We got our first close retrospective look recently at how members of the General Assembly in Hartford performed on issues affecting the environment, when the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters released its annual scorecard.
In general, scores reflected a stronger record on the environment in 2012 than in each of the three previous years (each one of which was worse than the one before). The league’s news release reported:
“The average score for all legislators in 2011 was 76% versus the average score of 91% for 2012. This year 53 more legislators earned 80% or higher than they did in 2011.”
That’s good news. But what to make of the performance of the 29-member Environment Committee? Here’s what the league said:
“Nine members received failing scores (60% or lower) on their committee votes and we note that their overall 2012 scores are often below average as well.”
The news release quoted Margaret Miner, chair of the league’s scorecard committee, as saying:
“People often assume that, if their legislators are on the Environment Committee, and if these legislators claim to be pro-environment, then they must actually be pro-environment. Not exactly. They may be on the committee because they want to block environmental initiatives. The numbers tell the story.”
And the release quotes Executive Director Lori Brown:
“The Environment Committee members with failing grades are getting a hard look from the League.”
The scores for the committee and the GA in general are based on approximately 21 bills the league tracked during the three-month legislative session:
“Eight were hostile to the environment and 13 were favorable. Four of the pro-environment bills passed, while three others made a good showing. All of the hostile bills were either defeated, defanged, or transformed into friendly legislation.
“The four successful bills, now laws 1) help provide better, timely information to address sewage spills, 2) improve the state’s open space plan [click here to read about what Connecticut Audubon Society did to help get the bill passed], 3) provide better coastal zone management options, and 4) reduce phosphorus in water. Several other good bills were poised to pass but were stalled in a legislative standoff between the House and Senate at the end of session. CTLCV expects to see those initiatives return in 2013.
“The hostile bills proposed this year included attacks 1) on the Environmental Protection Act; 2) on legal protections for municipalities that allow free public access to open space; 3) on the right of the state not to allow new cell towers in state conserved lands and parks; 4) on a pesticide ban on school lawns and playing fields; 5) on restrictions on tree cutting by the state; 6) on essentially all environmental regulations (multi-pronged attacks); 7) and on the conservation functions of DEEP, slated to be transferred to the Department of Agriculture. Fortunately, every one of these ill-conceived proposals was soundly defeated.”
“The League contends that the biggest obstacle facing the environment remains inadequate funding for our environmental agency, DEEP. Lawmakers were successful in maintaining support levels for the Clean Water Fund and Community Investment Act — both representing long term investment in our land and water. However, funding for DEEP continues to spiral downward with each new budget and endangers core conservation programs in communities across the state. This year, another $500,000 was disproportionately taken from the Environmental Conservation budget, with a total of $8 million taken from the agency’s bottom line.”
Despite the performance of the nine members of the Environment Committee, and the funding cuts for the DEEP, the league counted 2012 as a good year in Hartford:
“… the reason for the turnaround at the legislature is because the votes being cast against good environmental policy flew in the face of the public’s core values. ‘Constituents expect their elected leaders to protect clean air, clean water and open spaces. The poor scores legislators earned last year voting against the environment really hit home. This year, lawmakers were more receptive to environmental concerns and more cautious in opposition.’ ” – Tom Andersen, director of communications and community outreach