The Environmental League of Massachusetts (ELM) Action Fund is pleased to release its scorecard for the 2017-2018 legislative session. The ELM Action Fund is a non-partisan organization that seeks to raise the visibility of a broad suite of energy and environmental issues as well as hold our elected officials accountable. We believe that votes matter, but this session there were few votes, and even fewer contested votes. The lack of recorded votes is problematic. It indicates a lack of transparency and hampers our ability to know where our elected officials stand. To address this, the ELM Action Fund has attempted to better illustrate each legislator’s record by highlighting their leadership and actions on our priority legislation. While no scorecard can perfectly reflect each legislator’s environmental record, we have done our best to present a fair and comprehensive picture of the entire session.
This legislative session the environmental community achieved a number of positive outcomes but much remained undone. We can applaud the progress made and Massachusetts leadership in a number of areas while at the same time know that the times call for bolder, swifter action, particularly as we experience the serious impacts of climate change.
As noted above, there were very few votes that differentiated legislators on the environment. However, where there were recorded votes on a major environmental bill, legislators were awarded one point if they supported the pro-environment position and had one point deducted if they voted against it. If a legislator was not present for the vote, we noted that in the scorecard with an NV.
In addition, to present a fuller picture of who distinguished themselves, legislators were also given points for the following actions:
- Lead sponsors of ELM top priority legislation (2 points); cosponsors (1 point)
- Lead sponsor of ELM second tier priority bill (1 point)
- Lead sponsor of an ELM priority amendment (1 point)
- Lead author of a sign-on letter (2 points) with signatories receiving 1 point
- Lead sponsor of a bill or amendment ELM opposed (deducted 1 point)
The scorecard reflects action on statewide environmental issues. While many legislators advocate for local environmental projects that would benefit their districts, most important to ELM are policies that would benefit the Commonwealth as a whole. We, therefore, do not score legislators or give extra credit for actions that are exclusively local in nature.
Traditionally, it is rare for members of leadership to sponsor legislation and they generally do not sign on to letters. As such, the Senate President, Speaker of the House, and the respective Chairs of Ways and Means were not scored. Other members of leadership are unlikely to have high scores on the scorecard as it is designed.
The scorecard only includes legislators who were in office at the end of the formal session with exceptions for the late Representatives Kocot and Walsh who had served most of their term. We remember those who tragically passed away during their public service. Senator Ken Donnelly and Representatives Gail Cariddi, Peter Kocot, James Miceli, and Chris Walsh were all beloved members of the Legislature, and we are grateful for their dedication to their districts and the Commonwealth.
Based on this scoring framework, we have established the following four categories:
Champion – Clearly led and/or supported many of our priorities.
Ally – Supported several of our priorities.
Supporter – Voted with us and supported one or two of our priorities.
Straggler – Voted against one of our priority bills or sponsored a bill/amendment we opposed.
The categories are based on the following breakdown of points:
We want to acknowledge the following lawmakers, in particular, for their leadership in promoting a strong environmental agenda:
Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representative Marjorie Decker received our highest scores in their respective Chambers based on their votes and sponsorship of many of our priorities.
Senator Marc Pacheco was the main author of An Act to Promote a Clean Energy Future, the Senate’s comprehensive energy bill that passed the Senate unanimously.
Senator Mike Barrett was a driving force behind the Senate’s efforts to pass a substantial energy bill.
Representative Jen Benson has led the charge in the House to put a price on carbon, as well as filing successful legislation to help replace dirty boilers in homes.
Representative Kay Khan was a stalwart in supporting legislation to raise the Renewable Portfolio Standard, which speeds up the adoption of clean, renewable energy.
Conversely, the stragglers below had the lowest grades in each chamber:
Representatives Peter Durant and Jim Lyons were the only two Representatives to vote against two of our priority bills, the environmental bond bill (H.4599) and the bill to keep Massachusetts in the Paris Accord (H.3994).
Senator Michael Rodrigues was the lead sponsor of one bill and one amendment which ELM opposed: S.94 – An Act improving housing opportunities and the Massachusetts economy would have undone local environmental protections and an amendment similar to the Governor’s bill H.2777 that would have transferred Clean Water Act permitting responsibilities from the federal government to MassDEP. Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency issues the permits at no cost to the Commonwealth. MassDEP is already under resourced and short staffed, so taking on this complex and costly program does not make sense.
Below are the votes we scored:
Paris Climate Accord (H.3994) – The House voted on a bill that would keep Massachusetts in the Paris Climate Accord following President Trump’s withdrawal. The Paris Climate Accord is a landmark binding global agreement to combat climate change and accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future. The Senate included this language within their omnibus energy bill described low.
An Act to Promote a Clean Energy Future (S.2545) – The Senate passed this bill which included many provisions that would accelerate the Commonwealth’s efforts to meet our greenhouse gas reduction requirements, build clean energy jobs, and maintain our reputation as a leader in state policy innovation. It also included a particularly groundbreaking provision: a broad carbon pricing mechanism that would enable new and critical carbon reductions in the transportation, industrial and residential sectors.
Environmental Bond (H.4613) – The Governor introduced an environmental bond bill that authorized critical funds for environmental priorities with a climate adaptation and resiliency focus. Over the course of the legislative process, the bond grew from authorizing just under $1.5 billion to over $2.4 billion and includes funding for critical projects throughout the Commonwealth including land protection, water resource protection, habitat restoration, and dam removals.
Final Energy Bill (H.4857) – There were many legislative vehicles in play during the session related to energy efficiency, renewable energy, and putting a price on carbon emissions. As noted, the Senate passed a comprehensive energy bill (S.2545) that would have significantly moved the dial on energy policy in the state. The House passed much more modest legislation and unfortunately, the final bill closely mirrored the House bill. As such, we scored the Senate on their version (S.2545) and the House on H.4857.
Sign-on Letters – Towards the end of the session, House members circulated two sign-on letters for their colleagues urging the Speaker to advance legislation. One letter was led by Rep. Frank Smizik in support of bringing energy legislation to the floor. The other was led by Reps. Steve Kulik and Sarah Peake in support of the Great Neighborhoods bill, which included reforms to our state’s zoning laws that would help make our neighborhoods more affordable, our downtowns more prosperous, and our communities more healthy and climate-friendly.
- FY18 Budget
- Representative Carolyn Dykema filed an amendment to increase the Department of Conservation and Recreation Watershed line-item
- Representative Kate Hogan and Representative Aaron Michlewitz filed an amendment that would raise additional funds for the Community Preservation Act Trust Fund
- Representative Dave Rogers filed an amendment to increase the Department of Environmental Protection line-item
- Representative Paul Schmid filed an amendment to increase the Department of Agricultural Resources line-item
- Representative Paul Schmid filed an amendment to increase the Department of Conservation and Recreation line-item
- Representative Chris Walsh filed an amendment to increase the Hazardous Waste line-item
- FY19 Budget
- Representative Dan Hunt filed an amendment to increase the DCR retained revenue line-item
- Representative Smitty Pignatelli filed an amendment to increase the DCR Parks line-item
- Rep Brad Jones filed an amendment to increase the Conservation Land Tax Credit, which supports land protection
- Environmental Bond H.4599
- Representative Carolyn Dykema filed an amendment to provide funding authorization for DCR’s aquatic invasives program
- Representative Sarah Peake filed an amendment to create the Climate Adaptation Management Plan (CAMP) advisory group which would be tasked with maintaining and implementing the plan
- Representative RoseLee Vincent filed an amendment to allocate crucial funds to implement integrated state climate adaptation and hazard mitigation plans and other related climate change response plans along the coast
- FY18 Budget
- Senator William Brownsberger filed an amendment to increase the DCR Watershed line-item
- Senator Julian Cyr filed an amendment to increase the Department of Ecological Restoration line-item
- Senator Jamie Eldridge filed an amendment to increase the DEP Administration line-item
- Senator Mike Rush filed an amendment to increase the DCR Parks line-item
- FY19 Budget
- Senator Joe Boncore and Senator Eric Lesser filed amendments to require home energy scorecards to be generated at the time of sale that would incentivize homeowners to make cost-effective energy efficiency improvements, and provide consumers with critical information on what to expect for their future utility bills
- Senator Joe Boncore and Senator Bruce Tarr filed amendments to test a smart tolling program to address traffic congestion
- Senator Julian Cyr filed an amendment to increase the Environmental Police line-item
- Senator Jamie Eldridge filed an amendment to increase the DEP Administration line-item
- Senator Anne Gobi filed an amendment to increase the DCR Parks line-item
- Senator Jason Lewis filed an amendment to increase the DEP hazardous waste site line-item
- Senator Bruce Tarr filed an amendment to increase the Conservation Land Tax Credit, which supports land protection
- Senator Bruce Tarr filed an amendment to increase the DCR retained revenue line-item
- Senator Walter Timilty filed an amendment to increase the DCR Watershed line-item
- Environmental Bond
- Senator Pat Jehlen filed an amendment to provide funding authorization for DCR’s aquatic invasives program
- Senator Marc Pacheco filed an amendment to create the Climate Adaptation Management Plan (CAMP) advisory group which would be tasked with maintaining and implementing the plan
- S.2545 – An Act to Promote a Clean Energy Future
- Senator Cindy Creem filed an amendment to require the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to provide uniform standards for accounting for gas leaks
- Senator Sal DiDominico filed an amendment that would provide protection for gas workers and direct natural gas companies to fix gas leaks
- Senator Jamie Eldridge filed an amendment to codify environmental justice language
- Senator Pat Jehlen filed an amendment that would prohibit utilities from forcing electric ratepayers to accept the financial risk of unnecessary fossil fuel infrastructure expansion
- Senator Marc Pacheco filed an amendment to have DEP track and monitor fossil fuel use
If a lead sponsor of any of our priority bills also filed those bills as amendments to various other vehicles, we did not award them any additional points.
Amendments We Opposed
- Representative Aaron Michlewitz filed an amendment to the FY19 budget that would have negative consequences on future Chapter 91 decisions which allows for public access rights on the waterfront
- Senator Michael Rodriques and Representative Tom Golden filed amendments to the FY18 budget that were similar to the Governor’s H.2777 – An Act to Enable the Commonwealth’s Administration of the Massachusetts Pollutant Discharge Elimination System that we opposed
- Senator Sal DiDominico filed an amendment to the FY19 budget that would have restricted the Department of Conservation and Recreation from raising the rents of certain yacht and boat clubs
- Senator Bruce Tarr filed an amendment to S.2545 that would have lowered the Renewable Portfolio Standard
- Senator Dean Tran filed an amendment to S.2545 that would have obstructed the Renewable Portfolio Standard