Rochester legislators have shown notable improvement in environmental voting, with perfect and high scores across the board, according to the 2017 New York State Environmental Scorecard.
The scorecard, an annual release from New York’s EPL/Environmental Advocates, ranks scores for environmental consciousness among legislators on a scale of 0-100. Using 1-3 point “tree,” or environmentally friendly bills, and 1-3 point “smokestack” bills, or environmentally hazardous legislation, legislators are granted points for voting in favor of or sponsoring tree bills, as well as voting against smokestack bills. Legislators who missed 20 percent of the votes are given a score of “incomplete.” The scorecard ranks legislators’ votes during the 2017 New York State legislative session, which ended June 21.
In 2017, this year’s markings are more valuable than ever, said EPL executive director Peter Iwanowicz, in light of a federal administration seemingly in a battle against progressive environmental policy.
“It’s hard to contemplate New York State without reminding folks it began under a cloud facing New York, and coming from DC,” Iwanowicz said. “A cloud born of environmental rollbacks from the Trump administration and its presence in congress.”
However, despite this cloud, New York showed improvement from last year in regard to the scores of legislative leaders, as well as the number of environmentally unfriendly bills introduced. Assembly Environmental Conservation Chair Steve Englebright, Speaker Carl Heastie and Assembly Energy Chair Amy Paulin scored perfect 100s. Last year, Englebright and Paulin scored 95 each, with Heastie scoring 90.
While Republicans traditionally score lower in the report cards, improved scores were still seen across the board this year. Senate Energy Chair Joseph Griffo, for example, scored a 68, an 11-point rise from last year’s 57. The lowest score in leadership came from Assembly Minority Lead Brian Kolb, with a 62. Kolb scored an incomplete last year, with the lowest scores tied between Griffo and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. Flanagan pulled a score of 71 this year.
For the second year running, no smokestack bills made it through the Assembly, with only four making it through the Senate.
“Clearly, people are engaged,” Iwanowicz said. “Clearly legislators are being held accountable at a committee level, and should we happen upon bad proposals, they’re harder to get through the committee process.”
With the state showing true progression in environmental voting, Rochester followed suit. With largely Democrat-led representation, Rochester legislators have typically scored well in regard to environmental legislation. Harry Bronson (D-Rochester) scored a perfect 100, jumping 10 points from last year while Joseph Morelle (D-Irondequoit) came in at 92.
While clocking in lower, a large jump in numbers could still be seen in Rochester’s Republican representation. Joseph Robach (R-Greece), for example, came in at a modest 71, rising 14 points from last year’s 57, which stood 13 points above his 2015 score of 44. Peter Lawrence (R-Greece) had a similar evolution. Scoring 60 this year, Lawrence took 47 last year and 43 in 2015. Lawrence voted in favor of the recently passed State Park Recycling bill, as well as Accessible Green Homes and lead levels control, but against New York State Climate and Community Protection Act, which pledges to get New York off fossil fuels by 2050. Robach, meanwhile, voted in favor of all four smokestack bills in the Senate: S.362, S.6717, S.2640 and S.6651A.
Ultimately, the scoring shows an improvement in New York, albeit slight in total, which stands to alleviate some concerns held by environmental advocates.
“As we bear witness to what’s shaping up to be the most-anti-environment federal government we’ve ever seen, this is congress and the administration sharing this equally, the question for all New Yorkers is: Are we ready to face the challenge?” Iwanowicz said. “Are we ready to lead the nation in showing how successful environmental policy can be in building the peace and prosperity we all need?”