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Political notes: New grades on climate votes for legislators, lobbying news and personnel moves

A tree blooms near the Maryland State House in Annapolis. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Every year, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters releases a scorecard grading each lawmaker for their votes on a series of environmental and climate bills in the most recent General Assembly session.

But in a sense, the scorecard also measures the state’s collective progress in addressing climate change and other environmental challenges. And based on the 2023 evaluation, which was released this week, the state is making a lot of progress.

That’s largely due to the Democratic supermajorities in the House and Senate, whose leaders are uniformly committed to environmental causes. But it also reflects a new administration in Annapolis, led by Gov. Wes Moore (D), who has made fighting climate change and promoting clean energy a major priority.

“Maryland’s journey to a more sustainable future has seen significant momentum this year,” said Maryland LCV Executive Director Kim Coble. “From the emphasis on cleaner energy sources to groundbreaking initiatives like the Clean Trucks Act, our vision for a cleaner, more equitable Maryland is becoming a reality.”

The green group evaluated the legislature’s environmental performance in four broad categories: Climate and Energy Policy, where the General Assembly earned a collective B+ grade; Environmental Justice (a B grade); Transportation (A); and Land and Conservation (A).

The LCV used the disposition of 20 bills in the 2023 session to make its report, and Democrats, to put it mildly, scored spectacularly. In the Senate, all but one Democrat racked up a perfect 100% score. The outlier was Sen. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City), whose score was 78%.

Republicans also generally performed better than in recent report cards. Sens. William Folden of Frederick and Mike McKay of Allegany had the highest scores among Republicans in the upper chamber: 70%. Sens. Bryan Simonaire (R-Anne Arundel) and Chris West (R-Baltimore County) were next with 60% scores.

The lowest scoring Republican senator was Paul Corderman of Washington County. He got a 20% rating.

In the House, all Democrats but one got perfect 100% scores. The exception was Del. Chao Wu (D-Howard), whose score was 90%.

The highest scoring Republican in the House was Del. Carl Anderton of the Lower Shore, who racked up a 70% showing. Del. Kevin Hornberger of Cecil was next at 44%. But four House Republicans got zeroes: Dels. Lauren Arikan of Harford, Mark Fisher of Calvert, Robin Grammer of Baltimore County and Nino Mangione of Baltimore County.

With so many lawmakers scoring so highly, LCV in this year’s report card called out a dozen members of the legislature for special recognition, tabbing them as “Green Champions.” They were: Sens. Malcolm Augustine (D-Prince George’s), Ben Brooks (D-Baltimore County), Sarah Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel), Katie Fry Hester (D-Howard), Clarence Lam (D-Howard), Karen Lewis Young (D-Frederick) and Jim Rosapepe (D-Prince George’s), and Dels. Lorig Charkoudian (D-Montgomery), Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore City), Terri Hill (D-Howard), Sara Love (D-Montgomery) and Lily Qi (D-Montgomery).

These lawmakers, Coble said, “are symbolic of the dedication needed to build a more resilient future for all residents.”

As the Annapolis lobbying world turns

Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chair Will Smith (D-Montgomery) is losing his longtime top aide, Luke Pinton.

Pinton is set to become the newest member of the Government Relations Practice Group at the Baltimore and Annapolis law and lobbying firm, Funk & Bolton, P.A. Pinton has spent almost a decade staffing senior members of the Maryland Senate, including serving as a legislative aide to now-U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D). He has been with Smith for about eight years.

“Luke has been an invaluable counselor over the years and provided me with sage advice on matters of policy, legislative strategy, and the law,” Smith said. “I relied heavily on Luke’s advice in my role as chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee; he made me a better chairman and a better senator.”

Ren Tundermann, Funk & Bolton’s managing shareholder, said, “Luke will be an invaluable member of our team. His talent and energy represent the very best of policy in action.”

Rifkin adds national lobbying

Rifkin Weiner Livingston will announce Thursday it is adding a national practice to it’s state lobbying and law firm.

As part of the move, Camille Fesche and Brad Rifkin will leave their current positions as co-chairs of the firm’s government relations firm. They’ll join Stuart Cherry, an attorney, in co-chairing the firm’s national practice group that will work on issues at the federal level as well as expand legal services to other states.

“We’ve seen our practice grow substantially as the firm has addressed a varied array of national matters – from complex multi-state litigation to national false claims actions to matters of corporate governance and, of course federal, state and local government and administrative actions,” Brad Rifkin said. “With the establishment of the National Practice Development Group, RWL is focusing those efforts to provide our clients with a national platform to complement our state practice areas.”

As part of the move, the firm will name Obie Chinemere and Matt Bohle as the new co-chairs of the state government relations division.

Additionally, the firm will name Jamie E. Katz chair of the firm’s Business and Transactions Group and Barry L. Gogel co-chair of the firm’s state contracting, procurement and bid protests group. Michael A. Miller will be named vice chair of the Procurement Group.


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Political notes: New grades on climate votes for legislators, lobbying news and personnel moves