UPDATE: I was mistaken when I wrote this post. The opinion piece was not written by Sunderland; it was a Times Argus editorial. See this new post for details.
Vermont Republican Party chair David Sunderland, having been eerily quiet during the bulk of this year’s legislative session, is now throwing around boilerplate press releases and opinion pieces like there’s no tomorrow.
A recent missive, published in the May 27 Times Argus, castigates H.361, the education reform bill, as “a mess of a bill,” a “coercive regime,” the result of a “panicked” legislature. He claims the bill “will raise property taxes” (nonsense) and introduce inequity to what he called the “painstaking and thorough quest” that resulted in the adoption of Act 60 in 1997.
Which is funny in itself, because Republicans have been loudly beating the drum for repeal of Act 60 and its 2003 amendment, Act 68. Sunderland may be too young to recall that Act 68 was adopted because of severe problems with Act 60. But hey, if he views the halcyon days of Act 60 through rose-colored glasses, that’s his right. Of course, he may be completely alone in his nostalgia.
But that’s not the real story here. The most significant, nay stunning, aspect of his essay is that H.361 was a bipartisan bill. It was a cooperative effort of Democrats and Republicans in the House Education Committee, and it passed the Legislature with substantial Republican support. In the House, 23 Republicans — almost half the caucus — voted for H.361, including House Minority Leader Don Turner and Assistant Leader Brian Savage.
Sunderland avoids this detail through the bulk of his essay; his rebuke of the GOP caucus is largely unspoken — until the last paragraph:
In the meantime, Republicans who are not wedded too firmly to the idea that Montpelier ought to force cost controls on local school districts are in a good position to challenge this flawed and damaging example of political overreach.
See what he did there? It’s subtle but unmistakable: he’s publicly criticizing any Republican who voted for H.361 — those Republicans who were “wedded too firmly” to a rushed, flawed, and generally bad piece of legislation. Don Turner, for example.
I’ve been told that there’s a fair bit of dissatisfaction among Republican lawmakers regarding the VTGOP’s performance during the session. There were chances aplenty to slam the Democrats; more often than not, the VTGOP failed to capitalize. Or do much of anything to support its elected officials.
I’m sure Sunderland’s essay won’t help him rebuild any bridges.