2015 Legislature: Triumph of the B-sides

When I look back on this session of the Legislature, a strange thing keeps happening: over and over again, I’m reminded of a significant bill, and my reaction is “Oh yeah, that.”

RESET bill? Oh yeah, that.

Child protection? Oh yeah, that.

The gun bill? Oh yeah, that.

Consumer protection, including limits on rent-to-own stores? Oh yeah, that.

Same-day voter registration? Oh yeah, that.

Economic development? Oh yeah, that.

The legislative agenda was so top-heavy with high-profile issues — the budget, taxes, education, Lake Champlain — that a lot of normally headline-making issues flew more or less under the radar. Or were quickly dealt with and forgotten.

I’m sure some issues benefited from the situation. Headline issues often wither in the spotlight, as opposing sides dig in and relatively minor differences loom large.

When you add in all the “Oh yeah, that” bills to the compromise measures on the top issues, you get a Legislature that, frankly, accomplished quite a lot in a very difficult year. It certainly wasn’t everything a liberal could have hoped for; but in real-world terms, a lot got done. The only real failure, and it’s a big one, is health care.

When I was preparing to write this post, I spent a few moments scanning listicles of the greatest B-sides of all time. I was surprised to learn that some really famous songs began life as B-sides: “Revolution” and “I Am the Walrus” by the Beatles, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ by the Rolling Stones, “Time of Your Life” by Green Day, “We Will Rock You” by Queen, “Suffragette City” by David Bowie, “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers, “Get Rhythm” by Johnny Cash.

And of course, my all-time favorite B-side, “You Know My Name, Look Up the Number.”

But I digress. The point is, this year’s session was a great one for legislative B-sides. And some of them are likely to be greater hits than the A-sides. RESET, for sure. The water bill, if it signals a long-overdue attention to the sad state of our water quality. Perhaps the child protection bill, which Sen. Dick Sears called the most important of the session.

As I previously wrote, on health care this session was a case of “glass one-thirtieth full.” Overall, though, there’s plenty of reason to see the glass as half full. Or even more.


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