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Graham's sugar vote cuts group's rating of him

Florida Democratic Sen. Bob Graham's vote to continue propping up sugar prices earlier this year prevented him from a perfect rating by the League of Conservation Voters this year. Graham sided with the environmental group in 11 out of 12 votes in 1990, giving him a 92 points out of a possible 100. His 1989 score was 100.

Graham's decision to oppose a measure by Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J., ruined his perfect record, according to the League.

Bradley wanted to cut the 18 cents per pound price support by two cents. Environmentalists backed the measure because they argue that the government-imposed price supports encourage greater sugar production, damaging the fragile Everglades. The price support system doesn't cost taxpayers, though critics say it creates higher retail sugar prices.

Bradley's measure was opposed by sugar growers from Florida and other sugar-producing states. It was defeated 55-44.

Florida Republican Sen. Connie Mack also sided with the sugar industry, contributing to a low League of Conservation score of 17 out of 100. That's down from the 30 points Mack scored in 1989. The first-term senator has won praise from environmentalists, however, by championing a permanent oil-drilling ban off the southwest coast of Florida.

The average score in the Senate was 49, a drop from the last few years, according to the group. A spokesman complained that the lawmakers had "forgotten about Earth Day." The lowest score in the Senate was zero, the highest 100.

The votes picked by the League included eight tests on the Clean Air Act.

Graham supported the amendments to strengthen the Clean Air Act in all cases. Mack voted for two strengthening amendments: enhancing state's rights to set tough standards for radioactive emissions from nuclear plants and increasing the federal government's power to force states to clean up the air.

Both Mack and Graham worked behind the scenes to allow Florida electricity companies to pour more pollutants into the air. That work was not tallied by the League, although environmentalists criticized it at the time. The lawmakers said the extra leeway they placed in the bill allows Florida's population to continue to grow, and avoids more costly electric bills for customers.

In a related development, Graham last week eliminated an amendment that would have allowed President Bush more authority in granting offshore oil and gas leases. The amendment was slipped into a Defense Authorization Bill by Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, who had argued Bush needed more leeway in light of the threat to oil resources in the Persian Gulf. Bush had previously decided to place southwest Florida off limits to drilling for a decade.

Graham gathered the signatures of 32 colleagues in support of removing the Murkowski provision.

Short takes

Republicans on the U.S. House Banking Committee may file legislation to prevent the country's only elected state bank regulator from collecting campaign money from the people he polices, committee officials say. The bill is aimed at Florida Comptroller Gerald Lewis, a Democrat whose performance during the downfall of Miami's CenTrust Bank outraged several key Republicans on the panel. Last week, the Miami Herald reported that Lewis accepted campaign money from directors at 16 of the 39 Florida financial institutions that failed since 1985. CenTrust affiliates have given money to Lewis in the past.

President Bush has nominated Florida GOP Sen. Connie Mack and Delaware Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden to be the Senate representatives to the United Nations. Mack said he would ask the United Nations to "place pressure on Fidel Castro to be accountable for human rights violations in Cuba." He also would promote free market policies in Eastern Europe and focus world opposition to Saddam Hussein. The nominations must be confirmed by the Senate.

_ Times Staff Writer David Dahl compiled this report.