Report Cards for Legislators

Solly Chase (left) and Aislyn Jewett (right) are Field Representatives from western Massachusetts, shown here testifying to the committee where our target legislation is stuck. They, along with MA Fellow Benny Smith, have spearheaded a very creative way to share their hours of research on Massachusetts' most powerful decision-makers. 


Let’s face it: the state legislature is confusing. Whether pushing bills through a labyrinth of committees or building relationship with decision-makers, it's hard to know where our legislators stand on climate solutions. That’s why Our Climate's Massachusetts leaders are sharing what we have learned from hours of research and legislator meetings in a format that young people know all too well: report cards.

We want fellow climate activists to know exactly which legislators have been pushing for equitable climate policy alongside youth, which need to grow in order to become true climate champions. So the reports come in the form of a straightforward, old-school, A-to-F scale with on categories for each of the Massachusetts Youth Climate Coalition’s (MYCC) policy priorities

We want to hold our legislators accountable in a grounded 3-dimensional, results-oriented way to show them that we’re invested and attentive to what they do. We also very intentionally spell out how they can improve transparent support for equitable climate policy in the “Comments” and “Next best steps” sections. So these are just Climate Progress Reports (CPRs). Legislators still have a few months to connect with us and improve your grade before we release your final report cards for the session.

We are focusing on legislators who have the most power over important climate bills, especially key members of House leadership and the committee where much of our legislation is stuck--Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy or TUE. We’ll continue to do so until all these key players are graded.

Our Climate is one of many groups of passionate, intelligent, outspoken youth climate activists in Massachusetts, and we care about promoting bold and equitable legislation that represents the values of all these organizations. As stated in the MYCC purpose statement, the youth movement is “united in centering climate and environmental justice in our respective missions and recognize that climate justice is inextricably linked to the struggles for social, racial, economic, gender, and LGBTQ+ justice.”

Our specific requirements for legislation generally fall into three categories:

  1. Science-based, precisely vetted and enforced emissions limits
  2. Strong, specific corporate polluter fees to equitably fund a just transition
  3. Solidarity with EJ and Labor communities to combat environmental racism and classism

For each category, we assessed legislators’ sponsorship and advocacy for the current bills that get closest to our requirements. A representative who has taken no action on a bill might receive a C or D in that category, whereas another representative who cosponsored might get a B and legislators who have talked to leadership about moving a bill through committee could score an A. 

What bills get closest to our requirements? The 100% Renewables bill H.2836/S.1958 has the most ambitious set of emissions limits, committing us to eliminating nonrenewable energy completely by 2045. H.2810, the corporate polluter fees and rebate bill represents the most equitable way to fund green infrastructure without the price landing on vulnerable populations. Lastly, we prioritize any legislation which uplifts and protects underprivileged communities who are most affected by climate change. While there are many pieces of Environmental Justice (EJ) legislation we support, the most comprehensive bill to protect these communities is the EJ bill H.4264/S.453/S.464. In our comments, you will see us constantly refer to how our legislators have (or have not) prioritized these critical bills.

Though this legislation is critical, we also recognize that no bill is perfect and we’ll need to design and fight for even stronger legislation in the future.  For that, we must have clear, honest conversations with the people who are writing, sponsoring and voting on these bills. That’s why we included a distinct grade for transparent youth support. Lawmakers must meet with youth groups, stand for roll call on climate legislation, and commit to signing the Voters Deserve to Know pledge in order to score a perfect ‘A+.’ (Shout out to our allies at Act on Mass and Sunrise Boston’s Which Side Are You On campaign for unprecedented efforts to hold legislators accountable for transparency!) 

We hope that these report cards can function just like the ones we get from our teachers—they help us see how we’re doing in and where we can improve, and we bring them home to our parents and teachers so they can support us and give us a nudge in the right direction. Similarly, we hope these reports will help give legislators a sense of how they can improve and that they will continue to communicate with us to grow as climate champions. We hope the Climate Progress Reports will be a reminder to our leaders that this is our future and bold climate action can’t wait.

 

The Massachusetts Team is currently sharing the progress reports on our new Instagram (@ourclimatema) and will be compiling them all in a future post. Stay tuned. 


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