Downstate Illinois Legislators Have Mixed Environmental Records in 2012

The Illinois Environmental Council recently released their 2012 legislative scorecard! Are you as excited as I am?!?!!! I totally geek out on seeing how state representatives and senators voted on environmental issues.

Twelve legislators earned a perfect score. Ten of them are women. All are Democrats. Almost all are from Cook County, except for two who are even farther north in Lake. That hurts my downstater pride. It’s a racially diverse group, including rising environmental star La Shawn Ford.

The two Sangamon county legislators, Senator Larry Bomke and Representative Raymond Poe, had better records than most Republicans, scoring 64% and 54%, respectively. Rich Brauer was unimpressive with a 29% score.

Regional senate standouts with 86% include environmental champion Mike Frerichs of Champaign-Urbana, and Bill Haine of Alton. Representative Naomi Jakobsson shines with 93%, along with Eddie Lee Jackson.  Jerry Costello II is off to a decent start with 86%.

No state senator received a zero rating, but three tied for last with 21%. They were downstate Republicans Sam McCann and Kyle McCarter, plus suburbanite Dan Duffy.

Only two members of the General Assembly bottomed out with zero scores: Representative Dwight Kay of Edwardsville and David Reis of Olney. Reis’ voting record must make the famous white squirrels of Olney sad.

Curiously, Reis once bragged of pushing to reconvene a Conservation Congress at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. It’s a good effort that many of my friends in the environmental community participated in, along with 150 interested organizations. Reis’ press release said Conservation Congress would advise on action the legislature should take and “will keep Illinois’ natural resources and its educational, cultural and economic benefits around for generations to come.”

top recommendation of Conservation Congress to the legislature was for additional dedicated funding for DNR. The department was hit hard with major staff and budget cuts during the Blagojevich years. A fee increase for state parks became a top priority for environmental groups, downstate conservationists, and hunter/angler groups.

Reis voted against the DNR funding bill, despite his earlier support for the Conservation Congress.That vote means there won’t be critical funding for DNR sites in his area like Red Hills State Park that supports fishing, hunting, hiking, boating, and horseback riding. I emailed his office to ask why he voted “no” but I haven’t heard back yet.

This should be one of those issues that brings downstate legislators together across party lines to work for the best interests of communities that rely on the economic benefits of state parks. Senator Larry Bomke voted for new DNR funding. But, I’m surprised by the much longer list of downstate Republicans who voted against it, including: Bill Brady, Kyle McCarter, Sam McCann, Wayne Rosenthal and many others who represent districts that benefit economically and culturally from a well-funded, well-staffed DNR.

The bill failed and will probably come back for another vote. Hopefully, some downstate Republicans will reconsider.

One limitation of the scorecard is that it doesn’t include any votes taken on Tenaska’s proposed coal plant in Taylorville, but you can view one of those vote tallies here.

This is election season so be sure to check out the scorecard and let your state representative and senator know that you’re watching how they vote!

© 2012 Willinois. This article is reproduced by permission of the author. All rights reserved.