Lt. Gov. Phil Scott (R), Senator Dick Mazza (faux D) and Senate president pro tem John Campbell (D) are the powerful Senate Committee on Committees. The C of C’s is the three member Senate group charged with choosing senate committee assignments, chairs of committees and “personnel,” as Campbell says.
But the band is breaking up. John Campbell announced he will not seek re-election but will take a job as executive director with the legislatively created Vermont Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs. One duty of the executive director is to represent the group’s views to the legislature. Lt. Gov. Phil Scott will be moving out and/or up depending on the results of his run for governor. And who knows what “king maker” Dick Mazza may have in store for the next session.
On occasion in the past their collective wisdom has been questioned. The chairman they put in place as the head of the Senate Natural Resources Committee several years ago was what you might politely call unsure about climate change.
However, due to some end-of-session senate resignations that opened up committee seats last week, the gang of three was able to raise some eyebrows and hackles yet again with their unilateral decision making — maybe for the last time.
After a brief consultation with each other, Campbell, Scott and Mazza elevated Sen. Dustin Degree, (R-Franklin) from Senate Education to the powerful Senate Finance Committee. Then they named Degree’s Committee replacement without consulting or notifying Ed. Committee Chair Sen. Ann Cummings of their choice of “personnel.”
The Committee on Committees is in charge of “personnel,” as Campbell describes it, and does not hold public meetings. Decisions are often made unilaterally by the close-knit group of three men.
And in this instance, there actually was no meeting to vote on the matter — the decision was made in casual conversation before the Friday Senate session.
Campbell happened to be talking to Scott in front of Senate Transportation where Mazza is the chair and the subject came up. Scott then talked with Mazza and the deed was done.
“We made these appointments through individual conversations with each other over the past few days,” Scott said in a written statement. “It’s difficult to find a time when all three of us can meet, so we talk in pairs until we come to an agreement. No formal committee vote is needed, simply an agreement on the appointment between the three of us.”
Just more of that olde time, good ol’ boys’ we-know-what’s-best-for-Vermont style that comes so naturally to these three. So good they don’t even bother with a smoke-filled room!
Phil Scott opened his run for governor by declaring: “I saw a need for a leader who could bring people together.” His history with Mazza and Campbell on the Committee on Committees says otherwise.
Unlike stocks, in Scott’s case, past performance may well predict future behavior: if elected governor, he will likely prefer to make his important decisions behind closed doors, just as he’s done here.