Environmmental Report Card: Maryland’s lawmaker’s grades improve

By Len Lazarick


Environmentalists and business groups generally give very different ratings of Maryland legislators based on their votes. But in scorecards just released by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and Maryland Business for Responsive Government almost all Annapolis lawmakers improved their scores with both groups.

Democrats, as usual, scored much higher on the environment and Republicans scored significantly better on business issues.

“This year, Maryland legislators earned significantly higher scores for their environmental votes than in years past,” said Marcia Verploegen Lewis, chair of Maryland LCV. “We believe this is because of our work in educating legislators over the years about these urgent issues and the bipartisan support for these priorities in Maryland.”

“Generally, the legislature assumed a more moderate stance this year on issues that affect business and jobs in Maryland,” said MBRG President Duane Carey. “We have a long way to go, but we are giving credit to the General Assembly for avoiding tax increases and publicly acknowledging the need to improve our business climate.”

LCV used four votes to rate the legislators related to fracking, climate change and changing the rain tax (stormwater fee) mandate. Senate Democrats earned an average score of 95 percent (most scored 100 percent), Senate Republicans averaged 46%, as did House Republicans. House Democrats averaged 99 percent.

Here is the complete LCV scorecard.

Business group operates differently  

The business group operates very differently from the League of Conservation Voters, which actively lobbies lawmakers on bills it favors. LCV took great pride that its members made 1,000 phone calls and sent 10,000 emails to legislators advocating for and against legislation.

MBRG does not lobby or identify legislation it backs, and sometime uses little noticed legislation to make an assessment, such as its opposition to the expansion of punitive damages for drunk driving lawsuits. MBRG opposes any attempt to weaken “Maryland’s appropriately stringent standard for awarding punitive damages” in any kind of lawsuit, it said in its 2015 Roll Call report.

In that report, based on eight Senate votes and 11 votes in the House, nine senators and 34 delegates, all Republicans, scored 100 percent, while seven Democratic senators scored below 30 percent.

Perhaps most telling are the top scorers for veteran Democrats who have served more than four years, four-term Del. Eric Bromwell of Baltimore County with lifetime MBRG score of 59 percent (71 percent in 2015) and five-term Sen. James Ed DeGrange of Anne Arundel County with a score of 68 percent (60 percent in 2015).

Somewhat reflecting the shift in State House politics or just the votes MBRG chose this year, both longtime Democratic presiding officers of the Senate and House improved their scores from last year.

Senate President Mike Miller of Calvert and Prince George’s counties went up from 25 percent to 60 percent with a lifetime cumulative score of 55 percent. House Speaker Michael Busch went up from 30 percent to 43 percent with a cumulative score of 47 percent.

Two Republican delegates in their second four-year terms scored 100percent — Kathy Afzali of Frederick County and House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga of Baltimore and Harford counties. Republican Sen. Ed Reilly of Anne Arundel County was the top Senate veteran with 98 percent.