Each year, Bay Area state and federal legislators vote on a host of bills dealing with environmental issues, including air quality, environmental justice, energy, conservation, growth, waste, toxics, and transportation. Their votes have a direct impact on the environmental quality of the Bay Area, and on our quality of life.
At least two groups track and analyze these lawmakers' votes, giving constituents an important tool for evaluating their representatives' commitment to environmental protection. The League of Conservation Voters rates congressional representatives, while the California League of Conservation Voters rates members of the state legislature. Both groups monitor votes on key environmental bills, then rate legislators according to how often they voted for measures that protect the environment or public health -- or against measures that damage either. One hundred percent is the highest possible score; zero percent is the lowest.
Examining Legislators' Records
NRDC researchers looked at recent ratings by the two groups to see how Bay Area legislators stacked up. For state legislators and U.S. senators, the ratings covered the period 1994 to 2000. For lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives, the ratings cover 1999 and 2000.
In the California Senate, ratings for Bay Area representatives generally improved from 1994 to 2000. In both 1999 and 2000, the average rating was 90 percent -- 13 percent higher than the Senate overall. In the Assembly, too, Bay Area members have earned consistently good ratings since 1994. In 2000, they scored an average of 93 percent, up from the 1999 rating of 91 percent. In contrast, the average rating for the Assembly as a whole in 2000 was 65 percent.
On the national level, the Bay Area delegation is also strongly green. Since 1994, California senators have received scores in the upper 80s or above. In 1997, they both scored 100. In 2000, their rating was 87 percent, a decline from the 1999 average of 95 percent. But these scores are still significantly higher than the overall average of 43 percent for senators for the period 1999 to 2000.
Bay Area members of the House of Representatives scored an average of 91 percent in 2000, an improvement from the 1999 rating of 86 percent. These numbers are higher than the average 52 percent rating of California representatives.