Don Turner plays hardball

I don’t know if it’s the Hansen effect or what, but lately House Minority Leader Don Turner has adopted a more aggressive stance toward his job. Instead of loudly complaining about the maneuverings of the Democratic majority, he’s now finding opportunities to play the active obstructionist.

This is kind of a new thing in Vermont politics, and is of a piece with how Congressional Republicans act on the national stage.

Turner’s latest exercise in Human Speedbump concerns S.230, the energy siting bill vetoed last week by Governor Shumlin. He has reportedly crafted a “fix” to the bill that would allow him to sign it; but Turner is vowing to block passage in any way he can.

And it ain’t nothing but politics.

Oh, Turner claims to be acting on principle, but the differences between the current and fixed versions are simply not worth fighting over. He just wants to stir up as much trouble as he can.

And I suspect that what he really wants is for Shumlin’s veto to stand. That would allow Republicans to demagogue the issue in the campaign — “Democrats failed to address your concerns,” that sort of thing.

Don Turner plays bad cop (is “bad fire chief” a thing?), and Phil Scott gets to play good cop — the earnest politico who’s sincerely distressed at the Dems’ “failure.”

This should be a simple, straightforward process, but Turner may be in a position to drag it out for a few days. Every additional day adds to the price tag for the special session, which reinforces the Republicans’ talking point about the Dems’ wasteful spending.

Turner’s got a weak hand, as usual. But he’s playing it to the hilt. Which, again, is kind of a new thing, and makes me wonder who’s pulling his strings.

10 thoughts on “Don Turner plays hardball

  1. Sen. Joe Benning

    Re: “It ain’t nothing but politics.”

    Yes John, you have that exactly right, although exactly wrong in how you’ve interpreted it. As an original cosponsor of S.230, I understood that this bill would strengthen municipal and regional say in the siting of industrial energy projects. That was in reaction to over 160 towns who have now signed on board asking for just such a thing. It is important to note that towns were NOT granted veto authority- they only had say in WHERE a project could be placed.

    As the bill wound its way through countless hours of testimony, which included expert witnesses and lobbyists from all sides in the discussion, I was saddened to see the bill weakened to the point of being made almost pointless. Many who supported the original version requested that I vote AGAINST the final version because it had been so watered-down. But I voted for it anyway because I saw it as moving the needle in the right direction. I wasn’t alone in my vote. There were only 3 opposing the bill in the Senate and NOBODY opposing it in the House.

    Now, after the session has ended, Peter Shumlin says he doesn’t like it. He cites three reasons. First, the final bill neglected to put $300K in to provide for assistance in planning. Second, he objects to the Rules adaptation clause. Finally, and this is really the crux of the discussion, he objects to what he calls “impossible sound standards.”

    His first concern, the $300K, can easily be dealt with in a budget adjustment act. So that is not really an issue here.

    His second concern, the Rules adaptation language, is really nothing more than an image problem. Simply stated, the industry doesn’t like any implication that the complaints of many, many witnesses warrant an approach to Rules with language that replicates what the Shumlin administration itself has used on several other occasions in matters in which it favors. There are no constitutional objections that have been raised, no witness testimony that can or will be heard, just Shumlin’s opinion that this is unwarranted. Funny how the committees of jurisdiction and almost the entire legislature didn’t feel the same way after all that testimony.

    Finally, the real reason for the veto: the noise standards. Keep in mind that the committees of jurisdiction heard plenty of testimony on this subject. These are not noise standards pulled out of a hat; they are similar to what is found in other jurisdictions. Now, with no testimony or legal authority backing up his “these are impossible to meet” claim, Tony Klein and Chris Bray have decided to grant Shumlin’s, and thus the industry’s, wish. In simple terms, the industry does not want to lose carte blanche siting ability.

    So is this “politics?” You betchya! That’s why we as a legislature should override a veto that comes in the face of all but three legislators voting for this bill. Failing to override is an insult to those municipalities and citizens who have been formally trying to get Vermont to get hold of a process that has failed Vermont. Calling those folks “crybabies” or “NIMBYS” or “climate change deniers” only sets back Vermont’s renewable energy efforts by further dividing us. The only real issue with this bill is the industry’s vision of itself. It is unfortunate that Messr’s Klein, Bray and Shumlin have decided to scratch that itch.

    But I won’t lose any sleep if the veto is sustained. No bill is better than a further watered-down bill. By January I suspect more towns will be added to the list of those officially calling for stronger citing standards. And I know our next governor will be more likely to advance a new bill to actually strengthen, as opposed to weaken, Vermont’s ability to get control over this wild-west, unfettered build-out attitude that is trampling the rights of citizens and municipalities under the guise of saving us from ourselves.

  2. Tom

    Your governor vetoed the the bill (unanimously passed by the house) that protects Vermonters and allows green energy development. Seems like Don is working for you, to ensure the good bill stands.

  3. newzjunqie

    God bless you Don Turner & the horse you rode in on. Yes this was planned and you were right to fight this as its’ setting bad precedent & screwing with the process.

  4. newzjunqie

    May I suggest everyone who calls original bill “attempt to to derail renewable goals” reread Bennings’ above comment, analysis of the length of time *and* witnesses present etc., from comment: “… this bill would strengthen municipal and regional say in the siting of industrial energy projects. That was in reaction to over 160 towns who have now signed on board asking for just such a thing. It is important to note that towns were NOT granted veto authority- they only had say in WHERE a project could be placed … ” And what actually resulted in the rewritten bill.

    Other states have similar statutes as what VT municipalities want here, so not about derailing but about renewable developers making a killing & running roughshod over our state by violating environmental standards of residents. Personally feel no differently about pipelines which *cannot* be sues for contaminating property, groundwater or wells or about the way Entergy Louisiana subjugated our state with the same crony-capitalism as the green renewable lobby is now practicing. Shit stinks no matter who is doing the shitting.

    Point is that in that it should not have been voted on in the first place period until it had been properly vetted. This is the lawmakers job. And it is being categorized as attempt to derail “renewable goals”. So lawmakers were in a hurry…could be that after hearing from the throng of lobbyists reportedly pounding the halls of the statehouse following the reading of the bill who objected? And I hope when the right gets the vetoproof & pulls the same fascist antics the left will quietly suck it up with a shrug & hearty “well we gave it the old college try what-are-ya-gonna-do?


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