Amidst the continuing deluge of departures from the Vermont Legislature, a handful describe a troubling pattern. Two of our youngest state senators, Corey Parent and Joshua Terenzini, are not seeking re-election. Toss in Rep. Tim Briglin, the very accomplished chair of the House Energy & Technology Committee, and it once again looks like the Statehouse is purely a country for old folks.
As Briglin told VTDigger, “You gotta have a job. And I think that, you know, for somebody in their 20s and 30s and 40s, that’s even more excruciating.”
We pay our lawmakers a pittance. That’s a powerful disincentive for anyone short of retirement age. I’ve heard this over and over again from younger lawmakers: When they enter the Legislature, the clock starts ticking. If they’re not moving up the political ladder within a few years, they start looking for the exit. And it’s all about financial stability. Many of those people, very promising public servants, eventually moved on. This year we’re losing more of them.
Briglin and Parent each have two kids. Terenzini has four. Raising kids is expensive, even if you don’t factor in building a college fund. It also helps if you’re actually around the house after work instead of living in a Montpelier rental four nights a week. The Legislature, with its long hours and minuscule pay ($743 per week in session and nothing the rest of the year) doesn’t qualify.
As the old saying goes, “You get what you pay for.” We’re barely paying at all.
It looks like 2022 will be The Year of Turnover. Not only in statewide offices, but also in the Legislature. Earlier today I wrote a post about the House losing five committee chairs; since then, I’ve learned of three more. Plus one more Senate chair. And other prominent figures as well.
The departing chairs: Carolyn Partridge of House Agriculture, Maxine Grad of Judiciary, Tim Briglin of House Energy and Technology, and Michael Sirotkin of Senate Economic Development.
Let’s take the House first. Even if there are no more retirements, nearly half of all House committees will have new chairs come January. Partridge will have served 24 years in the House and 12 as chair of Agriculture (the committee’s name has changed multiple times but always included Ag). Grad has 12 years in the House, eight as Judiciary chair. Briglin has been in the House for eight years and chaired E&T for four.
Add that to our previous toll of lost experience, and you get 92 years of departing chair tenure and 153 years in the House. The former figure is the one I’m focused on here; if you add all the House departures, you’ll get a much, much higher number for the latter.
Nice little Q&A by VTDiggerwith one of the legions of young people inspired by Bernie Sanders to throw his hat into one of the many available rings. In this case, 28-year-old Nick Clark, running for State Representative. He wants to provide a voice for the millennial generation, a group under-represented in the Statehouse.
Fair enough, and I welcome new people to the political process. I just hope his dreams aren’t permanently dashed when he gets mollywhopped in the August primary.
Clark is running against two seasoned Democratic incumbents, Jim Masland and Tim Briglin. Both are respected members of the caucus, and both have the nearly bulletproof status of “incumbent.” Methinks Mr. Clark, like many of his fellow Bernie-inspired young progressives, is in for a big fat disappointment. I hope it doesn’t transition into disenchantment.