Monthly Archives: January 2013

Republicans break out badges in move to become health care police

House and Senate Republicans have accused Gov. Peter Shumlin of violating state law by failing to tell Vermonters how he plans to pay for single-payer health care. Legislation signed into law by the Democratic governor in 2009 included a provision calling for the recommendation of a single-payer financing mechanism by Jan. 15 of this year. Administration officials say the mandate was rendered unnecessary by a shifting federal landscape that postponed for at least three years any hope of implementing the publicly financed system. Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning, however, said Vermonters are looking answers, not excuses. Continue Reading →

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Opponents warn of unintended consequences

Lynn Caulfield of Dummerston said it’s a “sad day in Vermont” when lawmakers “are asking health care professionals to help human beings die, rather than extending compassionate care … to ease pain and suffering.”

A nurse herself, Caulfield said it won’t be pain that drives patients’ decisions, but a fear of being a burden to their families. “None of the dying faces I have cared for have been in excruciating pain,” Caulfield said. “They have exited with grace and peace.”

Julia Roberts, a licensed mental health counselor, said she’s had to talk “individuals in their most hopeless” moments out of suicide. By legalizing suicide, Roberts said, lawmakers risk undermining the societal values that often prevent troubled teens from going through with it. “You remove for some the one thing that would have prevented them from following through with suicidal thoughts,” she said. Continue Reading →

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Supporters of bill make plea for “choice”

Dick Walters said that the legislation will improve end-of-life care in Vermont, not erode it. Since Oregon adopted its “death with dignity” law 15 years ago, according to Walters, it has seen improved training of doctors and better palliative care. He said Vermont will enjoy the same benefits. Elizabeth Steel of Shelburne was short and to the point, saying the bill ensures “everybody’s individual right to choose.” “I wish my father had this option,” Steel said. Continue Reading →

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Disability rights advocates oppose legislation

Mark Kaufman with the Vermont Center for Independent Living said his organization has “three very grave concerns” about the bill, all of which revolve around the legislation’s impact on people living with disabilities. Some of the people availing themselves of the law in Oregon, Kaufman said, say they do so not out of pain but out of frustration over loss of control of their physical faculties. He said people with disabilities live without that kind of control for their entire lives, but live happy and fulfilling existences. He said the group has concerns about inaccurate diagnoses. He said lawmakers later this week will hear from people who have been given “a terminal diagnosis multiple times in life.”

“If at one of those times they chose to die, is that okay then?” Kaufman asked. Continue Reading →

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Hearing on controversial end-of-life bill underway in Montpelier

The hearing didn’t begin until 5, but citizens here to testify for or against controversial end-of-life legislation were already filing into the House chamber around 4. By 4:30, the line of people waiting to sign up for a two-minute slot had backed up from the House doors all the way onto the floor of the Senate. The heavy turnout – opponents look to outnumber supporters – is testament to the depth of passion the issue has generated, and the degree to which Vermonters have been moved to work for or against its passage. Supporters of the bill can be identified by blue stickers on their shirt fronts that say “I support the Death with Dignity bill.” Opponents, meanwhile, have orange versions that read “I oppose doctor prescribed death.”

Turnout looks to number about 300, and witnesses will be taken in a pro-con, pro-con order. As of now, supporters of the legislation have the momentum in Montpelier. Continue Reading →

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Sanders’ opposition notwithstanding, testimony on wind moratorium begins

Undaunted by the public recriminations issued by Sen. Bernard Sanders Monday, proponents of a moratorium on mountaintop wind began taking testimony Tuesday on a bill  that would halt new development for three years. The bill suffered a tongue-lashing in Sanders’ Burlington office. It found a more hospitable host in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources today, where three of the committee’s five members – including chairman Bob Hartwell – have signed on as co-sponsors. First up to testify on the record was Paul Burns, the same wind-energy advocate who had hours earlier suggested that supporting the moratorium was tantamount to rejecting the science behind climate change. The senators didn’t appreciate his tone. Continue Reading →

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Citizens to make cases for “death with dignity,” against “physician assisted suicide”

All eyes in the Statehouse this evening will be on a witness chair the center of the House chamber. That’s where citizens will have two minutes to make their cases for or against legislation that would permit doctors to hasten the deaths of terminally ill patients. The two-hour public hearing begins at 5, and we’ll have real-time coverage of the event here at We’ll have some short vignettes featuring some of the more compelling testimony, as well as a look at who showed up, what side they represent, and how public input could impact prospects for the legislation. You can listen to the hearing live online at Vermont Public Radio, or head over to to watch Vermont Public Television’s live stream. Continue Reading →

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In speech in House chamber, McKibben to address Legislature on climate change

The famed climate change expert has been invited by Shap Smith to address the full Legisalture. According to the release:

Speaker of the House Shap Smith invites Environmental Activist Bill McKibben to speak to Legislature about Climate Change

Speaker of the House Shap Smith has invited renowned author, environmentalist, and activist Bill McKibben to the State House on January 30th to address climate change as it relates to Vermont and upcoming legislation. Bill McKibben is known nationally to be an advocate for action in response to the changing environment.  He has written a dozen books about the environment and is a founder of the grassroots climate campaign  The Boston Globe said in 2010 that he was “probably the country’s most important environmentalist.” He currently serves as a Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College. Speaker Smith has prioritized climate change as one of the most important challenges facing the state.  “The threat of global climate change and the implication that it is having and will have on Vermonters and Vermont businesses must be addressed,” said Speaker Smith, “Bill McKibben offers expertise and a robust understanding of the challenges we face as well as the steps that can move us forward in reducing and eliminating carbon-dependent energy use.  I am pleased to welcome him to the State House to address the issue with the legislature.”

Bill McKibben will speak to the legislature in the House Chamber at 1:00pm on Wednesday the 30th.  Continue Reading →

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Environment, energy groups praise Shumlin budget, but say more money will be needed

A coalition of energy and environmental groups says it’s happy with Peter Shumlin’s plan to fund weatherization and renewable-energy subsidies. For now. Shumlin Thursday outlined a budget proposal that included $12 million to weatherize Vermont homes and $5 million for the Clean Energy Development Fund. He said he wants to support the new investments by imposing a 10-percent tax on the sales of the “break open” lottery tickets – a sort of unregulated cousin of the scratch-off tickets found in local convenience stores. “These investments are a critical step towards addressing the enormous opportunity we have to save Vermonters money, slash global warming pollution and create jobs by moving towards efficiency and renewable energy,” the groups said in a release. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin administration proposes new gas tax, says it’s open to suggestions

Saying it’s still open to other options, the Shumlin administration this afternoon unveiled its plan to raise $36.5 million in new revenue for upkeep of roads and bridges. It’s a little complicated, but the proposal calls for an increase in one gas tax, a decrease in another, and a $9 million bond that would be paid for by an existing revenue stream. A new, 4-percent tax on the retail price of gasoline would raise about $43.5 million in new revenue. The administration then would cut the existing 19-cent per gallon gas tax down to 14.3 cents, which would cost the state about $15.5 million in revenue. The $28 million in net new revenue, when combined with the $9 million bond, would raise the money that Transportation Secretary Brian Searles says is needed to maximize federal matching funds. Continue Reading →

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