Sponsored by:

vt.Buzz ~ a political blog

Political notes from Free Press staff writers Terri Hallenbeck, Sam Hemingway and Nancy Remsen



Veto power

So now we know we have at least two vetoes the Legislature will be dealing with July 11 - energy and campaign finance.

How's that impact any prospects for overriding? Does the veto of campaign finance muddy the waters for the energy efforts?

If legislative leaders wanted extra time to marshal their forces - which clearly they did by setting a veto session date for a time far, far away - does this mean their time will be splintered by having to fight two fights?

Does it mean some legislators can prove themselves to be good, obedient Democrats on one bill while doing what their home-base wants them to do on the other? Or does it anger and galvanize the Democrats all the more?

Can all this be done in one day or will legislators be here for the rest of July?

How much do these vetoes resonate with the public? We know there's been lots of interest on both sides of the energy bill, but does Average Joe give a dang about campaign finance (of course he should, but does he?)

Those are some of the political questions swimming around in the Montpelier mud puddles today.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Bee buzzed

I'll just be rooting for Lucy from here on out. Ethan was done in yesterday afternoon by "pygopodous." Contrary to popular belief that is not the art of bouncing on a pogo stick as we used to do as kids. It's a word that's not even in my Webster's New World.

It is "of or pertaining to the Pygopodes." And that, of course, is
"a division of swimming birds which includes the grebes, divers, auks, etc., in which the legs are placed far back."

My nephew was nonetheless upbeat about his experience, according to media reports from the scene.

The key to success in the bee is to not have me rooting for you. Lucy was bounced this morning on "araneiform," which she spelled very closely as "areneiform." It means "having the form of a spider."

- Terri Hallenbeck




You'll recall that Vermont's freshman congressman, Peter Welch, made a little splash earlier this year by establishing the first carbon-neutral congressional office. That is, all the carbon emission burned to run the office and the congressman's travel was offset by purchasing carbon credits. Welch paid $672 to support two renewable projects in Vermont.

Well, the trend is spreading. Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Colorado went carbon neutral with his office today. He bought $830 of Colorado-based wind renewable energy credits to offset the 93 tons of carbon used his office uses in one year.

Perlmutter signed onto legislation Welch introduced that would allow members of Congress to use their office budgets to pay for the offset. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she wants the whole U.S. House to go carbon neutral by the end of the two-year session.

When they're done, it'll be like they never existed, carbonly speaking.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Gud speling

Thanks to the reader who ostensibly meant well by correcting my austensibly. Ironic on this day when the National Spelling Bee begins to be caught mishandling a word like that. Honest, I'm usually a prety gud spelerer.

I know you'll all be rooting for our Vermont spelling bee participant, Lucy Weber of Weybridge. I hope she does well, too, but my real allegiance is to another speller - my nephew, Ethan Johnson, the oldest child of my youngest brother. This is the third year Ethan has gone to the national bee, representing greater Rochester, N.Y. He knows how to spell words you and I would think are made up.

Both he and Lucy aced Round 2 of the bee today, the first one where they are given individual words. It's not a particularly challenging round, but the rest of them will put us all to shame. Lucy nailed "literature," which our story on her in this morning's paper indicates is something she spends a lot of time reading. Ethan got "restaurant," which he has been known to eat at. Both advanced to round 3, which is still going on.

Ostensibly, they will both do better than I did in the last posting.

- Terri Hallenbeck



On top of old Elmore

So the governor went to Elmore Lake State Park on Tuesday, austensibly to sign the telecommunications bill in a place where there is not now but will with the help of this bill be cell phone and high-speed Internet access.

Except he doesn't have the bill yet, so it turned into a sort of faux signing. Much as I love Elmore Lake State Park on a sunny, warm day, I am glad I didn't make the trip.

House Speaker Gaye Symington didn't want anyone accusing her of holding that bill back on purpose. She said she didn't know the governor's office didn't have it. All they had to do was call.

The governor's office also doesn't have the energy bill yet - the one he says he's going to veto. Gubernatorial spokesman Jason Gibbs speculated that legislative leaders were holding that one back until the governor is in China next month. He'll be gone just enough days that they might get away with forcing either the lieutenant governor to act on it, or if he were also out of state, the speaker.

Intriguing idea, but pure speculation, Symington said. She's planning to sign that one herself Thursday, in a 5:45 a.m. pass-through Montpelier. Douglas will have his chance at it after that, a full two weeks before he goes to China.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Bottled up

It’s hot, at least temporarily, here in Vermont and that probably has you yearning more than the usual amount for water. Perhaps even stopping into your local store and grabbing a bottle to go.

Time was when it never would have occurred to us to pay money for water, but you have to concede that water is healthier than soda. It does make you wonder, though, about all those bottles that we didn’t used to generate but now proliferate.

In Oregon, that kind of wondering is translating to an expansion of the bottle bill. The Oregon House endorsed a bill Thursday that the state Senate approved last month and the governor is expected to sign.

Under the bill, consumers would have to plunk down a 5-cent deposit on every bottle of water they buy, beginning in January 2009.

Vermont was an early champion of the bottle bill, which began here in 1973, but efforts to expand it to juices and teas have not gone far. Will it stay that way?

- Terri Hallenbeck


A few million here and there

This might seem like we’re picking on the Vermont Republican Party. That’s not the intention. We believe in equal opportunity picking-on. However, for the second time this week, a VTGOP discrepancy cried out for correction.

This one was an e-mail that went out Thursday, another in the party’s series titled "I know what you did last session ...". This one focused on H. 520, the energy bill that Gov. Jim Douglas has promised to veto.

Here’s what the party is telling its supporters:

"H.520 – a $35 million tax on a successful business that supplies the state
with a third of its electricity, cheaply – could not be a more ill-conceived
idea or come at a worse time. It would reinforce Vermont’s image as a high tax
state, the hostility of the bill will drive away businesses and jobs, it will
directly and indirectly add to the cost of electricity and make Vermont a less
affordable place to live.

Not a single Republican supported H.520, and Governor Douglas has
promised to veto it."

H. 520 does include a tax on Vermont Yankee, which does produce a third of the state’s electricity, but the tax in the bill that passed the Legislatuer amounted to about $25.5 million from 2009 to 2012, not $35 million. If you look at the final vote in the Senate on that bill, Sen. Vince Illuzzi, who has an R after his name whether some Republicans like it or not, voted for it.

If the Republican Party wants to argue – as Douglas does – that $25.5 million is still too much, and that virtually all Republicans voted against it, then so be it. But the $35 million was an earlier proposal, or yesterday’s news.

The fact that the tax changed a fistful of time during the session does pose challenges for the Democratic legislative leaders if they are going to sell this thing to the public. I can’t tell you how many people out there in readerland have had trouble following the bouncing ball on this one. It’s pretty clear the Republicans are eager to tap into that confusion, maybe even spread it.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Along the waterfront

Later today, the governor will snip the ribbon on the new hotel/condos/whatever on Battery Street in Burlington.

This is not one of those commentaries about the governor's penchant for ribbon cuttings. I'll leave those to others.

This is about the building. And does the governor, as he's cutting the ribbon, say something like: "I know it's ugly, but ... ?"

I'm not an architect. I can't even play one very well at home, where I'd like to remodel my basement but have shown questionable skills at gauging the size of rooms. However, I do, as they say about art, know what I like when I see it.

This new building is not the kind of art I'd want hanging on my walls. The views from inside looking out, those on the upper floors anyway, are probably spectacular. Those of us on the outside looking in don't have that same benefit.

I had the occasion to stroll down by the waterfront last night with friends visiting from Arkansas. They were impressed by the mostly picture-perfect scene. I was less impressed by the new piece on the picture.

The hotel actually opened in April, but it's a little hard to tell from the outside, because frankly, it's a little hard to tell what all is going on with the building. The ribbon cutting comes just before the Vermont City Marathon, which will bring lots of guests to the hotel and lots of people lining the street and asking, "Was that there last year?"

As you runners chug your way up the Battery Street hill, the Taiko drummers providing the beat that makes your feet keep moving, I ask you to to ponder whether I'm missing something, or should Burlington scrutinize the designs of its development a little more closely?

- Terri Hallenbeck



Sleuthing Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, is the subject of a lengthy interview in the latest posting of the The Sleuth, a Washington Post blog written by Mary Ann Akers that delves into the lives and chit-chat of the Washington political world.

One of the more interesting things the piece takes up is how the feisty Vermont junior Senator is adapting to the sometimes suffocating etiquette required of members of the Senate chamber after the rough-and-tumble of life in the House.

At one point, Sanders tells a story about passing a familiar Senate face in the hallway but only managing a perfunctory hello because he couldn't remember the Senator's name. Turns out, the famous face couldn't remember who Bernie was either. Later, famous face wrote Sanders a note of apology for not addressing him by name. Here's an exerpt from the interview about the episode...

Sleuth: And who was the senator?

Sanders: Can't tell you that. That's the point about the collegiality. If I embarrass this guy -- that's the whole point! I can't tell you anything!

Sleuth: In the House you would have dropped a dime on him.

Sanders: In the House I would have held four press conferences attacking him!

For a full read of the interview, including an even lengthier set of responses, click HERE.

-- Sam Hemingway


Tell it all

The chairman of the Vermont Republican Party has sent out a message about gasoline prices and noted that lawmakers considered raising the gas tax in 2006. He referenced a roll call vote more than a year ago on the House version of the transportation project bill that included proposed increases in the taxes on gasoline and diesel. Then he lists the Democrats who voted for the bill. That's fair. They cast those votes.

For the record, the bill originated in a committee chaired by a Republican -- who led the fight for the tax increase on the floor of the House. And the complete list of who voted for the bill with its tax increase included Republicans -- 11 of them. Eight still serve.

An oversight?

-- Nancy Remsen


Welch will vote no

Rep. Peter Welch, D-VT, isn't happy with the "compromise" that Congress seems to be reaching with President George Bush on funding for troops.

Here's Welch's statement explaining his decision on the rewritten bill:

"I am deeply disappointed that there is no deadline for troop withdrawal in this bill and will therefore vote against it. Regrettably, the President continues to stubbornly dig in his heels and cling to a failed policy. He has led this country into a catastrophic foreign policy failure and he continues to thumb his nose at retired generals, the will of the majority of Congress, and the majority of the American people.

"While I am profoundly disappointed, I remain determined to end this war. This vote will not be the final say. Regrettably, the President continues to isolate himself on this war. The day of reckoning for this President is coming as more and more members of his own party find their voices and demand a change in course. I have great hope that in the coming months a veto-proof majority emerges in Congress that can stand up to the President to end this terrible war."

-- Nancy Remsen



Immigration spam

Some, maybe all of Vermont's legislators got a curious e-mail the other day from something called USCitizensRights.org. The national group doesn't like the immigration reform deall that a bi-partisan group of US Senators and the White House hashed out last week, and it wants our Montpelier crew to get on the digital horn and let representatives in Congress know just how bad the deal is.

Here's some of what the e-mail, entitled Stop Amnesty for Illegal Immigrants in Vermont! said:

"USCitizensRights (USCR) and the citizens of Vermont and the US are ready to explode in anger over the awful teamwork of McCain, Kennedy, Reid, Specter, Feinstein, and others seeking to provide Amnesty to illegal aliens (under their S. 1348, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill)."

"USCR seeks to preserve, defend, and protect the constitutional rights of American citizens, who face threats and assaults against their wages, jobs, security, and rights, from Illegal Immigration. The US Constitution has NO rights for illegal aliens in the US. We reject the Kennedy-McCain Amnesty Bill, and petition ALL lawmakers of the US Congress to enforce US immigration law, and highlight the facts below to show why the US federal government must enforce immigration law."

From there, the USCR folks list a bunch of reasons why the deal is a bad one, followed by a list of Senators that our state legislators can contact.

Just two problems with all this.

One, most Vermonters know there are maybe 2,000 illegal (mostly) Mexican workers employed on dairy farms in the state, doing work that Vermonters apparently don't want to do. Without these workers, it could be curtains for the state's signature dairy biz. So suggesting a knee-jerk rejection of the deal isn't that easy for most of our lawmakers to do.

And two, the e-mail appeal got off on the wrong foot by beginning its message with the words "Dear Maine State Rep.:"

That's a sure way to a Vermont lawmaker's attention. Not.

-- Sam Hemingway


Is it clicking?

The state police have launched their just-in-time-for-summer "Click It or Ticket" campaign with just one flaw.

In Vermont, it really should be "If you don't click it, and you do something else wrong, you could get a ticket." Admittedly a lot less catchy, but that's the way it works here. Police can't stop you just because of the seat belt thing, but they can ticket you for that if they stop you for something else.

Nonetheless, Vermont joined in the national "Click It or Ticket" campaign. Signs along the interstate and TV ads featuring Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie flash the phrase. Twenty-five states have seat-belt laws that allow police to pull somebody over for not wearing one.

The Legislature once again this year toyed with making seat belt a "primary enforcement" issue, with the lure of $3.7 million in federal money for road safety improvements, but in the end ran into resistance from those who think that's too Big Brotherish.

Should Vermont click into the routine of most other states, as police would like? Or does that go too far in giving up rights, as a few key legislators and the governor believe?

- Terri Hallenbeck



Speaking engagements

Cokie Roberts was apparently funny while also inspiring in her speech to St. Michael's College graduates. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia was described as captivating a few days later at the University of Vermont.

No small feats, either of those. Out of the gazillion graduation speeches made every year, the vast majority are unmemorable. Some of the memorable ones are remembered for their sheer dullness.

Indeed, it's got to be a daunting task to stand up there and hit a home run. How much of this stuff has already been said? What would you say if you were called upon to deliver a commencement address? You'd want to be engaging. You'd want to be inspiring. You'd want your speech to stick with the grads longer than the hangover they're likely nursing.

Gov. Jim Douglas is among those facing this task next weekend when he gives the commencement address at Keuka College in western New York. Just as you have likely never heard of Keuka College, its graduates have likely never heard of Jim Douglas. They chose him, though, because he is Uncle Jim to one of the members of the Class of 2007. And because Middlebury College had already snatched up Bill Clinton.

Keuka College happens to be near my home turf, a place of great beauty, though it's got to be one isolated place to go to college, tucked among grape vineyards and a long way from, well, just about anything. It happens that I will be raking my parents' leaves some miles down the road while Douglas is captivating the crowd. They have a lot of leaves and are particular about picking up every one, so I will be unable to sneak a listen for you.

What wisdom will Douglas bestow on them? Not the right crowd for one of those speeches lambasting the Vermont Legislature. His affordability speach? This is a crowd deeply in debt and unemployed whose sense of affordability is deciding between the 18-pack of Bud or the 18-pack of PBR.

No, he's going to have to pull a new arrow from his quiver for this one. According to an excerpt of his speech, he is apparently going to compare the environs of Keuka College with those of Vermont, a viable comparison. He'll then talk about embracing innovation and learning from the mistakes of previous generations.

You can just picture him holding up a cell phone and selling them on Vermont's goal to become the first e-state. It shouldn't take too much of a sales pitch to lure all 300 or so of these young adults to come work and live in Vermont. When it comes to sagging economies and departing young people, upstate New York has Vermont beat hands down. He could, by the end of the day, tip our demographics one-one-hundredth of a millimeter toward the younger set.

That is if they are listening. Who's the real audience at a graduation speech anyway? The parents maybe, if they're not too busy watching the whole thing through a camera lens, but I'm not so sure about the kids.

I can't remember who the speaker was for my 1983 graduation at UVM, and could find no record of it in my piles of paperwork. UVM spokesman Jeff Wakefield did some digging for me and tells me it was Elliot Richardson, the man who refused to fire Archibald Cox for President Nixon, who spoke that year. Sorry, Elliot.

I did locate the program from my high school graduation. Two classmates and two teachers apparently spoke. I remember not a word of it.

Jacques Cousteau lived a fascinating life. What do I remember of his speech at my brother's graduation from RPI? That it was dreadfully dull in a sweltering, packed gym.

Ben Cohen, the hip ice cream entrepreneur? My husband heard him address graduates at Hartwick College in central New York one year. Rambling, disjointed, and no free ice cream.

Free ice cream might be one way to grab the grads' attention. Anybody hear a graduation speech that stuck with them?

- Terri Hallenbeck



If you're one of those people who has bookmarked our blog (and who wouldn't?), and if you've been experiencing difficulty in zooming right to the site, I have some help for you. It's probably because they changed the link to the blog a few weeks back. To fix your bookmark, go to the blog through the Free Press Web site and when you get to vt.Buzz make that your new favorite and kill off the old one.

If you're not having said difficulty, then just carry on with what you were doing.

In other news, I figured out how to change the time on this thing and comments should no longer be off by an hour. It's amazing the new tricks you can teach an old dog.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Letter to Fox News

Here's the letter that House Speaker Gaye Symington, D-Jericho, and Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, sent to the head of Fox News as a result of a film crew's visit to the Statehouse cafeteria Saturday morning to question Rep. Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg.

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.


Gaye Symington,
Speaker of the Vermont House

Peter Shumlin
President Pro Tem, Vermont Senate

-- Nancy Remsen



Frequent flyers

Since they both ended up with jobs in D.C., this was bound to happen. I'm told that Peter Welch and Martha Rainville, once each other's nemesis of the campaign trail, bumped into each other last weekend during plane travel.

I don't know the particulars but I suspect they were cordial to each other because a) that's how people usually are when they cross paths even if after they spent months plotting each other's demises; b) they had one of the most cordial open-seat campaigns in America; and c) you can get kicked off a plane pretty easily these days so picking a fight was only going to delay them.

If, in fact, they ended up in seats next to each other for the D.C.-Vermont flight, now that would have been an interesting, if uncomfortable, ride.

- Terri Hallenbeck


They (heart) Vermont

For what it's worth, an unscientific online poll conducted by the popular lefty blog Daily Kos has found that people around the country see Vermont as the most New England of the six states in the region.

The question, asked on a DK Wednesday thread, was "Which of these states most epitomizes New England to you? The results, based on 9,942 responses as of Thursday morning, was as follows:

Vermont 3,424
Massachusetts 3.136
Maine 1,380
New Hampshire 1,174
Connecticut 546
Rhode Island 282

Not bad for the state with the smallest population of the six states. Or maybe that's exactly what makes the state seem more New Englandy than the rest. Or maybe it means absolutely nothing.

Your take?

-- Sam Hemingway



Impeachment speech

Rep. PeterWelch's floor speech about impeachment is up on his Web site. You can watch it by clicking HERE.

What that means is that it's now in the congressional record that a bunch of Vermonters wanted impeachment. That's it's probably about all the impeachment advocates will get, but it's something.

Is there a next step to the impeachment strategy?

Here are excerpts:

Vermonters have such extraordinary concern, particularly with the
prosecution of the war in Iraq, that many are now calling for the President and
Vice President to be impeached.
"I applaud these citizen activists who have acted in the Vermont tradition
of taking a principled stand on issues of conscience. They raise valid
concerns about the actions of this Administration and actions allowed to go
unchecked by the previous Congress. They are right. The concerns
they have are well founded.


"Madame Speaker, while I disagree impeachment is the remedy, I completely
share the goal, which is to restore honest and just leadership to our

- Terri Hallenbeck



Down in D.C.

Impeachment fans might want to tune into C-SPAN this afternoon and see what Vermont's freshman congressman has to say on the House floor about their meeting with him last weekend.

Rep. Peter Welch will make a statement several minutes after the last vote of the day, anticipated at approximately 4-5:30 p.m., according to his staff.

If by chance you're one of those people who has other things to do at the time of day, the statement will also be posted on www.welch.house.gov under "multimedia" Wednesday.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Presidential backwater

Four years ago presidential politics was a growth industry in Vermont, thanks to former Gov. Howard Dean's surge to the front in the months leading up to the election year primaries, when the Dean train went off the tracks.

This year, we're back to being a backwater when it comes to the presidential sweepstakes. Our primary is in March as usual, but because so many other states have moved their primaries to February, whatever happens here will be entirely irrelevant.

So far, what whisps of on-the-ground activity there are in Vermont amount to a grassroots operation by supporters of Democrat Barack Obama. They're planning on sending canvassers to New Hampshire this weekend. Tonight, they're staging a fundraiser at the Burlington home of Sarah Muyskens and Michael Green, with Obama' New England finance chairman, Alan Solomont, as the prime atttraction.

As for presidential candidate campaign visits, we're about to get our first. On May 23, Republican Rudy Giuliani will speak at 7:30 a.m. at the Hotel Coolidge in White River. It's a breakfast fundraiser for GOP committees in Orange and Windsor County in Vermont and Grafton County in New Hampshire. ¶

Hey, maybe if enough people complain about the time, Rudy will pull a Peter Welch and move the time to later in the morning so more can attend.


-- Sam Hemingway



While we were myopically focused on the Legislature's final days, I didn't even notice that Barre native Jim Barnett had been elevated to become John McCain's campaign manager in New Hampshire.

Barnett, of course, was Vermont Republican Party chairman until the end of last year, when he went to work on McCain's New England staff. It was a perfect fit for a man who lives and breathes politics. His promotion is a sign that Barnett is doing well. The firing of his predecessor, Jim Martin, is not a good sign for McCain's campaign, however.

Barnett will have some help from Michael Dennehy, who stepped down as McCain's national political director last week to move back home to New Hampshire. He is expected to continue with the campaign as a consultant.

It probably means Barnett will have less time to pop back home to Vermont to lobby Republicans here for their support of McCain, as he has done a couple times this year.

For those of you who missed it, here's the AP story on the shake-up:

McCain fires New Hampshire director, shuffles staff

By Philip Elliott
Associated Press Writer
May 11, 2007
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. --Sen. John McCain has made
another change in his struggling campaign, dismissing his New Hampshire campaign
manager on Friday.
Jim Martin had run the Arizona Republican's
campaign in the state and was part of McCain's 2000 victory in the state. But
the campaign decided to replace him with Jim Barnett, who had been a top
political operative.
McCain's New Hampshire Communications
Director Jill Hazelbaker said the departure came Friday.
we appreciate his hard work, Jim Barnett will assume the day-to-day
responsibilities going forward," she said. "Barnett is a talented political
professional with extensive campaign experience, and he will work closely with
Mike Dennehy to build out our ground operation to ensure that we win the
Barnett had served as the chairman of the Vermont
Republican Party and joined the McCain campaign as the regional political
"We need someone who knows what it takes on every
level of a campaign and understands a get-out-the-vote process. Jim Barnett is
that person," said Dennehy, a McCain consultant who stepped down earlier this
week as national political director and returned to help New Hampshire's office.
"I'm going to work very closely with Jim on the historical knowledge of the
The campaign says the move underscores the importance of
the state to McCain, who won here over party favorite and then-Texas Gov. George
W. Bush in 2000.
The shake-up comes in the wake of Dennehy's resignation to
relocate his family to New Hampshire. His young son has Down's Syndrome and the
family thought the schools in Concord would be a better fit.

Earlier this year, McCain restructured his campaign fundraising organization
after a lackluster first quarter. The campaign says the moves reflect the fluid
nature of all campaigns.

- Terri Hallenbeck



The O'Reilly Factor

O'Reilly, as in Bill O'Reilly from Fox TV, became a factor today in the Statehouse as the Legislature moves toward adjournment.

A four-person camera crew from the O'Reilly show came to the Statehouse early Saturday morning, found Rep. Bill Lippert eating his oatmeal in the cafeteria, and grilled him with questions about supporting sex offenders. Legislators described it as a very aggressive, when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife-type interrogation.

Lippert's fellow legislators jumped to his defense and shouted the crew out of the Statehouse. Amid trying to settle education funding legislation, the state budget and the other business of the Legislature before today's planned adjournment, this has legislators riled.

O'Reilly's hot on Jessica's Law, which requires 25-year minimum sentences for sex offenders. Vermont doesn't have Jessica's Law, but Friday night passed a law that would require untreated sex offenders who "max out" of their sentences to follow a stricter registry that requires treatment. If they fail, they can get 5 years-life.

Lippert is not alone in the Legislature thinking that law, combined with last year's law requiring indeterminate sentences for sex offenders as of this year, is more effective than Jessica's Law.

Lippert is alone, though, in being openly gay and being in charge of the House Judiciary Committee. Somehow, the idea that he supports sex offenders, gets wrapped up in his sexual orientation, and when the confrontation was over, Lippert beseeched his colleagues to step up and declare that his being singled out that way was not OK.

They're working on that. A resolution condemning O'Reilly is in the works. In between, they are having a hard time getting everybody on board about education financing. Adjournment? Whew, hard to say.

- Terri Hallenbeck

- Terri Hallenbeck



Inch by inch

In case you're at home on a Friday night checking in on your favorite blog to see what your favorite legislature is up to, let me come to your aid.

They are inching their way toward adjournment. We're awaiting deals on the transportation budget, the capital budget, educating funding and the telecommunications bill, among other items. Both chambers are out on a break at the moment, due back in the 8 p.m. region. Meanwhile, the Thrush Tavern must be doing good business.

The House passed the controversial energy bill, 85-61, with the Vermont Yankee tax. Is the governor going to veto it? He says he has to read it first, as if he doesn't know what's in it.

It looks as though the Legislature will be back tomorrow, even if legislators will be sleeping in Rep. Jim McCullough's Williston B&B because there are no rooms at the Capital Plaza inn on account of Norwich University's graduation.

- Terri Hallenbeck



The loss of Ross

It is with some sadness that I learned today that Ross Sneyd will be leaving the Associated Press, where he has been covering the Statehouse since Thomas Chittenden was governor and Ethan Allen was sergeant-at-arms. Which is odd, because we recently discovered that Ross and I are the same age.

Ross is going to work for Vermont Public Radio as a news producer. I asked him to put that in terms I understand, and he said it's a sort of news editor, or news coordinator.

Whatever it is, I suspect he will be good at it. Ross is a master of many subjects at the Statehouse, almost all of them complicated. His real mastery comes in his ability to synthesize them for public consumption within nanoseconds.

He's also a pretty good person to hang out with when you're trapped in long hearings or shooting the breeze between bits of action. If, by chance, I have a cynical thought, I can usually share it with Ross and get a laugh out of him.

Since I know he doesn't read the blog ("I should read that," he's probably said about 25 times), I'll just come out and freely say I'll miss him and I think readers will too.

- Terri Hallenbeck


Trippi back in the game

Four years ago, as Howard Dean was approaching cruising altitude as a leader in the Democratic presidential field, the political world was also taking note of Dean's man behind the curtain, colorful campaign manager Joe Trippi.

Trippi, credited for nurturing the netroots success of the Dean campaign, eventually fell out of favor with both Dean as the big media vultures began to circle the campaign in its dying days. He got fired, wrote a book, became a MSNBC pundit and swore he'd never get actively involved in presidential politics again.

Whoops. He's back (not surprisingly), and is now John Edwards Web advisor (also not surprisingly). Talking Points Memo's Election Center on line newsletter has an interview with Joe out today, and he's just as feisty and quotable as ever. For a full read of the interview, click HERE, but for a few bite-sized chunks of what he says, about Edwards and his competition, read on.

On why he's back in the presidential game after what happened to him and Dean in 2004: I really was convinced that the Dean campaign would be my last. But I sat there looking at where the war was going, and wondered, "How the hell can I sit on the sidelines? I'm still relatively young, although I'm an old fart, and I should make one more run at it."Yes, Edwards supported the war. But he owned up to it and said it was a mistake. He opposes it. He's got a real timetable for how we should get out. When you look at the real issues facing this country right now, I don't think the choice between the candidates is a close call.

On Edwards main opposition, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama: They are sitting around wondering how they're going to find sixteen Republican Senators to override the President's veto? That's baloney and everyone knows it. But that's what they're working to do. Or you have deauthorization of the war. Like we didn't do that in Vietnam? I mean, come on. The Congress has funding authority and they need to use it. There's only one candidate who's saying, "Send the President the same bill again and again, he's the one who's not funding the troops." That's a far, far cry from, "Hey, let's go find sixteen phantom Republican Senators," or "Hey, let's deauthorize the war." Sixteen words got us into this war, and sixteen phantom Republican Senators aren't going to get us out. Any compromise that would get 16 votes isn’t a compromise worth making.

On what he has in mind for the Edwards campaign: We're trying to look at You Tube in a different way. we're really happy with the success of our "We the People" ad. I've only been around a couple of weeks, and the web team hasn't gotten sick of me yet. I have thrown some furniture around...

-- Sam Hemingway



Just a question

But for a reporter's question, a bill providing a $50,000 death benefit to any Vermont National Guard member who died on state active duty would have been left on the table until next winter.

It's that time in the session when reporters try to figure out what happened to all the bills they've written about over the past four months. So the question put to Rep. Helen Head, D-South Burlington, chairwoman of the House General and Military Affairs Committee, earlier this week was what was the status of H. 361, the death benefit bill for the guard. She knew that its companion, H. 360, protecting the civilian jobs of Guard members, was on its way to the governor. Wasn't H. 361 as well? she asked. Not exactly. It got hung up in a Senate rules committee.

Twenty-four hours later, Head reported the bill had been freed, breezed through the Senate Government Operations Committee, and been voted out of the Senate -- all in an afternoon. Now it is on its way to the governor.

Good thing I asked!

-- Nancy Remsen


Pacifying the impeachers

Item: Congressman Peter Welch, D-Vt., to meet with Vermont impeachment group Saturday.

It seems like Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the pro-impeachment crowd in Vermont happy, even if he himself doesn't favor having the House spend time drawing impeachment counts against President Bush or Vice President Cheney -- and even though the Democratic-controlled Vermont House deep-sixed an impeachment resolution 87-60 late last month.

Exhibit A: Under pressure from the group that staged pro-impeachment sit-ins recently at his office and at Sanders' and Leahy's shops, Welch agreed to a sit-down, one-hour session with pro-impeachment forces this Saturday in Hartford.

But that wasn't good enough for the impeachment aficionados. They said the 9 a.m. start time was just too early. And one hour was too little time. So the impeachers bombarded his office with a flurry of phone calls this week, finally prompting Welch to change the time to 11 a.m., and expand the session to 90 minutes.

Good for him. But, instead of thanks, impeachment leader James Leas wrote in a widely distributed e-mail Tuesday that move by Welch was proof the group had caught Welch in a conspiracy to stick it to the impeachers. And only the righteous efforts of people like Leas kept Welch from getting away with it.

"As we suspected there were other times! Peter Welch changed his mind about gaming the schedule to discourage Vermonters from coming," Leas wrote. "The public forum with Peter Welch to discuss impeachment will now be from 11am to 12:30pm this Saturday at the Hartford High School in White River Junction. Once again the beautiful voices of the people of Vermont prevailed upon our leaders. "

Earlier in the week, Leas had taken the same tone in an e-mail to Tricia Coates, Welch's Vermont office manager. Here's part of what he said:

"While people are incredibly dedicated to ending this war and impeaching Bush and Cheney they can identify a setup when they see it... They do not want our Congressman to be gaming the timing, location, notice, and duration of the meeting in a way that thwarts people's attendence or discourages them from coming. Particularly when our constitution and so many human lives are at stake."

Fair and balanced criticism of Welch? You decide.

-- Sam Hemingway



Idling thoughts

Are we marching toward a Friday adjournment? It would be hard to say that's the case based on today's events.

It took 45 minutes to get under way in the House today after recognizing the hordes of Vermonters who were there to be recognized.

In the education funding conference committee, an early-morning disagreement erupted over numbers.

The transportation budget conference committee didn't hold their morning meeting.

In the energy conference committee, where that Vermont Yankee tax looms, there's been lots of nibbling around the edges but they haven't touched the meat of this one.

Bus idling? Well, yes, that one is done. They've agreed to ban the idling of buses outside Vermont schools.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Uncertain times

Dave Janawicz, the Statehouse's police chief, sends out a weekly e-mail with the schedule of various Statehouse events. In this week's, he sums up the uncertainty of the impending end of the legislative session.

Saturday, May 12, 2007:
Anticipate Legislature to be in Session for

Sunday, May 13, 2007: Mother's Day
Hopefully CLOSED.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Between the lines

As they say in sports, this is why they play the game. You might think you can predict the outcome based on the lineup, but then you get between the lines and things can change.

The Senate was voting this morning on an amendment introduced by Sen. Susan Bartlett, D-Lamoille, that would have backed off the Legislature's examination of FairPoint Communications, the company that's trying to take the place of Verizon in Vermont.

Sen. Vince Illuzzi, R-Essex/Orleans, had expressed distrust of FairPoint's economic strength and called for closer scrutiny as part of the broadband legislation.

The Senate's vote on Bartlett's amendment came out 15-15.

So what happens when there's a tie? The lieutenant governor votes, of course. If we played this game all on paper, you might expect Republican Brian Dubie to vote yes and support the business, right? Well, as I say, that's why we play the game. Dubie voted no.

When the Senate recessed a short time later, Bartlett went up to Dubie and said, "Did you vote the way you wanted to on that?"

Dubie said he did.

Dubie then told me he's been involved with negotiations on the Verizon-FairPoint deal, along with Sen. Bernie Sanders, and he thinks it might be worthwhile for the Legislature to weigh in. "This is going to heighten some conversations we're going to have," he said.

Dubie and Sanders. I'm not making this up.

- Terri Hallenbeck



Mixing marijuana and abortion policy

Some members of the Vermont House so wanted to vote to require parental notification before teenagers undergo abortions that they tried to tack it onto the medical marijuana bill.

The connection between the seemingly miles-apart issues was the parental permission provision in the existing medical marijuana law.

The debate never took place. Rep. Ann Pugh, D-South Burlington, asked House Speaker Gaye Symington to rule on whether the parental notification amendment was germane. Symington concluded it wasn't.

Rep. Duncan Kilmartin, R-Newport, who led the 28-member effort to bring up parental notification, asked for a vote to allow debate on the non-germane amendment -- essentially asking the House to overrule Symington. He needed three-quarters of the votes cast to win. He lost 107-39.

The tally doesn't represent much. It's not a measure of opposition to parental notification. Some supporters of parental notification voted with the speaker because there's a tradition about not challenging rulings -- especially those viewed as common sense.

--Nancy Remsen


Off and running

Lest you thought otherwise, Gov. Jim Douglas is indeed running for re-election in 2008. He said as much in a three-page April 24 letter to prospective campaign donors. He wants their money, he said, "to help fight off the Democrats and win a fourth term."

Is it early to be running for re-election? Douglas spokeswoman Dennise Casey said it's typical to start raising money at this stage.

Vermont Democratic Party Chairman Ian Carleton said the governor is running for re-election all the time, anyway. "This is a governor who campaigns 12 months of the year," Carleton said.

Two years ago, when Democrat Scudder Parker kicked off his campaign against Douglas in October - 13 months before the election - Douglas said, "Anyone who begins a political campaign this early does a real disservice to the state of Vermont."

There are, of course, all kinds of subtle arguments about what constitutes a "political campaign" and whether raising money is the same as campaigning.

Any candidates for governor rising to the top among the Democrats? Carleton said those conversations don't begin in earnest until after the legislative session, which appears to be in its final two weeks. No doubt, those conversations are taking place already, even if less than earnestly.

Will a high-profile Democrat take the risk of running against the three-term incumbent? Who would you like to see and what would that person bring to the table?

- Terri Hallenbeck



Baby's first phone call

I received a rather long message on my cell phone today that consisted entirely of a baby crying. Not a long, tortuous wail, but a soft cry.

It was either a wrong number or gubernatorial spokesman Jason Gibbs inadvertently hitting a button on his cell phone. Jason is the only person I know of who had a baby this week.

With the Monday birth of baby Addison (a healthy 6 pounds, 2 ounces), we will be hearing the governor's voice come out of a different spokesmouth for a couple weeks. Dennise Casey, who ran the governor's 2006 election campaign, will take on that role.

The governor's office's news release on the birth already made the quip about 13 more and the Gibbses will have one named after every county in Vermont. Grand Isle Gibbs does have a nice ring to it, but I this his wife, Amy, should have significant say in that.

Anyway, it was nice hearing from Addison, if it was her on the phone. She was right on message the whole time.

- Terri Hallenbeck

Recent Posts

Recent Comments


June 2006   July 2006   August 2006   September 2006   October 2006   November 2006   December 2006   January 2007   February 2007   March 2007   April 2007   May 2007   June 2007   July 2007   August 2007   September 2007   October 2007   November 2007   December 2007   January 2008   February 2008   March 2008   April 2008   May 2008   June 2008   July 2008   August 2008   September 2008   October 2008   November 2008   December 2008   January 2009   February 2009   March 2009   April 2009   May 2009   June 2009   July 2009   August 2009   September 2009   October 2009   November 2009   December 2009   January 2010   February 2010   March 2010   April 2010