Monthly Archives: May 2007

Douglas to veto campaign finance reform bill

Vermont Gov. James Douglas is giving a press conference right now at the Statehouse on his first veto of the session – the new campaign finance reform bill crafted by Democrats after the 1997 law was shot down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Unfortunately, a thorough analysis of this bill reveals considerable flaws that threaten to undermine the integrity of Vermont’s election processes and the core values that for more than 200 years have governed them," Douglas said in a statement.

-Dan Barlow

We’re famous!

Montpelier got a quick mention on the season finale of NBC’s "The Office" last week.

Here’s the setup: Office boss Michael is off to corporate for a job interview he is positive he will get. He passes the reigns off to to Dwight, his unstable "assistant to the regional manager." And during Dwight’s interview with office tool Andy, among the top questions is, "What is the capitol of Maine?"

Andy answers, "The capitol of Maine is Montpelier, Vt."

Nice.

-Dan Barlow

State Democratic leaders respond to FOX News

STATE OF

VERMONT


115 STATE STREET

DRAWER 33

MONTPELIER

,

VT

 

05633-5201

May 17, 2007

Roger Ailes

Chairman and CEO

Fox News Channel

1211 Avenue of the

Americas

New York

,

NY

 

10036

Dear Mr. Ailes:

Last week, a media crew dispatched by the Fox News program “The O’Reilly Factor” confronted a member of the Vermont General Assembly in the Statehouse cafeteria.  The incident was witnessed by several members of the Legislature and later reported on the O’Reilly program.  The news crew asked misleading questions that deliberately mischaracterized

Vermont

laws and our determination to protect our children. 

The Vermont Legislature has a long history of being open and accessible to all who wish to participate and observe, and has always recognized and granted access to the press to perform its important role.  However, the tactics employed by the producers of this television program are unacceptable and have no place in

Vermont

’s statehouse or

Vermont

politics.  The camera crew came at Representative Lippert in such an aggressive manner that several bystanders thought he was under attack.  Their questions were meant to provoke, rather than to elicit information. 

As the leaders of the Vermont Legislature, we condemn in the strongest terms these hostile tactics and stand with our colleagues in the Legislature in support of the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

If it was the goal of your producers and Mr. O’Reilly to create a reaction among your viewers that would lead to intimidating threats against our colleague, they succeeded.  Because of your program, Chairman Lippert has received numerous threats of personal injury and physical violence from your viewers.

If, on the other hand, it was Mr. O’Reilly’s goal to intimidate the Vermont Legislature into considering ineffective and misguided legislation or to weaken the Legislature’s steadfast support for our colleague, your tactics had the opposite effect.  We hope the bipartisan opposition to your channel’s tactics of intimidation will serve as a reminder that while

Vermont

welcomes a healthy and honest debate on issues, we will not be bullied by outsiders whose primary interest is provocation and political theater.

Sincerely,

Gaye Symington                                                            Peter Shumlin

Speaker of the Vermont House                                      President Pro Tem,

Vermont

Senate 

We’re getting lots of calls

"Shame on you for your article on Bill O’Reilly concerning Jessica’s Law," reads the fax the Vermont Press Bureau received from an Ohio fan of the FOX News personality this morning. "Why do you support the opposition to Jessica’s Law?"

And that’s one of the tamer correspondences, I’m told.

Fallout from O’Reilly’s spotlight on Vermont continues. Upset over an editorial that ran in the Rutland Herald on the issue, O’Reilly apparently told his viewers to call and write our editors. And to make it easier for them, he gave them the phone number and e-mail to use.

Just wait until he hears about the nudes in Brattleboro.

UPDATE: Here’s the transcript of O’Reilly talking about the Rutland Herald on his show last night. He says that the paper that cuts my checks are a "corrupt, dishonest enterprise."

"Now the Rutland Herald needs to be held accountable for that," O’Reilly said. "So I’m going to give you some information and I hope hundreds of thousands of Americans will contact this newspaper. This is a culture war issue."

-Dan Barlow

Naked in Vermont

My former town of Brattleboro – that little anything-goes liberal hamlet of Windham County – is in the news again today.

But probably not for a reason that residents like: The nudists that made Brattleboro a laughing stock of a headline last summer are back. Early this time too.

When I was writing about the issue last year, I tried my best to convince family, friends and others not living in the town that this was a rare occurrence. The nudists were few, relatively young and mostly just trying to push the boundaries of the law and decency.

And it was true. Four or five hippies sitting their naked butts on uncomfortable and probably dirty concrete wasn’t a huge deal. They went away quickly when it got cold.

A few weeks ago I returned to Brattleboro to see some old friends. I walked around the downtown, enjoying the early warmth of spring and the early Friday evening rush of people going home or to the bar or out to dinner.

And then there he was: The first naked man of the season.

The tanned man in his 50s strutted his stuff in only a pair of shoes – it appears he may have practiced that proud walk to himself in a mirror – as he headed down Elliot Street to Main Street.

People laughed. A group of students from the School for International Training swiflty crossed the street away from him. Somewhere, I’m sure, a young mother or father covered the eyes of their young son or daughter.

Is this a herald of things to come? This time I’m making no predictions.

-Dan Barlow

Welch delivers impeachment message on U.S. House floor

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch brought the Vermont grassroots impeachment message to the House floor Tuesday as he promised he would. Video of the speech – in which he notes he disagrees with the movement – can be seen at his Web site here.

"Impeachment is a dramatic position, and it reflects the collective judgment of many in Vermont that we are in extreme circumstances," Welch said. "Madam speaker, I do not believe that impeachment is the answer. But I endorse the indictment of the policies of the current administration."

But, as expected, the top impeachment supporters in Vermont weren’t too happy with the speech.

James Leas, the South Burlington attorney who pushed the issue at the Montpelier Statehouse earlier this year, wrote yesterday that, ""If Bush and Cheney remain immune from investigation they have free reign to continue this illegal war. By protecting Bush and Cheney from investigation Democratic Party leaders help keep this war going. The war will not end while this president and vice president remain immune from investigation."

"Congressman Welch wants to end this war yesterday he says, but he has thus far only voted to further fund it," added Dan DeWalt, the Newfane man who inspired the state’s impeachment movement. "Impeachment will divide the Congress and only prolong the war he says, but he cannot point to a single action of Congress that has taken one step to even slow the pace of the occupation."

-Dan Barlow

Vetoed?

Cruising the Legislative web page this morning we came across H.91, establishing the Rozo McLaughlin farm to school grant program to get more local produce into schools. Under Governor’s actions it showed that the bill, named for Rep. McLaughlin who died last year, had been vetoed. For a second our hearts were racing as we wondered how we had missed the controversy in a bill everyone seemed to like. Making the situation more puzzling was a press release from the office o Gov. jim Douglas on the bill.

"This program is in line with the goals of our Fit and Healthy Kids initiative and helps children and educators learn how best to incorporate Vermont produce in their daily diet," Douglas said.  "We are all delighted to make it permanent and to name the program after former Representative Rozo McLaughlin who shared our commitment to improving the health and welfare of every child."

Not exactly a veto message. Turns out it was merely a typo in the bill tracking system. But we have never made a mistake like that, have we?

Louis Porter

Bill O’Reilly versus Vermont

Bill O’Reilly’s "Talking Points" spotlight on Vermont and Rep. Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg, is up. The video can be found at www.FoxNews.com, and the transcript is right here.

Highlights include:

"The problem in Vermont is that the legislature has been hijacked by secular-progressives who emphasize politically correct action like the gender deal, but reject tough criminal statutes like Jessica’s Law."

And …

"In the end, this comes down to the folks. They elected Lippert and his S-P cadre. Remember in Vermont, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders is a socialist. U.S. Senator Pat Leahy is very liberal. And Governor Jim Douglas, although a Republican, is a very weak leader."

-Dan Barlow

Still here

Well, actually I went home shortly before 11 p.m.

I have to assume the legislators and staff did too at some point.

But everyone is back at the Statehouse this morning for what is hopefully the last day of the session. But – and this sounds very familiar to yesterday’s warning – there are many balls still up in the air, including the possibility that House Republicans will refuse to suspend the rules for a quick vote on the new education bill.

Maybe we’ll all still be here next week?

-Dan Barlow

The end is near (maybe)

The Vermont Legislature will wrap up its work today.

Or maybe it won’t.

Nearly every lawmaker in a position of power Thursday claimed that today would be the final day of the 2007 legislative session. But in the Statehouse hallways, some state reps and senators confided that they thought that time line was very optimistic.

Saturday, maybe, they said. Or even next week.

Whomever will be right, the pressure is certainly on. Senate President Peter Shumlin, who is apparently leaving the country for a vacation next week, is surely pushing for today to be the end. As is House Speaker Gaye Symington and Gov. James Douglas, who has his own overseas trips to take (Macedonia, if you were curious, and the reasons for which are contained in my story in today’s Times Argus and Rutland Herald).

Still, there are some troubling signs this morning. Several large bills – education cost containment, global warming and broadband – still need to be resolved.

Several conference committees – where the differing details between House and Senate bills are hashed out – convened late this morning. And the full House and Senate – both scheduled to start work at 11 p.m. – are also running late and have yet to dive into the big meat bills.

CORRECTION: Shumlin is not leaving the state next week for a trip, Democrats now tell me. He is hoping to return to work with the family business in Putney. But the supposed trip is apparently a piece of misinformation that is spreading around the Statehouse. I apologize for the mistake.

-Dan Barlow

Welch to meet with impeachment supporters again Saturday

3 p.m. UPDATE: See below.

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch seems to be getting very friendly with supporters of President Bush’s impeachment, even though he doesn’t agree with them.

Last Saturday saw Welch celebrating his 60th birthday at a downtown riverfront restaurant in Brattleboro – as impeachment supporters canoed by holding signs. State Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, reportedly toasted the impeachment folks and told them to canoe to a spot on the river when members of the birthday party could see the signs better.

Bloggers at iBrattleboro, a citizen journalism Web site, have video of Welch playing pin the subpoena on Vice President Cheney and some photos here.

Now, folks in Welch’s Washington, D.C. office tell me that the congressman will meet again with supporters this Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Hartford High School to talk again about the issue.

The repetition of meetings may strike some familiar as the pattern that lead to the Vermont Senate approving an impeachment resolution and the Vermont House agreeing to hold a vote on the issue. Makes one wonder what could happen.

UPDATE: Looks like the time and the place of the town hall-style meeting is another issue that Welch and the impeachment supporters don’t agree on.

The congressman’s staff in Washington, D.C. told me this morning that the time and place had been confirmed – 9 a.m. Saturday in Hartford.

But that is not so, according to several leaders of the state’s impeachment movement. South Burlington attorney James Leas, who lobbied the issue at the Statehouse last month, sent out an email announcing that they are pushing for a more "inclusive public forum."

"Having a meeting on short notice at a location far from most of the population in Vermont starting at 9am was unacceptable to most," Leas wrote.

"Peter Welch said he wants to hear from Vermonters," Leas added. "If he really wants to hear from Vermonters who live in places like Enosberg, Bennington and Island Pond, he would not schedule it for 9 in the morning. Also any time there is a meeting between parties both sides work together to find a mutually agreeable time. You don’t give ultimatums."

-Dan Barlow

All politics is automotive?

On Tuesday Sen. James Condos, D-Chittenden, pointed out that the license tags on Gov. James Douglas’ black state sedan expired at the end of April.

“It’s not my car,”

Douglas

joked.

But Thursday a mysterious photograph started showing up in the Statehouse. Pictured was a car with Senate license plate number 24 – belonging to Sen. Bill Carris of

Rutland

– complete with April tags.

We were assured that Carris’ new tags are on the front seat of his car.

“This is tit for tat. It has Karl Rove written all over it,” Condos joked.

Turkey profit tax

Sen. Richard Mazza managed the bring the debate on the proposed tax on Vermont Yankee profits into a discussion of poultry inspection today.

Talking about the sale of turkeys in his store, Mazza said he would not reveal to Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin whether he made a profit on the sale of the birds or not.

“I won’t tell you how much profit because the Senator from W indham will tax me,” he said.

Shumlin countered that, like Vermont Yankee, the turkeys he used to raise deposit waste which must be dealt with.

“One of the reasons I stopped was that getting rid of their waste was very difficult. They are very, very messy,” Shumlin said.

But, Shumlin assured Mazza, that waste is not "high level" waste, and therefore Mazza would be safe from taxes on profits from the sale of the birds.

Happy birthday, Mr. Congressman

U.S. Rep. Peter Welch can’t seem to go anywhere without getting asked about Vermont’s impeachment movement.

This apparently includes his birthday party.

Impeachment supporters are scheduled to hold a rally outside the Riverview Cafe in Brattleboro this Saturday evening, according to this post on iBrattleboro, a citizen journalism Web site.

Welch will be inside celebrating his birthday (he turned 60 years old yesterday) during a reportedly $75 per plate dinner at the restaurant, which is owned by former Brattleboro state representative Don Webster.

"The tone will be positive, welcoming, respectful and festive," wrote Frederic Noyes, one of the impeachment supporters. "Especially if the weather is nice we’ll try to have games (‘pin the subpoena on Dick Cheney’ anyone?), face painting, and balloons. Bring signs, bring the kids, and/or a musical instrument!"

-Dan Barlow

Best press release from Gov. Douglas ever

Spokesman Jason Gibbs is used to dishing out the news about his boss, Gov. James Douglas.

Late Monday afternoon, Douglas, via Dennise Casey, his acting press secretary, dished out the news about Gibbs: He’s a daddy.

Gibbs and his wife, Amy, are celebrating the birth of Addison Mae. She arrived at 1:25 p.m. Monday and weighed six pounds and two ounces and was 18.5 inches long. This is their first child.

"Gibbs, ‘spinning’ with joy, said, ‘We are so thankful that Governor Douglas’ Affordability Agenda has given Amy and me the opportunity to live, work and now raise a family in the state we love!" the tongue-in-cheek press release read.

Douglas, in the press release, joked about the child’s name and its similarity to one of the state’s counties.

"I look forward to the next 13 ending with Windsor," Douglas said.

Gibbs is expected to be out for several weeks on paternity leave. We here at the Vermont View wish the new family well!

-Dan Barlow