The Environmental League of Massachusetts honored a Watertown state representative for his work and record on voting for environmental issues.
The group sent out the following announcement:
State Rep. Jon Hecht, a Watertown Democrat, is a true leader on environmental issues, according to his perfect scores on the Environmental League of Massachusetts’ unique and inaugural legislative scorecard. The scorecard gauges true leadership on environmental issues – not just votes, upending more traditional rankings that are often based mainly on non-controversial votes.
The legislative scorecard from ELM, the oldest environmental advocacy organization in the Commonwealth, awards additional points to lawmakers who led by sponsoring important legislation and deducts points for lawmakers who filed measures that ELM opposed. It also takes lawmakers to task over their recent practice of ensuring controversial votes are not recorded roll call votes – preventing voters from truly gauging which representatives and senators on truly on their side.
“Jon Hecht has been a strong advocate for the environment in the State House and our new scorecard helps us show voters just what a great leader he is,” said ELM President George Bachrach. “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.”
ELM’s scorecard relies first on roll call votes on legislation that deals with environmental and energy issues. Observers of the state Legislature know that there are few roll call votes each session and that controversial votes are often taken as voice votes that are not recorded. As a result, ELM added leadership to the votes to better distinguish environmental champions and opponents.
The scorecard awarded bonus points to legislators who authored bills that were environmental priorities or who introduced important amendments, particularly budget amendments to increase funding for state environmental agencies. Lawmakers lost points for introducing legislation or amendments that hurt the environment.
“It’s essential that we recognize leadership and courage, not just votes,” said Bachrach. “So much of the legislative process is impossible to score – from bill redrafts by committees, committee votes to pass or hold a bill and more. This scorecard is the best reflection yet of what really happens on Beacon Hill.”
In all, ELM assessed lawmakers on 10 roll call votes in the Senate and six roll call votes in the House for 95 percent of the score. Five bonus points were then added for leadership in introducing an ELM priority bill or amendment and five points were subtracted for introducing a bill or amendment which ELM opposed.
ELM gauged lawmakers on several important bills that will move the state forward on natural resource and public health protections – including:
- The $2.2 billion environmental bond bill which includes authorization for capital projects related to land acquisition, water and air quality, state and urban parks, farm protection and viability, climate change adaptation and solid waste and recycling, among other items.
- Natural gas leak legislation which begins to address threats to public safety, the release of potent greenhouse gas methane and adding to costs to ratepayers by requiring uniform leak classifications and repair timelines and establishing benchmarks for reducing lost and unaccounted for gas to reduce costs to customers.
- Water infrastructure legislation establishing a new Massachusetts Clean Water Trust as the successor to the Water Pollution Abatement Trust and which increases funding available for water infrastructure projects. The bill includes a definition of “green infrastructure” for the first time in statute and allows the state to use “green infrastructure” when weighing financial incentives.
- The Fiscal Year 2014 state budget, including amendments focused on energy and environmental issues
Extra points were awarded to lawmakers who sponsored initiatives such as supporting funding for the Department of Environmental Protection, recycling, Brownfields, hazardous waste clean-up, and state parks.
ELM intends to publish a scorecard each session and Bachrach said he hopes lawmakers rise to the opportunity, pushing for reform to the system which limits roll call votes on key matters and leading on environmental issues.
“We need lawmakers who will lead, not just vote, on environmental priorities,” said Bachrach. “We hope and trust all supporters of environmental protection and stewardship will rise to the challenge.”