RI House Environmental Voting RankingsLeadership blocks nearly all environmental bills, spearheading a catastrophic failure to act on climate.
How We Measured Environmental Voting Records
We evaluated 31 bills with assigned House bill numbers in which the Environmental Council of Rhode Island publicly supported or opposed during the 2018-2019 legislative years. Representatives were awarded a point for floor votes that support the ECRI position, and zero points if they opposed the ECRI position, abstained, or were absent from the vote. Those serving on committees that voted on an applicable bill were awarded a point for a committee vote that aligned with the ECRI position, and zero points for a vote opposing the ACLU position. Committee vote tallies blocked from publication were scored solely for the Speaker. An absence or abstaining from a committee vote was not counted at all, as legislators were more likely to miss committee votes than floor votes due to other obligations. As such, we chose not to penalize this for the 2020 rankings, since a penalty exists already on the floor vote. This may change in the future if we find legislators deliberately skipping committee votes to avoid accountability. However, for the bills we evaluated, this was not the case. Our rankings are the first "scorecard" to include committee votes. Committee votes play a huge part in Democracy, because a bill voted down in committee usually never sees the light of day for a floor vote. Hundreds of good bills die in committee each legislative session in Rhode Island and much more attention should be paid to this step in the lawmaking process. In committee, a small group of legislators votes on behalf of the entire House and determines whether a bill is worthy of a full floor vote. With respect to these rankings, committee votes were devastating to environmental concerns, as most good bills that fight climate change, improve our health, and protect the rights of Rhode Islanders to enjoy our recreational areas were killed in committee via the "Held for Further Study" gimmick. The gimmick works like this: Rather than going on the record as opposing a good bill or supporting an unpopular bill, voting to hold a bill for further study allows the committee to kill a bill by simply ignoring it. While some bills held are actually "studied" and re-introduced for a second vote later on in the session, the vast majority of bills come to an end using this maneuver. Generally, most General Assembly committee votes suffer from "group think", relying on direction from leadership because many lawmakers do not read the bills they vote on. As a result, members vote as leadership instructs them or side with the majority in voice votes. Our rankings treat a vote for further study as a "no" vote if the bill never comes up again during that year's session. As a result, voters have a much clearer picture of how damaging committees can be to progress.
Bills were categorized by RI Rank in three categories: climate bills, health bills, and those focusing on conservation. Representatives must have voted on at least 2 applicable bills to receive a score for that category, and votes on at least 4 bills were required to receive an overall score. While votes for this Environmental segment will count towards their overall score, legislators who were only able to vote on 2 or fewer bills in a category (due to being elected more recently) or 4 or less bills overall have their score showing as "N/A" because the lack of data is not enough to form a proper evaluation.
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Environmental Voting Score
Excellent OK Poor N/A Insufficient # of Votes
How We Rank
Score is the cumulative total of the Representative's floor and committee votes that support the ECRI position divided by the total number of votes the Representative could have participated in (committee votes were only counted if the Representative was present for the vote). We then multiplied the score by 100 to create a scale from 1-100.
Scores for each individual category were tabulated as above, but just for that category of bills. A minimum of 2 votes were required for a Representative to be scored in any one category, else they were given a score of N/A (though their votes in the category still count as part of their overall score). A minimum of 4 votes were required for a Representative to be given a total score, else they were given a score of N/A (though their votes in this Environmental segment still count as part of their overall score).
Representatives with scores above 75 are considered "Excellent" environmental advocates, scores between 50 - 74 are "OK", and scores below 50 are considered "Poor". For both individual categories and overall score, the maximum possible score is 100. The lowest possible score is 0.
(All House bills from 2018-2019.)
Climate (2018): 7827, 7400, and 8020. (2019): 5869, 5444, 5628, and 5665.
Health (2018): 7732. (2019): 5565 and 5826.
Conservation (2018): 7808, 7851, 7828, 8141, 8138, 7250, 7219, 7383, 7425, 7978, 7524, 7179, and 7699. (2019): 5667, 5789, 5671, 5448, 5446, 5804, 5813, and 5314.