Group scores lawmakers

June 16, 1997


Staff Writer

A national environmental and consumer rights group has given high scores to some area congressmen and senators and low scores to others.

The lowest score in the area went to U.S. Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Pa. The highest went to U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., who scored 100 percent.

The group, which is an association of nonprofit, state-run Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), does an annual "scorecard." It scores the votes of representatives and senators on issues deemed important by U.S. PIRG, the association's lobbyists on Capitol Hill.


This year's scorecard is based on 19 votes cast in 1995 and 1996 on environmental and consumer protection bills. Members of Congress are scored on what percentage of their votes agree with the PIRGs' position.

For the past few years - since Republicans took over Congress - the PIRGs have focused mainly on congressional attempts to roll back established laws that the PIRGs believe should not be changed, according to Rick Trilsch, spokesman for U.S. PIRG.

One scored vote would have replaced federal standards with business-style analyses of the cost and benefits of environmental protection policies. Another so-called rollback would have loosened laws protecting wetlands.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, R-Md., who scored a low 21 percent, said, "It's perfectly ridiculous for government to do rule-making with no economic backing."

Referring to the economic analysis bill, Bartlett said, "All the legislation asked the (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) to do was `please give us a cost-benefits analysis.'"

Shuster scored only 11 percent. His spokesman, Jeff Nelligan, said the PIRGs disregard the Republican's environmental report card.

"Their process is so selective that it becomes absurd," he said.

Nelligan said seven bills represent Republican commitment to environmental issues. They include the Safe Water Drinking, Battery Recycling and Water Resources Development acts.

Most of the seven bills either passed unanimously or without a vote - called a "voice vote" - indicating their bipartisan and non-controversial nature, records of the bills show.

But Trilsch said the PIRGs don't score those easy votes that reflect nothing about a member's commitment to the environment, like the ones cited by Nelligan.

"We act on those issues that push for change ... and use the scorecard to educate citizens," Trilsch said.

U.S. Rep. Bob Wise, D-W.Va., did relatively well with 74 percent, but he said it doesn't mean much.

"My feeling is the same about all scorecards, whether they're for conservative or liberal groups," he said. "Scorecards are a snapshot of a very limited legislative record.

"I'm always happy to get a favorable score. I'll get one next week that has me down. The most important scorecard is the one the voters hold," Wise said.

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