Daily Archives: February 1, 2022

Pivoting As Fast As He Can

This week’s Covid briefing was devoted to moving the conversation toward that long-sought-after pivot from pandemic to endemic. There were the usual rote reports of vaccination, school policy, forecasting, mask and test distribution &c., but the administration’s heart wasn’t in it.

The big tell came right at the beginning, when Gov. Phil Scott announced he had nothing to say about Covid-19. Instead, he pivoted to a brief repetition of his favorite policy points — workforce, technical training, how to spend federal Covid relief money and the surplus in the Education Fund (TL;DR: “not on public schools”).

I realize the numbers are coming down, as they inevitably had to. But isn’t it just a little bit early to start the George Aiken process of declaring victory and going home? After all, ICU admissions have yet to decline and deaths are still on the increase. Perhaps the briefest of pauses would be wise.

Of course, it’s almost certain that hospitalizations and deaths will decline within a few weeks. But let’s not get carried away. We’re returning to a decidedly unhealthy baseline. The positive view of our numbers is that we are getting back to, ahem, the bad old days of the Delta variant. That’s no cause for celebration.

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Scott Plays Lobbyist Footsie Over Medical Monitoring Bill — UPDATED With Another Grisly Detail

The Legislature is once again trying to move forward with a bill to mandate lifetime medical monitoring coverage to Vermonters who may have been exposed to toxic chemicals such as the PFAS family of hazardous greeblies. Lawmakers passed such a bill in 2018 and 2019, only to see it vetoed by Gov. Phil Scott both times for his usual weak-ass reasons.

Well, now we know exactly how closely the administration was coordinating its stance with big corporate interests. Short version: Hand in glove. Or footsie under the table, if you prefer.

This revelation doesn’t come from Vermont’s sadly diminished political press, but from The Hill in faraway Washington, D.C. On January 26, The Hill posted the second in a four-part series on efforts to defeat such legislation in multiple states. The opening paragraph lays out the thesis:

State-level efforts to help victims of “forever chemical” exposure get compensation have met resistance from both governments and industry — and this pushback has been particularly effective in Republican-led states.

Like for instance, Vermont, which is the focus of the 1/26 story. It draws on public records requests that uncovered how “an official in the governor’s office coordinated with a lobbyist in ‘watering down'” the bill.

The official was Ethan Latour, then assistant spokesflack for Scott and now Deputy Finance Commissioner (because flackery is such good preparation for a high-level fiscal management post). The most telling moment: Latour sent an email to Warren Coleman of MMR, the top black-hat lobby shop in Montpelier, in which he shared a draft of a policy memo to the governor. Yep, Latour was making sure his memo danced to Coleman’s tune.

But that’s not the most telling part! In the email, Latour made reference to “his/our proposal,” meaning a weakened version of the bill which was a joint effort between the administration and Coleman’s corporate paymasters.

One more snuggly little detail: Before Latour joined the Scott administration, he worked for…. wait for it… MMR.

Update. Latour doesn’t work for the state anymore. He’s on the Secretary of State’s Lobbyist registry as a lobbyist employed by… wait for it… MMR. Isn’t that special!

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