Monthly Archives: April 2007

Symington thanks Pelosi

The impeachment vote may be over and done with in the Vermont House, but that doesn’t mean that lawmakers aren’t still thinking about the Bush administration.

House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, released a letter Friday she wrote to her counterpart in the U.S. House – Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The two-page letter notes that the Vermont Senate approved an impeachment resolution and the House did not. Symington noted that she disagreed with the more than 300 people who gathered at the Statehouse Wednesday, but that she was "moved by their passion for holding the [Bush] administration accountable."

She adds in the letter that President Bush and Vice President Cheney’s actions have been "deceitful, immoral, and potentially criminal."

"I would also like to convey my appreciation to you for the dozens of investigations into the conduct of this administration that are currently underway in the U.S. House," Symington wrote.

During the weekly lunch date with Statehouse reporters Friday, Symington pinpointed the moment she changed her mind and allowed the debate and vote on impeachment to go forward.

During a speech on global warming Sunday in Burlington, Symington suddenly realized that she hadn’t thought much about the issue recently. That feeling was cemented that night when she spoke in Bennington and impeachment was one of the major issues that residents raised with her.

She said she decided that night to allow the issue to go forward.

"We were dealing with it," Symington said. "And we weren’t going to get back to the priorities without allowing the debate and having the vote."

-Dan Barlow

IRV given new life

The Vermont Senate gave an Instant Run-off Voting bill final approval Thursday in a 16-12 vote.

The bill – the product of Windham County Sen. Jeanette White’s Senate Government Operations Committee – will now be sent to the Vermont House, where Rep. Donna Sweaney, D-Windsor, the chair of that chamber’s government operations committee, is expected to push hard for its swift approval.

Supporters of the bill – which calls for IRV to be used in U.S. Senate and U.S. House races starting in 2008 – say it needs to pass in this legislative session, which is scheduled to end early next month, for it to take effect. Otherwise, the earliest election it could be implemented for would be 2010.

Expect Sweaney’s committee to officially get the bill next week.

-Dan Barlow

The Day After

There were so many people at the Statehouse Wednesday that, while they were congregating in the cafeteria, legislators and staff couldn’t find any place to eat lunch.

And when the House began its work that afternoon, the impeachment supporters outnumbered the legislators by at least two-to-one margins. Maybe more. They filled all the extra seats, sat on the floor near the front of the chambers and overflowed the balcony and hallways.

One mantra that veteran legislators and staff repeated throughout the day: They had never seen anything like this before.

Well, maybe at least since the debate over Civil Unions.

"We didn’t have much time to prepare," James Leas, a South Burlington attorney who drafted the town meeting impeachment language, said this morning. "We were so focused on at least getting the debate and the vote that we only had a few hours to contact our legislators to support the issue."

If President Bush wasn’t less than two years away from leaving office – if his second term stretched out a few more years – there should be little doubt that with some more time and more organization, Wednesday’s 87-60 House vote rejecting impeachment would have been flipped.

-Dan Barlow

Shumlin: Bring impeachment to the U.S. Congress

   Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, who reversed himself last week and ushered an impeachment resolution through that legislative body, apologized to supporters Wednesday for not acting sooner on the issue.


   Standing at Symington’s podium in the House, Shumlin told the supporters to spend the next hour before the vote to speak to their local lawmakers about the issue. If the vote fails today, he told them to apply that pressure to the state’s congressional delegation.


    “I know of no better way to get to the bottom of who said what when and who lied when than to put George Bush and Dick Cheney under oath and simply ask them,” Shumlin said. “That’s what impeachment hearings would accomplish.”

-Dan Barlow

Senate gives IRV preliminary OK

The Vermont House isn’t the only body considering big issues today.

Senators passed a bill calling for Instant Run-off Voting to to be used in U.S. Congress and Senate races starting in 2008 Wednesday morning. The effort barely got the support it needed – it passed 15-13, with several Democrats joining the Republicans in opposition.

The final vote on the bill is scheduled for Thursday and even strong supporters in the Senate warned that they were not sure of its final fate. Plus, the bill would still need to pass the Vermont House, which likely would not happen until the next session in January 2008.

-Dan Barlow

How many impeachment supporters in the House chambers?

Impeachment supporters have taken over the Vermont House chambers … literally.

South Burlington attorney James Leas, who helped write the town meeting impeachment resolution, is standing at House Speaker Gaye Symington’s podium. Out before him – sitting at the representatives’ desks and the seats around the back curve of the room – are the hundreds of impeachment supporters who have turned out.

"This is Gaye Symington’s House, but we want to thank her for letting us use it because there was no other room large enough here for us," Leas said.

The unofficial count is 300 people, from Windham County, where the grassroots movement began, all the way up to the Northeast Kingdom. The turnout two weeks ago that succesfully turned Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin to introduce an impeachment resolution last week was 130.

Session begins at 1 p.m.

-Dan Barlow

Bus idling ban moves in the House

Supporters of a proposal to ban bus idling outside of Vermont schools had the ideal prop during a House debate Thursday: Five students from Browns River Middle School in Jericho who recently asked the Legislature to consider the issue.

Rep. Michael Mrowicki, D-Putney, called the students’ actions inspiring during his brief floor statement supporting the bill. While the children traveled to Montpelier to learn about Democracy and leadership, the Legislature can learn something instead from them, he said.

"This bill will result in a better world for our children and their children," Mrowicki said.

The bill, which has already passed the Senate, was given preliminary approval in the House in a 96-46 vote Thursday afternoon. It’s up for final House approval Friday.

-Dan Barlow

IRV bill passes Senate committee

Sen. Jeanette White’s Government Operations Committee passed the IRV bill this morning in a 3-2 vote, a decision that fell on party lines.

"This was the vote we expected," said the Windham County senator. "The members who voted against it did so because they disagreed with the concept, not the details."

The bill – which calls for instant run-off voting to be used in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate races starting next year – now heads to the full Senate, which is expected to debate the issue Friday.

It’s fate is not clear yet, despite that Secretary of State Deb Markowitz has said her office could implement the bill as written.

-Dan Barlow

Approval of Instant Run-off Voting not so instant

The Senate Government Operations Committee was set to narrowly approve implementing a IRV system in Vermont, starting with the U.S. House race in 2008, this morning after weeks of back-and-forth testimony.

But that didn’t happen.

The scheduled vote was scrapped this morning – and tentatively rescheduled for next Wednesday – after the Democrats on the committee who support IRV realized they were missing a key vote: Sen. Edward Flanagan, D-Chittenden.

Committee chair Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, said Flanagan was the tie-breaker on the vote; otherwise it would have failed 2-2, with the body’s two Republicans voting against it.

-Dan Barlow

Vermont House to do list: Talk a lot about alcohol

Today’s vote schedule for the House is a reporter’s dream: Action on two bills the expand the alcohol drinking opportunities for Vermonters.

In a near unanimous vote, the House gave final approval to a bill allowing beers with up to 16 percent alcohol volume to be sold at traditional retail stores. The bill was heavily debated Tuesday and passed easily today, with one amendment that requires the state to create a labeling program so that beer drinkers can tell the difference between the pricey, high-alcohol malt beverages and Budweiser.

Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield, had some fun when she proposed her amendment. She joked that last night she went to a "research facility" to "evaluate one of the products" that the House had debated.

She added that she was concerned that the bottles she "evaluated" did not have a label noting the higher alcohol level. The rest of the House agreed and quickly approved her amendment.

Minutes later, the House also approved a bill allowing wine makers to sell and taste their products at Vermont Farmer’s Markets. But they did not tackle one of the important questions of the day: What wine goes well with seedlings, organic kale and homemade spring rolls?

-Dan Barlow

Doonesbury hearts Vermont

Vermont’s grassroots Impeach Bush movement has reached the pinnacle of political and pop culture relevance: It’s now the current storyline in Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury comic strip.

That strip can be read right here.

Dan DeWalt, the revolutionary Newfane Selectman who kicked off the state’s movement when he poised the impeachment question at his own town meeting, will be a guest on Vermont Public Radio’s Switchboard show Tuesday night at 7 p.m.

Sources also tell me that several of the state’s top impeachment supporters will meet with House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, on Wednesday to convince her to allow an impeachment resolution to go forward. To say Symington has been cool to that resolution is an understatement.

-Dan Barlow

Leahy not alone in online slander

Sen. Patrick Leahy – whose image was replaced with a picture of a rat on his Wikipedia entry Tuesday – is not the only Vermont politician slandered on the popular open source encyclopedia recently.

A sharp-eyed reader pointed out to me today that House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, had her Wikipedia page vandalized on March 30. The offensive user, posting only as the IP address "" made four changes to her entry, including calling her a "communist liberal."

"Her ambition to bankrupt native born vermonters and ellavate other down country new comers to prestigious positions of power and authority," is one of the unedited fragments this person tossed on her entry, among other changes that are too vile to reprint here.

The changes were on line for several hours before they were caught.

It’s a safe bet that Leahy and Symington are not alone in this abuse and that this will not be isolated cases.

-Dan Barlow

Leahy upsets … someone on the Internet

Leahy_3 Mid-Tuesday afternoon I found myself hunting down an obscure fact about Sen. Patrick Leahy’s long political history. Like most modern researchers, my first stop was Wikipedia, the popular open source on-line encyclopedia.

That’s funny … I don’t remember the Senator looking anything like a tiny rodent. A rat, to be precise.

Turns out Leahy is the latest victim of Wikipedia vandalism, the art of attacking someone or something by altering the text or images of an entry.

Leahy’s unique visual on his page was a surprise to staff in Washington, D.C. Tuesday afternoon.

"Is this related to the Gonzalez stuff?" asked David Carle, the Senator’s spokesman, referring to Leahy’s upcoming showdown before the Senate Judiciary Committee with the embattled U.S. attorney general.

"I’m not sure," I replied. "But that’s a good guess."

"Either way, we take it as a back-handed compliment," Carle responded.

The switch from Leahy’s official senate photo to that of a rat (which appears to be lifted from the U.S. National Park Service Web site) occurred sometime Tuesday, according to Wikipedia’s edit history for that page.

UPDATE 4:03 p.m.: Wikipedia has fixed the photo error.

-Dan Barlow

Secession brings out the best in Vermont’s neighbors

The Green Mountain State landed on the front page of the Washington Post on Sunday with a piece called, "The Once and Future Republic of Vermont" promoting the state’s secession movement.

The piece is written by two men who know the movement well: Vermont Commons publisher Ian Baldwin and Frank Bryan, a political science professor at the University of Vermont.

"We secessionists believe that the 350-year swing of history’s pendulum toward large, centralized imperial states is once again reversing itself," the two gentlemen wrote.

The touchy topic seems to bring the worst out of those who strongly disagree with the notion or, perhaps, just simply hate Vermont.

Over at, a conservative blog aimed at finding supposed liberal bias in reporting, blogger Dan Gainor writing that, "They are unhappy, as are many leftists, because the nation isn’t as left-wing as they want it to be."

"Those words are full of the standard liberal doctrine – anti-military, anti-U.S., anti-Ronald Reagan. The whole thing is so anti that it can leave you crying uncle," Gainor adds.

Gainor’s readers continue to heap it on Vermont. Someone named "Liberal Bug Zapper" writes that, "I seriously hate these people and would be the first to lead the brigade to take Vermont back by force. Stupid treehuggers!"

Other people suggest slapping tariffs on Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Another suggests sending undocumented workers to the state and then walling them in. Someone else suggests that the state become a haven for child molesters.

Who’s extreme now, Vermont?

-Dan Barlow