How to Diagram

Roll Call GraphicYour representatives in Montpelier are there to, as the name suggests, represent you in the capitol. Do your representatives’ votes represent how you would vote if you were in their place?

This collection of legislator roll call vote profiles is brought to you as an educational service by the Ethan Allen Institute (EAI).

In 2013-14, the Vermont State House of Representatives held over 160 roll call votes on a wide variety of issues. The Senate held over eighty. Some of those votes were for show (of the “who likes puppies?” variety), some were obscure and confusing, some were repetitive (there were several roll call votes on the Gas Tax Increase, for example, and for the sake of simplicity we chose one to feature just one), some were important and illuminating.

Opinions will vary on which votes fall into each category. The  votes presented here were selected because they are important based on the potential impact the legislation could or will, depending upon final passage, have on the lives of the citizens of Vermont. They are illuminating in the sense that they allow the citizen a clear picture of the direction his or her legislator is driving the state. And, finally, they were chosen because they fall within EAI’s free market, economic oriented mission as they pertain to individual liberty, limited government and the founding principles of our great nation.

2013-2014 Legislative Session

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Addison County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Bennington County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Caledonia County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Chittenden County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Essex-Orleans County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Franklin-Grand Isle County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Lamoille County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Orange County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Rutland County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Washington County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Windham County

13-14 Roll Call Profiles – Windsor County


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Posted by John McClaughry

                One of the features speakers at Bill McKibben’s “Peoples Climate Mobilization” rally in Middlebury last week was Middlebury physics professor Richard Wolfson. He presented the UN IPCC’s  recent climate change report  as the gospel truth. It offered a parade of horrible outcomes stemming from people emitting carbon dioxide.

The further the IPCC’s computer programs project global temperature increase, the less those rigged projections correspond to the actual measured temperatures. That didn’t deter Wolfson, who recited the litany of melting sea ice, acidifying oceans, a 3.6 degree Fahrenheit global temperature rise over some unspecified number of future decades, and so on. The strange thing is that the more the computer projections fail, the more IPCC declares it is more likely that they were correct. What’s wrong with this picture?

But I will give Wolfson some credit. He told the alarmist crowd that it’s important not to be alarmists. Good luck with that! He said there’s no firm evidence linking extreme weather to human activities, and it’s not clear that the Antarctic ice sheet is actually losing mass. He blames the current hiatus in temperature rise on the changing energy output of the sun.

“Much of what we know is rock solid,” Wolfson said. But what is not rock solid, or even mush solid, is the climate’s sensitivity to a doubling of carbon dioxide. When he comes up with experimental data to determine that, he’ll be a hero.

- John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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Posted by Rob Roper

Vermont Digger reported on a controversial solar energy project that is being proposedIMG_0743 for New Haven, Vermont. Local residents are concerned that the 40 acre, 5 megawatt installation will be unsightly (understatement), and that the aesthetic impact on the countryside will devalue nearby properties.

Get used to this, folks.

As Vermont attempts to reach its goal of having 90% of our energy, including  what we use for transportation and home heating, come from local, renewable sources by 2050, huge swaths of Vermont’s signature landscape will have to be industrially developed for the manufacturing of electricity.

Meredith Angwin of the Energy Education Project (sponsored by the Ethan Allen Institute) estimated that to generate the 15,000 to 18,000 GWh Vermont would need to meet the 2050 goal, an area roughly one quarter the size of the Green Mountain National Forest would have to be covered with solar panels.

The New Havens have only just begun.

This solar plant, which would be one of the largest in Vermont, would use 40 acres of pasture and farmland to produce just 5 megawatts of electricity (if the sun shines all the time, which it doesn’t).  Vermont Yankee, on the other hand, can produce 650 megawatts of power on a 148-acre facility (of which the actual plant represents a fraction). In other words, the decision to use solar power over Yankee requires the sacrifice of, at a minimum, 5052 acres of Vermont farms and fields.  This is not an insignificant environmental cost.

At some point we’re going to ask ourselves (as will the tourists we encourage to come here) why all the Woody Jackson cows have been replaced by seas of massive, silvery-black billboard looking things. And, what will that mean for the Vermont lifestyle and the Vermont brand?

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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Posted by Rob Roper

Today, the Shumlin Administration announced that it is shutting down the Vermont Health Connect website indefinitely for maintenance. “As a result,” noted reporter Taylor Dobbs, “it’s likely that one year after the official launch of Vermont Health Connect on October 1, the state will not have an operational online health care exchange.”

Governor Shumlin has been going out of his way lately to distance the debacle that is Vermont Health Connect (VHC) from his much bigger and more complicated plan for single payer in 2017, Green Mountain Care (GMC).

However…

Act 48 states explicitly, “The intent of the general assembly is to establish the Vermont health benefit exchange [VHC] in a manner such that it may become the foundation for Green Mountain Care.” (Emphasis Added)

This is exactly what Shumlin and the legislature did.

They built Vermont Health Connect  not in ways that made sense in and of themselves, or with the purpose of best serving Vermonters, but rather to maximize federal subsidies in 2017 for Green Mountain Care. As such, we should not be all that shocked that $100 million later it still doesn’t work.

Act 48 – passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Shumlin –establishes both VHC and GMC with the former being the foundation for the latter. What we are witnessing before our eyes is the crumbling of the foundation for single payer healthcare in Vermont. Are we really going to allow these same people to go forward with building a house (a hospital!) upon such a failed foundation?

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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By John McClaughry

John McClaughry

Homestead school property tax rates have increased in each of the past four years. The “solution” debate omes down to command-and-control versus freedom. 

*          *          *

           Once again Vermonters are preparing to go to the polls, and there are plenty of issues on their plate. For the one third of voters who must pay the school homestead property tax, the Big Issue is likely to be “why am I staring at yet another, bigger school property tax bill? Where does this end?”

The legislature and governor have increased the homestead school property tax rate in each of the past four years – and they are almost certainly going to do it again in 2015. The rate has climbed from 86 cents per $100 Fair Market Value (in 2011) to 98 cents (in 2014) – even as the number of public school pupils has dropped by a thousand in each of those years.

The Democrats, who are proud of authoring Act 60 in 1997, are eager to finish tying the cost of education to the income tax. The Act 60 “income sensitivity” option allows homestead owners with incomes under $90,000 to pay 1.8% of their income instead of the actual property tax. This feature costs the Education Fund $158 million a year, which has to be made up with other revenues.  The more than sixty percent of Vermont households who choose this option thus have no concern about the level of school spending.

Last May the Democrats declared that they intend to enact an education income tax by 2017. This “solution” alarms even Gov. Shumlin, who correctly understands that raising income tax rates to bring in another $580 million a year (to replace just the homestead school property tax) would be economically catastrophic.

The Republicans claim that the Democrats “have blocked every attempt by Republicans to reform our state’s broken educational funding system.” By that the party chair apparently refers to the Republican proposal to enact a death sentence for Act 60, after which somebody will  – hopefully – come up with a better idea. That “repeal and replace” bill does not deserve to be considered any kind of a “solution”.

There are several types of “real solutions” that might produce lower homestead property taxes.

One might be called the Soviet model. If the voters are voting too large school budgets, the Agency of Education could mandate a limit on increases. Or mandate a higher pupil to teacher ratio. Or use mandatory consolidation to allow regional education districts (REDs) to close small, expensive schools. Or put public schools on a “global budget”, like the Shumlin proposal for single payer health care.

Politicians have historically shrunk from imposing such centralized control, but its day may be coming closer with a governor who can’t allow the Education Fund to gobble up tax dollars that he will badly need to pay for Green Mountain Care.

Another model would be something akin to California’s Proposition 13 of 1978. That measure limited property tax rates and allowed reassessment only when a home changed hands. Not surprisingly, when local school districts couldn’t keep raising property tax rates and assessments, they fled to the state capitol for money to cover their budgets. The state was obliged to comply, with restrictive conditions leading back toward the Soviet model.

Another proposal for making voters more sensitive to school budget explosions was the Scudero Plan (S.253 of 2008). This bill would have had the voters vote not on the dollar amount to be spent, but on the cost per pupil in their schools. It had the virtue of bringing school spending down to understandable numbers like $13,045 per pupil instead of $17,875,000. The technique was unfamiliar, it was not clear that the plan would result in less spending, and the legislature showed no interest.

Probably the best and potentially most popular “solution” -  except among the Education Establishment – is trading in the increasingly ponderous and state-controlled monopoly school system for universal parental choice among a wide variety of education providers.

That proposal is based on the idea that the state should not stand in the way of parents who are eager to have their children attend a school that costs less than the local public school. Since many parents would choose schools costing less, total education spending would fall. However, it’s not possible to predict by how much and when, or how the public schools would attempt to reform themselves to win back their lost pupils.

It’s not realistic, any time soon, to wean public education from the Act 60 property taxes.  But movement toward universal parental choice and broad provider competition would likely spur educational innovation, increase customer satisfaction, restrain property tax costs, and produce better results over time.

The hard part is turning that corner.

- John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute 

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Posted by John McClaughry

Jim Geraghty writes a popular daily blog for the conservative magazine National Review. In a recent offering, he asked this useful question:

“Considering what liberals claim to care about, they have every reason to focus their fury upon militant Islam . . . but they don’t.

“ Liberals claim to care about underprivileged children and the importance of education, so they have every reason to lash out at status-quo-defending teachers’ unions and demand public-school choice for every parent everywhere in the country . . . but most of them don’t.

“Liberals claim to care about low-income Americans, so they have every reason to oppose allowing more unskilled or low-skilled workers to enter the country illegally . . . but they don’t.

“Liberals claim they want to help the little guy, so they have every reason to want toreduce the amount of red tape and paperwork that a new small business faces . . . but they don’t.

“But by and large,” says Geraghty, “ the Republicans are worried about the right problems — the big problems: crazy people who want to kill us, a skyrocketing debt, a growing culture of dependency, an avalanche of red tape strangling the entrepreneurial lifeblood of the economy, and an unsecure border.”  .

I could add other examples: Liberals waging war against genetically modified organisms, which have improved the health and lives of millions of poor people here and abroad. Then, there’s liberals against carbon-free nuclear power, while they are at the same time denouncing carbon dioxide emissions that they believe cause catastrophic “climate change.”

I confess – I can’t figure out the liberal mind at work.

- John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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For Immediate Release
September 12, 2014

Statement on Sanders/Leahy Led Effort
to Destroy First Amendment

Yesterday, 54 senators voted to amend the U.S. Constitution so as to essentially do away with the First Amendment. The effort to pass S.J. Res. 19 was led by, among others, Vermont’s junior senator, Bernie Sanders, with the vocal support of senior senator Patrick Leahy.

“It is absolutely appalling that a majority of the U.S. Senate would, for the first time in this nation’s history, propose to amend the Bill of Rights to give incumbent politicians the power to restrict, control and punish political activity,” said Ethan Allen Institute President Rob Roper. “It is disgraceful that any elected official would take part in such a scheme.”

Although proponents of this amendment framed the issue as desirable to deal with large political expenditures by corporations, the actual language of S.J. Res. 19 would allow incumbent politicians to control and penalize any activity by any organizations or individuals that involve any raising or spending money to “influence elections” either directly or indirectly. “That is nothing less than a blank check to criminalize the activity of political opponents,” said Roper.

Although S.J. Res 19 assures members of the media that the amendment would not infringe upon freedom of the press, it would, however, for the first time empower legislators to define what the “press” is — and what it isn’t. The New York Times Corporation may be granted permission to print candidate endorsements, but a corporation that manufactures widgets would not be. Federal and state legislatures would be empowered to draw those distinctions.

So, would a blogger continue to enjoy an inalienable right to freedom of the press? A talk show host? A website? A non-profit corporation? A small, local newspaper? If this amendment were to pass, the answer would be no. Permission to publish would be required from government, either directly or tacitly, and it could be taken away or subject to punishment at any time.

“This disgraceful amendment is nothing more than an incumbent protection plan, and a frighteningly tyrannical power grab,” said Roper. “It is particularly disappointing that Vermont’s two Senators, Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, are aggressively leading the charge to destroy the Bill of Rights that protects our freedom to speak out on issues and about those who would be our leaders.”

“We are grateful to the 42 senators who voted against this measure, defeating it for now, and to preserve the cornerstone of American liberty — free speech, free press, free assembly, and the right to petition government for redress of grievances.”

The Ethan Allen Institute has long worked to educate Vermonters on the fundamentals of a free society, including the essential freedoms protected by the U.S. and Vermont Bills of Rights.

### 

Contact:
Rob Roper, President, Ethan Allen Institute
802-999-8145, rob@ethanallen.org

 

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By John J. Metzler

UNITED NATIONS—Speaking in the somber shadow of the September 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America in 2001, President Barack Obama sought to stake out an ambitious military and political strategy to degrade and defeat the new surge of Middle Eastern terrorism now sweeping Iraq and Syria.  

Yet in a major policy address to outline specific measures to militarily destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) as much as to reassure war weary Americans that there is actually a strategy coming from his Administration, Obama vowed to “degrade and ultimately destroy,” and conceded that  “eradicating a cancer” such as ISIS was a long-term challenge.  

In the United Nations Security Council on 25 September he will hone the details.

Global terrorism is a hydra-headed monster; as in the ancient Greek myth cutting one head of the multi-headed sea serpent only produces another. 
So even after U.S. Navy Seals tracked down and killed terrorist kingpin Osama Bin Laden, hiding under the noses of our Pakistani allies, other militant groups popped up.  The Al-Qaida network  has global links and is strongest in the Middle East and Africa.    

Despite Obama’s almost cavalier pronouncements that we have substantially degraded the Al Qaida terrorists, that’s sadly not the case.  Regarding ISIL’s  growing threat earlier in the year, Obama described the terrorist organization as “junior varsity” in other words not a serious player.  Months later the mysterious militant group launched a multipronged military offensive and seized large chunks of northern Iraq.   Two months after seeing the swath of terror ISIS wracked across Iraq’s  Christian, Kurdish and Yazidi communities, the Administration launched limited American airstrikes on the militants. 

In late August,  both Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff warned that ISIS presented a clear and present danger to the U.S.  “This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end of days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated,” stated Gen. Dempsey. 
Secretary of State John Kerry correctly called ISIS  “a manifestation of evil.” 

But when questioned about his Administration having a bigger strategy or plan in dealing with this growing threat to Mid Eastern stability, Obama conceded “he had no strategy.”  

Now in face of jarring reality the template has changed yet again.  The brutal beheading of two American journalists by ISIS killers prompted action.

The President outlined a plan to first use targeted U.S. airstrikes both in Iraq and neighboring Syria to hit the ISIS terrorist formations; good idea but this should have been done in June when massed columns of ISIS militants were out in the open and not entrenched as they are now.  Furthermore the plan stretches the Air Force, not so much the aircraft, but costly specialized precision munitions.  

Second, he pledged not to send  American troops into a combat role to Iraq,  (though he is dispatching  475 additional advisors ramping-up our Iraqi contingent to 1,600). The focus of the speech should have been what is the President going to do, rather than what he is not prepared to do; namely American boots in the Iraqi sand.  Americans are war weary, but don’t humor us. 

Third;  Obama promised additional aid for the “moderate” Syrian opposition fighting the Assad dictatorship. Easier said than done.  At the start of the struggle against Assad the lines were clearer, today most of the opposition including ISIS are a murky gaggle of hardline fundamentalists and terrorists such as the Al Nusra front.  

Fourth;  giving wider humanitarian assistance for refugees and displaced persons throughout the region.  Already the UN has declared Iraq a “Level 3 Emergency,” a designation aimed at fast tracking additional assistance to embattled Christian, Yazidi, and Kurdish minorities.  

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) , across Iraq an
estimated 1.8 million people have been displaced since January. 

The speech showed strong rhetoric but scant details about what is likely to be a very open-ended mission.  

America’s overdue onslaught on the ISIS terrorists may blunt their momentum but not necessarily reverse the already entrenched gains of this  radical jihadi group whose aim is to establish a hardline Islamic Caliphate throughout the Middle East and beyond.  Alarmingly ISIS maps show their intended realm encompassing the Middle East, North Africa, Spain and Portugal,  Turkey into the Balkans , and up to Hungary!

While the mission is clearly necessary, one wonders if the Administration will have the political stamina and focus to see it through.  In the best of plans, reality intrudes in the Middle East. 

****************
John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues.  He is the author of Divided Dynamism The Diplomacy of Separated Nations; Germany, Korea, China (2014).

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posted by Rob Roper

Peter Shumlin’s election kick off speech centered on the idea that he is bold, his policies are bold, and Vermonters deserve boldness. Boldness is defined by Shumlin, as creating jobs, investing in education, promoting renewable energy, and moving toward a first-in-the-nation single payer healthcare system.

(Some might appreciate a boldness big enough to tell people how that single payer system will be paid for before this November’s election, but I guess there’s “bold” and then there’s “hey, let’s not get crazy now.”)

Bold can be good and bold can be bad. Robert E. Lee’s decision to launch Pickett’s Charge was bold. It was also tactically stupid, horrifically costly, and strategically disastrous. Dwight Eisenhower’s plan for the D-Day invasion, and making the final decision to launch amidst a tiny window of good weather in an otherwise stormy forecast, was extremely bold. It, however, worked.

What’s really more important than “bold” policies are successful policies. So, let’s look at Governor Shumlin’s track record of success. Is he an Eisenhower at Normandy or a Lee at Gettysburg?

1. Creating Jobs. Under Shumlin’s rein of boldness the Vermont labor force has shrunk by 8700.  Since just the last election there have been a number high profile defections from our job market. IBM in Essex has cut roughly 1000 jobs, and 4000 more are in limbo as the company weighs selling the plant. After enduring a political beating at the hands of a hostile governor and legislature, Vermont Yankee will begin phasing out 600 of the best paying jobs in the state after 2014. Energizer in Franklin County is gone along with 165 jobs. Plasan Composites in Bennington is gone – 145 jobs. Kennametal in Lyndonville is gone — 80 jobs. Huber + Suhner in Essex gone – 65 jobs. And GE cut about 10% of their Burlington workforce – 50 jobs.

In contrast to these high-caliber jobs leaving the state, July 2014 projections show Vermont’s new job growth occurring in low-skill/low wage sectors. The top five are, Cashiers, Personal Care Aides, Retail Salespersons, Combined Food Prep/Serving Workers including fast food, and Waiters & Waitresses.

2. Investing in Education. It’s easy to “invest” in anything. Success is judged by the return you get on that investment. Since Peter Shumlin has been governor, Vermont has increased spending on K-12 by over $150 million annually, bringing the total 2014 budget up to $1.47 billion.  In just the last biennium, education property taxes went up by over $100 million.

Despite all of this, student enrollment continues to decline at a rate of about 1% per year, test scores have been largely flat, and, according to the then Secretary of Education, Armando Vilaseca, in an official posting of the latest NAEP scores, “I am particularly concerned that we still have not made major progress in closing the achievement gap for students living in poverty…. Vermont students demonstrated significant achievement gaps based on family income… The smallest gap was 14 percentage points in fourth grade mathematics, and the largest was 23 percentage points in fourth grade reading.”

3. Promoting renewable energy. For the past four years Vermont has done much to make life easy for renewable energy producers, providing them with tax credits, guaranteeing them “reasonable” profits, mandating that energy suppliers buy their products at well above market rates, removing zoning hurdles, not to mention driving their lower cost, more efficient competition, Vermont Yankee, out of the state. Major Shumlin donors and supporters in the renewable energy business are doing very well as a result of these policies.

However, the impact on the average Vermonter is quite different. Vermont’s residential energy costs have gone from what were quite recently the lowest in New England to the highest (tied with Connecticut), and the 4th highest in the nation. It was just in 2008 that the Vermont Energy Partnership published Vermont’s Electricity Prices: Envy of the Region. Since then, that notion has been wiped away as electricity rates rose by more than 17% — almost three and a half times the national rate of increase. http://www.electricchoice.com/electricity-prices-by-state.php

But aren’t we saving the planet?

Not really. In 2013, Connecticut passed a law prohibiting the purchase of Vermont Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) because they considered Vermont’s policy of allowing wind and solar power producers to sell RECs while simultaneously applying them to Vermont’s own renewable energy reduction requirements as — what it is — fraudulent.

And, as the Burlington Free Press reported, “When the contracts for Vermont Yankee power expired in 2012, our utilities replaced its carbon-free generation with about a million megawatt-hours of “grid power” — contracts and direct purchases of electricity from the New England transmission grid. More than half of this power comes from burning fossil fuels. This has substantially increased Vermont’s power-related carbon emissions…” making the Green Mountain State browner.

4. Moving to Single Payer. What did I say earlier about Pickett’s Charge? Tactically stupid, horrifically costly, and strategically disastrous…. Yeah, that.

Peter Shumlin’s attempt to have Vermont, population 620,000, become a the first and only state in the Union with a government-run single payer healthcare system has so far proven to be an inefficient, expensive, incompetently run train wreck.

Although the governor distances himself from the Exchange (Vermont Health Connect) as a federal idea, part of the Affordable Care Act, and separate from Green Mountain Care (single payer), it really — and legally – is not. Act 48 states explicitly, “The intent of the general assembly is to establish the Vermont health benefit exchange in a manner such that it may become the foundation for Green Mountain Care.” (Emphasis Added)

So how is the “foundation for Green Mountain Care” coming? After having spent nearly $100 million on the VHC website, it still does not function as promised. An estimated 14,000 Vermonters are tied up in “change of circumstance” glitches with Vermont Health Connect (VT Watchdog, 8/4/14), and “ [I]t was revealed that an estimated 22,000 Medicaid beneficiaries have lost their coverage in the past three months because they were unable to, or have not tried to, complete their annual reviews on the Vermont Health Connect website (VT Digger, 7/23/14)

A report by Optum, the company hired to come in and clean up the VHC mess, blamed poor leadership, lack of relevant experience, and insufficient oversight in the Shumlin Administration for the rotten state of affairs.  These are not good harbingers of things to come with Green Mountain Care – which we still don’t know to pay for nearly two years after the legally proscribed deadline for a completed plan has passed.

Bold accompanied by brilliant insight and diligent leadership can lead to great things. But bold abetted by poor judgment and carelessness is a recipe for disaster. We’ve definitely got bold.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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posted by Rob Roper

In an alarmingly lopsided 79-18 vote yesterday, the Senate voted to advance an amendment to the Constitution proposed by Tom Udall of New Mexico that would radically eviscerate our rights under the First Amendment. Although this proposed amendment is being promoted with a populist message – getting big, corporate money out of politics — its true objective is to give incumbent politicians the power to control and criminalize the activities of their political opposition. It is not hyperbolic to call this a totalitarian and tyrannical idea.

This amendment is being prominently supported by Vermont’s two senators, Leahy and Sanders, and Representative Welch has voiced his approval. It reads…

Section 1. To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process, Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.

Section 2. Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.

Section 3. Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.

Let’s break this down, point by point.

To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process…. This is fluff. It is meaningless, and, in fact, misleading.

… Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections. This gives incumbent politicians complete control over everyone who chooses to participate in the political process – either directly, indirectly or even unintentionally — because any effective organized opposition necessitates the raising and/or spending of money. Putting a sign on you lawn costs $5.

Anti-First Amendment activists are fond of chanting money is not speech. Maybe not. But the First Amendment currently guarantees not just the right to speak your opinions, but the rights to print and distribute your opinions, which costs money, to organize and coordinate with others who may share your opinions, which can cost money, and to petition government for redress of grievances, which also can cost money if done in an organized fashion.

“Reasonable limits.” Who decides what’s reasonable? Why, incumbent politicians, of course! If you disagree with their definition of reasonable and try to speak out, under the new amendment they can regulate you, fine you, imprison you.

“The raising and spending of money.” That encompasses, with the possible exception of standing on a street corner giving a speech (provided you didn’t spend money on gas to drive to the location, or print you speech out on a piece of paper) pretty much anything.

…by candidates and others to influence elections. Who a candidate is is fairly obvious, but “others to influence elections?” That is anybody incumbent politicians decide it is. A novelist who writes a politically charged book, or a moviemaker, or a musician who writes a powerful anti-war song could be targeted as an “other” influencing an election because, what influences elections? Again, whatever incumbent politicians decide influences elections. A strike, for example, could be timed to influence an election, and if money were raised or spent to organize that strike, incumbent politicians would now have powers to punish those involved.

Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation… What’s “appropriate?” Incumbent politicians decide what’s appropriate. What limits are placed on this power? Apparently none.

…and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law… “Other artificial entities [that are not natural persons] created by law” means ANY joining together of more than one person. It could be a book club. A marriage. And consider that relationships that are not “required by law” today could be made to be so by Congress in the future. (But only if, ya know, they think it’s “appropriate”). If your book club reads political books, for example, Congress or your state legislature could pass a law requiring you to register as a political organization attempting to “influence elections.” If you failed to comply, you would be a criminal.

….including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections. Shutting them down.

Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press. This was put there obviously to keep the mainstream media at bay or even cheering on a process that is otherwise totally hostile to their existence. However, who is a member of the press? Incumbent politicians will decide. Does a blogger have freedom of the press? Does a radio talk show host? A non-profit website? Does a group of citizens sending out a letter (or putting an ad in the paper, or starting a town newsletter) to their neighborhood to oppose say… since it’s topical let’s say a gas pipeline going through their town or wind towers on their ridgelines? This amendment essentially gives incumbent politicians the power to pick the people who are legally allowed to talk about them publicly.

This proposed amendment, should it pass, would provide a firm foundation for a future police state. It is totally anathema to what makes our country remarkable and free.

Our Founding Fathers established a country of free people based on this cornerstone of liberty:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Seventy-eight senators just voted to take these rights away. Will we let them?

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9-8-14 – MacDonald on Telecom competition

September 8, 2014

Posted by John McClaughry Orange county Democratic Sen. Mark MacDonald appeared at a Montpelier hearing last week on extending telecommunications services to every nook and cranny of the state. He said he’s watched residents leave his district for years because they can’t access the world’s business infrastructure from the rural area. He continued, “They want someone [...]

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Posted by John McClaughry Jim Geraghty writes a popular daily blog for the conservative magazine National Review. In a recent offering, he asked this useful question: “Considering what...

PRESS RELEASE: Statement on Sanders/Leahy Led Effort to Destroy First Amendment

For Immediate Release September 12, 2014 Statement on Sanders/Leahy Led Effort to Destroy First Amendment Yesterday, 54 senators voted to amend the U.S. Constitution so as to essentially do away...

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