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Environmental group releases score cards on 2013 Washington County delegation

July 28, 2013|By KAUSTUV BASU | kaustuv.basu@herald-mail.com

A nonpartisan environmental group that calls itself the political voice for the environment released its annual score card of state lawmakers this month, with members of the Washington County delegation earning scores ranging from zero to 100 percent.

The score card from the Maryland League of Conservation Voters is based on how lawmakers voted on key issues related to the environment.

Local lawmakers stressed that even though they care about the environment, their scores mostly reflected the needs of their constituents.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, received a score of 100 percent and Sen. Ronald N. Young, D-Frederick/Washington, received a score of 71 percent.

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, had a score of 50 percent, the top score among Republican lawmakers in the county delegation.

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Del. Michael J. Hough, R-Frederick/Washington, was marked at 25 percent and Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, was at 21 percent, while Sen. George C. Edwards, R-Allegany/Garrett/Washington, had a score of 17 percent.

Bringing up the rear was Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, and Del. Neil C. Parrott, R-Washington, both of whom scored zero percent.

Democratic lawmakers in the state have typically scored better than Republicans with the league’s score card, which is based on key floor and committee votes on the environment in the House and the Senate as chosen by the league, according to previous reports.

Karla Raettig, executive director of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, said her organization publishes the score card to tell constituents how their lawmakers voted on the environment.

“We look for votes telling the story of the environment in the legislature,” Raettig said. “Unfortunately, it has become a partisan issue. We are hoping to change that. A good environment is good for the economy and good for Maryland.”

Bills that counted toward the environmental score card included an offshore wind-energy bill and another dealing with a work group that will look at ways to get more information about pesticide use in the state.

It also counted a measure called the agricultural certainty bill that gives state farmers a 10-year break from new state and local environmental regulations related to water quality if they agree to take part in a program to reduce nutrient and sediment discharges into the water.

All three of the measures were passed by the Maryland General Assembly.

To rate on the league’s score card, legislators had to vote “yes” on the offshore wind-energy bill and the pesticides bill, and “no” on the agricultural certainty bill.

“The environment is important to people in Hagerstown. I keep that in mind. But I typically do not pay much attention to such score cards,” Donoghue said.

Parrott said in an email that as a lawmaker, he votes for common-sense legislation.

“As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, my score was based on four House votes, all of which would have hurt farmers,” Parrott said. “I support Maryland’s farmers and am thankful to be able to represent them in Annapolis. With these votes, I voted for legislation that helps their profession and against bills that hurt their livelihood.”

Parrott called the agricultural certainty bill a common-sense bill, “and yet the League of Conservation Voters wanted a ‘no’ vote on the bill.”

Myers said he felt the same way and called himself a “thoughtful conservative.”

“I look at issues that are important to our county. I will not be talked into considering something ridiculous,” Myers said.

Shank said he evaluated bills on how they “impact his community, not how Annapolis special-interest groups are going to grade me.”

He said “I’m right on target” as far as his constituents are concerned.

Serafini, who is the chairman of the Washington County delegation, said he finds it fascinating that the scores on the environmental score card typically are the inverse of the annual score card produced by Maryland Business for Responsive Government, a business advocacy group.

“It’s best not to get overly carried away with these score cards, but I do care about the environment,” Serafini said.

Maryland Business for Responsive Government released its annual score card earlier this month. Serafini, Parrott and Myers each scored 100 percent.

Hough’s score was 86 percent, while Edwards scored 83 percent.

The business advocacy group gave scores of 60 percent to Donoghue and Shank, while Young’s score was 40 percent.

MBRG calls itself a “statewide, nonpartisan political research and education organization supported by corporations, trade associations, chambers of commerce and individuals.”

Hough said he believes most score cards are useless.

“This is more ‘insider baseball’ and about how special-interest groups grade you,” Hough said.

“A majority of my constituents are rural, and when I vote, I keep their interests in mind,” Edwards said. “I try not to worry about these score cards. I try to represent the people that sent me to Annapolis.”

Young said he does not put much stock in the score cards, “even though they are well-intentioned.”

“It is important to have a balanced approach. Sometimes you will get a good score and sometimes you will not,” he said.

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