One of the most basic responsibilities of a legislator is to cast votes on bills. But 48,600 times during the 2009-2010 session, legislators either abstained on or were not present for votes, according to a Sacramento Bee review of data from the Legislative Counsel's Office. Roughly one of every 12 votes during the session were abstentions.
The Legislative Counsel doesn't distinguish between votes where legislators were absent or votes where legislators didn't state a preference. Some abstentions were clearly due to illness, such as many of the missed votes by Jenny Oropeza, who died in office after a long battle with illness. Other abstentions are due to lawmakers seeking higher office, like Fresno Republican Jeff Denham, who campaigned and won a seat in Congress while serving as a state senator. And other abstentions are just due to lawmakers "taking a pass" on a controversial measure.
Here are the 10 lawmakers who failed to vote the most during the last session.
There are a few legislators who aren't part of this trend, and who rarely miss a vote. Here are the five legislators that abstained the fewest times during the last session.
Update: To answer a question from a few different people: If a legislator served a partial term during the last session, only votes taken when they were in office are counted toward their tally of abstentions. For example, if they came into office on Oct. 1, 2010, they would not be deemed as abstaining on votes taken during or prior to Sept. 30, 2010. And, for those interested, here's a spreadsheet showing abstention tallies for all legislators.