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Conservation Scorecard: Failing Grades for Many MT Lawmakers

Although most lawmakers received failing grades on its annual scorecard, the group Montana Conservation Voters says nearly one-third of them are sticking up for the environment. (Tracy/Flickr)
Although most lawmakers received failing grades on its annual scorecard, the group Montana Conservation Voters says nearly one-third of them are sticking up for the environment. (Tracy/Flickr)
May 29, 2019

HELENA, Mont. - Montana's legislative session was a season of highs and lows, according to the Montana Conservation Voters' legislative scorecard.

The group graded lawmakers based on nine votes that address issues of clean energy and climate change, public lands and voters' rights - and more than half of Montana's 150 state legislators received failing grades.

Aaron Murphy, executive director of Montana Conservation Voters, said he would give the two chambers' environmental efforts this year a "U" for "unsatisfactory."

"That means we've got a lot more work to do," he said. "It means that we've got more things to teach Montanans about, in terms of what's at stake when their lawmakers vote for bills that defy our clean air, our clean water, our public lands and our fight against climate change."

While most received failing grades, 46 legislators scored "A" grades of 100%. Some of the measures examined for the scorecard include a pro-labor bill that would ease the transition away from coal energy, a bill to increase state park funding by raising an optional vehicle registration fee, and a failed measure that would have allowed the state to update Montanans' voter registration when they acquired new or replacement drivers' licenses.

Murphy gave credit to Gov. Steve Bullock for stopping a number of bills, including measures to discourage more renewable energy via hydropower and make it harder for the state to approve conservation easements.

"The responsibility he has is to be the goalkeeper for irresponsible bills that come across his desk," he said. "Gov. Bullock very appropriately vetoed some of the bills that came before him, because he is a champion of things that Montanans stand for and value."

Murphy said not only does nature have an intrinsic value to Montanans, it's also integral to the economy. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation generates more than 70,000 jobs in the state, and $7 billion in consumer spending.

The scorecard is online at mtvoters.org, and Montana outdoor economy data is at outdoorindustry.org.

Disclosure: Montana Conservation Voters & Education Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on Environment. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT