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Natural Matters:

Grading State Legislators

Published January 12, 2021

Environmental Advocates Action scores the voting records every year of state legislators. Its 2020 scorecard considered 18 bills voted on in the Senate and 14 in the Assembly. Key votes included measures adding protections for smaller waterways and disposal of certain hazardous waste, among others. Phil Gambini, Investigative Post’s environmental and public health reporter, reviewed the voting records of the 17 state legislators who represent the eight counties of Western New York.


Grading WNY Lawmakers

Legislator Affiliation Score
Sen. Tim Kennedy D-Buffalo 100
Assembly Member Pat Burke D-West Seneca 100
Assembly Member Monica Wallace D-Cheektowaga 100
Assembly Member Karen McMahon D-Williamsville 100
Assembly Member Sean Ryan D-Buffalo 100
Assembly Member Crystal People-Stokes D-Buffalo 95
Assembly Member Joseph Giglio R-Olean 67
Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer R-Williamsville 58
Assembly Member Michael Norris R-Clarence 43
Assembly Member Angelo Morinello R-Niagara Falls 43
Assembly Member Andrew Goodell R-Jamestown 43
Assembly Member Steve Hawley R-Albion 43
Sen. George Borello R-Jamestown 38
Sen. Patrick Gallivan R-Elma 31
Assembly Member David DiPietro R-East Aurora 24
Sen. Robert Ortt R-Lockport 23
Sen. Chris Jacobs R-Buffalo INC*
Assembly Member Robin Schimminger D-Kenmore INC*
*A score of “INC,” or incomplete, was awarded to lawmakers who missed 20 percent or more of the votes evaluated.
Jacobs score in 2019 was 68.
Schimminger score in 2019 was 68.

Talking Points

  • Sen. Robert Ortt, a Republican representing portions of Niagara and Orleans counties, received the worst grade of the 208 state legislators evaluated. Assembly Member  David DiPietro, a Republican whose district includes East Aurora, Warsaw and Attica, tied with one other legislator for the second-worst score.
  • Ortt voted in favor of six of 18 Senate bills considered by Environmental Advocates. DiPietro voted for five of 14 Assembly bills. Among the bills they voted against were measures to increase regulatory protections for streams, limit the disposal of fracking waste, and prohibit utility shut-offs during the pandemic.  
  • The other eight Republican legislators from Western New York all scored well-below the state Legislature’s average of 86 (out of 100). 
  • However, Republican lawmakers elsewhere in the state were more supportive of the bills than those from Western New York. Local GOP legislators scored 41.3 vs 60 for Republican lawmakers elsewhere in the state.
  • Meanwhile, the seven local Democrats scored well-above the statewide average. In fact, five received a 100. The party largely voted in lockstep: just 18 of 138 Democrats statewide didn’t receive a perfect score.
  • Two local lawmakers received “incomplete,” grades for missing 20 percent or more of the scored votes. They were Republican Sen. Chris Jacobs, representing parts of Erie County from Grand Island to Angola, and Democratic Assembly Member Robin Schimminger, representing sections of Kenmore and the Tonawandas.

Podcast

Gambini interviews Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of Environmental Advocates NY, about its scorecard of state legislators.

Listen to Podcast