STATE LEGISLATORS REPRESENTING SEATTLE DID a good job voting for environmental and consumer protections last session, with one notable exception: Co-Speaker of the House Frank Chopp.

In report cards issued last week by the Washington Public Interest Research Group (WashPIRG)--a Ralph Nader-spawned environmental and consumer protection group--state legislators voted with consumers and environmentalists about 60 percent of the time. Chopp, who represents the 43rd District (Fremont, Wallingford, and Capitol Hill), scored a 56, getting the gong from progressives about four times out of nine.

The average score for the Seattle area's 21 state legislators was 86 percent. Chopp tied with Helen Sommers (Queen Anne) for last place. Senators Darlene Fairley (Northwest Seattle), Adam Kline (Southeast Seattle), Jeane Kohl-Welles (Queen Anne), and Pat Thibaudeau (Capitol Hill) all scored 100, as did representatives Dow Constantine (West Seattle), Phyllis Kenney (Northeast Seattle), and Jim McIntire (Northeast Seattle).

The grades were derived from votes on consumer rights, environmental protection, and campaign finance reform--nine votes for representatives and 11 for senators.

According to WashPIRG, Chopp was on the wrong side of four environmental votes, which helps to explain why this year's session was so discouraging for Washington greens. Chopp voted for:

Dirty Water. H.B. 2171 would have delayed cleanup of more than 600 polluted bodies of water statewide. The bill was blocked by Senate Majority Leader Sid Snyder (Pacific County).

Toxic Waste. H.B. 1448 would have kicked the Department of Natural Resources off the job of cleaning up contaminated sites. The bill was vetoed by Governor Gary Locke.

Trashing Salmon. H.B. 2091 was a logging plan proposed by timber companies and backed, unfortunately, by Governor Locke. The bill, which allows logging near streams with endangered salmon and gives the timber industry a 20 percent tax cut, passed, over loud protests from environmentalists.

Permits for Polluters. H.B. 1893 intended to speed the permit process for companies that discharge pollution into the environment. Chopp voted yes, but the bill did not pass.

Jon Stier, the WashPIRG attorney who wrote the report, calls Chopp's performance "surprising and disappointing. It doesn't look to me like his votes were in line with the views of his constituents." Chopp, the first Speaker of the House from Seattle since 1962, ran unopposed in last November's election.

Stier says of Chopp, "He was accessible to us, he always listened to us, but when the rubber hit the road the old Frank Chopp just wasn't there for us, or for the public interest."

In fairness to Chopp, he was in a difficult position--a shotgun wedding of sorts--as Co-Speaker of an evenly divided house. Every piece of legislation had to be approved by both him and Co-Speaker Clyde Ballard, a Republican from Eastern Washington. Chopp also had to be super-sensitive about his relationships with his committee chairs, and of course, the governor.

Still, even Chopp is sheepish about last session. "I need to do a better job, and the House Democrats need to do a better job, on environmental issues."

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