The coalition Tennessee Conservation Voters has just released its annual legislative scorecard, and to the shock of absolutely no one, it once again shows that most of the state legislature could really give a damn about the environment. Not only do most of the legislators have scores of "0" -- or even negative scores -- some of the "higher" scoring officials are still woefully low.
The scorecard is based on how legislators voted for certain bills, both in committee and on the floor, or whether they sponsored the legislation to begin with. Some of the measures included efforts to fight mountaintop removal coal mining and establishing standards for hydraulic fracturing when drilling for oil or gas. (You can read the whole list here.) The press release announcing the scorecard states, "The top-ranked Senators on the scorecard were Beverly Marrero, Eric Stewart and Andy Berke. The top-ranked Representatives were Brenda Gilmore, Mike Kernell, Mike McDonald, Mike Stewart and Jeanne Richardson."
Before you pat yourself on the back for celebrating that we at least had a few environmentally friendly legislators, albeit none in East Tennessee -- and we'll get to the local legislators in a bit -- here's why you shouldn't. Sen. Beverly Marrero faces incumbent Sen. Jim Kyle in the Democratic primary in August, thanks to redistricting -- Marrero scored 13 points over the course of the two-year legislative session, by far the most of any legislator in either chamber, while Kyle scored just 4 points. Andy Berke (10 points) is leaving the state Senate to run for mayor of Chattanooga. And Eric Stewart (10 points) is running for the U.S. House of Representatives in the newly redrawn 4th District against Republican Rep. Scott DesJarlais. If all three end up out of the legislature, the top environmentally friendly state Senators are Jackson's Lowe Finney and Montgomery County's Tim Barnes, who both had a total of 6 points in the two-year session.
Of course, in the House, 6 points is a high score -- only Rep. Brenda Gilmore scored higher, with 7. Gilmore is safe in this fall's election, as is Mike Stewart. (It's hard to unseat Metro Nashville Democrats.) But Mike Kernell faces incumbent Rep. G.A. Hardaway in the Democratic primary -- more redistricting fun -- and Jeanne Richardson features a tough slate of primary challengers after also being elided out of her district. Oh, and Mike McDonald is stepping down from his seat. Even if all the other moderately high-scoring Democrats do get reelected -- which is a BIG if -- we're still looking at a House that puts a really low priority on the ground we walk on.
"But," you say, "I can't vote for Marrero or the rest of them anyway! I live in East Tennessee. What does this matter to me?" Well, if you live in state Senate District 8, you can vote against Rep. Frank Nicely, who's running for his first term in the redrawn seat. Nicely has the worst environmental rating of anyone in the entire legislature last year, a -4 scorecard. (His rating for both years was a 0.) If you live in District 6, you can vote against Sen. Becky Duncan Massey, who had a -1 rating. (So did Sen. Stacey Campfield, but he is, alas, not up for reelection until 2014.) Also, if you live in House District 15, you can bug the hell out of Rep. Joe Armstrong, who might, after November, be the only Democrat representing any part of Knox County, and who only had a score of 1 point for the two-year session, lower than Republican Reps. Ryan Haynes (3 points), Harry Brooks (2 points), and Bill Dunn (4 points). We know Armstrong's a member of ALEC, but come on. This is just depressing.
Full press release follows:
Tennessee Conservation Voters releases Legislative Scorecard10th Annual Scorecard rates votes for EnvironmentNashville, TN (Aug., 2012) Tennessee Conservation Voters, a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of Tennessee's environment, announces the release of its 10th annual Legislative Scorecard. The TCV scorecard is published to provide a clear and concise way to understand and evaluate each legislator's voting record on key legislation in 2012.TCV board president Mary Helen Clarke explains:"For a decade TCV has been publishing this scorecard on state environmental votes. We think it is unique on the state level because, in addition to tracking the issues that have the public's attention, we try to reflect patterns of support or opposition for the issues that matter over time."Longtime TCV board member Daniel Boone notes:"We work hard to quantify legislative votes and sponsorships in an objective way. The 2012 TCV Scorecard demonstrates that this was a mixed year for environmental law and policy in Tennessee. We had some important victories in 2012, including the continuation of Conservation Land Funding for the protection of wetlands, parks and farmland. But it's disappointing that legislators were not willing to consider and vote on some of the most important issues - like mountain top removal coal mining."The top-ranked Senators on the scorecard were Beverly Marrero, Eric Stewart and Andy Berke.The top-ranked Representatives were Brenda Gilmore, Mike Kernell, Mike McDonald, Mike Stewart and Jeanne Richardson.