Tag Archives: House Transportation Committee

Bunched Knicker Syndrome Strikes Top Solon

BKS: “a sense of heightened distress keenly felt by the self-important following a minor annoyance.”

Kudos to WCAX-TV’s Kyle Midura for coming up with a frothy little confection of a political story that’s sweet to the taste, vanishes in the mouth like a good meringue, and leaves you wanting just one more bite. Or maybe the whole damn pie.

The story’s about the Tuesday “news event” featuring Congressman Peter Welch and Transportation Secretary Sue Minter at a photogenically decrepit bridge in East Montpelier. They were backdropped by lime green and orange-vested construction workers as they bemoaned the lack of Congressional action on long-term transportation funding.

And it seems that there are some hurt fee-fees from a pair of politicos who think they ought to have been invited. Republican Pat Brennan, chair of the House Transportation Committee, and might-as-well-be-a-Republican Dick Mazza, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, were left jonesin’ for a little camera time.

“We are heavily involved, so you would think we would’ve been asked to be there,” said Rep. Pat Brennan, R-Colchester.

As for Mazza, he cemented his well-earned reputation as the least Democratic of all Democrats by complaining that the presser included a partisan attack on Republicans in Congress. That’s right: a Democrat accusing Democrats of playing politics. The horror!

“I was told that it was a non-partisan news conference, but I didn’t see anyone other than the Democrats,” said Mazza.

Wait wait. He “was told”? That seems to imply he knew about the presser in advance. If so, he’s got no complaint. But let’s move on.

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Voter registration: I want this too

So in addition to advocating restoration of the full Voting Rights Act and calling for at least 20 days of early voting nationwide, Hillary Clinton also called for automatic voter registration for every citizen.

Yes, please. I want this too.

Until reading about her speech, I’d forgotten that I wrote about this very issue in mid-March, when Oregon’s governor signed a universal-registration bill into law.

As you may recall, a universal registration measure (H.458) was introduced in Vermont this year by Rep. Chris Pearson.

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A simple way to broaden voter participation — Updated

(Note: See update below. Secretary of State Jim Condos supports the legislation but notes that some software issues need to be resolved first.)

We in America have some weird attitudes toward voting. It’s fundamental to our democracy, universally cherished as a touchstone of our putative exceptionalism. However…

— Voting is not a Constitutional right, as it clearly should be.

— We lag badly behind most other democracies in voter turnout.

— We seem to be more worried about keeping “the wrong people” from voting than about removing barriers to participation.

— When push comes to shove, we put a higher value on tradition than on access.

A lot of this is the Republican fear that they’d lose ground if more people voted. (And they value winning more than access.) But disdain for our body politic isn’t a conservative monopoly, and removing barriers to voting just isn’t a compelling issue for some reason, even after blatant offenses like the 2000 Presidential election and long lines at urban polling places.

You might think that Vermont would be leading the way on voter access, as it does on many other causes. But no; the state of Oregon is way out in front. Seventeen years ago, Oregon became the first state to hold all its elections with mail-in ballots. And now, it’s become the first state to implement automatic voter registration. 

Under the legislation, every adult citizen in Oregon who has interacted with the Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division since 2013 but hasn’t registered to vote will receive a ballot in the mail at least 20 days before the next statewide election. The measure is expected to add about 300,000 new voters to the rolls.

That’s nice.

Would it surprise you to know that a similar measure is pending before the Vermont Legislature — but is likely to die in committee without a whimper?

House Bill 458 would establish automatic voter registration through driver’s license applications. It was introduced by Rep. Chris Pearson (P-Socialist Hotbed).

And then?………

Oddly, It was referred to the House Transportation Committee. I realize it touches on the Department of Motor Vehicles, but as a question of policy and law it’s clearly in the purview of Government Operations. Shuffling it off to Transportation seems, at best, a careless thing to do, and at worst, a way to send it to legislative Siberia. Does that sound harsh? Overly conspiratorial? Well, ask the man.

No further action is scheduled. Of course, we’re already past the crossover point for non-fiscal legislation, so it couldn’t be adopted until 2016 in any case. But is there reason to expect action next time around? If so, great. If not, why not?

Can anyone offer a convincing reason to oppose H.458? I haven’t heard one yet.

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UPDATE. Secretary of State Jim Condos posted a comment to my original post, noting that he supports the idea of automatic registration (as well as same-day registration), but something needs to be cleared up first. From ThinkProgress: 

Condos said he’s currently working with Vermont’s [Department of Motor Vehicles] on upgrading their technology so that such a policy might be possible in the future, which he said would “benefit democracy in general as it will, most likely, increase voter turnout.”

If DMV software was the motivation for shunting H.458 to the Transportation Committee, the move makes a lot more sense. I take Condos’ conditional endorsement as a very positive sign, and hope the software issues can be cleared up and the bill can advance in the next session. Of course, with software, you never know.