ELM Action Fund in State House News: Environmental PAC Scores Lawmakers Ahead of November Elections

By Katie Lannan

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, SEPT. 29, 2016....Twenty-six House lawmakers and seven senators earned top marks on the Environmental League of Massachusetts Action Fund's scorecard for this legislative session, a tally the group hopes to use to spur greater transparency.

Legislators received points for roll call votes in favor of policies the group supported, including funding for various environmental agencies and renewable energy legislation. Points were also awarded for what ELM Action Fund President George Bachrach called "acts of leadership."

"This is our best effort to give voters a sense of who is really on their side in the critically important work that goes on out of public view," Bachrach, a former state senator, said in a statement.

The ELM Action Fund's board includes former state Sen. Warren Tolman, former state education and finance official Peter Nessen, and Doug Foy, who served in former Gov. Mitt Romney's Cabinet.

Bachrach said few recorded votes were cast this session and he hopes the scorecard encourages the Legislature "to go on record and cast more roll call votes."

The scorecard recognized lawmakers who filed bills and urged their collages to support certain positions the ELM Action Fund also backs, including Reps. David Rogers of Cambridge and Carolyn Dykema of Holliston for their advocacy on funding for the Department of Environmental Protection and Harwich Sen. Daniel Wolf, who championed zoning reform legislation the Senate passed in June (S 2311).

Bachrach also highlighted a letter from Rep. Cory Atkins to energy bill conferees expressing support for the Senate version of the legislation and a letter from House Minority Leader Brad Jones and Rep. Stephen Kulik asking leadership not to support ratepayer tariffs for pipeline construction.

"We're giving points or taking away points based on action," Bachrach told the News Service. He said, "All of us focus on what we're scored on, from our earliest days in elementary school on, and ELM wants to focus on not really their votes, but their acts of leadership on energy and the environment."

The lowest scoring senator was Westport Democrat Michael Rodrigues at 70, followed by Webster Republican Ryan Fattman at 71. Quincy Democrat John Keenan and Republicans Patrick O'Connor of Weymouth and Vinny deMacedo of Plymouth all scored 76. The remaining three Senate Republicans -- Donald Humason of Westfield, Richard Ross of Wrentham and Bruce Tarr of Gloucester -- earned a 77.

Andover Republican Rep. James Lyons' score of 27 was the lowest in the House. Other representatives on the bottom of the list include Reps. Jay Barrows of Mansfield, David DeCoste of Hanover, Kevin Kuros of Uxbridge and Elizabeth Poirier of North Attleboro, all Republicans who scored 36.

The highest scoring House Republican was Rep. Leonard Mirra of West Newbury, with 73. The lowest scoring House Democrat was Gardner Rep. Jonathan Zlotnik, with 84.

"We're a nonpartisan organization but people wonder sometimes why Republicans score relatively low, and the simple answer is funding for environmental protection agency," Bacharach told the News Service. "You can't say you're an environmentalist and then vote against funding for the agencies that protect the environment."

Senate President Stan Rosenberg scored 100, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo scored 95. The leaders of the two branches each voted in line with the ELM position on each scored vote.

Joining Rosenberg as top Senate scorers were Sens. Wolf, Michael Barrett of Lexington, Cynthia Creem of Newton, Benjamin Downing of Pittsfield, Jamie Eldridge of Acton, and Marc Pacheco of Taunton.

In the House, perfect scores were awarded to Atkins, Dykema, Kulik, David Rogers, and Reps. Ruth Balser, Thomas Calter, Linda Dean Campbell, Gailanne Cariddi, Marjorie Decker, Lori Ehrlich, Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Carmine Gentile, Jonathan Hecht, Paul Heroux, Jay Kaufman, Mary Keefe, Kay Khan, Jay Livingstone, Paul Mark, Denise Provost, Tom Sannicandro, Frank Smizik, Thomas Stanley, Steven Ultrino and Chris Walsh.

The action fund, in a statement, labeled the "chronic underfunding of budgets of environmental agencies" as the "paramount issue" of the 2015 to 2016 legislative session.

The eight votes House lawmakers were scored on included fiscal year 2016 funding for the state climatologist, and funding for the Department of Environmental Protection and state parks and recreation in both the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years.

Senators were scored on 16 votes, including DEP and parks and recreation funding, fiscal 2017 climate adaptation funding, the zoning bill, an MBTA fare increase limit (H 4492) and a climate change adaptation management plan (S 2092).

The ELM Action Fund drew a contrast between its scorecard and the rankings released by the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, which Bachrach also criticized when they were announced in August. On the AIM scorecard, only five senators received grades above 50 percent and 40 percent of the Senate scored 18 percent or lower.

"While the House of Representatives and Speaker Robert DeLeo successfully forged consensus on important measures such as wage equity and energy, the Senate hewed to a more progressive, ideological approach that produced a steady stream of bills with the potential to harm the Massachusetts economy," AIM wrote in its scorecard, which was based on a dozen recorded votes.

Bachrach said his group's scorecard is "challenging AIM on energy" and that the business group "dropped virtually every member of a the Senate into a failing grade because they support the future."

"The future of our economy is clean energy and technology," Bachrach said.