The Nevada Conservation League has released its 2019 Conservation Scorecard. The annual report scores the governor and legislators on their work through a conservation lens. In 2019, for the first time, nearly two-thirds of legislators received a perfect score of 100 percent, which according to organizers makes the 80th Session of the Nevada State Legislature the most pro-conservation legislature since the scorecard launched. Just ahead, we chat with Andy Maggi, executive director of the Nevada Conservation League about the scorecard and more on this edition of the Wild Hare podcast.
See music credits at the end of the article.
The 2019 Legislature passed legislation funding electric school buses and school gardens. Lawmakers officially opposed the transfer of plutonium to Nevada and the proposed military expansions into public land in northern and southern parts of the state. The state and nation’s first female majority legislature passed enhanced water laws and a solar access program for low-income Nevadans. Governor Sisolak signed a bill that will raise the state Renewable Portfolio Standard to 50 percent by 2030. Andy Maggi is pleased with the 2019 scorecard grades.
“From the governor to the legislature, Nevada’s leadership in Carson City took on conservation issues at a level that we have not always seen. And, you know, it really led to some really important victories for the Conservation community this legislative session.”
For the 2019 Scorecard the League considered 18 pieces of legislation. Including bills, resolutions, joint resolutions, and concurrent resolutions, 1,179 pieces of legislation were variously considered in both houses of the Nevada State Legislature in 2019. Simply put, Maggi said they chose the legislation related to conservation.
“Some of those bills are bills that we started the legislative session saying were priorities. Some of those bills were ideas that legislators had throughout the legislative session. And some of those bills are bills, that just sort of came up responding to particular needs or issues as they arose.
“So we take a look at all those bills and then sort of say, which of these bills kind of tell the important narrative of the legislative session, which bills were contentious, which bills had people voting against them, which bills were priorities, and we sort of take that list of all the conservation bills that pass and select the ones that tell the best, tell the most tell the most about what happened in the legislative session.
“This year, we had 18 bills on everything from climate and clean energy to protecting our public lands, protecting water, and a handful of other issues. For the first time ever, we actually scored a bill that looks to make sure that we have inclusive democracy because you know, a healthy environment needs a healthy democracy.”
Forty-one out of 63 legislators, 13 Senators and 28 Assembly members, received a perfect score of 100 percent.
Assembly Democrats received a 99.8 percent rating while Assembly Republicans earned an average score of 61.1 percent.
Senate Democrats received a grade of 100 percent while Senate Republicans averaged 66.3 percent.
Only four legislators earned a grade below 50 percent, all Republicans: Senator Ira Hansen, Assemblyman Chris Edwards, Assemblyman John Ellison, and Assemblywoman Robin Titus. Maggi said there were strong conservation votes cast on both sides of the aisle.
“By and large, this legislative session scores were higher than they’ve been historically across the board. We had Republican legislators score in the 70s and the 80s. When you look at our Honor Roll in particular, not only are we supporting, not only are we highlighting the work of clean energy champions like Chris Brooks and Danielle Monroe-Moreno, conservation champions like Sarah Peters and Howard Watts, but we’re also highlighting the work of Republican legislators like Ben Kieckhefer and Tom Roberts.”
Every one of the lawmakers Maggi mentioned as a clean energy or conservation standout also accepted campaign contributions from the mining industry in 2018, an industry considered by environmentalists as the leading polluter in the state. All but two currently seated lawmakers, excluding appointees, have taken campaign contributions from the mining industry.
Worth noting, the Nevada Conservation League political action committees outspent the mining industry by several factors during the 2018 election cycle.
The Nevada Conservation League Political Action Committee and the Nevada Conservation League Ballot Initiative Political Action Committee collectively funneled nearly $5 million into Nevada politics in 2018. With the exception of a couple Republican candidates, the recipients were Democratic candidates and Ballot Question 6, a Tom Steyer funded referendum that would have required two votes of the people to change the state constitution to mandate a Renewable Portfolio Standard of 50 percent by 2030. The measure passed by a wide margin in 2018 but has been rendered moot by the passage of SB358 during the last legislative session, a measure that sets the same renewable energy goal. The Nevada Conservation League Ballot Initiative Political Action Committee contributed $385,000.00 to the yes on 6 effort.
The Nevada Conservation League Ballot Initiative PAC was funded by three large donors. Specifically, the Tom Steyer-backed Nevadans for a Clean Energy Future gave $242,092.54 to the Nevada Conservation League Ballot Initiative PAC. The San Francisco-based Green Tech Action Fund donated $200,000.00 to the PAC. The Nevada Conservation League itself gave the PAC $301,024.45.
Correction: Nevada Capital News incorrectly reported that Green Tech Action Fund has 10 board members with an average compensation of $166,748.40. There are 4 board members and none of them are compensated. See the 2017 tax filing here.
The Nevada Conservation League Political Action Committee has been in existence since 2014 according to Nevada Secretary of State records. In 2018, the PAC received $4,055,000.00 in funding from ten sources.
The League of Conservation Voters Political Engagement Fund or LCV Political Engagement Fund has been an active “Contributor” in Nevada since 2012. In 2018, this expression of the League of Conservation Voters donated a total of $3,290,000.00 to the Nevada Conservation League Political Action Committee in 2018.
Citizens For Justice donated $10,000.00 to the Nevada Conservation League PAC. The group has a Carson City address but is otherwise anonymous and made $45,500.00 in campaign contributions in 2018. Recipients included both Democrats and Republicans.
America Votes donated $200,000.00 to the Nevada Conservation League Political Action Committee. The group bills itself as “The coordination hub of the Progressive community.” According to America Votes 2016 990 tax filing, they received $9,503,601.00 in contributions from undisclosed sources.
The Democratic Governors Association donated $200,000.00 to the Nevada Conservation League Political Action Committee.
Richard Schneider of Blue Diamond, Nevada, donated $151,000.00.
State Victory Action donated $100,000.00 to the Nevada Conservation League Political Action Committee. George Soros contributed $450,000.00 to State Victory Action. Stephen G Schuler, a noted stock trader, donated $55,000.00.
The Nevada Conservation League nonprofit donated $83,500.00 to the Nevada Conservation League Political Action Committee.
The Nevada Conservation League Ballot Initiative PAC donated $13,000.00 to the Nevada Conservation League Political Action Committee.
“Carlton for Assembly” donated $5,000.00. Maggie Carlton is a Democrat who was first elected to the Nevada State Senate in 1998. She served as a senator until elected to the Assembly in 2010. Carlton continues to represent District 14 in Clark County.
“Frierson for Assembly” donated $2,500.00. Las Vegas Democrat Jason Frierson is the Speaker of the Nevada State Assembly.
I asked Andy Maggi about the influence of money and lobbying on legislative outcomes and how it might be reflected in the scorecard. He said his organization does a thorough post-session evaluation of results, and for the first time in scorecard history, has included a 2019 Legislation Graveyard.
“After every legislative session we definitely take an assessment to say which one of our priorities didn’t get as far as we wanted to and what priorities do we need to look at and consider in the future. That’s always part of this process. This year we have for the first time ever a bill graveyard in our scorecard, which explicitly looks at some of those things that didn’t get as far as we wanted them to, but also some things that didn’t happen that we would have liked to happen. We always take those things into consideration.
“When you look at the scorecard, when you look at what happened in the legislative session, when you look at what’s happening outside of the legislative session from the governor to legislators, and I’ll even say looking down all the way to local elected officials, Nevadans right now are being very well served by multiple leaders across the state that want to take action on climate change, want to bring a clean energy future to Nevada, want to protect our public lands, because our families recreate there and that’s creating an economic opportunity in the state with the outdoor recreation economy, they know that water is a scarce and limited resource in Nevada, and they want to make sure that we have clean drinking water, but that that water is actually there for us when we need it. So I think when you look at the scorecard, when you look at the session, and when you look at the work that’s being done, there is always more that needs to happen right there. There is always more work that needs to be done. But I think right now we have partners in the legislature, in the governor’s office that want to stand alongside us and help get those things done.”
Among the 18 bills considered for this year’s scorecard is a bill that enables same-day voter registration, implements an automatic voter registration law, and expands both early and absentee voting. Maggi said a healthy, inclusive democracy is good for the environment.
“I think Nevadans when you talk to them know that climate change is a real thing and it’s impacting our state. They’re feeling the impacts every day across every community in the state. They know that clean energy and outdoor recreation are huge economic drivers. Nevadans use our public land for recreation more than any other group of people.
“So when you look at Nevadans across the board, they support conservation. They support clean air, clean water, protecting our public lands and our community’s health. So we are seeing these legislative leaders, we are seeing the legislators, we’re seeing the governor, I think responding to that. Not only are they committed to it personally, but they know Nevadans care about this.
“Looking at a healthy environment and meeting a healthy democracy, that’s not just about making sure that the legislature represents the will of the people that’s making sure that every Nevada is included in that democratic process.”
A reasonable lesson from the 2018 elections for the Nevada Conservation League is that spending $5 million on favored candidates and causes helps elect and pass those candidates and referenda. What’s the takeaway from the 2019 session for Maggi and the League?
“Nevadans have been organizing around these issues for years. Nevadans have been making it known that they care about our clean energy future, our climate future. They care about our public lands for years now, and I think as long as Nevadans keep voicing that … I think one of the big stories why you have a scorecard that is as successful as it is, over 25,000 Nevadans took action during this legislative session to make sure that their legislators know that these issues are important and that they care about them and that these are bills that they should be supporting. So as long as that continues and as long as we keep electing the type of leaders who also personally prioritize those conservation issues and values, the work that needs to be done is work that can be done, but we need to keep doing it together.”
A special thanks to the Pro Publica Nonprofit Explorer.
Music credits in order of appearance as reported through the Public Radio Exchange:
Album: Safe in the Steep Cliffs
Label: Loci Records
Song: Afterwards @ The Bar
Album: The Magic Dragon
Label: Guidance Recordings
Song: Summer Lightning
Album: The Magic Dragon
Label: Guidance Recordings
Song: The Rose Room
Album: The Magic Dragon
Label: Guidance Recordings
Song: Look Up (Album Version)
Artist: Zero 7
Album: When It Falls (USA Version)
Label: New State Music