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Tuesday, July 4, 2000

Sierra Club incorrectly
tallies lawmakers’ votes

By Richard Borreca


The Hawaii Sierra Club is listing state Rep. Brian Schatz as the top legislator in defense of the environment, while calling Sen. Jan Yagi Buen the worst.

The list, unveiled yesterday, was compiled by comparing legislators' votes on 12 environment-related bills during the 1999-2000 Legislature. But two of the 12 vote tallies were incorrect, listing Buen and Republican Sen. Sam Slom as abstaining from voting to ban shark finning in Hawaii.

The two actually had voted to ban boats from landing catches of shark fins in Hawaii.

Buen and Slom also voted in favor of a bill that originally would have allowed a portion of hotel room taxes to be used for environmental protection and was later changed to using the money to plan for land management and environmental protection. The Sierra Club incorrectly listed the pair as opposing the bill, while they actually supported the final version of the bill.

Jeff Mikulina, director of the Sierra Club, apologized for the error about the shark-fin bill, but said Buen and Slom had voted against an earlier version.

He described the second erroneous vote tally as "more of a rough cut" because the bill he favored was changed. Buen and Slom voted against the version the Sierra Club director favored.

Mikulina explained yesterday that he had drawn up a list of bills that he considered important to preserve Hawaii's environment, then tracked how legislators voted on the list. The local Sierra Club board of directors then approved the list, Mikulina said.

The scorecard is being sent to Sierra Club members. Mikulina had described the report as "an objective measure of a legislator's environmental leanings." After the mistakes were pointed out, Mikulina said he would "rather have Les Ihara and Brian Schatz protecting the environment rather then Jan Buen and Sam Slom."

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