Author Archives: Peter Hirschfeld

House Dems to get 7-4 edge on health care committee with reassigment of Republican

The balance of power in the House Committee on Health Care will shift in favor of Democrats next year when House Speaker Shap Smith drops a Republican from the 11-person panel and replaces him with a member of the ruling party.

Gone from the committee, Smith said late Friday evening, is Rep. John Mitchell, a Republican from Fairfax now headed to the House Committee on Education. Replacing him is incoming Democratic Rep. Kathy Hoyt, appointed by Gov. Peter Shumlin earlier this year to replace the seat vacated by Margaret Cheney.

House Speaker Shap Smith said the move is designed to make way for a newly minted lawmaker whose “breadth and depth of experience are critically important as we move forward with health care reform.”

House Minority Leader Don Turner, however, said the shake up amounts to partisan maneuvering designed to undermine the influence of the GOP as the Democratic supermajority prepares to face tough questions over the troubled roll out of the new health insurance exchange.

“I’m very concerned and I’m very disappointed,” Turner said late Friday evening. “I think Vermonters will see through this – that Democrats don’t like tough questions when it comes to health care, and that by taking away a person who is asking those like tough questions may make it easier for them.”

The personnel change comes during the middle of the two-year biennium, and isn’t the only reassignment Smith confirmed Friday. Rep. Patti Lewis, a Berlin Republican, will move from education to the House Committee on Government Operations. Incoming Democratic Rep. Marjorie Ryerson, who filled the Randolph seat opened up by the death of Larry Townsend, will be assigned to the House Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Rep. Rebecca Ellis, a Waterbury Democrat, will take over as vice-chairwoman of energy and natural resources, a position formerly held by Cheney.

Hoyt, who lives in Norwich, has a long career in government that includes stints as secretary of administration under former Govs. Madeline Kunin and Howard Dean. She was a also a member of a three-person panel that spent more than a year examining ways to overhaul the state’s tax structure.

With his “direct appointment” of Hoyt in September, Shumlin bypassed the conventional nominating process in which the local party committee forwards three names to the governor’s desk. Hoyt’s predecessor left when she accepted Shumlin’s appointment to a seat on the three-person Public Service Board.

“(Hoyt) is someone who has seen state government from every angle, and her experience will be invaluable on that committee,” Smith said.

Turner said that if Smith wanted to find room for Hoyt on the committee, he could have done so without eroding what little representation the GOP has on a panel that will be dealing next year not only with the exchange, but with the seeds of a public financing system for the single-payer system Shumlin has said will come online by 2017.

“I think it’s wrong,” Turner said. “I just don’t like that we’re going to have only two Republicans on one of the most important committees in the House right now.”

Smith said the composition of the Health Care Committee during the last session wasn’t reflective of the partisan make-up of the body. The six Democrats, one Progressive, one Independent and three Republicans, Smith said, didn’t mirror the near super-majority status of his party.

“It’s 6-5 committee right now, and the balance is different than most of the other committees, and that plays a role in the decision,” Smith said. “And it’s not an easy decision.”

That narrow margin led to some very public setbacks last session for the committee’s Democratic chairman, who saw his committee go against him on at least one high-profile vote.

Rep. Mary Morrissey, who will be one of two Republicans left on the Health Care Committee, said the change “disrespects” the work that Mitchell and the committee have done over the first half of the session.

Turner said he appreciated that the speaker called him earlier this week to inform him of his plan, and that Smith was willing to work with Republicans in determining which of the three would be sent to the education committee.

Turner said he thinks Hoyt’s experience on the Blue Ribbon Tax Commission, the panel that worked in 2009 to try to reform the income and sales tax, is one of the reasons Smith wants her on health care.

“From my perspective, I think they’re trying to figure out how they’re going to do single-payer,” Turner said. “And being a former member of that commission, I’m sure she has a lot of information about taxation.”

Smith said Hoyt’s facility with the tax code is one reason among many she’ll be a good fit on the committee.

“Certainly it helps that she was on the Blue Ribbon Tax Commission,” Smith said. “But it really is the breadth and depth of her experience.”

Darcie Johnston, head of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, which working to stymie progress toward single-payer, said the committee reassignments underscore the urgency of the opposition.

“This is a clearly partisan political move to rearrange the deck chairs to get the political result they want of moving single payer health care forward,” she said.

In speech at GOP fundraiser, Christie offers self up as “blueprint” for Republican resurgence

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (courtesy photo)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (courtesy photo)

“Candidates matter.”

That was the message from the Republican governor of New Jersey Wednesday night as he regaled nearly 700 members of the Vermont GOP with the story of his own unlikely rise to prominence in a state where politics tend to run the same shade of blue as in Vermont.

“Here’s our message: candidates matter. Candidates matter more than money. Candidates matter more than data mining… Candidates matter more than TV commercials and they matter more than mail pieces and they matter more than those incredibly annoying automated phone calls. They matter more than any of that,” Christie said Wednesday.

Media were barred from attending Wednesday’s fundraising gala at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction, but an audio recorder belonging to the Vermont Press Bureau made it past the gates. In addition to Christie, the recording captured speeches delivered by Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, who were among the lead organizers of an event they say marked the dawn of a new era in the Vermont Republican Party. Continue reading

Documents spotlight state’s escalating fight with exchange contractor

In a sternly worded letter to a top executive at the technology firm hired to build Vermont’s new health insurance exchange, the Shumlin administration late last month served notice that it plans to withhold more than $5 million in payments as a result of CGI’s “failure” to meet key deadlines.

The Nov. 21 correspondence represents the first formal move by the state to impose the “liquidated damages” that CGI Technologies and Solutions could face for missing at least four “critical milestones.”

Larson_letter1

Larson_letter2

And it comes as the state seeks new bargaining power over the company on which it’s relying to fix the problems that will otherwise prevent Vermont from having a fully functioning exchange.

“What we’re focused on now is making sure we exercise the rights we have under the contract … and making sure Vermonters get what they were promised,” Mark Larson, commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, said in a phone interview Tuesday. Continue reading

Peter Shumlin, Shap Smith react swiftly, severely to Larson apology

Peter Shumlin

Peter Shumlin

In an unprecedented public dressing-down of a sitting member of his executive cabinet, Peter Shumlin today said he’s “tremendously disappointed” in a commissioner who withheld information lawmakers about a security breach on the new health insurance website.

House Speaker Shap Smith, meanwhile, said the incident will undermine Mark Larson’s ability to work with the legislative branch on the massive health care reform efforts that Larson’s department is spearheading.

To see Larson’s apology, and statements in full from Shumlin and Smith, click on the document links below.

“I take this incident extremely seriously. It is unacceptable to be anything less than fully cooperative and transparent with Vermonters and their elected representatives in the Legislature,” Shumlin said in a written statement issued earlier this morning.  “The legislators in Montpelier represent the Vermonters we are all elected to serve, and they have a right to have their questions answered fully. That did not happen in this case, and I have made clear to Mark and other members of my administration that it must never happen again.” Continue reading

Klein ready to contemplate partial deregulation of electric utilities

State Rep. Tony Klein

State Rep. Tony Klein

The chairman of the House’s top energy committee says it might be time to bring competition back to Vermont’s electricity market.

Rep. Tony Klein, an East Montpelier Democrat, said Tuesday that he’ll entertain a proposal to partially deregulate the state’s utility market, and allow the state’s largest corporate consumers of electricity to negotiate with power dealers outside their service territory.

The proposal comes as large electricity customers bemoan the cost of power than can account for as much as 20 percent of their operating expenses.

“I want to talk about creating a program, a model program, where some of the larger industries can benefit from a deregulated power market for some of their power needs,” Klein said while attending an annual meeting of the Associated Industries of Vermont. “It would be a big deal, but it’s something to think about, because the world is changing.”

Klein said he’s discussed the idea with the Department of Public Service and the Agency of Commerce.

Under the proposal, still in conceptual form, industrial customers would continue to pay the transmission-infrastructure fees assessed by the public utility in whose service territory they reside. But Klein says customers would be able to broker deals for the power flowing through those lines with whatever entity offered the lowest price.

For more on this story, check out tomorrow’s editions of The Times Argus and Rutland Herald.

Sunderland elected chairman of GOP, promises to “change the way we do business”

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo  Former Rutland Town representative David Sunderland gives a speech before being elected chair of the Vermont Republican Party during their convention in Montpelier Nov. 9.

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo
Former Rutland Town representative David Sunderland gives a speech before being elected chair of the Vermont Republican Party during their convention in Montpelier Nov. 9.

Escalating discord within the Vermont Republican Party came to a head Saturday in Montpelier, where the organization’s state committee rebuked current leadership by selecting a new chairman who promises “to rebuild.”

Former Rutland Town Rep. David Sunderland won a decisive victory over John MacGovern on a platform that hews to the fiscal issues – taxes, health care and spending – on which he said all Republicans can agree.

The race between Sunderland and MacGovern was in many ways a proxy war between two factions that have been battling for nearly a year now. And it represents a win for a bloc of disaffected Republicans who faulted outgoing chairman Jack Lindley for his allegiance to a Republican National Committee whose social conservatism, they said, repelled the centrists that swing elections Vermont.

“At this critical, pivotal moment in our party’s history, we have a unique opportunity to change,” Sunderland told the nearly 200 GOP diehards crowded into the Elks Club in Montpelier. “We can change the way we do business, shedding the past legacies of top-down management and opting instead for teamwork, openness and transparency.”

Candidates for positions on the party’s governing board offered kind words to Lindley, who nearly died last month after falling suddenly ill. But their remarks about the state of the party amounted to a stinging indictment of his tenure. Continue reading

Snelling apologizes to Lisman, but says he believes CFV founder’s gubernatorial hopes are real

Hours after alleging publicly that Campaign for Vermont founder Bruce Lisman has his eyes on governor’s seat, Mark Snelling apologized to the former Wall Street executive for the “mistake.”

In an email to Lisman Thursday night, Snelling wrote:

Bruce,

I owe you an apology.

I was doing an interview and I was trying to make a point about future elections and the dynamics of the various parties and how they can interact along with possible third parties.

To make my point, I spoke about your organization and made statements about which I have no first-hand knowledge.
It was a discussion where CFV was a tangent and I should not have gone down that tangent.

It was a mistake and I apologize.

Mark

The mea culpa arrived in Lisman’s in-box at about 8:15 p.m., about two hours after Snelling’s claims were broadcast in a news bit on this site.

“The reality is that within the last eight weeks, Bruce Lisman has considered running for governor,” Snelling said Thursday afternoon. “He’s had a budget put in front of him, saying that it would cost $3.2 million to run for governor. And he sat through a three to four-hour meeting and thought about it and looked at all sides of it and decided against it.”

Snelling, who confirmed this morning that he sent the apology to Lisman last night, said he stands by his assertion about Lisman’s gubernatorial aspirations.

“I fully believe that what I said was true,” Snelling said this morning.

But Snelling said he felt that the story was devoid of the context in which he’d made the comments. Snelling said that if Lisman chose to pull the trigger on a bid, then he would, as Snelling understands it, run as an Independent. And as part of that candidacy, Snelling said, Campaign for Vermont would send an emissary to the Vermont Republican Party, and prevail upon the organization to leave the top of the ticket open to give Lisman a one-on-one shot against Shumlin.

Snelling said he thinks that could be terrible for the party. And he said it’s a potentially relevant piece of information as it relates to the current battle for the GOP chairmanship between David Sunderland – the choice of Lt. Gov. Phil Scott – and John MacGovern, who is favored by Snelling and outgoing incumbent Jack Lindley.

As a member of Campaign for Vermont, Snelling said, David Sunderland might be willing to leave the top of the Republican ticket open for Lisman, lest he split the conservative vote with an ‘R.’

(Snelling had earlier called Sunderland a “founding” member of CFV – a designation given by the group to its earliest members. But according to CFV, Sunderland isn’t a founding member,  but a “partner,” as the organization refers to its regular members.)

Fueling his concern, Snelling said, was Scott’s lack of public enthusiasm for the last Republican gubernatorial candidate, on whose behalf Scott, the most popular Republican in Vermont, seemed uninterested in stumping for on the campaign trail.

Snelling, Lindley, and Darcie Johnston, a longtime Republican operative and a part of their inner circle, have amped up their criticism of Scott in recent days for what they say is his too-cozy relationship with the Democratic governor.

The noise about a Lisman run, combined with Sunderland’s ties to the man, combined with Scott’s perceived ambivalence toward Republican candidates, Senlling said, make him wary of putting Sunderland and Scott in charge of the party’s statewide apparatus.

“I felt like my comment about Bruce ended up out of context of that initial discussion,” Snelling said.

Whatever the context, Snelling said he “felt badly” about bringing Lisman “into a greater discussion about the party when I could have made my point more effectively by speaking in more general terms.”

“I’ve had a relationship with Bruce for many years,” Snelling said. “And I very much value that relationship.”

With new appointment, women outnumber men in House Democratic caucus

For the first time in the history of the state, women will outnumber their male counterparts in a major-party caucus of the Legislature.

Gov. Peter Shumlin Friday announced that he’ll appoint Marjorie Ryerson, of Randolph Village, to the House seat formerly held by Rep. Larry Townsend, a Democrat who passed away after an illness earlier this year.

Ryerson, a 40-year-old selectboard member who is a poet, writer and editor, according to an administration release, beat out two other candidates forwarded to Shumlin by the local Democratic committee.

“It was a difficult choice because there were three exceptional candidates,” Shumlin said in a release. “I am excited to make this appointment and I look forward to working with Marjorie in the upcoming legislative session. I know she will do a great job representing the district and working for all Vermonters.”

Ryerson’s appointment means women will hold a majority of the 96 House seats occupied by Democrats, the first time that’s happened in a caucus of either party in either body of the Legislature, according to the administration.

“It is both amazing and sobering that we should celebrate such a milestone only now in 2013,” House Speaker Shap Smith said in a written statement. “But it is a reflection of the tremendous strides that women have made in the last 30 years and is something that all Vermonters can and should celebrate.”

Ryerson, according to a press release, has been a writer and editor at a number of Vermont publications, including Vermont Life, the Barre Montpelier Times-Argus and the Burlington Free Press.

Mark Snelling says Bruce Lisman eying governor’s seat; Lisman’s people say “not true”

Bruce Lisman has dismissed as groundless the frequent speculation in the media about his political ambitions.

But Mark Snelling says the founder of Campaign for Vermont is far more interested in running for governor than he’s let on publicly.

According to Snelling, a longtime member of the Vermont GOP who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in 2010 and now serves as the party’s treasurer, Lisman in recent weeks gave serious thought to a 2014 bid against Peter Shumlin.

“The reality is that within the last eight weeks, Bruce Lisman has considered running for governor,” Snelling said today. “He’s had a budget put in front of him, saying that it would cost $3.2 million to run for governor. And he sat through a three to four-hour meeting and thought about it and looked at all sides of it and decided against it.”

Asked to source his tip, Snelling would say only that Montpelier has “very thin walls,” and that “Vermont is a very small place.”

He hinted that the alleged information came from within the ranks of Campaign for Vermont, the issue-advocacy outfit into which Lisman has poured about $1 million of his own money.

“Not everybody in Campaign for Vermont thinks that it would be a good idea,” Snelling said. “They think that Campaign for Vermont would be best served not being involved in electoral politics.”

Lisman was in Washington, D.C., Thursday and unavailable for comment. But Shawn Shouldice, a Montpelier lobbyist who works with Lisman’s organization, said there’s absolutely no truth to Snelling’s claim.

“It’s not true. There’s no discussion about running for governor,” Shouldice said. “Campaign for Vermont is a self-sustaining organization, and maybe this speaks to the success we’re having.”

Lisman’s alleged gubernatorial dreams are emblematic of the broader influence that Campaign for Vermont, according to Snelling, is hoping to exert on Republican politics in the state. Snelling’s evidence: David Sunderland, the GOP chairman candidate representing the Phil Scott wing of the Republican Party, is a “founding member” of Campaign for Vermont.

In September report, Shumlin administration told of “critical” problems with insurance exchange

Acknowledging the severity of the technological glitches in Vermont’s new health insurance website, Gov. Peter Shumlin Thursday issued a surprise announcement extending the deadline by which residents will have to enroll for policies in the new marketplace.

But key members of the administration have known since at least the middle of September of defects in Vermont Health Connect, some of which, they were told by outside consultants, were potentially substantial enough to derail the enrollment timeline.

In a 192-slide Power Point presentation, conducted on Sept. 11 and 12 and prepared at the behest of the federal government, managers at the Department of Vermont Health Access detailed a range of “risks” in the online marketplace, and presented “workarounds,” “mitigation” plans, and “contingencies.”

The so-called “Operational Readiness Review” also includes a presentation from Gartner, Inc., a Connecticut-based tech consultant hired to review the website. Gartner concluded that Vermont Health Connect should be given “RED” status – as opposed to ‘yellow’ or ‘green’ – “due to significant risks to meeting the October 1st deadline for Go-Live.”

The most “critical risks,” according to Gartner:

  • “Time in the schedule to remediate errors found in testing is minimal and unexpected difficulty in resolving system issues will put the schedule at risk. Concurrent System and User Acceptance Testing will be occurring in the Staging environment, which creates complexities in test execution (data management; user management; etc.).”
  • “The project schedule continues to be compressed as environment availability issues delay deployment and testing. Additional delays will put the Go-Live date of 10/1 in jeopardy. The project schedule must be updated to account for delays and changes immediately communicated to project stakeholders to determine resource and schedule impact.”
  • “Delivery of the production environments has been delayed and there is a risk there will not be sufficient time remaining in the project schedule to adequately test or address defects, potentially delaying the ability to go live on 10/1. Significant configuration issues delayed the availability of development environments and the production environments are significantly more complex.”

Verbiage used in the Gartner analysis is typical of the technolog-ese employed through the slide show, a copy of which is attached below. The document was requested first from the administration by former Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Brock.

Portions of the slide show – provided to the Vermont Press Bureau in a separate records request – have been redacted, because they contain information that could compromise the security of the site.

The slide show also features concerns about things like insufficient training for navigators; the ability of consumers to enroll through the web; and the lack of in-house manpower that might be needed to deal with the volume of paper applications in the event of online dysfunction.

That the administration knew about possible defects on the site isn’t revelatory – Shumlin, his health care czar Robin Lunge, and Commissioner of Vermont Health Access Mark Larson have long said there would “hiccups” and “bumps in the road.”

More surprising, perhaps, is the confidence Shumlin was conveying publicly as recently as last week, when he told a gaggle of skeptical reporters that everything was under control. Amid growing concern over problems being encountered by small businesses and individuals, Shumlin reassured the press that his team would have the problems solved in time to meet the Jan. 1 deadline by which Vermonters needed to have new plans, lest their existing policies lapse.

The new deadline gives residents until March 31 to make the transition, and will allow them to renew their existing policies for another three months. That move has prompted its own set of questions, including whether or not people who take advantage of the extension will be subject to a full yearly deductible for the three-month extension, or if it will be pro-rated based on the length of the term.

Asked on Vermont Edition today by Bob Kinzel whether he knew ahead of time how problematic the roll out might be, Shumlin said “we did not know the magnitude the challenges we were going to face.”

VT_Operational_Readiness_Review-Final-Deck_Redacted[1]

State contract with D.C. consulting firm larger than previously reported

The Shumlin administration’s controversial contract with a Washington, D.C., consulting firm is even larger than previously reported.

A third amendment to the contract, signed on Aug. 30, added another $1 million for everything from the production of meeting agendas to the convening of focus groups to “brand testing.” The drafting of “mission and vision statements” alone cost $8,000, according to the contract, which is posted online at

http://dvha.vermont.gov/administration/amendment-3-final-package.pdf

The contract amendment, which brings the contract’s total value to $2.8 million, was not put out to bid. Alicia Freese at VTDigger.org was the first to report on the full value of the contract.

We’ll have more on this story later today, and in tomorrow’s editions of The Times Argus and Rutland Herald.

In documents from consulting firm, media strategies revealed

A story in Sunday’s editions of The Times Argus and Rutland Herald detailed the components of a $1.8 million contract in which the state of Vermont enlisted the services of a Washington, D.C., consulting firm for public outreach related to the new health insurance exchange.

GMMB, best known for its work on the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, is handling everything from media relations to the production of television advertisements. And the products they’ve delivered offer a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the battle for hearts and minds by the Shumlin administration.

Below, you’ll find source documents used for the story, including some previously unreported material on the “launch event,” in which the state was going to pay GMMB more than $125,000 to organize a single press conference on the day that Vermont Health Connect launched.

The administration, according to Commissioner of Vermont Health Access Mark Larson, ultimately decided to scrap the event, and will only pay GMMB for launch-event materials produced prior to the decision to forgo the press conference.

To read the contract itself, go to: http://dvha.vermont.gov/administration/5signed-package.pdf

Vermont Health Connect Communicators Guide 09 27

VT Earned Media Landscape 3 15 13

VT Earned Media Plan 04 05 13-1

Vermont Health Connect Launch Event 09 11 13

In memo to department heads, Shumlin administration seeks level-funded budgets for FY15

Top officials in the administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin have directed the heads of agencies across state government to deliver level-funded spending plans for next year’s budget.

In a memorandum issued Sept. 24 to executive branch managers, the Shumlin administration asks for fiscal year 2015 budget proposals that don’t exceed allocations for the current fiscal year. Given contractual increases in compensation for state employee, the rising cost of health insurance, and inflationary jumps in the cost of doing government business generally, Commissioner of Finance James Reardon said Thursday that the level-funding directive would require either cuts to programs or services, or cost-saving operational reforms.

“We’re going to have (increases in the cost of employee compensation) and other upward pressures in the budget,” Reardon said. “But they’re going to have to come back with corresponding reductions in other areas in order to come back with a general fund appropriation that is equal to their fiscal year 2014 appropriation.”

Reardon said the exercise is the first step in a long budget process, and that the guidance issued to agency heads won’t necessarily result in the cuts that a level-funded budget would inflict.

“This is a starting point for having budget discussions with agencies and departments,” Reardon said. “And this may not reflect our ending point.”

But with Shumlin having made clear his refusal next year to raise the income, sales or other broad-based taxes, Reardon said, fiscal discipline will need to be rigorous.

For more on this story, check out tomorrow’s editions of The Times Argus and Rutland Herald

Despite early hiccups, administration says launch of Vermont Health Connect is a success

MONTPELIER – State officials are hailing Tuesday’s launch of the state’s online health insurance marketplace as a success, but opponents were quick to denounce the new system as the online portal immediately experienced technical issues.

Tuesday marked the official launch of Vermont Health Connect, the state’s version of the online health insurance exchanges required under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, widely referred to as Obamacare.

Vermont Department of Health Access Commissioner Mark Larson touted the benefits the exchange will provide Vermonters.

“I am proud of our staff for their hard work to date, and I am confident that commitment will continue as Vermonters access the marketplace to make smart health coverage decisions over the course of the six month open-enrollment period,” Larson said in a statement. “Today marks a crucial first step in Vermont’s move to provide quality coverage, help small businesses and Vermonters afford insurance, and control the staggering increases in health care costs.” Continue reading

On eve of big launch, Brock says new insurance market is a disaster waiting to happen

One of Peter Shumlin’s chief political rivals has exposed what he says are troubling misfires by the technology firm being paid more than $80 million to construct the state’s new online health insurance marketplace.

Randy Brock, the former Republican gubernatorial candidate who lost his bid last year to unseat the Democratic incumbent, has authored an op-ed alleging that CGI Systems and Technologies has missed all but four of the 21 “critical milestones” written into its $84 million contract.

Based on a review of contracts signed by the Shumlin administration, Brock said the state has also failed to collect millions of dollars in financial penalties owed by CGI for missing the deadlines.

The Shumlin administration says CGI has in fact missed more than half of its stipulated deadlines, and that the contractor is on the hook for more than $5 million in penalties, though the administration has yet to make any attempts to retrieve the money. 

Commissioner of Vermont Health Access Mark Larson said he “fully expects” the penalties will be assessed, but that the state’s priority right now is on getting the exchange up and running. 

Brock says the missed deadlines are symptomatic of system-wide failings in “Vermont Health Connect,” the web-based insurance portal set to launch on Tuesday. And the technological shortcomings, Brock alleges, could threaten the insurance security of the more than 100,000 Vermonters who will soon be required to enroll in plans sold on the new website.

“(D)espite the multimillion dollar advertising campaign, despite the governor’s promise that everything is working fine and the system is on target, nothing could be further from the truth,” Brock writes in his op-ed. “The fact of the matter is this: The system doesn’t work.”

The accusations usher in to Vermont some of the same heated political rhetoric that has characterized the debate over the Affordable Care Act on Capitol Hill. After remaining mostly silent publicly since his 20-point loss to Shumlin last November, Brock’s op-ed, published Sunday on VTDigger.org, has stoked the embers of a health care debate that figured heavily in the race for governor last year.

News of the missed deadlines, and the uncollected penalties associated with them, was first reported publicly by VTDigger.org last Friday evening. Digger reported the information before it published Brock’s op-ed, but after it received a version of his 2,200-word commentary Friday morning.

Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, an organization run by Brock’s former campaign manager, Darcie Johnston, that has been critical of Shumlin’s reform proposals, is featuring Brock’s claims in a media campaign launched Monday. The campaign will include social media outreach, and robo-calls to “thousands” of Vermonters warning them they “could be left uninsured in just three months,” and asking them to call the governor’s office to ask him to delay implementation of the exchange mandate.

The Vermont Democratic Party, meanwhile, hit back on behalf of the Shumlin administration with a press release issued Monday afternoon.

For more on the story, check out tomorrow’s editions of The Times Argus and Rutland Herald