Local Lawmakers Score Well On Environmental Report Card

BERLIN – The annual environmental report cards for state legislators were released last week by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters (MLCV), and the improved scores across the board in Maryland were mirrored by local lawmakers for the most part with few exceptions.

The MLCV each year issues a scorecard of sorts rating the environmental voting records of state senators and delegates across Maryland from the most recent General Assembly session. The annual publication reviews each legislator’s individual voting record on a wide variety of environmental bills and assigns an overall percentage to each lawmaker akin to a grade-point average.

Rising scores on both sides of the aisle continued this year with state senators scoring an average 69 percent for positive votes on environmental legislation, while members of the House of Delegates scored an average of 80 percent. A total of 60 legislators scored a perfect 100 percent and no state lawmakers got a score of zero for the first time since 1982. Eight legislators earned scores below 20 percent.

It is important to note the report card prepared by the MLCV reflects only the black-and-white vote on an environmental issue and does not take into account the overriding importance of an issue on a legislator’s constituency. In a fictional local example, a lawmaker could find him or herself in the difficult position of voting against a bill that would protect wetlands along the ongoing Route 113 dualization project if a yes vote would mean stalling a project so important to his or her constituents.

The annual report card is an effective barometer for gauging how state lawmakers vote on environmental issues across the board, but it is important to view the results in the context of a long record of conservation votes and not on the specific votes on individual issues.

With that said, the MLCV was generally pleased with the 2007 results, which saw scores go up in both the Senate and the House, and across Democratic and Republic lines. Scores also improved along geographic lines with representatives of no areas of the state scoring much better or worse than any other area.

“We believe the high, and greatly improved scores coming out of this year’s legislative session show the importance of the environment as an issue for legislators and the public,” said MLCV executive director Cindy Schwartz.

Locally, just about every delegate and senator saw their scores improve over last year with some doing better than others. For example, Delegate Norm Conway (D-38B) saw his score improve from 58 percent lifetime to 100 percent this year. Freshman Delegate James Mathias (D-38B), who obviously has no former track record on the annual report card, scored 82 percent. Mathias voted in favor of all of the identified bills on the floor, but voted against two of the four bills identified in the Economic Matters Committee.

Perhaps the biggest gain locally was achieved by Senator Lowell Stoltzfus, who saw his 11-percent lifetime score improve to 44 percent this year. Stoltzfus often dismisses the annual report card because the survey is subjective and does not take into account all of the larger issues with a particular piece of legislation.

Senator Richard Colburn (R-37) saw his lifetime score of 15 percent increase to 45 percent in 2007, while Senator E.J. Pipken (R-36) saw his lifetime score 41 percent drop to 33 percent this year.

Delegate Rudy Cane (D-37A) earned a perfect 100 percent score after achieving a lifetime score of 83 percent. Delegate Page Elmore (R-38A) saw his conservation voting record stay relatively neutral with a 50-percent score this year compared to his lifetime score of 48 percent.