Tag Archives: RESET

2015 Legislature: Triumph of the B-sides

When I look back on this session of the Legislature, a strange thing keeps happening: over and over again, I’m reminded of a significant bill, and my reaction is “Oh yeah, that.”

RESET bill? Oh yeah, that.

Child protection? Oh yeah, that.

The gun bill? Oh yeah, that.

Consumer protection, including limits on rent-to-own stores? Oh yeah, that.

Same-day voter registration? Oh yeah, that.

Economic development? Oh yeah, that.

The legislative agenda was so top-heavy with high-profile issues — the budget, taxes, education, Lake Champlain — that a lot of normally headline-making issues flew more or less under the radar. Or were quickly dealt with and forgotten.

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Shumlin Gets Ass Handed To Him

Smile, though your heart is breaking...

Smile, though your heart is breaking…

The three top Democratic leaders stood shoulder-to-shoulder, smiled, and proclaimed their unity behind an agreement on taxes and health care. They praised each other and the Legislature for working hard and working together. “Everyone has given a little,” Governor Shumlin said.

Well, almost.

After a week of harsh rhetoric about how “Montpelier” (meaning his own party) had produced a tax plan that he “hated,” he accepted a slightly modified version with nothing more than a fig leaf of additional spending cuts.

After days of harsh rhetoric about how capping income tax deductions would be “a big mistake,” Shumlin accepted a deal with a slightly less restrictive cap than the Legislature had been poised to enact.

The legislature “has given a little.” Shumlin gave a LOT.

Which belies his extreme rhetoric about a plan that was very similar to the one he accepted today, and characterized as “fiscally responsible” and “ensur[ing] that we continue to grow this economy.”

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Slippery, short-tempered and fumbling: just another day for John Campbell

There are two important takeaways from this afternoon’s kerfuffle outside the office of Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell. Most of the attention, including mine, is on his closed-door meeting with the entire Senate Natural Resources Committee and his confused rationalization for banning the media. Campbell actually blocked the doorway, twice, as Seven Days’ Paul Heintz and WCAX-TV’s Kyle Midura tried to gain entry.

The closed-meeting aspect certainly deserves more scrutiny, maybe even a court challenge; but we shouldn’t lose sight of the equally offensive substance of the meeting. That involved Campbell’s attempt to single-handedly amend — or possibly derail — a major piece of energy legislation known as the RESET bill.

The House had passed the thing. It had gotten through Senate committees with minor changes, and reached the final stage (third reading) on the Senate floor. And then, at the last minute, Campbell bigfoots the whole process. Legislative rules required that the bill pass the Senate today (Thursday) in order to be considered by the House on Saturday, when it’s scheduled to adjourn. If the Senate passes the bill Friday, which seemingly depends on Campbell’s good graces, the House would have to agree by a three-quarters majority to suspend its rules in order to vote on the bill.

So there’s a chance this very important bill won’t pass, and it’s all thanks to your Senate President Pro Tem.

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I wrote a letter

On Sunday, I wrote a letter to Rep. David Deen, chair of the House Ethics Panel. I requested a review of Rep. Adam Greshin’s activities surrounding H.40, the RESET renewable energy bill. Greshin had proposed an amendment to freeze funding for Efficiency Vermont, and has vigorously campaigned for its adoption in both the House and Senate.

Greshin is co-owner of the Sugarbush ski resort. As I previously noted in this space:

The ski industry is a voracious consumer of electricity.

Efficiency Vermont is funded by ratepayers, with rates approved by the Public Service Board.

Do I need to connect those dots?

If the Greshin amendment is adopted, his ski resort stands to save a pretty penny on its utility bills. It’s already passed the House; it’s now pending before the Senate.

Potential conflicts abound in a citizen Legislature, and there’s a sizable gray area. The single act of voting for a bill, in my mind, is not in itself grounds for a conflict investigation.

But Greshin’s case is a whole different kettle of fish for two reasons.

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