This year's Legislature gets a failing grade on environmental issues, the Oregon League of Conservation Voters said Tuesday in its ranking of lawmakers on key environmental votes.
The group's 16th such scorecard on legislative sessions said the 2003 Legislature's record marks "a decade of significant retreat from Oregon's legacy of environmental leadership."
ON THE WEBVote scorecard: (www.olcv.org/scorecard) The league said lawmakers this year averaged only 39 percent favorable votes on environmental bills considered as major by the league.
That is down from a 45 percent favorable rating of the 2001 Legislature and 41 percent for the 1999 session.
North Coast legislators received generally positive ratings on the OLCV Scorecard.
Leading the pack was Rep. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, who scored 77 percent. Sen. Joan Dukes, D-Svensen, tallied 67 percent and Rep. Elaine Hopson, D-Tillamook, was graded at 65 percent.
The league said the Republican-run House "launched an assault on environmental safeguards" but that most died in the Senate where there is a 15-15 partisan tie.
The league's scorecard includes 26 House votes on key bills and nine Senate votes.
The organization said more than a dozen House-passed bills would have weakened land use regulations protecting farm and forest lands.
"That's typical of the extreme environmental movement," said Dave Hunnicutt, executive director of the property rights group Oregonians in Action.
"That the House tried to stimulate the economy and promote Oregonians' right to use their property is a great idea," he said.
The report said other anti-environment bills included one to double logging in the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests, which failed, and an approved budget measure that lacks money to complete a pesticide use tracking system required under a 1999 law.
Republican Rep. Dan Doyle of Salem, an assistant House majority leader, said it was "unfortunate they choose to make the environment a partisan issue."
He said the state forest timber harvest bill, for example, had bipartisan support and was a responsible attempt to thin tree stands to reduce fire danger, along with providing more jobs.
The league gave Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski mixed reviews.
While he "helped blunt the attack" on land use controls by threatening vetoes, the report says, he wasn't as willing as his predecessor -- Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber - to veto anti-environmental bills.
Kitzhaber often clashed with the GOP-controlled Legislature and vetoed more than 200 bills - an Oregon record in the four sessions while he was governor.
Kulongoski vetoed just six measures this year in the first session of his term.
The league said the anti-environmental measures that Kulongoski signed include bills that could require taxpayers to pay for some of the cleanup of Willamette River pollution that's the responsibility of industry and to divert to other uses money earmarked for salmon habitat restoration.
The league also faulted the governor for allowing the state Agriculture Department budget to become law when it lacks adequate funding for the pesticide reporting program.
Senate President Peter Courtney said this year's Legislature didn't do well by the environment.
"We should have put more money into natural resources agency budgets," said the Salem Democrat "but I couldn't get the votes. I had enough trouble getting money so kids could stay in schools and to keep the streets safe.
"We haven't had a great environmental session in some years," he said.
Three senators and six House members, all Democrats, had 100 percent pro-environment votes this year in the league rankings.
They are Sens. Richard Devlin, Tualatin; Avel Gordly, Portland, and Vicki Walker, Eugene, and Reps. Jackie Dingfelder, Steve March, Jeff Merkley and Diane Rosenbaum all of Portland; Carolyn Tomei, Milwuakie, and Floyd Prozanski, Eugene.
The report lists 10 senators and six House members, all Republicans, as opposing league positions on all votes they cast.