The Scores Are In 

Conservation group ranks Idaho lawmakers

Just in time for school to start, Idaho lawmakers are getting a report card. This time it's from the Conservation Voters for Idaho, a non-profit, non-partisan organization.

"This scorecard is a tool for voters to see if their legislators are in step with Idaho values such as the protection of our clean air and water and natural places," said Lee Flinn, executive director of Conservation Voters for Idaho. The group, whose mission is to be the lobbying arm for conservation issues, tracked a number of votes by lawmakers and found some surprises.

First, the big picture: When it came to votes on issues like grass burning, coal-fired power plants and a memorial against the sale of federal land, the Senate was generally more in line with Conservation Idaho's thinking, garnering an 80 percent voting average; the House netted a 70 percent average.

You might not be surprised to find Democrats like Senate Minority Leader Clint Stennett of Ketchum in the "good deeds" column (Stennett led the way on the coal-fired power plant moratorium). But you might not expect to see Sen. Mike Burkett, a Boise Democrat, in the "out of step" column, for his vote against the repeal of the so-called "developer's discount," a bill that repealed the unintentional tax break that some developers have been using. Burkett was, the group noted, the only senator to vote against the bill.

Burkett said he didn't like the bill because, although he favors removing the discount, he felt the bill that passed had too many loopholes to be effective.

The only 100 percent scorer on the list, surprisingly enough, was Sen. Shawn Keough, a Sandpoint Republican who also acts as the executive director of the Associated Logging Contractors.

Most do-gooders got their stripes from their work in favor of the coal-fired power plant moratorium, a move that has been cemented further by Gov. Jim Risch's decision to opt out of a federal mercury cap program.

The worst scores went to Republican Reps. Shirley McKague of Meridian and Dolores Crow of Nampa. The two are tied at 33 percent voting records in the House. The Senate's low scorer was Sen. Monty Pearce, Republican from New Plymouth, who earned a 41 percent and was the only senator to vote against a nonbinding memorial against the sale of federal land in Idaho.

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