Davis representatives get high grades – Consumer group hopes to inform voters with grades
by ANA QUIROZ , California Aggie
Consumers in Davis can rest a little easier knowing their representatives have them in mind.
The Consumer Federation of California gave Senator Lois Wolk, Fifth District, a 100 percent on the 2009 Interim scorecard for State Lawmakers, while Representative Mariko Yamada, Eighth District, earned the equivalent of 80 percent on her scorecard.
Scores are based on key bills the CFC considers important. The interim scorecard provides a preview of how legislators have voted thus far throughout the session. The year’s final scorecard is released shortly after Congress adjourns for the year.
Both Wolk and Yamada said they were proud of their voting records.
"It is a scorecard, not a list of achievements," Wolk said.
Wolk is among nine other senators, all Democrats, to receive a 100 percent, including Mark DeSaulnier, Christine Kehoe, Mark Leno, Carol Liu, Alan Lowenthal, Fran Pavley, Darrell Steinberg and Pat Wiggins.
Yamada said her background as a social worker often has her rooting for the underdog.
"I am proud of my background in consumer rights," Yamada said. "My core ethics have me working for those most vulnerable."
The CFC aims to protect the rights of consumers. Founded in 1960, the CFC is a non-profit organization that stresses placement of consumer protection before the profit of corporations and businesses. Some of their recent issues include protecting consumer financial privacy, enabling patients to sue HMO’s for denial of care, creating cell phone users’ rights and strengthening food safety laws.
The scorecard can provide crucial information to voters, said CFC Executive Director Richard Holober.
"The CFC is the only consumer-focused organization that provides such a scorecard on a consistent basis," he said. "Voters can look at how their lawmaker is voting on a range of consumer issues."
The scorecards have other benefits as well.
"Many bills are introduced in the legislature each year, but very few reach the mainstream news media. Releasing scorecards helps to draw attention to bills that might not otherwise get much press," said Kristen Vicedomini, research director for Project Vote Smart, a non-partisan group comprised mainly of volunteers.
The CFC scorecard can keep legislators mindful of their voting record when voting on numerous bills in a short period of time.
"The pace becomes frenzied," says Holober. "Legislators begin voting on bills by the dozen, thus the scorecard is designed to let the public and the legislatures see how they are voting."
The scorecard stresses accountability. Vicedomini says that voters keep an eye on those who represent them in the government throughout the year, not just on Election Day.
"Scorecards help to reinforce the idea that the actions of our representatives need to be watched and evaluated," Vicedomini said.
Because of its strong consumer stance, the CFC has often faced accusations of being "anti-business."
To these accusations, Holober says that regardless of a position on business, consumer protection is a priority.
"Businesses have to be kept honest," said Holober. "Anti-consumer tactics make is harder for ethical business to stay in business."
With the end of the legislative year soon approaching, Yamada said she is looking forward to seeing her record as a whole.
Currently, Yamada is working on several bills, some dealing with consumer rights, notably, AB 647, which seeks to make vehicle registration information available to the public.
Wolk has a long list of achievements under her belt. She has been a long-time champion for the protection of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, one of the few inverted river deltas in the world. She serves as the chair of the Select Committees on Delta Stewardship and Sustainability, and states among her work, the protection of the Delta is important.
"I want to see the Delta survive," says Wolk.
A few of her other projects include attaining reverse mortgage to help seniors, budget reform to prevent unnecessary cuts in funding and legislature to help protect California parks.