Tag Archives: David Scherr

Tightening Up the Hate Crime Law

I’ve written previously about Vermont’s inability to protect targets of hate crimes, especially those in public office. People of color, including former state rep Kiah Morris, have been hounded out of elective office — and have gotten no support or protection from law enforcement or prosecutors. Women in public life, who are frequently targets of harassment, also have to carry on with no recourse in the law. Which means, hey, the harassers win!

Turns out, somebody’s trying to do something about that. The House Judiciary Committee is working on a revision to Vermont’s hate crime law aimed at allowing more prosecutions while preserving Constitutional rights. More on this after a brief digression.

This is what they call a “committee bill,” meaning it’s drafted by a committee rather than an individual legislator. Coincidentally enough, VTDigger’s Kit Norton covered the phenomenon in last night’s episode of “Final Reading,” Digger’s free-subscription daily summary of legislative activity.

Unlike an ordinary piece of legislation, which is formally introduced by a member of the House or Senate, given a bill number and referred to a legislative panel for discussion, a committee bill is assembled, piece by piece, within a — you guessed it — committee. 

It lacks a bill number and isn’t easily found on the Legislature’s website. It can evolve quickly and quietly, under the radar, until it springs from committee, fully formed, onto the House or Senate floor. 

Norton writes that, for whatever reason, there are lots of these bills in the Legislature this year. He’s right; committee bills don’t show up in the Legislature’s searchable list of introduced bills. You have to go to the committee’s website and search around.

Back to the matter at hand. Apparently House Judiciary has been low-key working on this, in consultation with the Attorney General’s office. I’m glad to hear that, because I’ve specifically attacked T.J. Donovan for failing to prosecute hate crimes. This means Donovan recognizes the need for a change in the law. On Wednesday morning, the committee began hearing testimony on the bill. Testimony that showed how difficult a balancing act this legislation will be.

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Chris Pearson gets a big assist

The Democratic race for six Senate nominations in Chittenden County will be an all-out affair, with two vacancies in a district that tends to automatically re-elect incumbents. But State Rep. Chris Pearson, the Progressive hopeful, just got a big dose of good news.

(Note: Hallenbeck later issued a correction. It’s eight candidates, not seven.)

Yep, Bernie is starting to open his fundraising apparatus to more candidates — which is the best way for him to build a progressive movement.

In a crowded Democratic primary that could get expensive, this makes Pearson a front-runner. Because “expensive” by Vermont standards is “piddling” almost anywhere else.

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Gleanings from campaign finance reports

Some very interesting stuff in today’s campaign finance filings. This is the first reporting deadline for Vermont candidates since last July, an eternity in political terms. (Perhaps the Legislature will deign to create a few more reporting periods for the next cycle?)

Reactions, in rough order of importance:

Yes, Bruce Lisman is serious about this running-for-governor thing. He has poured $454,000 of his own money into his campaign, and he raised a non-inconsequential $171,000 from other people, for a healthy total of $625,000. On the other hand, his campaign has a very high burn rate; he’s already spent $571,000. He’s been spending heavily and consistently since the early fall of last year –much of it on staff salaries, consultant firms, and the services of Capital Connections, the PR/lobby shop fronted by his spokesperson Shawn Shouldice.

Because of his high burn rate, Lisman has by far the least cash on hand of all the four major candidates for governor. Of course, he can always write himself a bunch more checks, so weep not for Bruce.

Fun fact: Lisman scored a $2,500 contribution from Wall Street TV shouter Lawrence Kudlow.

Phil Scott is doing just fine, thanks for asking. He’s raised $414,000 and spent a little more than half that. And all of that 414K came from other people — so, as expected, he’s got a lot more fundraising clout than Lisman. It must be noted that, of the four major candidates for governor, Scott has raised the smallest amount of money. But somehow I expect he can kick it into a higher gear when he needs to.

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Good Luck Zuck

While existential doubt continues to swirl around Garrett Graff’s proto-candidacy, yet another liberal has stepped into the race for lieutenant governor. So much hankerin’ for Vermont’s very own bucket of warm spit.

This time, it’s David Zuckerman, Dem/Prog State Senator from Chittenden County, confirming what many had expected: he’s in the race. Originally a Progressive, he’s campaigned for Senate on both Prog and Dem tickets, and he plans to enter the Democratic primary.

And in a sign of the Progs’ perilous position, he probably won’t run at all if he can’t get the Dem nom. This is either a high-stakes gamble, or Farmer Dave is tired of the Senate: he’s trading in a sure thing for what looks like a lottery ticket — one entrant in a field that already includes either two or three Democrats, depending on the disposition of Young Graff’s residency issue. And there may be further entrants from the Senate Democratic caucus, although I suspect that when push comes to shove, most (or all) of them will prove unwilling to let go of their comfy Senate perches.

(Really, can you imagine the likes of John Campbell or Dick McCormack entering a race they’d actually have to work hard to win?)

Zuckerman’s candidacy begins with inconvenient questions about fundraising. He says he may pursue public financing — but Seven Days’ Terri Hallenbeck reports that he may already be disqualified from that very restrictive process because of his early announcement. (The rules say no campaigning, period, before February 15. Which is far too late in the unprecedentedly early Vermont campaign season.)

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