Sen. Ford absent on 25 of 53 legislative days during 2014 session, three times more than any other lawmaker

Residents of Shelby County’s sprawling 29th Senate District had no vote during the past legislative session during most meetings of the state Senate, according to Richard Locker.

Sen. Ophelia Ford, D-Memphis, who has represented the district from Whitehaven to Downtown to Millington for eight years, was absent for 20 of the 36 days that the Senate met in floor sessions this year — including the last week and a half of the session when scores of the most important and sometimes contentious bills flow through the chamber for debate and approval or rejection.

Overall, Ford was listed as absent for 25 of the 53 total days that senators assembled for floor sessions and committee-only days. That is far more than any of her 131 colleagues in House and Senate were absent during the 2014 session that ran from mid-January to April 17.

Ford, 63, submitted letters to the Senate speaker for most of her absences saying she was too physically ill to attend.On April 15, she wrote Speaker Ron Ramsey that she had fallen and broken her hip and would “remain hospitalized for the rest of the session,” which adjourned two days later.

It was unclear when the fall occurred. Legislative attendance records show Ford was present on April 7 and 8 but absent April 9 and 10 of the week before she wrote the letter. She wrote the speaker on April 9 asking to be excused, saying only that “details will follow.” But on April 10 and April 14 her letters again asked to be excused without any details… She could not be reached for comment Friday.

…The lawmaker with the second largest number of overall absences was Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, who missed nine days. He was followed by Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, with seven days. Watson is leaving the legislature this year and running for sheriff of Bradley County.

Two legislators missed six days each: Reps. Harold Love Jr., D-Nashville, and Billy Spivey, R-Lewisburg.

Two members, Sen. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, and Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, recorded five absences each. Six lawmakers missed four days: Reps. Barry Doss, R-Lawrenceburg; Jason Powell, D-Nashville; Barrett Rich, R-Somerville; Dennis Roach, R-Rutledge; Mike Turner, D-Nashville; and Dennis Vance, R-Savannah.

Twenty-three members, including Ford, Kyle and Todd, were absent on March 3 when freezing rain, sleet and snow blanketed much of the state.