Michigan League of Conservation Voters scores lawmakers on environment

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Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 5.10.34 PMThe public can discover how Michigan legislators voted on environmental issues important to the Michigan League of Conservation Voters  with the group’s  2013-2014 Michigan Environmental Scorecard.

The  non-partisan organization of 90,000 members is dedicated to  protecting Michigan’s air, land and water.

Lisa Wozniak, the group’s executive director, said its top priorities are boosting energy efficiency, increasing renewable energy standards over 10 percent, obtaining stronger protection against fracking, reducing water contamination and preserving public land

The scorecard shows each vote in the state House and the Senate and their respective committees on environmental bills. The score of a lawmaker increases up to 10 percentage points if they vote in favor of the environment and decreases up to 10 percentage points when they vote against it.

Final scores were comprised of:

  • Floor score, the number of votes in favor of the environment divided by the number of votes taken
  • Committee bump, a measure of how each legislator performed on the committee they served, adjusting their score plus or minus 10 percent
  • Bill sponsorship bump, the legislator’s individual evaluation based on how many bills they introduced on priority environmental issues, adjusting scores plus or minus 5 percentage points

The scorecard indicates a difference in support for environmental issues depending on political affiliation. In the House, Republican Frank Franz received the lowest score of 5 percent. The top scorers in the House are Democrats Marcia-Hovey-Wright, David Knezek, Pam Faris, and Jeff Erwin, each of whom received final scores of 100 percent. Overall, the scorecard calculated the Republican average at 43 percent and the Democrat average at 79 percent.

Republican senators Jack Brandenburg, Tom Casperson, Dave Hildenbrand, Joe Hune, Phil Pavlov, David Robertson and Tanya Schuitmaker received a final score of zero. Democratic senators Steve Bieda, Morris Hood, Rebekah Warren, and Virgil Smith all received scores at 100 percent.  The Senate average for Republicans was 17 percent. For Democrats it was 83 percent.

Jack Schmitt, deputy director of the league acknowledged the partisan difference but said that both parties are willing to engage on these issues in a constructive manner.

“Democrats performed better than Republicans, but it doesn’t change the fact that both parties are interested in these issues,” he said.

Other scorecard highlights:

  • Republican Representative Joe Havemen, who had a final score of 55 percent, introduced a bill offering financing programs for customers in need of energy efficiency improvements. The bill passed the House, but is on hold in the Senate.
  • Democratic Representative Sam Singh, who had a final score of 75 percent, introduced a bill that would increase energy efficiency savings in retail electricity sales annually by 2 percent starting in the year 2017. The bill stalled in the House Energy and Technology Committee.
  • Republican Senator Tom Casperson, with a final score of zero, introduced a bill that would restrict the Department of Natural Resources from managing public land in Michigan with intent to encourage biodiversity, or co-existence of many species. The bill passed the Senate, but stalled in the House Committee on Natural Resources.
  • Democratic Representative Sarah Roberts, with a final score of 75 percent, introduced a bill that requires the public to be informed of chemicals used during fracking. The bill stalled in the House Committee on Energy and Technology.
  • Michigan Senators did not introduce any bills that addressed fracking in Michigan.

Although the league’s expectations were not met on some issues, Schmitt said he is optimistic that the Michigan Legislature will address concerns with the help of voters.

“None of us were surprised to see low scores, but there is an expectation of legislators to perform on these issues,” he said.

He also thinks voters should hold legislators responsible for promises made during their campaigns.

“I think we need to see some changes in our legislators and be able to count on them as allies in achieving these goals,” he said.

He stressed the need for voters to review the scorecard so they can be informed about the issues and ask their legislators for answers.

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