impact, she said.

“The House of Representatives can be a very lonely place if you’re in the minority party,” Godwin said.

The 114th Congress began Jan. 3 and ends Jan. 3, 2017. The House of Representatives has 246 Republicans and 188 Democrats. The Senate has 54 Republicans to 44 Democrats.

“The biggest power ranking for a member of Congress is majority-versus-minority status and what committees they sit on,” according to Brad Fitch, president and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works with members of Congress and their staffs to help train them to do their jobs more effectively.

That sort of divide would likely make it hard for a freshman Democrat like Pete Aguilar to get much passed no matter what, but that’s not the only thing that constituents should be looking at when judging their representatives’ effectiveness, according to Godwin.

“I would say that legislative effectiveness is probably the most important measure, but I wouldn’t neglect what’s been called ‘home style’ and their visibility and fit within their district,” she said.

Just looking at bills sponsored and passed isn’t enough information to tell a constituent whether or not their representatives are doing a good job in Congress, according to Fitch.

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