How is your Representative representing YOU in Montpelier?

The Ethan Allen Institute is proud to release our Complete Book of Legislator Roll Call Profiles, a detailed, individual look at how each of Vermont’s 150 state representatives and 30 state senators voted on the most critical issues of the 2013 legislative session. The dozen votes chronicled for the house and half dozen for the senate cover taxes, spending, healthcare, energy, property rights, education, labor policy, campaign finance, land use. All 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, and because of their impact (or potential impact depending upon final passage) on the lives of citizens and the overall direction of the state.

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These profiles provide a clear, transparent look at how legislators are representing their constituents on the issues that matter most. CLICK HERE to see how your legislators are representing you! (Representatives are grouped by County. Senators are grouped together.)

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by John McClaughry

Last week the Vermont Senate passed a bill to require all food manufacturers to declare that their produce MAY contain Genetically Modified Organisms.  But the required label doesn’t tell the consumer whether the product does have GMOs – only that it might have them.

Progressive Sen. David Zuckerman of Burlington, who is an organic farmer, said  “It would be quite expensive and too onerous to require every manufacturer of every product to test every ingredient to put a definitive ‘this does’ or ‘this does not’ (contain GMO.).”

As reported by Vermont Watchdog, Sen. Peg Flory asked “A company doesn’t have to know if it’s [product is]  GMO? They can simply put on the label, ‘This may contain GMO products’?”

Zuckerman replied “It’s not a requirement of any company to ascertain all the different ingredients.”

Flory then asked “If this law is intended to say we have a right to know what we eat, how does it achieve that if everybody can put ‘this may contain GMO’?”.

“It’s really up to the product manufacturer,” Zuckerman replied.

Almost all packaged supermarket food contains genetically modified organisms – especially soy and corn based products.  Does the package you’re looking at contain GMOs? This bill leaves you completely in the dark. This has to qualify for the stupidest bill passed by the Senate in decades, especially since it will cost taxpayers as much as $8 million dollars to defend it in the certain legal challenge.

John McClaughry is the founder and current vice-president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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I’m not going to tell you about the negative impacts a minimum wage increase will have on businesses, because I know you’ve all heard it before, and I don’t think that will change any of your minds.  Instead I want to talk about this policy’s devastating effect on young people, and how that translates to more generational poverty.

The minimum wage set by this body only applies if an employer will actually hire you.  The real minimum wage is $0, because that’s what you get when you’re priced out of the market.  In order to be hired, you have to convince an employer that you are worth the wage they pay you.  This is not a problem for workers with resumes, but for young people, it essentially removes the first few rungs on the economic ladder.  We heard yesterday from several folks who waited to work until they were 17 and 18, when they were moving out, buying cars, and paying their own bills, all for the first time.  Working minimum wage jobs, along with being enticed into significant amounts of student loan and credit card debt, while learning how to manage a budget proves to be too much for many people, and they fall behind, and get stuck in a cycle of poverty.

By removing the wage floor above young people’s heads, you allow them to get vital work experience before they are off on their own.  When they are 18 and starting to live on their own, they will not have to work for the minimum wage, because employers will have a work record to base hiring decisions on.  Ask any business owner.  If they know you will show up to work on time, work hard, and be reliable, they will hire you for a higher wage.

I worked for three and a half years at McDonalds, starting when I was 15 years old, for minimum wage nearly the entire time.  I was fine with this, because for much of that time I was living with my parents, and when that income wasn’t enough when I moved out, I got another job to pay the bills.  But what always struck me was that people who were hired at the same time as me, but were able to do much more for the restaurant because of labor laws and insurance policies, were paid the same hourly wage.

One woman was a way over-qualified mother of two who had been hit hard by the recession, and had to resort to a minimum wage job to help stay afloat.  Because the minimum wage law forced McDonald’s to pay me, a 15 year old living at home, much more than I was worth, it took resources that could have given her a much-needed pay raise.  I would gladly have worked for $5 or $6 an hour, because I had no bills to pay.  All I needed money for was taking girls on dates and saving for a car.  She needed to pay her mortgage and save so her son could go to college.  But the minimum wage forced McDonald’s to employ us at the same rate.

And I was lucky to even have a job.  Until I was 17, I was the only one in my group of friends who had a job, which you can imagine was a little annoying.  But this has led to more than annoyance for those friends.  Many of them are still working the same minimum wage jobs, or are only just getting above that.  When they were in high school, and limited in the number of hours they can work and availability at peak hours, employers decided against employing them for the minimum wage, knowing their money would be better spent on someone who could do more.  When they finally started working, they had a car to buy, rent to pay, groceries to pay for, and they simply got stuck.

We have heard some very compelling stories this session about families struggling to get by, and I understand the urge to help however you can.  But the answer is not to increase the hiring floor, and remove those first few rungs of the ladder.  In fact, I would suggest that you go the other way, and provide an exemption in the minimum wage for those below 18.  This is the model that the United Kingdom follows, with a tiered minimum wage for those under the age of majority.  I am also encouraged by discussion about expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, as I believe the best way to put more money in people’s pockets is by letting keep what they earn.

But the committee also has to realize any minimum wage increase would be fighting against the current.  In addition to any inflation caused by the minimum wage increase and relative cost increases, the purchasing power of the U.S. dollar has been decreasing steadily for many years.  In 1963, the minimum wage was $1.25, five silver quarters.  Today, the melt value of those same five quarters is over $26.  It isn’t a problem with the minimum wage.  It is a problem with the continued devaluation of our currency, and forcing businesses to pay an inflation tax isn’t going to help economic development in Vermont.

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by John McClaughry

The Public Service Board has approved the memorandum agreement between the Public Service Department and Entergy, dealing with closing down Vermont Yankee, over the vocal protests of the New England Coalition people.

The PSB approved Yankee’s operation until the end of this year, noting gratuitously that it might well have demanded a shutdown if there was any prospect of the plant continuing beyond then.

The Order spent a lot of space discussing what it considers to be a “fair partner” with the state. It described what it called Entergy’s “corrosive and bullying attitude”  and said that Entergy had made “frivolous arguments to resist valid discovery.” Well, I admit that Entergy made some mistakes that it should not have made in its presentations to the Board.

But what is curious to me is the Board’s totally ignoring the effect of the 2006 legislature’s  passing Act 160, the law that destroyed the 2002 memorandum of understanding between the state and Entergy. Act 160 is mentioned only once, and only in passing, in the 84 page order.

So tell me: What kind of “fair partner” was the State of Vermont, when it irresponsibly turned the plant’s future over to legislative control, based on no standards at all? This was outrageous, and the Federal courts overturned it six years later. The Public Service Board  harped on Entergy’s procedural shortcomings, but ignored the state’s far more severe misbehavior.

John McClaughry is the vice-president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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by Shayne Spence

The 2014 edition of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) Rich States, Poor States has been released, and Vermont continues to fall at the bottom of the pack in business and affordability.  In the 7 year history of the study, Vermont has never managed to get above 49th, which is where we ended up this year.   By taking a look at 15 important policy variables, such as tax structure, labor policy, and the size of state government, this study predicts the economic outlook of states.  With the second most progressive income tax in the country, along with the third highest property tax burden (per $1,000 of personal income) and net outward migration of 2,848 people from 2002-2011, it is no shock that Vermont is so low in the rankings.

Some notable rankings include:

Top Marginal Personal Income Tax Rate – 8.95% – 43rd
Top Marginal Corporate Income Tax Rate – 8.50% – 36th
Recently Legislated Tax Changes (2012-2013, per $1,000 of personal income) – $1.12 – 45th
Public Employees Per 10,000 of population (Full-time equivalent) – 632.6 – 44th
State Minimum Wage – $8.73/hr – 48th
Average Workers’ Compensation Costs (per $100 of payroll) – $2.07 – 37th

Across the board, Vermont falls behind other states, as it has in these rankings since 2008.  And some of the information is dated, meaning that our ranking stands to be even lower by the time the next edition comes out.  Additional burdens on business have been added since the study was conducted, including an additional $62 million in property taxes, and an increase in the minimum wage has been passed by the House and is being considered by the Senate.  Being 48th in both of those categories already, it is safe to say that continuing further along this path is not going to make our business environment any better.

However, Rich States, Poor States provides an in depth analysis of what is working and what isn’t across the country.  While our own policies have proven to be destructive to businesses and jobs, by taking a look at states like Utah, Indiana, and Idaho.  Each of these states have low tax burdens, small state governments, and a welcoming business climate.  And all of these states have seen net gains in population during the same time period that Vermont is losing residents and taxpayers.  While it is clear that more of the same is not going to help Vermonters, we can learn from other states’ examples and turn the state around.  After all, there’s nowhere to go but up.

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EAImoneybomb2014 has been a big year at the Ethan Allen Institute, and today we are celebrating our 21st anniversary of fighting for liberty in Vermont.  Please help us move into the summer with strength by donating $21 and asking 21 of your friends to do the same.  However, any amount of support is greatly appreciated, be it $10, $20, $50, or $100. Click here to make a contribution today!

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For 17 years both political parties have wrestled with education financing, but neither has summoned the imagination to break out of the “raise your property taxes” box.

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by Shayne Spence

It appears there may have been a little more than a “smidgen of corruption” in the IRS targeting of conservative groups.  The scandal has been the subject of the House Government Oversight Committee for many months, after it became clear that conservative political action groups were being targeted while similar progressive organizations were not.  They lay the blame at the feet of Lois Lerner, who was the head of the IRS tax-exempt division at the time, and recently voted to hold her in contempt of Congress.

Now it appears that the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) is involved with the scandal at the highest level as well.  Recently released emails show that Cummings’ staff had requested information about True the Vote, one of the targeted groups, just five days before the IRS began their inquiry in October 2012.  In January 2013 Cummings’ staff requested more information, eliciting personal attention from Lois Lerner herself, who wrote to her deputy Holly Paz, “Did we find anything?”

In a February 2014 hearing, Cummings denied allegations by True the Vote attorney Cleta Mitchell that his staff had been involved with IRS targeting of the group.  Mitchell said, “We want to get to the bottom of how these coincidences happened, and we’re going to try to figure out…if there was any staff of this committee that might have been involved with putting True the Vote on the radar screen of some of these Federal agencies.”

Cummings responded, “What she just said is absolutely incorrect and not true.”  The recently released emails from his staff seem to say otherwise.

Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and other members of the committee sent Cummings a memo calling out the lies.  “Although you have previously denied that your staff made inquiries to the IRS about conservative organization True the Vote that may have led to additional agency scrutiny, communication records between your staff and IRS officials – which you did not disclose to Majority Members of staff – indicates otherwise.”

At least now we know why Cummings has been so eager to put a stop to the hearings.

Shayne Spence is the Outreach and Development Coordinator for the Ethan Allen Institute.

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by Rob Roper

Joel Cook, the executive director for the Vermont National Education Association (VT-NEA) testified before the House Committee on Healthcare, laying out what his union expects from the legislature as it considers the details of a single payer healthcare system.

Cook was quick to point out that his union has invested heavily in the public relations efforts supporting single payer. “We helped create the Vermont Healthcare Security Campaign…. And, more recently, I think you know, we obtained funding to support an external advocacy effort around moving the state closer to accepting Green Mountain Care in good form.”

“Good form” is defined by Cook as a guarantee that his and other labor union members, of which he counts 100,000 households, be held harmless when it comes to actually paying for single payer. He stated, “In the absence of some transitional protections, [union members] stand to lose substantial amount of compensation” under a single payer system. Cook goes on with a telegraphing smirk befitting Tony Soprano, “And that doesn’t feel right in exchange for the level of support that unions in general and the Vermont NEA in particular have provided this effort so far.”

This begs one question for rank and file union members: Why is your leadership using your dues to advocate for a system in which, in the absence of protections, you stand to lose substantial compensation?

Of course, Cook insists that the VT-NEA’s investments in propping up Green Mountain Care and his requests for special protections under the new system do not represent a “quid pro quo.” But you can watch the VIDEO and judge for yourself.

Joel Cook

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Roll Call Rotator
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HOUSE PASSES 16% INCREASE IN MINIMUM WAGE
H.552 – AN ACT RELATING TO RAISING THE VERMONT MINIMUM WAGE, COMMITTEE ON GENERAL, HOUSING, & MILITARY AFFAIRS AMENDMENT
 .
PASSED
in the State House of Representatives
on April 8, 2014, by a vote of
87-57
.
Purpose: The Committee on General, Housing & Military affairs offered a strike all amendment to H.552, calling for a rise in the Vermont hourly minimum wage from $8.73 to $10.10, effective January 1, 2015. 
Analysis: The rise from $8.73 to $10.10 is a 16% increase and is estimated to cost Vermont businesses $30 million.
.
State economist Tom Kavet testified that a rise in the minimum wage to $10 would result in the loss of 250 jobs or the equivalent in hours, and roughly 5000 of the 20,000 Vermonters who’s salaries would be effected by the rise in wages (single parents with one child) would see their benefits decrease by a greater amount than the wage increase.
.
Vermont already has the third highest minimum wage in the United States.
 .
As Recorded in the House Journal, Tuesday, April 8, 2014: “Shall the bill be amended as recommended by the committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs, as amended? was decided in the affirmative. Yeas, 87. Nays, 57.” (Read the Journal, p. 1110-1120.)
.
Related Material:
State Economist’s Testimony (VIDEO)
Commentary: Minimum Wage Harms Young Job Seekers

How They Voted

(Click on your Rep’s name to send an email)

Janet Ancel (D-Calis) - YES

John Bartholomew (D-Hartland) - YES

Lynn Batchelor (R-Derby Line) – NO

Stephen Beyor (R-Highgate Springs) - NO

Clement Bissonnette (D-Winooski) - YES

William Botzow (D-Bennington) - YES

Robert Bouchard (R-Colchester) - NO

Carolyn Branagan (R-Georgia) - NO

Patrick Brennan (R-Colchster) - NO

Cynthia Browning (D-Arlington) - NO

Thomas Burditt (R-West Rutland) - NO

Mollie Burke (P/D-Brattleboro) - YES

Sarah Buxton (D-Tunbridge) – ABSENT

Brian Campion (D-Bennington) - YES

William Canfield (R/D-Fair Haven) - NO

Stephen Carr (D-Brandon) - YES

Kevin Christie (D-White River Jct.) - NO

Alison Clarkson (D-Woodstock) - YES

Joanna Cole (D-Burlington) - YES

James Condon (D-Colchester) - NO

Daniel Connor (D-Fairfield) - YES

Charles Conquest (D-Wells River) - NO

Michel Consejo (D-Sheldon) - NO

Sarah Copeland-Hanzas (D-Bradford) - YES

Timothy Corcoran (D-Bennington) - NO

George Cross (D-Winooski) - YES

Lawrence Cupoli (R-Rutland) - NO

Leigh Dakin (D-Chester) - YES

Susan Davis (P/D-Washington) - YES

David Deen (D-Putney) - YES

Dennis Devereux (R-Belmont) - NO

Eileen “Lynn” Dickinson (R-St. Albans) - NO

Andrew Donaghy (R-Poultney) - NO

Anne Donahue (R-Northfield) - NO

Johannah Donovan (D-Burlington) - YES

Rebecca Ellis (D-Waterbury) - YES

Alice Emmons (D/W-Springfield) - YES

Debbie Evans (D-Essex) - YES

Peter Fagan (R-Rutland) - NO

Michelle Fay (D-St. Johnsbury) - YES

Martha Feltus (R-Lyndonville) - NO

Michael Fisher (D-Lincoln) - YES

William Frank (D-Underhill) - YES

Patsy French (D-Randolph) - YES

Douglas Gage (R-Rutland) - NO

Anne Gallivan (D-N. Chittenden) - YES

Charles Goodwin (I-Weston) - NO

Maxine Grad (D-Moretown) - YES

Adam Greshin (I-Warren) - NO

Sandy Haas (P/D-Rochester) - YES

Helen Head (D-So. Burlington) - YES

Martha Heath (D-Westford) - YES

Michael Hebert (R-Vernon) - NO

Robert Helm (R/D-Fair Haven) - NO

Mark Higley (R-Lowell) - NO

Mary Hooper (D-Montpelier) - YES

Kathleen Hoyt (D-Norwich) - YES

Ronald Hubert (R-Milton) - NO

Mark Huntley (D-Cavendish) - NO

Timothy Jerman (D-Essex) - YES

Willem Jewett (D-Ripton) - YES

Mitzi Johnson (D-S. Hero) - YES

William Johnson (R/D-Canaan) - NO

Bernard Juskiewicz (R-Camdridge) - NO

Kathleen Keenan (D-St. Albans) - YES

Duncan Kilmartin (R/D-Newport) - NO

Warren Kitzmiller (D-Montpelier) - YES

Anthony Klein (D-Montpelier) - ABSENT

Thomas Koch (R/D-Barre) - NO

Patricia Komline (R-Dorset) - NO

Robert Krebs (D-S. Hero) - NO

Jill Krowinski (D-Burlington) - YES

Michele Kupersmith (D-S. Burlington) - ABSENT

Diane Lanpher (D-Vergennes) - YES

Leigh Larocque (R-Barnet) - NO

Richard Lawrence (R-Lyndon) - NO

Joan Lenes (D-Shelburne) - YES

Patti Lewis (R-Berlin) - NO

William Lippert (D-Hinesburg) - YES

Terence Macaig (D-Williston) - YES

John Malcolm (D-Pawlet) -  YES

Ann Manwaring (D-Wilmington) - YES

Michael Marcotte (R/D-Newport) - NO

Richard Marek (D-Newfane) - YES

Cynthia Martin (D/W-Springfield) - YES

Linda Martin (D-Wolcott) - YES

James Masland (D-Thetford) - YES

Michael McCarthy (D-St. Albans) - YES

Curtis McCormack (D/W-Burlington) - YES

James McCullough (D-Williston) - YES

Francis McFaun (R/D-Barre) - YES

Kristina Michelsen (D-Hardwick) - YES

Alice Miller (D-Shaftsbury) - YES

John Mitchell (R-Fairfax) - NO

Anne Mook (D-Bennington) - YES

John Moran (D-Wardsboro) - YES

Mary Morrissey (R-Bennington) - NO

Michael Mrowicki (D-Putney) - YES

Linda Myers (R-Essex) - NO

Betty Nuovo (D-Middlebury) - YES

Anne O’Brien (D-Richmond) - YES

Jean O’Sullivan (D-Burlington) - YES

Carolyn Partridge (D-Windham) - YES

Albert “Chuck” Pearce (R/D-Richford) - NO

Christopher Pearson (P-Burlington) - YES

Philip Peltz (D-Woodbury) - YES

Paul Poirier (I-Barre) - YES

David Potter (D-Clarendon) - YES

Ann Pugh (D-S. Burlington) - YES

Constance Quimby (R/D-Concord) - NO

Barbara Rachelson (D-Burlington) - YES

Paul Ralston (D-Middlebury) - YES

Kesha Ram (D-Burlington) - YES

Herbert Russell (D-Rutland) - YES

Marjorie Ryerson (D-Randolph) - YES

Brian Savage (R-Swanton) - NO

Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe) - NO

David Sharpe (D-Bristol) - YES

Charles Shaw (R/D-Pitsford) - NO

Loren Shaw (R/D-Derby) - NO

Harvey Smith (R-New Haven) - NO

Shapleigh Smith (D-Morristown) - PRESIDING

Robert South (D-St. Johnsbury) - NO

Kristy Spengler (D-Colchester) - YES

Thomas Stevens (D-Waterbury) - YES

William Stevens (I-Shoreham) - NO

Vicki Strong (R-Albany) - NO

Valerie Stuart (D-Brattleboro) - YES

Donna Sweaney (D-Windsor) - YES

Thomas Terenzini (R/D-Rutland) - NO

George Till (D-Jericho) - YES

Tristan Toleno (D-Brattleboro) - YES

Catherine Toll (D-Danville) - YES

Maida Townsend (D-S. Burlington) - YES

Matthew Trieber (D-Bellows Falls) - NO

Donald Turner (R-Milton) - NO

Warren Van Wyck (R-Ferrisburgh) - NO

Sheila Vowinkel (D-White River Jct.) - YES

Linda Waite-Simpson (D-Essex) - YES

Tommy Waltz (D-Barre City) - YES

Kathryn Webb (D-Shelburne) - YES

Cynthia Weed (P/D-Enosburg Falls) - YES

Jeffrey Wilson (D-Manchester) - YES

Philip Winters (R-Williamstown) - NO

Susan Wizowaty (D-Burlington) - ABSENT

Mark Woodward (D-Johnson) - YES

Kurt Wright (R-Burlington) - NO

Michael Yantachka (D-Charlotte) - YES

Samuel Young (D-Glover) - YES

Teo Zagar (D-Barnard) - YES

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Roll Call! House Passes $62 Million Property Tax Increase (89-51), 2014

April 7, 2014

HOUSE PASSES $62 MILLION PROPERTY TAX INCREASE   H.889 - AN ACT RELATING TO SETTING THE STATEWIDE EDUCATION TAX BASE RATES AND BASE EDUCATION AMOUNT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2015 AND MAKING SEVERAL CHANGES TO VERMONT’S EDUCATION FINANCING LAWS . PASSED in the State House of Representatives on April 4, 2014, by a vote of 89-51 . [...]

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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.
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Latest News

4-18-14 – Vermont’s GMO Bill

by John McClaughry Last week the Vermont Senate passed a bill to require all food manufacturers to declare that their produce MAY contain Genetically Modified Organisms.  But the...

4-17-14 – Shayne Spence Minimum Wage Testimony Before Senate Economic Development Committee

I’m not going to tell you about the negative impacts a minimum wage increase will have on businesses, because I know you’ve all heard it before, and I...

4-17-14 – Public Service Board’s Vermont Yankee Order

by John McClaughry The Public Service Board has approved the memorandum agreement between the Public Service Department and Entergy, dealing with closing down Vermont Yankee, over the vocal...

4-15-14 – Vermont Ranks 49th in Business Competitiveness

by Shayne Spence The 2014 edition of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) Rich States, Poor States has been released, and Vermont continues to fall at the bottom...

21st Birthday Money Bomb!

2014 has been a big year at the Ethan Allen Institute, and today we are celebrating our 21st anniversary of fighting for liberty in Vermont.  Please help us move into the summer...

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