Legislative Report 1/15/2015 - Peculiar Beginnings

The 2015 legislative session began with a lot of drama. Since none of the gubernatorial candidates got at least 50% of the total votes cast, the Vermont Constitution required the legislature to elect the governor by Australian ballot from the top three vote recipients, namely Peter Shumlin, Scott Milne and Dan Feliciano. TV ads ran for weeks before the session urging legislators to vote for Scott Milne, and I received about 20 emails and phone calls urging me to do so.

However, since Peter Shumlin received the most votes of the three, as well as a solid majority of the votes in my district, I cast my vote for him. I explained my decision at length here.
Governor Shumlin's announcement in December that the financial analysis of the planned “single-payer” health care system determined that it would not be economically feasible at this time caught its supporters both in and outside the legislature by surprise. This disappointment led to a very disruptive demonstration by an advocacy group during the inauguration ceremony on the second day of the session. As a supporter who voted for the universal health care plan, I have always felt that the analysis had to be well-founded and feasible before we could proceed with it. While I am disappointed that the analysis did not support the state's ability to implement the plan as envisioned within the time frame we hoped, I was also disappointed at the lack of respect shown by the demonstrators for the very people they want to support their cause.
Health care is like a maze, and if you're familiar with mazes, there can be dead ends sometimes. The trick is not to give up, but to backtrack and see what other paths might be available. I think that although the analysis took longer than expected, the Green Mountain Care Board took the necessary time to make sure they had the best data available. Governor Shumlin has shown courage, in my opinion, to swallow his pride and admit that his premier program is not realistic in today's economic climate with the data available. This does not mean that we are giving up on providing coverage to all Vermonters. We just have to figure out how to do it better. And that means doing better than our experience with Vermont Health Connect.

The new biennium is also a time when committee assignments are made. This year Speaker Shap Smith really shuffled the deck. A large percentage of returning members found themselves on new committees. While I was retained on the Natural Resources & Energy Committee where I've served for the last four years, our 11 member committee has 7 new members including 4 freshman legislators. Since a large part of Governor Shumlin's inaugural speech focused on renewable energy policy, we will be looking forward to some interesting and productive work again, which will be the focus of future articles. Our first couple of weeks will involve bringing new members up to speed on terminology, scope, process, and relevant government agencies and non-government organizations.

Besides his focus on energy, green jobs and climate change in his inaugural speech, Governor Shumlin also announced major goals to improve the water quality of Lake Champlain including assistance for farmers and municipalities to prevent runoff from fields and roadways. What he did not talk about was property taxes and health care. However, I expect him to include these issues when he delivers his budget address on January 15th.
I look forward to providing you with my perspective from the statehouse. I welcome your thoughts and questions and can be reached by phone (802-233-5238) or by email (myantachka.dfa@gmail.com).