Left undone: Lawmakers set goals
BRATTLEBORO -- Vermont's part-time Legislature packs a lot of business into four months.
But there always is unfinished business. With the 2014 session in the books, several Windham County legislators commented on issues that remain unresolved or initiatives that they believe did not go far enough:
-- Windham County Sen. Jeanette White, D-Putney:
"In general, I feel we did a lot of hard work. Of course we didn't do everything we wanted or should have, but there is very limited time," White said. "We began the legislative oversight of moving toward a single-payer health care system; began looking at the tax incentives provided and their rationale; took steps to ensure results-based budgeting; began looking at the governance structure we will need to promote our health-care reforms; and education financing and governance. These are all issues that require multi-year approaches."
-- Windham County Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Townshend:
"I was disappointed at our failure to address health care," Galbraith said. "I think the delay makes it unlikely that the vision contained in Act 48 -- of universal, publicly financed health care -- will come to pass. But I think we can make some progress next year."
Galbraith also continued to express concern that the state's new campaign-finance laws don't have enough teeth.
"We railed against corporate influence in political campaigns and then rejected an effort to ban direct corporate campaign contributions to candidates," he said. "We also declined to ban cheating (where wealthy individuals evade the limits by making contributions personally and from companies that they control) and allowed a five-fold increase in the amount corporations and individuals can contribute to political parties."
-- Rep. Mike Mrowicki, D-Putney:
"Looking ahead, in the big picture, we still have work to do on education funding formula as more and more schools see that holding the line on spending doesn't translate into lower tax rates," Mrowicki said. "Blaming local school boards for the challenges in education does nothing to address the real problems and, as we look to improve outcomes and control costs, I'll keep working to remind other legislators that lasting change rises up from grass-roots, not from top-down mandates."
Mrowicki also has concerns about campaign finance.
"We took a first step in this biennium, but recent Supreme Court decisions amplify there is still a long way to go to (keep) corporate contributions from having an inordinate influence on elections," he said.
-- Rep. Mollie Burke, P/D-Brattleboro:
"I feel acutely that we need to do a better job at cutting carbon emissions from the transportation sector," Burke said. "There are many steps being taken with state support, but given recent reports and predictions, we must do better and set an example for other states."
She added that "the mission of the (House) Transportation Committee now officially includes the responsibility to consider the impact of carbon emissions in setting transportation priorities."
-- Rep. David Deen, D-Westminster:
Deen wants a dam-safety bill "that would create an inventory of existing dams throughout Vermont that does not now exist and have dam owners pay for the inspection of their own dams as opposed to those costs being met by all the taxpayers of Vermont."
Deen also is hoping for "cooperation next year from the administration to secure dedicated sources of funding to clean up the rivers of Vermont by assisting farmers with the costs associated with better managing their farms for water quality; being able to offer more resources to help towns clean up storm water discharges; and assisting the state and towns to meet our existing best management practices for road construction and maintenance."
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.
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