Group scores lawmakers on green issues

Published 9:24 pm Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Virginia League of Conservation Voters has given Carrollton’s Rick Morris its second-lowest score in the House of Delegates for support of conservation issues.

Morris scored 17 percent, only higher in the lower chamber than Mark Berg, a fellow Republican from northwest Virginia who scored zero.

Among all state lawmakers, Morris has the fourth-lowest score, with Republican senators Mark Obenshain and William Stanley Jr. both scoring 14 percent.

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Travis Blankenship, the league’s governance affairs manager, explained that the number of conversation-related votes lawmakers could be scored on in the 2015 session was limited by the large number of bills killed in committees and sub-committees, often under a veil of secrecy.

Many conservation bills fail in committees and sub-committees on an unrecorded voice vote, he said, or aren’t even taken up for any kind of vote.

“We only select bills when there was an up-or-down, recorded vote,” Blankenship said.

Blankenship said Morris is “not a conservationist by any measure.”

Morris could not be reached for comment.

Among other area representatives, delegates Lionell Spruill and Matthew James, as well as senators Louise Lucas and John Miller — all Democrats — all scored 100 percent.

Among other Republicans, senators John Cosgrove and Tommy Norment scored 60 percent and 67 percent, respectively, and Delegate Chris Jones scored 71 percent.

The league bestowed upon Jones a 2015 Legislative Leadership Award, recognizing him for introducing transportation legislation to create new regional funding and reform the Public Private Transportation Act.

“Both of these bills took great steps forward to improving an issue that is so important to the commonwealth’s communities, economy and way of life,” according to the league.

Blankenship said the scorecard is meant to enlighten conservation-minded voters about issues they might want to discuss with their representatives.

“It’s an accountability measure for voters to talk to their legislators,” he said. “Constituents can say, ‘You got 17 percent this year — I’d really like to work with you to improve that score.’”