Tag Archives: Howard Dean

Dean’s gubernatorial records become public tomorrow

They won’t be in as high demand as they were when he launched his bid for president, but about 90 boxes containing records related to Howard Dean’s governorship will become fodder for public inspection tomorrow.

Tomorrow marks the 10-year anniversary of Dean’s exit from the state’s top elected office. Before departing the post, he invoked the Archives Act to seal for one decade gubernatorial records that he had judged to be “privileged” and “sensitive.”

The conservative watchdog Judicial Watch sued to gain access to the Dean records in 2005, but the Vermont Supreme Court upheld Dean’s decision, saying Vermont’s public records law was superseded by the Archive Act.

Lawyers have pulled from the trove anything exempt from Vermont’s public records statute or protected by attorney-client privilege. But the remainder should offer some new insights into Dean’s 12-year tenure, the second-longest of any governor in Vermont history.

The records are spending their final 24 hours of privacy at the state archives in Middlesex. It’ll be interesting to see whether the unsealing prompts a media feeding frenzy.

“Courage” notwithstanding, Shumlin wants House to kill GMO labeling bill

If it was up to him, Peter Shumlin would want Vermont consumers to know if there were any genetically modified organisms hiding out in their food.

But he’s pretty sure the U.S. Supreme Court isn’t on the same page, so he’s urging legislators to let a controversial GMO labeling bill wither on the vine this year.

At a press conference Wednesday, Shumlin said the bill, pending in the House Committee on Agriculture, is almost identical to the rBST labeling law passed under his aegis in the mid-1990s.

Later signed into law by then-Gov. Howard Dean, the statute would have forced processors to indicate on retail labels if the milk therein had been produced by cows treated with the artificial growth hormone rBST.   

Legal counsel told him then that the law would likely be struck down, but Shumlin said “we decided it was worth the fight.”

“We lost in the U.S. Supreme Court. It cost us a lot of money,” Shumlin said.

His best legal minds tell him now that the GMO bill under consideration this year would likely suffer a similar fate.

“You know me – I’ve got a lot of courage. I believe that consumers a have a right to know what they’re eating,” Shumlin said. “I also know this is almost identical to the case that we lost in the U.S. Supreme Court, and it was a better court then than we have now on these issues.”

The biotech industry looks poised to challenge the law if it goes through, a threat largely responsible for the bill’s dim prospects this year. But proponents haven’t conceded defeat.

This evening, in Room 11 of the Statehouse, House lawmakers will convene a public hearing on the bill. The event runs from 6:30 to 8:30.

Bill Sorrell promises vigorous fight in his Dem primary against TJ Donovan

Instead of relying on promises about what he would do as attorney general in the future, incumbent Bill Sorrell said he’ll point primary voters to the high points of his 15-year record as the state’s top law-enforcement officer.

From a suit against Big Tobacco that continues to yield tens of millions annually in settlement fees to the successful defense of stricter auto emissions standards, Sorrell this morning said his track record will provide his best defense against the primary challenge announced this morning by Chittenden County State’s Attorney TJ Donovan.

“I’m looking forward to a primary campaign in which I can talk about my plans for the future but can also point to the many things that I’ve done in the consumer protection, environmental protection and criminal justice areas and the many Vermont laws that I have successfully defended in state and federal courts,” Sorrell told the Vermont Press Bureau this morning.

As we reported earlier today, the most serious electoral challenge of Sorrell’s 15-year tenure will come from within his own party’s ranks.

Donovan says “it’s time for new ideas.”

Sorrell says there’s no need to fix what clearly ain’t broke.

“My record in this office is one I’ll be proud to defend,” Sorrell said.

The seven-term incumbent has come under heavy scrutiny since his office lost a key case in U.S. District Court against the owners of Vermont Yankee earlier this year. Combined with losses in the U.S. Supreme Court in cases dealing withVermont’s campaign-finance and prescription-drug marketing laws, it was Sorrell’s third high-profile loss in recent years.

Sorrell, however, says it’s unfair to make him the fall guy for trying to defend some of the most progressive statutes in the country against one of the most conservative supreme courts ever assembled.

“We’ve had two rough outings before the Supreme Court. I’m sorry for that,” Sorrell said. “But this is the court that handed down the Citizens United decision.”

Sorrell said he has yet to bring on any campaign staff but knows he’ll need money and manpower to stave off the stiffest challenge of his electoral career. Since being appointed to the post mid-term by then-Gov. Howard Dean in 1997, Sorrell has cruised to easy reelections against relatively unremarkable competition.

Asked at a press conference recently whether he’d be supporting Sorrell’s reelection, Peter Shumlin evaded the question entirely, leaving some to question his allegiance to the longtime AG.

Sorrell though said he has at least one high-profile backer: Howard Dean.

“Howard Dean will certainly be supportive – I don’t think there’s any question about that,” Sorrell said.

Health Care History

We had an editorial board meeting today with Anya Rader Wallack (the Gov's point person on health care reform) and Steve Kimbell (the BISHCA chief), and they ran down the health care team's draft plans for reform of Vermont's health care system. The short of it: We are in for a long and complicated push towards a single payer system in Vermont. And if the federal health care bill is repealed or overturned by the courts, it will get even more complicated.

This meeting sent us to the archives to look at the last major health care reform push in Vermont, which was undertaken by Gov. Howard Dean in 1992-1994. The effort, which would have provided health insurance for every Vermonter, among other things, was defeated when the Senate Finance Committee voted 7-0 not to advance a bill to the floor. Then-Senate President Pro Tem John Bloomer (his son, John Bloomer, Jr. is now the Secretary of the Senate) declined to keep the Legislature in session any longer to work out the bill. The vote took place on May 11, 1994, and the legislative session had already been extended.

The failure left Dean blaming the legislature and legislators saying Dean had not done a good job bringing them and Vermonters onto the same page. The financing of the plan, via raised income taxes, was also a major factor in its failure.

One of the lawmakers on the Finance Committee said this:"It's impossible not to appreciate Howard Dean's openness and willingness to state the truth to the public – his kind of down-home style, that he's for you, he's going to work for you…The other side of Howard Dean, in my experiece, is that he has a very difficult time developing any kind of rapport with lawmakers on an individual level. I think that has been one reason it's been difficult for him to move health care reform forward."

That was Peter Shumlin, then a Windham County Senator.

- Rob Mitchell

Dean on health care

Former Gov. Howard Dean takes to HuffPo to defend the national health care law, saying even if Republicans suceed in shooting down the insurance mandate – Vermont can show the law to reform.

Dean wrote:

In 1992, Vermont embarked on fundamental health care reform. With help in part from a Medicaid waiver from the Clinton Administration, we have had universal coverage for Vermonters under the age of eighteen for nearly twenty years. Over that time, Vermont has had a generation of experience allowing families who make less than $65,000 buy into Medicaid, and 96% of all young people in Vermont have grown up with health coverage.

- Dan Barlow