Tag Archives: Statehouse

The Statehouse Will Never Be the Same Again

Sad Boi.

Don’t know if it was the heavy security or the heavy snow that deterred the diehard Trumpers on Sunday, but the expected rally didn’t materialize. Now we have to worry about Inauguration Day, when the police will once again be out in force outside and inside the Statehouse.

That won’t be the end of it, of course. Whether the “Stop the Steal” crowd shows up on Wednesday or not, there’s still a lot of folks who think the election was rigged, and they’re angry about it. Most will be peaceful, but it only takes one. There will be an ongoing threat, which means heightened security around government buildings.

That means the Statehouse, as we knew and loved it, is a thing of the past. We’ve long been proud of the openness of The People’s House; the ability of anyone to just walk into the building or into a committee hearing or hobnob with legislators in the cafeteria, the governor and lieutenant governor holding open coffee hours for all comers. It’s just charming to be able to walk the halls and stumble across lawmakers and officeholders and public officials of every rank, and have casual conversations with them all.

It’s a certainty that there will be painful discussions about Statehouse security before lawmakers adjourn for the year. Out of an abundance of caution, new measures will be taken.

Ready for metal detectors at the entrances? A substantially augmented Capitol Police force, probably with body armor and guns? State troopers on hand during legislative work days? A tactical team on site? A lot more locked doors? Security checkpoints outside the House and Senate chambers? Limited or no access to all the hearing rooms unless you’re on the witness list? I mean, those committee meetings get really crowded and each room has only a single exit. Imagine being trapped in there with an armed wingnut.

Wait, I’m not finished. And I haven’t even gotten to the pandemic yet.

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How can I miss you when you won’t go away?

(h/t to Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks)

Please allow me a brief gloat, a hearty chuckle, a moment of schadenfreude. Because this is just too f’n funny.

Sen. Norm McAllister (R-Franklin) is reconsidering his decision to resign from the Vermont Senate, according to a close ally.

“I don’t know what made him rethink it, but he has decided — he’s rethinking it is all I can say,” Sen. Peg Flory (R-Rutland) said Wednesday afternoon.

Heh, heh, heh, heh.

Here’s my message to Good Ol’ Norm: hang on for dear life. Make ’em drag you out kicking and screaming. Not because you deserve to keep your seat, hell no; but because your fellow Republicans (and really, the Dems as well) so desperately want to be rid of this entire affair.

I say, let ’em stew. They don’t deserve to get off this easy. Not when there are numerous second-hand stories about how ol’ Norm was a horndog at best, and maybe worse, to his female colleagues. Not when there are still serious questions to answer about what leadership knew, when they knew it, and what they did about it. (And if they really didn’t know, how loudly were they singing LALALALALA with their fingers in their ears?)

Not when there remains a distinct odor of clubby sexism around the Statehouse that needs to be dissipated once and for all.

Indeed, here’s my plea to the women of the Statehouse, past and present. If you had unpleasant encounters with McAllister, now is the time to step forward. So far, the only woman to do so is an ex-lawmaker. If some misbegotten sense of loyalty to the institution is keeping you silent, please speak up. You owe it to the truth, and to the women who will follow your footsteps.

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Fear and loathing under the Golden Dome

Funny thing. The more time goes by since last Thursday’s inaugural protest, the more fearsome and dangerous it seems to become.

We haven’t had any single item more outrageous than Sen. Dick McCormack’s employment of that fine old epithet “fascist.” What we have had is a proliferation of exaggerated characterizations and inconsistent rationales for why the Vermont Workers’ Center went too far.

At first, the ire was mainly concentrated on a single incident, in which a lone protester entered the chamber singing and chanting over the benediction. Regrettable and stupid.

But apparently Our Elected Leaders realize that that one incident fails to justify their reaction, because they’ve been using their creative powers to devise new ways the protest crossed some invisible boundary. I suspect that by the end of the month, the protest will be described as a cross between the Chicago riots, the nude scene from “Hair,” and the supercharged zombie attacks from “World War Z.”

The Inaugural Protest. (Not exactly as illustrated.)

The Inaugural Protest. (Not exactly as illustrated.)

Anyone who’s experienced real political turmoil would have to admit that the VWC was remarkably restrained. They did not, as many media outlets have reported, “disrupt” or “interfere with” the proceedings.

I listened on the radio, and I heard very little of the protesters — and I heard no interruptions in the proceedings. If those in attendance couldn’t hear, they could have asked that the sound system be turned up.

Recently, we’ve heard that some lawmakers felt uneasy about proceeding into the House chamber through a crowd, even though police officers lined their path. (And even though there was no hint of any violent intent by the protesters.) Indignant lawmakers have stopped referring to the benediction incident in favor of overly-broad depictions of the protest as loud or disruptive, which is only true if the expectation is library-standard quiet. We’ve heard references to possible fire-code violations — in a building whose last major fire was, I believe, in 1857. (We haven’t heard a peep from the police or the Sergeant At Arms about the fire code; that’s all come from opportunistic Republicans.)

Today we had the unedifying spectacle of Republican lawmakers threatening to walk out of the Governor’s budget address on Thursday should the protesters return, on the transparently specious grounds that they fear a stampede in case of a fire. Hell, those protesters are probably better organized than the assembled dignitaries. I suspect they’d be fully capable of calmly proceeding to the nearest egress.

We’ve also heard a whole lot of blaming the protest for potential security upgrades at the Statehouse. Which is ridiculous. First, because the protesters did not pose a threat to anyone with an ounce of common sense. And second, because enhanced security has been on the table for quite a while now — and will inevitably penetrate the hallowed halls. Because that’s just the way the world is these days. To blame it on that protest is utterly disingenuous.

Most of all, we’ve heard repeated appeals to respect and dignity and civility.

What this is really about is a set of crusty old traditions about the Statehouse. Voices are generally lowered, at what might be termed a “power mumble.” (It’s hell for old radio guys like me, with moderately compromised hearing.) There’s an unspoken expectation that men shall wear button-down shirts and ties. VWC members have one strike against them from the gitgo, since they dare to wear red T-shirts while roaming the sacred halls.

Playing by the unwritten rules is important to Statehouse regulars. The longer they’ve served (McCormack, a total of 22 years), the more wedded to Statehouse mores they become. And the more they resent it when the outside world dares to intrude.

They call it the People’s House, and accuse the protesters of disrupting the People’s business. But they themselves want everyone to treat it like a cross between a museum and a mausoleum.

It’s too bad when democracy — the People’s real business — gets a little messy and intrudes on what some consider sacred space. But I don’t feel sorry for them, not at all.

And those traditions? Throw ’em out with the trash, if you ask me.

Say, what month is it? And when’s the election?

Not to say that the Burlington Free Press has cut back coverage of state politics and policy since it jettisoned its entire Statehouse bureau… and not to say that its remaining staff is spead way too thin… but if you visit the Freeploid’s homepage, then click “News” and then click “Politics and Government,” this is what you’ll see.

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That’s a story from October 29, by since-departed Statehouse reporter Terri Hallenbeck, about the final pre-election gubernatorial debate.

Of course, the Freeploid has done some reporting on state politics since then. But this is an incredibly sloppy bit of work, especially for a newspaper publisher that fancies itself a multi-media content delivery service.

Wake up, Free Press webmaster.