By Guy Page
Republished with permission from Page Communications. 

H170legalized possession of an ounce of marijuana and two adult and five juvenile plants, was approved by the House Judiciary Committee Thursday and is scheduled for a full House vote Tuesday. If approved by the House, it will go to the Senate, where some observers think it will be amended into the big-business marijuana regulated cultivation and sale bill that died last year in the House.

H.170 was opposed in House Judiciary by Reps. Janssen Wilhoit (St. Johnsbury), Gary Viens (Newport) and Eileen Dickinson (St. Albans). Minor State House drama preceded the vote. After learning that the committee leadership planned to vote on H170 unannounced (permitted, but uncommon) at 1 pm Thursday, I immediately told reporters for WCAX, WPTZ, Seven DaysBurlington Free Press, Vermont Digger, and Rutland Herald/Times Argus. All were present, some with cameras poised, in the committee room when chair Maxine Grad entered the room.

The attempt to vote on H170 unannounced was the second unusual step taken by House leadership to support the bill. While other bills were required to be voted out of committee by last Friday March 17; H170 was granted another week’s grace to rally support among the full House.

Leadership now apparently believes, or at least hopes, H170 has the votes to pass in the House.  But as Cola Hudson, the late, great, representative from Lyndon, said (in his broad Northeast Kingdom Yankee accent) about the legislative process: “there’s many a slip between the cup and the lips, and therein lies the mystery.”  To inform your House representative about your views on H.170, call the State House during working hours at 828-2228, or find their contact information at this State House link.

If H170 is approved as written by the full Legislature, it may face a veto by Gov. Phil Scott, who reportedly believes the bill lacks effective provision for DUI traffic stops.

Meanwhile, S.88 – raising the tobacco smoking age to 21 – was tabled in the Senate. Approved by Health & Welfare, the bill was subject to a floor battle of amendments, votes, changed votes, and two failed attempts to send it to Finance Committee. Finally, the bill was “ordered to lie” by the evenly split Senate, postponing any action until a future time.

A bill to update Act 250 was approved March 21 by House Natural Resources, Fish & Wildlife committee last week and goes to the full House on Tuesday.H424 would update Vermont’s 50-year-old Act 250 land use law via a study commission to include climate change science, designated centers for Act 250 jurisdiction, and efficiency of the application and appeals process.

H411, to maintain current federal energy efficiency standards for air conditioners if the federal government rolls them back, was approved last week by the House. Sponsor Curt McCormack (Burlington) said it will save money and prevent higher greenhouse gas emissions if the Trump administration eliminates existing clean air standards.

H.230, giving minors the right to obtain counseling on gender identity and sexuality orientation without parental notification, was approved by the House this week. Supporters justify the parental carve-out by saying some parents of minors struggling with these issues might harm rather than help. But the outcome of this vote tried the patience of Job Tate, the representative from Mendon. Rep. Tate, who is also a U.S. Navy (Reserve) sailor, said on his Facebook page:

“With the House’s passage of H.230 today I have never been more gravely concerned with Vermont’s future – and that there were only 12 members who voted against it fills me with a vague desperation and crystal clear indignation. My two little boys belong to me and my wife – to any legislator or arrogant Vermonter than thinks they should ever be allowed to call the shots when it comes to raising them I have one simple message: mind your own damned business.”

Voting with Rep. Tate were: Beyor of Highgate, Canfield of Fair Haven, Gage of Rutland City, Graham of Williamstown, Helm of Fair Haven, Hubert of Milton, LaClair of Barre Town, Smith of New Haven, Strong of Albany, Terenzini of Rutland Town, and Van Wyck of Ferrisburgh.

H. 230 was sent to Senate Health & Welfare on Friday, March 24.

LODGING TAX OPPOSED BY GOV. SCOTT – Friday, Senate Finance Committee approved a $2 per night lodging tax, estimated to raise $7.2 million, as part of S100, a housing initiative. Gov. Phil Scott, who has promised no new taxes, responded quickly and emphatically via Communications Director Rebecca Kelley:

“The Senate Finance Committee voted Thursday, 5-1-1, to create a $7.2 million tax on overnight accommodations through a new $2-per-night occupancy fee. The revenue this fee generates would primarily be used to fund initiatives the Governor’s budget already funds with existing revenue, including clean water and his housing bond.

“This tax will unnecessarily increase the cost of hotel and motel stays, straining our tourism sector, which contributes $2.5 billion to our economy annually. Family-owned inns are struggling to keep their doors open as they fight against new trends in tourism, like Air BNB, unpredictable weather, and cumbersome permitting processes. Vermonters would share the actual burden of this tax increase as it will impact the cost of weddings, special events, overnight stays, and more.”

S100 was referred to Senate Appropriations. Ms. Kelley expressed concern that the bill as approved by Senate Finance links the governor’s housing initiative with new taxes, which he has said he will veto.

CORRECTIONS UPDATE – not much to report! No bills for compassionate release of elderly, terminally ill inmates were passed out of committee. Also, there has not yet been an appointment of a new commissioner for Department of Corrections. Unlikely to proceed this year is S80, “to authorize all corrections officers who are certified as law enforcement officers by the Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council to carry firearms.” Sen. Kevin Mullin (Rutland) is sole sponsor.

The March 14 Blizzard forced the cancellation of the Vermont Yankee/NorthStar hearing before the Vermont Public Service Board. However it has been rescheduled to 6 pm, April 6, at Vernon Elementary School. For those who cannot attend but wish to comment, go to the PSB website comment link. The sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar for decommissioning would provide 1,000 or more jobs to the southern Vermont area and would produce an estimated $781 million in economic activity, and would also remove radioactive material from the shuttered nuclear plant by 2030 or before – far sooner than the 2072 date proposed the plant’s current owner.

H111 would (among other things) create a state registry for births, marriages and deaths. The registry would allow, for example, a current Middlesex resident born in Berlin to get a certified copy of his/her birth certificate from the local town clerk, rather than go to the Berlin town office. The registry could not be accessed by the general public, but only by municipal clerks and other permitted officials. At present these documents can only be sourced in the municipality in which they were filed. H111is scheduled for a House vote Monday afternoon.

PRE-K BILL  – H517, released for introduction, “would facilitate the ability of families to enroll a child, who is three or four years of age or is 8 five years of age but is not yet enrolled in kindergarten, in a public  prekindergarten education program or a private high-quality child development program; and clearly establish the responsibility for regulatory oversight of public prekindergarten education programs and private high-quality child development programs.”

Note: Last week’s SH Headliners used the term “Moslems.” When I was a young newspaper reporter, this was an accepted term for followers of Islam. I was reminded by two readers (including an editor) that this term is no longer in favor, because when spoken with a “z” consonant it sounds like an unflattering Arabic word. Henceforth I will use the accepted word, “Muslims”. My apologies for any offense given.

-  Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership, Divestment Facts, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, and the Church at Prison. He is a member of the coordinating committee for the Consumer Liaison Group of ISO-New England, the operators of the regional transmission grid. Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. For more information, email pagecommunications4vt@gmail.com

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by Rob Roper

The funding mechanism for the Paid Family Leave bill (H. 196) is a 0.93% payroll tax, which would raise about $80 million. The original language of the bill had this tax shared equally between employers and employees. That was until someone remembered that the state and public schools are employers.

The Joint Fiscal Office estimated that if H.196 passed in its original form it would cost the state treasury $2.7 million a year to cover state workers, and school budgets would have to come up with $4.4 million. Nope can’t afford that from the roughly $5.5 billion dollars we spend through the. Much too painful for government to absorb that kind of cost!

Our politicians’ solution: Make the employees pay for all of it!

That’s right, government determined that it can’t afford to come up with 0.0013% out of its budget to fund this program, but you the Vermont worker can afford to pay all of it. Because, you know, you’re so flush after paying your income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, fuel taxes, and all the other niggling taxes and fees Montpelier concocts every year to vacuum money out of your wallet.

If ever there were an example of out of touch, insensitive, arrogant government in action, this is it. Get that veto stamp ready, Governor Scott!

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

 

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by John McClaughry

President Trump wants to cut $6 billion from the budget of the National Institutes of Health, and the medical community is screamingCertainly the NIH does some useful research, but a lot of its politically motivated grants border on the idiotic.

Eric Boehm of Reason magazine reports that “Perhaps the most infamous example of pure WTF research funded by the NIH is the $175,000 grant to the University of Kentucky to study how cocaine affects the sex drives of Japanese quail…. NIH spent more than $2.8 million on  a study to determine why “nearly three-quarters of adult lesbians are overweight or obese”. Another $3.6 million allowed researchers at Bowdoin College to ponder “what makes goldfish feel sexy?”

Boehm’s personal favorite is the 2012 NIH-funded study that determined that rats on cocaine prefer listening to jazz music instead of classical. Specifically, they like listening to Miles Davis’ jazz more than Beethoven.

Another $548,000 NIH grant demonstrated that adults over age 30 who frequently binge-drink tend to be less mature than their peers. NIH also spent $666,000 on a study that found watching re-runs of old television shows make people happy, because it gives them an “energizing chance to reconnect with pseudo-friends.”

Now you’d think somebody at the head of NIH would realize that funding these idiotic studies to appease certain congressmen might call his Institute’s entire program into disrepute. But apparently not.

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

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By Guy Page

Like baby sea turtles marching slowly across the beach by their thousands to temporary safety, a minority of the hundreds of bills introduced into the 2017 Vermont Legislature have survived the March 17 “crossover” date. Bills not voted out of committee by March 17 are dead for the rest of the session.

Below are some bills of interest that survived –and some that didn’t.

Drug Abuse & Crime
H170, to legalize possession of an ounce of marijuana, two mature marijuana plants, and five immature plants, was NOT voted out of committee. In a surprise move this week, House Judiciary sat on the bill, in apparent recognition that it might fail in the full House. The bill is not, however, dead. Leaders gave the bill a week’s reprieve while they count votes. (And twist arms?)

However…..H167, to reduce sentences for possession of cocaine, heroin and other “hard” drugs, made it to the water – but not unscathed. It was approved by House Judiciary after being downgraded to a “study” bill. A study bill is often a committee’s way of saying, “maybe a good idea, but not now.”  Statehouse Headliners will watch this bill closely. My thanks to Martha Hafner of Randolph for alerting me to this bill.

Judiciary also approved H422, authorizing police to seize guns in homes involved in a domestic dispute. Gun rights groups oppose the bill on Second Amendment and concern that already upset people may escalate if they think their guns may be taken. Victims’ rights groups say the bill will protect domestic abuse victims from possible retribution by gunfire.

S88, raising the smoking age to 21, was approved by Senate Health & Welfare. It is expected to survive the full Senate, but may struggle in the House. Supporters say it will make Vermont healthier and reduce access to nicotine, a proven “gateway” drug for marijuana and other illegal substances. Critics decry lost revenue and personal choice.

Energy
It was a bad week for climate change activist legislation. H394, to spend up to $100,000 to study the supposed benefits of a carbon tax, died in committee. So did S.51, which would have provided enforcement power to mandate 90% renewable energy by 2050. Also dead in committee – a House Transportation Committee bill to mandate about $18 million from the Volkswagen class action settlement to be spent on electric vehicles and charging stations.  Some observers say the lack of an activist governor to sign virtually any “renewable energy” bill into law no doubt has dampened enthusiasm for climate-related legislation.

The Vermont Public Service Board hearing on the proposed sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar was rescheduled due to last week’s blizzard to 7 pm, April 6, at Vernon Elementary School. Comments about the proposed sale may be made on the Public Service Board comment link.

Family & Gender
H196, paid family leave, survived crossover to go to a “money” committee for further review. According to its introduction, H.196, would “provide employees with 12 weeks of paid family leave, funded by contributions from employers and employees. This bill also proposes to amend Vermont’s existing family leave law to make it applicable to all employers.”

H333, gender-free bathrooms, “proposes to require that any single-user toilet in any public building or place of public accommodation be identified as gender-free.” This bill got one quick look and did not survive crossover.

H230 “proposes to allow minors to consent to mental health treatment for any condition related to the minor’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” Parental consent would not be required. This bill, which survived crossover, was introduced by groups concerned that youth at risk of suicide and other harm due to gender identity or sexual orientation have access to mental health treatment without first acquiring parental approval. Said one lawmaker in opposition: “What about my family values and traditions? Irrelevant? It’s just more erosion of the nuclear family. Children – trust your school and not your parents.” On the other hand, he said, all children at risk must get the help they need. The bill is scheduled to go to the Floor on Wednesday.

As expected, none of the bills opposing aspects of Act 39, legalized assisted suicide, survived crossover. Also, there has been no judge’s decision yet on the VT Alliance for Ethical Healthcare federal court challenge to Act 39.

Religious Freedom, Freedom of Speech
H333, prohibiting among other things a citizen registry based upon religion, was approved by the full House earlier this month. Its strongest support was among the “anti-Trump” lawmakers who are concerned about the president’s alleged intent to discriminate against Moslems. Opponents say the bill was a solution in search of a problem, as no current proposal exists on either state or federal level for a religion-based registry.

There was no official discussion of any kind on the Middlebury College incident involving political scientist and author Charles Murray. On March 2, Middlebury College students chanted loudly while Murray, an invited speaker, attempted unsuccessfully to be heard. When he and the professor who had invited him to speak tried to leave by car, protesters blocked the car and physically assaulted the professor. To my knowledge, there have been no resolutions introduced to condemn the incident; no calls by civil-rights minded legislators to investigate; no condemnation by the Attorney General; in fact, no mention at all (that I have heard). I did overhear a couple of reporters casually discuss the pros and cons of the rationale given by the protesters who silenced Murray: that they had as much right to speak as he did.

- Guy Page is the author of State House Headliners. He operates Page Communications and is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership, Divestment Facts, the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare, and the Church at Prison. Guy Page is a member of the coordinating committee for the Consumer Liaison Group of ISO-New England. He lives in Berlin. 

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by Rob Roper

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) recently affirmed his commitment to passing a $15 minimum wage for Vermont; not this year but next. Ashe’s main concern is that passing such a law would have, from his perspective, the negative consequence of lifting incomes beyond the limits that qualify them for certain welfare programs. I thought creating financial independence was the point (erroneous but well intentioned), but it’s not what makes this such a bad policy.

John Hayward wrote an in-depth article, Robots Know Minimum Wage Is Always Zero, about a new technology being rolled out in California: a burger flipping robot. Everybody should read this.

We’ve all seen how many employers are already replacing certain jobs, restaurants and grocery stores for example, with iPad like tablets. You can order your burger now by clicking on a screen instead of speaking to a human being. Now the burger you order could be prepared by a machine as well.

What government is doing here is making it impossible for entry level workers to compete with technology for jobs. If entry-level workers never have an opportunity to enter the workforce, we’re in deep trouble.

When we artificially raise the price of cigarettes, we force people to quit smoking (or find a cheaper habit). When we artificially raise the price of one energy source, we force a more rapid development of new, alternative energy technologies. When we artificially raise the cost of labor, we force employers to stop hiring and force a more rapid development of alternative technologies.

As Hayward writes,

We can’t stop progress or robots, but we can adopt wise policies that maximize both supply and demand for human capital, encouraging employers to pay the best price for high-quality labor. Right now, we’re trying to force them to pay more than the labor is really worth because our government has not been able to establish a better set of labor, immigration and education policies. BurgerFlipBot is a symbol of that government failure — and a stark warning of what lies at the end of that road.

Since the turn of the century, national labor force participation rates have dropped pretty dramatically and are now just about 63%. High minimum wage laws are part of the problem. As artificial intelligence grows in its capabilities and decreases in its costs to implement, governments need to make it easier for human beings to compete for jobs. The alternative is consigning millions of people the real minimum wage: ZERO.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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by Rob Roper

Carbon Tax advocates invariably point to British Columbia as an example of a successfully implemented program. A big part of B.C.’s alleged success is the notion that it is “revenue neutral” – new tax cuts fully offset the costs of the Carbon Tax increase. Although revenue neutrality was the case when B.C.’s Carbon Tax was originally enacted… now not so much!

The Fraser Institute recently did a study of B.C.’s Carbon Tax and discovered that in 2013/14, the first full fiscal year in which the Carbon Tax reached its top rate of 30 per tonne, the tax was no longer neutral. The B.C. government was using some smoke and mirrors accounting gimmicks (applying existing tax credits that pre-dated the Carbon Tax to the offset calculations) to make the tax appear neutral. Without those gimmicks’ the Fraser Institute reports the Carbon Tax increase for 2013/14 was really…

$226 million that year. In 2013/14 and 2014/15, the two years for which final data are available, British Columbians bore a combined $377 million net tax increase.

If the available historical data are combined with the government’s projections to 2018/19, then from 2013/14 to 2018/19, the carbon tax is projected to result in a cumulative $865 million net tax increase for British Columbians… or $728 for a family of four.

We bring this up because the Vermont Carbon Tax proposal advocated for by VPIRG and Energy Independent Vermont (EIV) does not even begin as revenue neutral – it skims 10% off the top to fund pet projects. Nevertheless, the 90% of revenue collected that is supposed to be redistributed comes with the caveat that government can, of course, find other priorities for the money. If history guides us, they surely will.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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by Rob Roper

How time flies. It was nearly ten years ago to the day that then Senator Peter Shumlin proclaimed on VPR,

… New Jersey’s climate is moving to Vermont in the next decade. That has tremendous implications in our economy’s ski, maple-sugar making, leaf-peeping and the list goes on and on. So we are — I at least am — looking at this with a major sense of panic. (Source: Marketplace.org)

Well, here we are digging out from two feet of powder, putting an exclamation point on what’s been an excellent ski season, following one of the most brilliant foliage season in recent memory. Looking forward to a successful sugaring season, too! So, it doesn’t look as if Mother Nature didn’t Jersey Vermont after all.

The moral of the story is that panic on this issue isn’t warranted, and listening to the panicked (or advocating panic) is ill advised.

Thanks to the EAI supporter who reminded me of this auspicious anniversary and shared the link to the quote!

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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by John McClaughryJohn McClaughry

Last year the intense efforts of the “Energy Independent Vermont” coalition to sell Vermonters on the merits of a carbon tax ran onto the rocks. But the friends of the carbon tax in the Vermont House and Senate aren’t giving up.

Three years ago the EIV coalition burst upon the scene. Spearheaded by the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG), EIV included the usual organizations eager to defeat the Menace of Climate Change: the Conservation Law Foundation, Vermont Natural Resources Council, and Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility.

Their plan was to persuade Vermonters to clamor for a new tax on gasoline, diesel fuel, natural gas, heating oil and propane, in order to prevent (somehow) a planetary climate catastrophe a hundred years down the road. When the tax reached its projected final level ($100/metric ton of carbon dioxide) in ten years, it would bring in about $500 million a year.

To buy support, the sponsors promised to return 90% of the annual revenues to lucky individuals, businesses, and community action organizations – while slyly explaining to legislators that “carbon tax revenue could of course be used for other purposes.”

The advocates thoughtfully carved out a 10% annual skim off – $50 million in the tenth year – to fund weatherization projects and especially the renewable energy projects so dear to VPIRG’s leading sponsors. These sponsors include wind and solar magnates David Blittersdorf and Matthew Rubin, who ponied up a sizable part of the $40,000 VPIRG spent for a study of the impact and benefits of saddling Vermonters with a carbon tax.

It is significant that the 30% upfront Federal investment tax credit for residential solar panel installations is scheduled to drop to zero in 2022. The state carbon tax revenues could then be used to keep the subsidized solar farm boom alive, to the delight of VPIRG’s larger donors.

The plan to sell the carbon tax to Vermonters began in 2015 with a bill backed by 27 House sponsors. The spring of 2016 saw a choreographed House hearing featuring only enthusiasts for the bill. But that wasn’t a good year to press for enactment – it was election year. The victory celebration was scheduled for 2017.

During these years VPIRG flooded the state with summer interns asking people if they supported putting a fee on “carbon pollution”.  The coalition hired a “campaign director” to sell the goods. The sponsoring organizations fielded at least 20 registered lobbyists in the State House.

But things started to go sour. The Ethan Allen Institute worked hard to explain to Vermonters just what they were being asked to buy into, and the unlikelihood that the dangled tax reductions would be honored for a decade by a legislature chronically facing huge budget gaps.

The Republican candidate for Governor firmly declared that he would veto a carbon tax. The Democratic candidate didn’t clearly endorse it, but offered her own less obvious plan to achieve the same goal. He won, and she lost.

Now, in 2017, the carbon tax crowd, obliged to battle on to justify their donors’ investments, face the problem of selling a product that most Vermonters clearly don’t want. “Carbon tax”, once so boldly promoted as the best way to put Vermont at the forefront of states battling the Menace of Climate Change, largely disappeared. The latest euphemisms are “social cost of carbon”, “fee on carbon pollution”, “cap and trade”, “greenhouse gas initiative”, and even “tax reform”. Don’t be fooled.

Faced with an unequivocal veto threat from Gov. Scott, the carbon tax coalition won’t try now to push through their bill to raise $2.6 billion in new taxes (over ten years, offset by promised tax reductions). Instead, they want taxpayers to pay $100,000 to have the Joint Fiscal Office conduct a study of “the fiscal impacts of adopting and implementing carbon pricing and cap and trade programs in Vermont” (H.394). One has to wonder why, after the coalition with much fanfare released its $40,000 REMI study three years ago, it now needs a new $100,000 study to cover the same ground.

The answer , of course, is that mandating a new study will keep the issue alive, and please whomever has been footing the bill for this three year old (and stalled) carbon tax campaign.

Almost certainly the carbon tax promoters will try to smuggle the language of the bill and the $100,000 spending authorization into the FY18 appropriations bill. If they succeed, Gov. Scott may well be stuck with it, since a Vermont governor does not have a line item veto (unfortunately).

Citizens who think the carbon tax plan, in whatever guise, will turn out badly for them and for the state, ought to ask their legislators to be sure to get a roll call vote on this study provision.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute (www.ethanallen.org)

 

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by John McClaughry

A couple of things struck me after the raucous and violent Middlebury college protest against sociologist Charles Murry last week. Back in 1990 Charles Murray co-authored a book called The Bell Curve which tried to assess genetic and environmental explanations for differing cognitive levels by race. For whichever reason, the data showed that blacks achieved less than whites, so Murray was attacked as a racist.

Murray and I have a mutual best friend who met Murray as a college freshman and has been friends with him for 50 years. He tells me Murray was a Kennedy liberal. Murray has never been anti-gay or anti-black, and was one of a group of conservatives who vocally declined to support Donald Trump in the last election. He certainly has nothing to do with “white nationalism”, a label pinned on him on him by the contemptible Southern Poverty Law Center.

Barre lawyer Tom Koch, a Middlebury graduate and now retired after many years in the Vermont House, wrote after a series of similar uprisings in 2009: “There is no comparison between the overriding moral issue of the last two generations and the spewing of obscenities and hatred that mark the current “liberal” behavior.  The intolerance and illiberal behavior of those who present themselves as modern liberals is a betrayal of true liberalism.” I couldn’t agree more.

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

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by Rob Roper

Throughout Vermont, teams of good, earnest citizens are wrestling with how to deal with Act 46 and its mandate to consolidate school districts. The threat communities face is that if they don’t take this unpleasant, in many if not most cases unwanted, action the state will come in and do if for them.

You know what? Call their bluff.

Volunteers at the local/regional level are putting in thousands of collective hours of effort, sifting through meticulous details to make these shotgun weddings come together in a semi-cohesive way. And, from what I’ve seen and read, they mostly end up with a pitch that says, “It’s not what we would choose to do, but it’s the best we can hope for under the circumstances.”

But here’s the dirty little secret. The State Board of Education and the Agency of Education do not have the resources to “do it for you.” Nor do I think our elected officials would let them do anything really objectionable for fear of voter backlash.

Think about this… How many boards of how many people are out there now trying to put Humpty Dumpty together again? Dozens and hundreds meeting regularly, and they still can’t really get a handle on it. The State Board of Education is eleven people with zero staff. They meet once a month. They’re threatening to straighten all of these local messes for us from Montpelier? Great! Let ‘em do it. I’ll buy the popcorn.

There is, of course, a bit of a prisoner’s dilemma involved with this strategy. If everybody, or at least an overwhelming majority of communities, doesn’t vote no on their mergers, the few that do could be handled by the state. So, as Ben Franklin warned, hang together or hang alone.

Remember, these mergers once done are done. As someone put it in a recent panel discussion I had the privilege to take part in, we are looking at shotgun weddings with no possibility for divorce. The state is trying to manipulate you into doing to yourself what they don’t have the guts or the resources to do to you. Unless you genuinely think a merger is what’s best for your community, call their bluff. Vote no.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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