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Separate reports find Carroll legislators support business initiatives over environmental ones

While Carroll legislators received high marks for their support of bills that were in favor of economic and business growth from one nonpartisan group, another organization ranked them significantly lower based on voting record for bills that favored environmental protection and stewardship.

Maryland Business for Responsive Government, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to encouraging economic development and job creation in the state, released its annual report Roll Call, which grades all 188 state legislators based on their voting records.

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During the 2015 session, eight bills were selected and the report ranked each legislator based on their votes on these bills. Out of Carroll's 11 legislators — all of whom are Republican — seven received perfect marks of 100 percent, while the four remaining were given scores in the high 80s. According to the report, any legislator who received a 70 percent or higher took a strong pro-business stance.

Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5, who received a score of 100 percent, said his votes in the House of Delegates were a continuation of his efforts to improve the business climate in Carroll while serving as a county commissioner.

"The only way we can improve the business climate in Maryland is to try to get government off of people's backs," Shoemaker said. "That's what we tried to do at the county level and one of the stances my votes reflect in the state legislature."

He said he plans to continue voting in support of bills that would improve the state's economic landscape, as "it has been woefully inadequate for far too long."

"As a result, we've seen businesses flee across state lines in droves, and it's time to get the law, regulations, and tax policy out of way of the business community," Shoemaker said.

Duane Carey, president of the pro-business group, said Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's support of economic initiatives made it an easy year for legislators to score well but this might not last.

"There was a lot of trying to play nice with the new governor," Carey said, "Leadership said 'Let's ease into this, let's not put forth a lot that might cause a lot of rancor between the two political parties.' I don't know how long that is going to last."

Del. David Vogt III, R-District 4, who also received a score of 100 percent, said business development is the only way to get the state's "fiscal landscape" back in order.

"Being able to grow [businesses] and support legislation that helps in this will provide a solution that will get Maryland caught up with the rest of the country," Vogt said.

Del. Warren Miller, R-District 9A, who sits on the House's Economic Matters Committee and reviews all bills pertaining to the state's economy, said that in general he supports bills that make it easier for businesses to relocate or stay in Maryland, and opposes those that are harmful to job and business creation. He did add a caveat to that, though.

"I don't support crony capitalism," he said. "It's not responsible to help one company over others in a competitive environment."

A separate report, released by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, a nonpartisan group that supports and helps to develop legislation that it says is beneficial to the environment, gave Carroll legislators considerably lower rankings.

Three received a score of 67 percent — the highest given to a Carroll legislator. The remaining scores range from 25 to 50 percent.

Still, these scores are significantly higher than scores during the past few years, said Danielle Lipinski, communications and outreach manager for the league.

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"Overall the scores were higher this year than in the past," Lipinski said. "We think it's [due to] an increase in awareness; our issues are nonpartisan and I think legislators heard that."

Karla Raettig, the league's executive director, said there was a lot of attention on environmental issues during the months leading up to the elections last fall, especially from first-time candidates, and that hasn't always been the case.

"Coming in this session there were some hot-button issues and what we found were people were willing to compromise and come up with good legislation," Raettig said. "The fighting freshmen, they came in and were very strong on the environment."

The report, the 2015 Maryland Senate and House Scorecard, ranked all 188 legislators using a similar method as Maryland Business for Responsive Government, but based the scores on their votes on environmental legislation.

Shoemaker, one of the three who scored a 67 on the environmental report, said that while Maryland Business for Responsive Government is truly a nonpartisan group, the league is extremely partisan.

"I was kind of scratching my head on what the rationale was on using those particular pieces of legislation to gauge one's environmental scorecard," he said. "I didn't put a lot in those score cards."

The league selected eight bills to rank legislators on and included a number of topics such as fracking, the repeal of the so-called rain tax, and Public Information Act reform.

Miller, who received a 25 percent ranking on the 2015 scorecard, said that "for the life of me, I can't figure that group out."

In 2012, the league was supportive of House Bill 987, which implemented what became known as the rain tax. However, the 2015 scorecard ranked legislators on whether they voted in favor of Senate Bill 863, which repealed that requirement.

"They wanted the rain tax, they ranked us on that and I got scoured for that," Miller said. "This year, all of a sudden it's OK to repeal it. From a consistency standpoint, I can't understand where they are coming from."

Raettig said they supported the rain tax because they thought it was a common-sense approach for counties to acquire funding necessary to pay for state-mandated stormwater remediation efforts. When it was implemented, there were several counties — including Carroll — that pushed back against the law, she said, so the league chose to work on a compromise.

"Counties were choosing not to implement it, so we worked with [county] leadership and the governor to craft a bill to make sure there was money to get things done," Raettig said.

Miller said one of the reasons he voted against the majority of the bills that the league ranked was due to their exorbitant costs.

"When you start looking at the price tags, it's not right to our taxpayers to put that burden on them," he said.

Vogt, who also received a 25 percent score, said he is supportive of environmental initiatives.

"I absolutely am for the environment, but what we can't do is over-regulate the living daylights out of everything so it limits everything," Vogt said.

Carey said the creation of legislation that will benefit businesses and create more jobs while at the same time being mindful of negative repercussions on the environment is certainly possible. The issue, Carey said, is environmentalists' inability or refusal to compromise.

"In other states, you see much more reasonableness," Carey said. "The problem in Maryland is the pro-environment groups are anti-business, and they don't take into account what it takes to run businesses. We need to see more people realizing we have serious issues economically in Maryland, and we can't keep throwing businesses under the bus and think we come out smelling like roses. We have to find a balance in these bills but we haven't had a long history in recent decades doing that in Maryland."

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Raettig said there is a common misunderstanding that what is good for the environment is not necessarily good for business. The league doesn't believe this and thinks many of the bills selected to rank legislators were effective at supporting economic development while simultaneously protecting the environment, she said.

"There is a tired trope that there is a divide between what's good for the environment and what's good for business," Raettig said. "That divide is not accurate. To some extent, the environment community is working to make sure people have jobs and are looking at the economic impact [of legislation]. I think that has been a transformation."

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Carroll legislators' scores:

Sen. Michael Hough, R-District 4: Maryland Business for Responsive Government Roll Call, 100 percent; 2015 Maryland Senate and House Scorecard, 25 percent

Del. Kathy Afzali, R-District 4: Roll Call, 100 percent; 2015 Scorecard, 67 percent

Del. Barrie Ciliberti, R-District 4: Roll Call, 86 percent; 2015 Scorecard, 50 percent

Del. David Vogt III, R-District 4: Roll Call, 100 percent; 2015 Scorecard, 25 percent

Sen. Justin Ready, R-District 5: Roll Call, 86 percent; 2015 Scorecard, 25 percent

Del. April Rose, R-District 5: Roll Call, 86 percent; 2015 Scorecard, 33 percent

Del. Susan Krebs, R-District 5: Roll Call, 100 percent; 2015 Scorecard, 67 percent

Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-District 5: Roll Call, 100 percent; 2015 Scorecard, 67 percent

Sen. Gail Bates, R-District 9: Roll Call, 100 percent; 2015 Scorecard, 38 percent

Del. Trent Kittleman, R-District 9A: Roll Call, 89 percent; 2015 Scorecard, 33 percent

Del. Warren Miller, R-District 9A: Roll Call, 100 percent; 2015 Scorecard, 25 percent

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