Chamber issues report card for legislators

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Georgia Chamber of Commerce issued its 2011 midterm legislative scorecard last week and the results were mixed for eight southwest Georgia state representatives and three state senators.

Of the eight area representatives graded, five -- Ed Rynders, R-Leesburg; Winfred Dukes, D-Albany; Carol Fullerton, D-Albany; Bob Hanner, R-Parrott; and Tony MacBrayer, R-Tifton -- were all given ratings of "unsatisfactory" by the state's largest business organization.

By contrast, Jay Powell, R-Camilla, was awarded an "A"; Jay Roberts, R-Ocilla, was given a "B"; and Gerald Green, R-Cuthbert, picked up a "C."

State senators John Crosby, R-Tifton, got a "B", George Hooks, D-Americus, earned a "C+" and Freddie Powell Sims was given an "N/A."

The scorecard includes midterm grades for state House and Senate members based upon their votes on legislation deemed important to economic growth and job creation. This is the first year the Chamber has included letter grades in this report.

During the 2011 legislative session, Chamber members identified 11 bills to include in the report. Legislators were assigned midterm grades of A, B, C, or U based on 11 Chamber bills on the scorecard in the House and 10 bills in the Senate.

To receive a grade, the legislator must have been present to vote for 50 percent of the total scorecard votes. If the legislator was not present for 50 percent of the votes, they received an 'N/A' grade.

Rynders, who missed two votes because of health issues, was slightly surprised by his grade.

"I have a record of being pro-business," Rynders said, "and if I am being judged because of missing two votes because of kidney stones, so be it."

Fullerton, like Rynders, also had a 67, which she found amusing considering the political disparity between the two legislators.

"Really, we both had 67s? That's kind of scary," Fullerton said laughing. "Many organizations throughout the state issue scorecards, which is their right. The Georgia Chamber, when an issue is important to them, sends notices informing us that this bill will be on their legislative scorecard -- it's sort of a threat.

"But there is more to a community than just businesses and I try my best to balance my votes by taking into consideration all groups and what is best for the community in regard to a given topic."

Of the 11 regional legislators, Powell was the highest rated, scoring a 91 on the Chamber's report card.

"I wouldn't attribute (the grade) to anything in particular," Powell said. "But I think my being a small businessman who has to make a payroll and me being associated with our local Chamber for more than 30 years has given me an appreciation of both.

"I know how important business and economic development are to our region."