Area legislators rated low on environmental issues Ah: None in Carroll's state delegation ranked at the top of group's scale

January 31, 1993|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

The Carroll delegation's voting record on environmental issues ranked among the worst in the state during the 1991-1992 legislative session, says an environmental coalition.

Sen. Charles H. Smelser, D-Carroll, Frederick and Howard, received the lowest score possible -- 0 percent -- ranking him among the worst in the General Assembly on the report card of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters Inc., which represents a number of environmental organizations.

Mr. Smelser's office said Friday that the senator was unfamiliar with the report and had no comment.

Most of Carroll's delegation fared slightly better, but none was ranked among the highest scorers. Lawmakers earned a point )) each time their vote matched the group's stance.

Del. Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll and Baltimore, fared best, scoring 83 percent with his votes on six bills the group targeted "because of their potential impact on the state's environment."

Mr. LaMotte voted along with the group's position on all but two bills. On one of those, where he would have voted contrary to the group's stance, his unexcused absence served as an advantage for the environment, the group said.

"I'm pretty pleased," Mr. LaMotte said. "I've tried to champion protection of the environment since I've been in office."

Calling itself the political arm of the environmental movement in Maryland, the group based its ranking on lawmakers' votes on important environmental legislation, including bills calling for stricter emissions standards for new cars, for planned growth to protect the environment and against the weakening of regulations on forest conservation.

"Combined, the selected votes distinguish those legislators who may simply call themselves environmentalists from those who consistently vote for environmental protection and do so when it really counts," the league stated.

The only bill on which Delegate LaMotte's position differed from the group's was a measure that would limit the liability of a party responsible for an oil spill to $10 million. The environmental group opposed the limit.

"I don't recall all the ins and outs of the bill," Mr. LaMotte said. "I do recall that a lot of statements made by opponents at the time were not true. We studied the bill in committee quite some time, and I thought it was fine. It was a fair bill."

Among the rest of Carroll's delegation, Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll and Baltimore, scored 20 percent, ranking among the lowest in the Senate.

In the House, Del. Richard N. Dixon, D-Carroll, scored 66 percent. Dels. Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, and Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll and Howard, each earned 33 percent.

"I'm always happy to receive a favorable rating on issues I'm concerned about," Mr. Dixon said. "When it's been in the best interest of citizens, I've supported bills strongly. I try to balance industry vs. the environment. But the issues are not always clear."

Mr. Dixon's voting record differed from the group's just twice. He voted in favor of legislation protecting "property rights" and against a measure calling for more stringent emission standards on new cars.

Of the latter, he said, "Clean-car bills would have hurt business too much in this state. I questioned whether we needed such a bill at this time and the cost to companies."

Delegate Matthews, whose voting record agreed with the group only twice, said he wasn't surprised by his poor rating.

"I think there's too much government in the environmental field," he said.

"I come from a rural, small-business, conservative, entrepreneurial atmosphere. Sometimes these bills come in too lopsided against economic development and the business world. We need a balance of less regulation on some things and more regulation on others."

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