Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Environmental group says area lawmakers rate low

Inside Ohio's Capital

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State representatives from Southwest Ohio are a menace to the environment, according to one watchdog group.

The Ohio League of Conservation Voters recently put out a scorecard rating members of the General Assembly on their environmental records. Lawmakers who consistently supported bills the group believes would harm the environment were rapped with failing grades.

Ohio legislators scored badly as a whole, with an average grade of "D+" in the House and "C" in the Senate. House members from the southwest corner of the state rated especially low.

Eight out of 14 lawmakers got an "F."

"That accurately reflects how this current legislature is on environmental issues," said Bill DeMora, executive director of the group. "They have done a terrible job of conserving Ohio's natural resources."

One "failing" southwest delegate was skeptical of DeMora's methods. Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township, says the conservation league has twice endorsed him as a candidate. He says he's voted in agreement with the group five out of nine times this past year.

"Being with them on more than half the issues somehow rates an 'F,'" Seitz said. "It's their internal rating system. I don't understand it."

DeMora said some environmental issues were weighted more heavily than others. He said a lawmaker may agree with the group on a number of less meaningful issues without earning a passing grade.

Rep. Tyrone Yates, D-Cincinnati, was the only southwest delegate from either the House or Senate who got an "A."

"He represents a very urban area, and the environment is usually not the most important issue for that constituency," DeMora said. "He should be commended for his forward thinking."

LOBBYIST FINAN: When term limits put an end to Senate President Richard Finan's 30-year legislative career, the forceful Southwest Ohio leader said he was leaving, and he wasn't coming back.

"When it's done, it's done," he told us bluntly in December 2002.

He also spurned the idea of coming back to as a lobbyist.

"In my view, the president of the Senate has a higher calling. I think it would be unseemly," Finan said.

It seems you can't keep the man out of the capital. Finan is now a registered lobbyist representing Hamilton County, the Cincinnati Art Museum, Paramount's Kings Island and the city of Cleveland.

Finan said he decided to represent the county and the art museum because he felt he was the person who could offer them the most help and do the best job for them.

Like the legislature, he's in Columbus every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

"I found it very dull and boring to be retired," Finan said. "I did."

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