Lawmakers who supported slow-growth bills in Richmond this year got poor marks from the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce yesterday in the group's first-ever attempt to rate Northern Virginia politicians by the votes they cast.
Thirty-three legislators were scored on 22 separate votes covering the issues of growth, taxes, transportation, health care and technology. And Democrats as well as Republicans got plaudits for their voting records. Generally, those who favored more road construction, more support for technology companies, overhauling taxes, fewer controls on sprawl and fewer health care regulations fared best.
"We told our legislators that we intended to hold them accountable and make our members aware of their votes," said Todd Stottlemyer, president of the group, which represents businesses in Northern Virginia.
When the votes were tallied and the calculations complete, state Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple (D-Arlington) was the least business-friendly legislator -- voting the Chamber of Commerce position 43 percent of the time. She voted for growth controls on each of the four occasions the issue came up.
But on the other side of the aisle, Republican state Del. Michele B. McQuigg of Prince William got one of the lowest GOP effectiveness ratings. Her support of growth control measures, popular in her fast-growing county, meant that she voted the chamber position only 71 percent of the time.
"I was good on business until we got to growth," McQuigg said. "The chamber had certain legislative priorities, some of which bene fit the citizens of [my] 51st district and some I don't agree with."
On the high end of the scale, five Republicans were honored last night by the chamber for agreeing with the business group 100 percent of the time.
State Dels. David B. Albo, Jeannemarie Devolites, Roger J. McClure, James K. O'Brien Jr. and John H. Rust Jr., all of Fairfax, were named "Chamber Champions" for their "perfect" records. Six others were honored for perfect scores on a smaller number of priority issues. The "Friends of Business" were Fairfax Sens. Warren Barry (R) and Richard L. Saslaw (D), and Fairfax Dels. Vincent Callahan Jr. (R), Robert D. Hull (D), and Linda T. "Toddy" Puller (D) as well as Del. Brian J. Moran (D-Alexandria).
"I don't think you have to vote with anyone 100 percent of the time," Rust said. "But supporting business is part of what I take as a serious task. To that extent, I'm very happy to be recognized."
Some Democrats said a 100 percent chamber-friendly voting record could be a liability in November's general election. Democrat Kenneth R. Plum, who represents Reston, said many voters will see the chamber awards as an endorsement of rapid growth and a reason to vote the winners out of office.
"I think they're going to have to answer for it," Plum said. "I don't believe that's an instance where you want to make 100 percent."
GOP members pointed out that some Democrats sided with the chamber on growth issues, notably Hull, who cast five votes favoring growth that were in lock-step with the chamber's position. And they said not all members serve on committees that took up those issues, giving them a chance to vote.
"I only had the opportunity to vote on one growth bill," Devolites, a member of the 100-percent club, said. Democrats "are trying to create an issue."