NOTE: EAI can confirm that Tom Licata was not serving on the board of directors for the Ethan Allen Institute at any point during his campaign for Vermont state senate, nor does he now. 

by Tom Licata

“VTDigger a finalist for the 17th annual Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism,” read this March 10, 2017 Vermont Digger headline. It goes on to describe this award, in part, as follows: “the Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism honors journalists and news organizations that demonstrate an extraordinary commitment to ethical conduct… When he created the award, Payne envisioned a program that would reward journalists acting with integrity and character.…”

“Extraordinary” is a high bar, defined as “exceptional to a very marked extent.” “Integrity and character” are defined as “the quality of being honest” and “the moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” Let me put to trial both Vermont Digger and Anne Galloway against these standards – – – using their own words.

The following is an unedited and complete correspondence between Anne Galloway and me. It references my 2016 State Senate campaign and an article published by Vermont Digger (House Minority Leader calls for break up of Chittenden County Senate district, Oct. 18, 2016), which contained factually erroneous information on my background and my request to have it corrected:

“On Tue, Oct 18, 2016 at 12:38 PM, Tom Licata wrote:

Hi Diane, Below is a passage from Morgan True’s article, posted today. Please issue a correction, as I am not “a member of the conservative Ethan Allen Institute’s board.” Of all my writings and my submission to your candidates’ questionnaire, my “recent op-ed” of over six months ago is all this crack-reporter could come up with? Banal derision and lazy reporting? The obvious message of my campaign are the irreconcilable differences between Progressivism and Constitutionalism. Did he even read my response to your questionnaire? Has he not heard or heard of my radio ads, having been aired for some two months now or read the local papers to view political ads? Probably not and it wouldn’t have mattered. Your organization isn’t a serious reporting outlet, but a mouthpiece for the Progressive movement, allowing just enough “legit” reporting as not to be obvious. Issue the correction. Thank you, Tom

“An independent has also joined the senate contest. Burlington resident Tom Licata, a member of the conservative Ethan Allen Institute’s board, has been critical of Republicans, urging them to “grow a pair” in a recent op-ed. Licata is running ads on CCTA buses, but his campaign finance filings could not be located on the Secretary of State’s website. Licata is listed on the site as a candidate for the November ballot.”

[Note: This first correspondence of mine was to Diane Zeigler. Diane was the Vermont Digger employee who first contacted all Vermont Legislative candidates, including me, requesting us to fill out their informational form, which I did. Diane never responded to me but Anne Galloway did.]

On Oct 18, 2016, at 12:45 PM, Anne Galloway wrote:

Thanks, Tom, for writing. 

We will not be issuing a correction. 

Anne

On Oct 18, 2016, at 3:16 PM, Tom Licata wrote:

Knowingly publishing incorrect, false and deceptive information on a political candidate is the very definition of propaganda:http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/propaganda Is this legal? As it certainly isn’t ethical. Thank you, though, for putting it in writing. Diane, please take my candidate information – that I provided to you – off your site. I want nothing to do with your organization or publication. Thank you, Tom

On Oct 18, 2016, at 3:18 PM, Anne Galloway wrote:

You haven’t pointed out an error 

As per usual you’ve gone off on a rant

On Oct 18, 2016, at 3:49 PM, Tom Licata wrote:

Anne, I’m trying to be patient. What part of “Please issue a correction, as I am not “a member of the conservative Ethan Allen Institute’s board,”” is ambiguous to you? I don’t know how else to communicate to you that I am not a member of the EAI’s board. And one man’s “rant” is another’s display of ignorance. If you issue a correction, stating that what was published earlier was incorrect and that in fact I am not a member of the EAI’s board, then you’re free to keep my candidate information up on your site. If not, any good-faith we had left in the tank is gone and I ask that you remove my candidate information from your publication. Thank you, Tom

On Tue, Oct 18, 2016 at 5:05 PM, Tom Licata wrote:

I’ve changed my mind. The snarky way Morgan introduces my candidacy; the censoring of my series on Progressivism: the way you just cut off all communications with me when I tried to get a coherent explanation as to why you wouldn’t publish the remaining in the series; and then your remark of my “usual…rant”; has brought me to the conclusion of “No Mas.” I don’t want anything to do with your publication. Please remove my candidate information from your site. You-all think that you are so ‘smart,’ on “the right side of History,” as your dear leader would say, and folks like me just “rant.” What’s worse than not knowing what you do not know is not having the intellectual curiosity of discovery. If one thinks that truth will eventually prevail – as I do – and that what can’t work, won’t, then I’ll be just fine, as Progressivism will collapse. But it’s the pain and suffering, on its way to collapse, that I will regret in failing to avoid.

From: “Anne Galloway” To: “Tom Licata” Cc: “Diane Zeigler” “Morgan True” Sent: Tuesday, October 18, 2016 5:15:51 PMSubject: Re: Correction

Sorry. It’s public information. No can do. 

On Oct 18, 2016, at 5:49 PM, Tom Licata wrote:

You disgust me.

On October 18, 2016 at 5:53 PM Anne Galloway wrote:

That’s too bad 

I kind of like you”

This was our entire correspondence. A correction was never issued. If Anne Galloway and Vermont Digger can hold a lie over a relatively small matter such as this, she and they have displayed the kind of “integrity and character” as to decide what will be held as truth or lie. Solzhenitsyn said, “Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.”

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By Rob RoperRob Roper

Equity and access to educational resources has been a hot topic surrounding the rules (or changes thereto) governing independent schools that accept tax dollars through Vermont’s tuitioning system. Some argue that if a school takes state money it should accept any and all comers. But what about public schools?

There is a tremendous amount of inequity in what Vermont public schools offer from one district to the next. Some offer lots of AP courses, some offer none. Some offer a variety of foreign languages, others don’t. Some have football teams, marching bands, and drama clubs, but certainly not all.

It’s a myth that public schools have to accept everyone. They can and do refuse students with severe disabilities or behavioral issues who’s needs they determine they cannot meet. (In such cases the districts, ironically quite often, pay to send these students to independent schools).

Nor do students within a given public schools have equal access to resources. Public school students are not “lotteried” into honors courses, varsity sports, or, for example, an elite musical band. Faculty and administration make decisions about who is most likely to succeed in such programs and discriminate accordingly.

As Rep. David Sharpe (D-Bristol), who chairs the House Education Committee, recently said, “We have [public school] districts that spend $20,000 [per pupil] and districts that spend $10,000. It’s hard to argue that you have equity when you have that kind of variation throughout the state.” That’s very true.

So, if an independent school should be forced to accept any student who wants to attend from anywhere in the state (not just from within the district where the school is located, but from any tuitinoing town across Vermont), why shouldn’t the same standard apply to our public schools?

Rep. Vicki Strong (R-Albany) put forward a bill this year that would allow any public school student to transfer to any other public school if that student’s assigned school does not offer an academic course, sport, extracurricular activity, or service that the new school does.

For example, if a student is geographically assigned to Public School A, which does not offer AP calculus (or have a football team or a marching band, etc.), and that student wants the opportunity to participate in that program, he or she would have the right to transfer to Public School B, which does offer that program. School A would be obligated to let the student go, and School B would be obligated to accept the student unless it can demonstrate that it does not have the physical capacity to do so. The per-pupil dollar amount would follow the child.

Under this system every public school student in the state of Vermont would have the opportunity to access every publicly funded educational program in the state, regardless of the zip code in which they can afford to live. That’s fair!

What’s not fair is locking a child in an assigned public school that doesn’t offer the courses that child needs to succeed in the pursuit his or her dreams and ambitions. That a Vermont kid can be stuck in a school without access to programs he or she aspires to take when those programs do exist just down the road – too often in underutilized classrooms – is a tragedy. It’s also unnecessary.

Not all of our public schools need to – or even should – look and be the same. Not every student wants to take Mandarin Chinese, or play baseball, or star in a play. Those who don’t don’t need access t such programs. But those who do do! As such, all should have the opportunity to participate in all of the publicly funded educational opportunities that, in the end, we’re all paying for through the statewide property tax.

Rep. Strong’s legislation would allow for much greater equity and access to opportunity throughout our public school system, as well as for a much more efficient use of resources. It deserves to pass.

- Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. He lives in Stowe.

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by John McClaughry

Last week the Congressional Budget Office projected the impact and costs of the Republican-drafted American Health Care Act. Republican health care expert Avik Roy noticed something really peculiar in the conclusions.

Writes Roy, “According to the CBO, able bodied adults on Medicaid receive about $6 thousand a year in government health insurance benefits. They pay no premiums and minimal copays. You’d think that eligible individuals would need no prodding to sign up for such a benefit.”

“And yet, according to its analysis of the Republican replacement bill, the CBO believes that there are five million Americans who wouldn’t sign up for Medicaid if it weren’t for ObamaCare’s individual mandate. That’s right, five million people need the threat of a $695 fine to sign up for a free program that offers them $6,000 worth of subsidized health insurance.” He adds that that’s more than 20% of the 24 million people that CBO – dubiously – claims would end up uninsured under the Republican bill.

Roy points out that under Obama, people who didn’t check the box on their income tax return saying “I have insurance” don’t face a penalty for not checking, which makes the penalty unenforceable by the IRS.

Maybe if ObamaCare offered twenty thousand dollars worth of health insurance, it wouldn’t have to fine people to accept it for free. When we have to fine people for not accepting thousands of dollars of free stuff, something is really wrong.

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

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“President Jefferson Stares Down Islam”
A Dinner Talk by John McClaughry

Thursday, April 20, 2017
Social hour at 6:15 (cash bar) – Dinner at 7:15

Doubletree Hotel – So. Burlington VT
1117 Williston Road, ¼ mile east of I-89 Exit 14

Come enjoy an evening of good friends,
good conversation, and good food!

Every year the Ethan Allen Institute celebrates the life, legacy, wisdom and guiding principals of Thomas Jefferson. This year we will celebrate with a dinner and presentation by EAI founder, John McClaughry titled, “President Jefferson Stares Down Islam.” It will focus on our early history tangling with the Barbary Pirates. These under-reported events in our history led to the founding of our national navy, launched the heroic careers Stephen Decatur and the USS Constitution, and inspired the line “…To the shores of Tripoli” in the Marine’s Hymn!

Jefferson was in his day an outstanding advocate of religious tolerance. But as Congress’s Ambassador in England in 1786 he learned firsthand from the Algerine ambassador what Muslim states along the North African coast had in mind for American shipping. Later on, when he was President, he took decisive action to protect American interests against Islamic-motivated assaults in the Mediterranean. Jefferson’s actions provide many lessons and insights into our world today!

Please join us, Thursday, April 20 at the Doubletree by Hilton hotel and conference center at 1117 Williston Road in South Burlington (a quarter mile east of I 89 Exit 14E.) The cash bar social hour begins at 6:15, and the dinner at 7:15. Entrée choices are Bellissimo Grilled Sirloin or Maple Glazed Salmon, plus appetizer, dessert, and coffee or tea.

All friends of the Institute are welcome. The dinner is $35 per person, and reservations (indicating entrée choice) should be made before April 17 by email to annem@kingcon.com or john@ethanallen.org) or by phone to 802-695-1448. Pay by check to Ethan Allen Institute, 4836 Kirby Mtn. Rd., Concord VT 05824) or online HERE (Please note “Jefferson Dinner” where it says “Add special instructions to the seller”.)

Don’t miss this chance to enjoy great company and to hear one of the most exciting and interesting stories in our nation’s history, as well as a brief presentation by EAI president Rob Roper about what the future holds for the Ethan Allen Institute.

We look forward to seeing you!

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by John McClaughryJohn McClaughry

In a recent talk before students at St. Johnsbury Academy, Sen. Bernie Sanders declared that although we are living in the wealthiest country in the history of the world, “the nation’s wealth is in the hands of a privileged few”, producing what he called an “unfair and grotesque level of income inequality.”

This is a familiar theme for Sanders, who has attacked the unworthy rich in every campaign he has run since 1972. His socialist playbook has always called for a sharp focus on perceived injustices that can motivate people to vote for redistribution of income and wealth from rich to poor. Its strategy is to make the uncontestable fact that some people are rich, or just well to do, a source of resentment and envy among voters who have little or nothing. Then urge them to put socialists into power to redress this “unfair and grotesque” injustice, at the expense of unworthy others.

The premise, of course, is that “the rich(er)” got that way by stealing the “surplus value” created by the labor of the working class.

As an example of the unworthy rich, Sanders told the students that “the family who owns WalMart alone possesses more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of all Americans combined.” The company’s stock has been publicly traded since 1970, but it’s certainly true that the heirs of WalMart founder Sam Walton (died 1992) have a greater collective net worth than the bottom 42 percent of all Americans combined, only part of which is WalMart stock.

Forbes magazine’s latest “Top Four Hundred” wealth ranking includes seven WalMart heirs, who together have a net worth of $134 billion. (There may be others below Forbes’ $4 billion cutoff.)

By comparison, the bottom 40% of U.S. households have a total net worth on the order of… zero. The Bernie Sanders household alone has a greater net worth than all of their fellow Americans in those two lower quintiles.

What’s so unfair about this? Let’s do a quick trip through Wal-Mart history.

Sam Walton earned his way through college, served in WWII, and worked and saved to buy a Ben Franklin “five and dime” store in Newport, Arkansas (1950 pop. 6,000). After seventeen years opening small stores in small towns, Sam hit on the idea of WalMart. He opened the first one in Rogers, Arkansas in 1962.

As it developed over the years, WalMart prospered by offering a wide range of products at prices attractive to rural, small town , and often lower income customers. Sam’s innovations included an almost fanatic attention to squeezing out waste, driving hard bargains with suppliers on price, quantity and delivery, and installing a pioneering computerized inventory management system that brought goods to the shelves just before they were purchased by consumers.

Sam created his own trucking fleet and regional distribution centers. Over time the company expanded with Sam’s Club, aimed at small business customers, Super Centers that include groceries, and online marketing. WalMart’s motto is “everyday low prices”, and it operates almost entirely without advertising.

WalMart early adopted a profit sharing plan. According to business historians Richard Vedder and Wendell Cox, “while profit sharing was offered partly to help keep out unions, Walton believed that the carrot of building an ownership interest in the company (financed by company contributions) did more to increase loyalty, stimulate innovation, and reduce employee turnover (and therefore training costs) than anything else he did.”

WalMart pays competitive retail industry wages in the localities it serves. The company also offers its employees contributions to 401(k) investment plans, tuition assistance, disability insurance, and a health plan that pays on average 75% of eligible employee premiums, 100% of preventive care costs, and employee-owned Health Savings Accounts funded with $600 company contributions.

As a result, Sam Walton’s heirs, and many of their long time employees, became very wealthy, and make enormous charitable contributions. Last year the Walton Family Foundation announced it would grant $2 billion over the coming five years (in addition to corporate grants) to support environmental, education and community improvement projects.

There is a lesson here, that the Academy students surely will never hear from Bernie Sanders.

Sam Walton’s strong principles, honesty, hard work, risk taking, innovation, and concern for his co-workers built an astonishingly successful enterprise that has served the needs of millions of consumers, especially those on tight family budgets. And yes, the result was great inequality.

Would a monopoly chain of taxpayer-capitalized, government-owned bureaucratically- managed retail stores, created to put an end to “grotesque inequality”, be likely to achieve as much?  Students, let’s have a vote: SandersMarts, or WalMarts?

- John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute (www.ethanallen.org). EAI has never received a contribution from WalMart or the Walton family.

 

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by Chris Campion

Recently, a small part of the Trump administration’s budget proposal generated a series of high-pitched squeals across the United States.  Said squeals which could mostly be found in such squeal-oriented places like Facebook, Twitter, and college campuses, where squeals propagate like hippies at a free lunch buffet, and where economic reality enjoys a permanent holiday.

And the root cause for the squealing?  A complete misunderstanding of the federal budget and how some non-profits are funded .  But the squeals of anguish were not rallies to the cause of federalism.  No.  Instead, they were cries of outrage that Trump was cutting the Meals on Wheels program.  A program that relies, so heavily, on government grants.

Oh, wait.  It doesn’t.  It’s 3% of their budget (page 18).

As Reason has noted, the issue is much less about the individual programs that receive grants.  What Meals on Wheels does is a fantastic example of what local effort, and local control, can do to positively impact lives, and help people who need just a little bit of help, a meal, and even a wellness check, when no one is doing that for them.  It’s the vehicle that spends billions per year on administering and doling out dollars that is the source of the issue, and ultimately some level of corruption – the Community Development Block Grant Program.

What’s the result of lading a trough filled with pork in front of politicians eager to buy votes?  The quick appearance of dollar-guzzling politicians, seeing an opportunity to buy something (votes) with someone else’s money (yours and generations of unborn saddled with federal debt):

You don’t need to look far in the past to see this sort of corruption taking place. In June, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sent a scathing letter to the Mayor of Honolulu Hawaii, calling on the city to return nearly $8 million in CDBG funds that it gave to Opportunities and Resources Inc. (ORI), a nonprofit redevelopment organization in central Oahu. The Aloha Gardens Wellness Center and Camp Pineapple 808 both were projects developed by ORI with federally issued CDBG money meant to serve elderly and disabled persons, but since completion, the projects haven’t exactly been used for their advertised purpose.

The HUD report claims ORI had been marketing the centers to the public as venues for weddings, parties, banquets, fundraisers, corporate retreats, conferences and family reunions. The city also lent ORI nearly $1.2 million in CDBG funds between 1989 and 1995, which it decided to forgive back in 2010. HUD found that this decision was made by city employees who were running for elected office while receiving campaign donations from ORI representatives.  The report states:

“ORI has maintained significant support over many years by the direct involvement of high ranking City and State officials…The direct involvement of the officials’ appears to have placed pressure on staff resulting in the City ignoring regulatory violations in favor of completing the project and satisfying ORI’s requests.”

In other words, the funding becomes the driving policy directive, not the service that the funding might itself provide.  The funding model subverts the local control because the dollars are critical to a political outcome, less so in addressing a local need.

Local control, and local accountability for dollars spent, should be the watchwords.  But because the federal government throws billions around, annually, in thousands of programs, it would be extremely difficult to say no to those funds if you’re sitting in a small municipal office, wondering how you’re going to affect some local change.  Which then creates the puppet strings that federal agencies, and ultimately politicians, use to buy votes, and influence voters.  Once the city or state becomes hooked on the federal dollars, they can no longer say no to them – and are adversely affected when funding for those programs becomes a political football.

The accretion of these programs, in the federal budget, is what has given rise to the outsized spending and record deficits seen during the last 8 years.  This growth isn’t directly attributable to one administration, but the Obama administration stomped down hard on entitlement spending, then tried to laughably claim that it reduced deficits – record deficits the administration itself had set in the years preceding its final year.

The result was a doubling of national debt in 8 years, a doubling of the debt that took over 200 years to first accumulate.  We have had 4 years of trillion-dollar deficits.  The first year the government started spending over a trillion dollars per year was 1987.  30 years later, we have deficits bigger than the total annual spend in 1987.  Today we’re borrowing more to fund an annual deficit than our total spend was 30 years ago.

 

The historical record doesn’t show any sign of slowing down in spending, which means a further erosion of local control, leave alone any kind of spending efficacy metric that would allow for decision-making regarding the growth or reduction of spending on a program.  Once a program is established, whether or not it’s doing something good or bad (if you can even quantify those outcomes), it will never, ever go away.  It’s too late now.

And any call to reduce spending is met with the squeals.  The self-agonized cries of those who believe, fervently, that it’s up to the federal government to fix local problems, address local needs, through taxation.  Which is, in a way, a tithe of the conscience – that one is off the hook to get off the couch on a Sunday to help someone else, because the government is doing it for them, through their income taxes.

Or, more to the point, through the taxes of those filthy, evil rich people.  The same people who pay 97% of all income taxes collected.  Which will never, ever be enough to pay for the programs that help politicians get elected, to grow the spending of government again next year.  When politicians have a credit card with a $1.5 trillion dollar limit on it, what’s their incentive to not spend more than we have?  For them, the downside to spending less is not getting re-elected.

Until those political incentives change, you’ll continue to see the growth in federal outlays, and a continuing reduction in incomes relative to that spending growth, as the weight of spending and borrowing drags the economy into a perpetually smaller cycle of growth.  It’s already happening.

Trump’s budget, while flawed (like every budget before his), is actually looking to address an issue around federalism, which is:  Why do you need a federal government to sink its controlling claws into a local effort to help those in need?  Why not just cut the check to your local charity of choice and avoid the federal middleman?

Why give more control to someone else over your own choices?  Hopefully the answer to that isn’t “Because then I don’t have to think about it”.

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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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