Missouri legislators earned grades ranging from A to F in an assessment released Saturday by Missouri Votes Conservation based on votes they cast on environmental issues.
Among area legislators, 25th District Rep. Vicky Riback Wilson, D-Columbia, received an A, the best possible grade, while 21st District Rep. Steve Hobbs, R-Mexico, got an F. Meanwhile, 19th District State Sen. Ken Jacob, D-Columbia, got a B and was designated the 2003 Senate Conservation Champion.
In all, the Missouri House of Representatives voted in favor of conservation 45 percent of the time and the Senate 48 percent of the time, according to the MVC score card.
“There needs to be a mindset change in the Missouri legislature,” MVC Political Coordinator Josh Campbell said. “They show the Missouri voter population that it doesn’t have a conservation mindset.”
Each legislator’s score was based on the percentage of times he or she voted in line with the MVC’s position on conservation issues. The group reviewed votes on bills that sought to lift restrictions on gravel mining and confined-animal feeding operations, ease environmental regulation of businesses, create a commission to promote renewable energy, restrict the location of landfills, extend a mass transit tax in Kansas City and impose new requirements on the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Jacob said he was pleased to be recognized as the Conservation Champion. He won the award even though four other senators had better or comparable grades. One Missouri senator, 9th District State Sen. Mary Bland, D-Kansas City, voted pro-conservation 100 percent of the time, compared with Jacob’s 75 percent.
The award is given to the most enthusiastic, effective and hard-working legislators, Campbell said, not to those with the highest voting percentages.
“The conservation community feels that Ken Jacob shows our true feelings, and we want to say thanks,” Campbell said. “He was the most effective friend of the conservation community, and he showed it in the last part of the session.”
Jacob said he appreciated receiving the award.
“The environment has always been important to me,” Jacob said. “I’m receiving the award for killing a terrible environmental bill. The grade is not what I’m getting it for.”
The bill was , which exempts sand and gravel miners from obtaining permits if they are removing less than 5,000 tons annually, extends the waste tire fee and adds a greater regulatory burden on the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Campbell said Jacob’s candidacy for lieutenant governor had no influence over the decision to grant him the award because the selections were made three months ago.
Every area legislator except Hobbs voted in favor of MVC positions more than 45 percent of the time. Hobbs did so 11 percent of the time, ensuring his F.
“It concerns me because I hosted the Missouri Department of Conservation in Mexico for two days last week,” Hobbs said. “The MVC doesn’t really represent what the Missouri Department of Conservation does. They should look for input from the local community.”
Riback Wilson was the only area legislator to receive an A, voting in line with the MVC 89 percent of the time.
“I’m very pleased to have an A, but the important thing is we’re trying to do something to maintain our environment and waterways,” she said.
Elsewhere, 23rd District Rep. Jeff Harris and 24th District Rep. Chuck Graham, both Columbia Democrats, earned a B and a C, respectively.
Ninth District Rep. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, also earned a B.
“I care about conservation and will work with them (the MVC),” he said.
Harris was one of four House members to be named a Rising Star, a designation given to freshman lawmakers who the MVC says show substantial interest in promoting conservation issues.
“I consider myself a supporter of the environment,” Harris said. “I was pleased to be named a Rising Star.”
Missouri Votes Conservation is an organization dedicated to making conservation a priority for Missouri’s elected officials, political candidates and voters.