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 Rob Roper

Vermont students’ science scores in the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) dropped for the second year in a row. In the latest numbers released (2014), just 44% of 4th graders scored as proficient or better, down another three points from last year.  This is significant because these fourth graders are among the first batches of Vermont youngsters to have “benefited” from, Act 62, which “established publicly funded prekindergarten education” for three-and four-year-olds, and went into effect in 2007.

According to the Shumlin Administration, the number of kids placed in publicly funded pre-k programs was growing by about 2% per year between 2007 and 2011, which at that time amounted to roughly 4300 (or 1/3) of Vermont’s 13,000 three-and four-year-olds. The number has certainly increased since then as after 2011 availability of publicly funded pre-k became mandatory. Before that, the decision whether or not to participate in the program was left up to local control and some districts chose not to offer pre-k.

Three post-Act 62 pre-k classes (in 2012, 2013, and 2014) have taken the NECAP as fourth graders. Yet, fourth-grade NECAP science scores have fallen nine points, from 53 percent proficiency to just 44 since 2011.

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At a 2011 press conference, Governor Shumlin said, “It is vital that we increase the number of children with access to these programs. These kids will arrive at kindergarten ready to learn, and have more successful educational and professional futures as a result.”

Shumlin has also repeated the promise that “all the evidence shows if we can get there early, if we can invest a dollar in Vermont’s children when they are youngest, we will get a $7 return later on….” (VT Digger, 6/6/14)


What the evidence is showing so far in Vermont is that the tens of millions of dollars so far spent on publicly funded pre-k has been for naught, and may even be causing harm. This is in line with findings from the U.S. Health & Human Services Agency’s Head Start Impact Study, which concluded, “the advantages children gained during their Head Start and age 4 years yielded only a few statistically significant differences in outcomes at the end of 1 grade for the sample as a whole.” By third grade there is complete fade out.

You would expect, according to the promises made by proponents, that the more kids in a class who participated in high-quality, publicly funded pre-k the better that class would perform. But what the numbers are showing is that as the percentage of kids who have gone through Vermont’s publicly funded pre-k programs increases, the total score for the whole class decreases. Is that cause or coincidence? We need to dig further to say for sure (and this is just one measure), but it should certainly give policy makers — and parents — pause.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute


Posted by Chris Campion

Since Peter Shumlin, former governor of Vermont (well, he seems to be a former governor, since he’s not spent so much time governing in the last year), seems to have lost his touch in touting the state’s low unemployment numbers.  Why?  Because they’re lousy, if you crack open the numbers a bit.  Now, as Vermont’s unemployment rate spikes 10.8% higher in August (jumping from 3.7% to 4.1%), you won’t see Peter touting Vermont’s low unemployment numbers, as he has so heartily done in the past.

But the spike in unemployment is just the beginning of the worse news.  The number of unemployed went up (by 1,300), to the highest level of unemployed in 2014.  The labor force participation rate shrank, again, month over month, by 800, which helped the unemployment rate calculation be lessbad.  Irony is rarely unseen in labor data, obviously.

The trends have been consistent – the labor force participation rate is much lower than the national average, but it has been fairly steady in 2014 at close to 351,000 (2014 average is 350,844).  But when the number of unemployed goes up, even relatively little, the impact on the rate is large.

In April 2014, the unemployed number was 11,500.  The unemployment rate was 3.28%.  But just 4 months later, there are 14,400 unemployed, with virtually the same number in the labor force participation rate, and the unemployment number jumps to 4.11%.  That’s an almost 33% jump in the unemployment rate in just four months.  And yes, it’s seasonally adjusted data, so the smoothing has already been applied.  If you can call that bump smooth.

Peter Shumlin Says:  Just In Time For The Holidaze!


Even though Peter’s probably possibly primed to pump a penultimate, um, fist in victory this fall in the gubernatorial election, I would think his electoral opponents would want to bring a lot of flashlights with them during debates.  Why flashlights?  To shine some bright light on the truth of Vermont’s economy.  Peter rushes in as fast as his non-gubernatorial duties allow him to when there’s something that can even be remotely touted as good news.  So let’s help Peter own his legacy here, and point to the stats he loves to tout – but point to them when they lay bare the truth of Vermont’s struggling, if not dying economy.

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By John J. Metzler

UNITED NATIONS—Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings and potentates are gathering in New York for the 69th General Assembly of the UN.   But as diplomats come together for the annual general debate which begins on September 24th, there’s a cloud of political and social  unease greeting delegations from the 193 member states;  issues ranging from regional wars, to humanitarian crises, nuclear proliferation, the spread of infections disease, and the scimitar of ISIS terrorism.  

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon concedes stoically that, “We are living in an era of an unprecedented level of crisis and troubles.”  

Indeed the violence levels and threats are daunting even according to seasoned diplomats.  For the 140 chiefs of state and government who plan to attend the session, including President Barack Obama, Francois Hollande of France, Park Geun-hye of South Korea, and King Abdullah of Jordan, the challenges will be glaring. 

In comments to the press, Secretary General Ban overviewed some of the issues;
“we will address the horrendous violence in Syria and Iraq.”   Ban praised the “growing international consensus to act against this serious threat to global peace and security.”

Significantly, the Secretary General welcomes, “the decisive and firm commitment of the U.S. to fight against terrorism which is a common enemy for humanity.” He added however that beyond the Middle East that violence continues in Mali, South Sudan and Central African Republic, “we will not let these crises be forgotten.” 

Ban concedes, “the situation in and around Ukraine remains volatile. And in Libya, order is breaking down. “   He added, “The world is facing multiple crises, each has its own dynamics, and requires its own approach.”   He added, “All have dangerous sectarian, ethnic or tribal dimensions.’’

But beyond the mix of toxic armed conflicts, the UN is confronted with growing refugee numbers, rebuilding after natural disasters, and West Africa’s horrible humanitarian health emergency resulting from the spreading Ebola epidemic. 

Naturally, each annual Assembly session is remembered for its controversial speakers as much as for its achievements.  In recent years, Libya’s radical Colonel Gadaffy, Islamic Iran’s president Mahmud Ahmadinjad, and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez were among them.  This year Iran’s new less controversial leader Hassan Rouhani will lead the delegation, Zimbabwe’s perennial dictator Robert Mugabe will return too.   Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will skip the session as will the Mainland Chinese leader Xi Jinping. 

On a lighter note, the massive renovations at the UN complex are nearly complete.  
The elegant and iconic domed General Assembly hall has been modernized,  reopened and looks splendid.  Indeed, most of the 17-acre complex on New York’s East River has less of the look and bustle of a perpetual “work site” than a setting for global diplomacy and humanitarian coordination.  Long overdue indeed. 

Kahamba Kutesa of Uganda, has been chosen as President of the 69th Assembly.

The  annual Assembly has its own long list of agenda items ranging from the Middle East, to nuclear non-proliferation, poverty and the myriad of UN peacekeeping operations.  Most of the real work is done on the sidelines of the speeches where delegations often prefer quiet and discreet contacts out of the limelight.  

But it’s precisely the deterioration of specific crisis which merits not only attention but wider concern. Take the north African country of Libya.   Three years ago, Libya   was set to be a poster child for multinational cooperation; the UN Security Council allowed intervention under the responsibility to protect, instead turned to permit the toppling of a ruthless tyrant.  Yes, but then what?  Into the power vacuum came militias, Islamic fundamentalists, and UN officials warn the country is “closer to the brink of protracted conflict and civil strife.”

For Americans, the Libyan saga leaves a particularly bitter legacy.  The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, totally under-protected given the impending threat, was  systematically attacked on September 11, 2012, by Al- Qaida linked militants.  Ambassador Chris Stevens and three security personnel were killed and the American diplomatic complex was trashed by the mob.  Washington was unprepared.   

There  are other looming challenges.  Ebola is spreading throughout West Africa.   As Secretary General Ban warned, “This has gone beyond health issues. It has gone to the areas of affecting social and economic situations. “ He added it may “affect the political stability if not properly contained and properly treated.”  A World Bank survey reported separately that the affected countries could experience a “potentially catastrophic blow” to their economies.

The Assembly meets in a pivotal historic period in which world leaders must confront the swath of crises or reap the bitter whirlwind of inaction.  

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).


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


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).


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


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 


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


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.


Rob Roper, President, Ethan Allen Institute



9-12-14 – September 11th Shadows Haunt Obama in ISIS Struggle

September 12, 2014

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 [...]

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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.

Latest News

9-29-14 – Pre-K Not Paying Dividends So Far

posted by Rob Roper Vermont students’ science scores in the New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) dropped for the second year in a row. In the latest numbers...

9-26-14 – The Shumlin Economy: A 10.8% Increase In Unemployment

Posted by Chris Campion Since Peter Shumlin, former governor of Vermont (well, he seems to be a former governor, since he’s not spent so much time governing in...

9-23-14 – UN Assembly Meets in “Era of Unprecedented Crisis and Troubles”

By John J. Metzler UNITED NATIONS—Presidents, Prime Ministers, Kings and potentates are gathering in New York for the 69th General Assembly of the UN.   But as diplomats come...

9-22-14 – The Middlebury “Climate Conversation”

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...

9-18-14 – The Growing Sea of Solar Panels

Posted by Rob Roper Vermont Digger reported on a controversial solar energy project that is being proposed for New Haven, Vermont. Local residents are concerned that the 40...