Signs of the Apocalypse, Vermont Politics Edition: I agree with John McClaughry!
The biennial legislative session has just concluded, and it was a banner year for Vermont’s version of advanced liberalism.
Exactly! There were some twists and turns along the way, and some last-minute unpleasantness in the Sausage Factory*, but hey everybody, let’s have a big cheer it for Advanced Liberalism!
*Dick Sears, take a bow! On second thought, sit down and shut up.
The agreement ends there, of course. To El Jefe General, a liberal biennium is a catastrophe along the lines of Tropical Storm Irene. To me, it’s a heartening affirmation of my support for liberal politicians.
I realize I’m putting my License To Blog at risk by actually praising the Legislature, but look at this partial list of accomplishments (in no particular order):
— A significant increase in the minimum wage.
— An innovative program that should result in drug offenders getting treatment instead of punitive prison sentences. VTDigger’s Anne Galloway, speaking Monday on the Mark Johnson Show (double plugola!), referred to this bill as the most impactful of the entire session. And if it works, maybe we can end our soul-killing contract with the Corrections Corporation of America.
— A good step towards addressing the college affordability gap, with the Vermont Strong Scholars Program.
— Establishment of organizing rights for day-care workers.
— Establishment of universal pre-K in public schools.
After the jump: the list continues.
— A reasonable bill to protect shorelands. The final product was a compromise, but it was a lot more than I thought we’d get, after 2013’s debacle.
— The adoption of State Treasurer Beth Pearce’s plan to boost funding of health benefits for retired teachers.
— The GMO lebeling bill. I’m less excited about this than many because I’m lukewarm on the issue, and I doubt the law will survive a court challenge. But it was a legislative victory for liberal politics, which is always nice.
— A meaningful reduction in the projected seven-cent increase in the state property tax, which should blunt the effectiveness of Republican attacks on the issue.
— A mandatory police training program in Taser use, which hopefully will reduce the chances of potentially fatal discharges in the future.
— The use of handheld cellphones while driving will be made illegal. A common-sense measure, passed over the objections of Dick Sears and Governor Shumlin. (Extra Bonus Points: Shumlin actually changed his mind on something!)
That’s a pretty substantial list, and I could go on from there.
Not everything got through, of course. Lawmakers failed to agree on an approach to school district consolidation; but in my opinion, that issue warrants further discussion anyway. It emerged as a priority because of widespread dismay over the seven-cent property tax increase; but I believe the issues of organization and cost should be considered separately. A reorganization may or may not address the cost issue.
Other disappointments: the collapse in support for mandatory sick leave, the last-minute decision (Diane Snelling, take a bow!) to make food-stamp beneficiaries responsible for overpayments caused by state errors, and yet another failure to improve the Current Use law (which leaves it open to opportunistic attacks from the right). And I’m not entirely happy with some of the newly-enacted bills. But all in all, a solid performance by lawmakers, in which they positively addressed a wide range of issues.