VT Progressive Party

Party Organization

Progs ponder possible candidate

August 10, 2013; Kyle Midura; WCAX

The next statewide election is more than year away, but Vermont Progressives are already doing political calculus.

About 40 people attended the party's state committee meeting in Bethel Saturday. Party members debated the merits of challenging Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin in next year's election. Party leaders say, while they're not thrilled by social welfare cuts pushed by the Governor, they say he is fighting for some similar causes like the closure of Vermont Yankee and single payer healthcare.

"We can't pretend that we don't have a Democratic Governor who is talking about some of our issues, even as this betrayal on some of the basic economic stuff hits and hits hard," said Progressive Chris Pearson.

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Will a Prog Run for Gov? Nope.

August 8, 2013; Paul Heintz; Seven Days

"Should Progs challenge Shumlin in '14?"

That's the question Burlington Free Press reporter Terri Hallenbeck put to Vermont Progressive Party leaders in Tuesday's paper. The occasion for the query was the Progs' upcoming state committee meeting (at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Bethel Town Hall), which will feature an hourlong strategy session focusing, in part, on whether to run a candidate against Gov. Peter Shumlin, a second-term Democrat.

So should they? Maybe. But will they? I highly doubt it.

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Should Progressives challenge Shumlin in 2014?

August 5, 2013; Terri Hallenbeck; Burlington Free Press

When members of the Vermont Progressive Party gather Saturday for their state meeting, they will openly discuss the burning issue of the day: Should they challenge Gov. Peter Shumlin in next year’s election?

Here’s the dilemma: Progressives kind of like Shumlin, at least some of the time. They just can’t believe some of the cuts he’s proposed to social programs. But they’re not so sure they’ve got the money or the candidate to mount their own viable campaign. And they think they’re doing pretty well affecting change by focusing on getting members elected to the Legislature.

“I have absolutely no idea where we’re going to end up,” said Party Chairwoman Martha Abbott of Underhill. “I want to hear what everybody’s thinking.”

“I really don’t know,” said longtime Progressive Anthony Pollina of Middlesex, when asked if the party should run a candidate for governor. “That’s why I think the conversation is important. I think there are a lot of differences of opinion.”

“His budget priorities were so far off the mark that the Democratic majority shut them down,” said Chris Pearson, a Burlington representative.

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August State Committee Meeting - Proposed Agenda

Vermont State Committee Meeting
August 10, 2013; 1:00 pm
Town Hall, Bethel


Welcome: Martha Abbott (5 minutes)

Keynote – The Effect of Annual Budget Cuts on Vermonters (40 minutes)
  *Speakers: Paul Cillo & Sen. Anthony Pollina

Resolutions: Martha Abbott (20 Minutes)
  *Justice for Trayvon (See Enclosed Proposed Resolution)
  *Health Care Follow Up (Appoint Resolution Draft Committee)

Reorganization Update: Robert Millar (10 minutes)

Break/Raffle Drawing (15 minutes)

Panel Discussion – Strategizing for 2014 (60 minutes)
  *Panel Members: Rep. Chris Pearson, Morgan Daybell, Cassandra Gekas

Labor Update (25 minutes)
  *VSEA: Mark Mitchell, Adam Norton, Steve Howard
  *VFFC: Kelly Mangan

Closing: Martha Abbott (5 minutes)

Minutes - May 2013 State Committee Meeting

1. Opening Remarks from Party Chair, Martha Abbott
Martha introduced Coco members. Acknowledgement of the passing of Ed Everett, longtime peace movement leader in Vermont.

The state committee meeting in August will focus on election strategy for 2014, recruitment and identification of candidates, campaign managers and campaign volunteers. She advocated for contested primaries in Progressive Party. In the fall, reorganization will take place for the Party and this is a good opportunity for Party outreach on local level.

Noted a first-time contribution from Vermont-NEA, public education union, noteworthy because this is the largest union in Vermont and it acknowledges the party’s work on labor issues. Also, Ben Cohen reached out to the party to request co-sponsorship of the Stop the F-35 rally on Thursday, May 30, 7PM Unitarian Universalist Church. State Committee passed resolution against F-35 two and a half years ago, available on website. Party has formally agreed to sponsor.

2. Legislative Update
Rep. Sandy Haas’s Report: Attacks on EITC, Reach Up and child care provisions. EITC program widely recognized as most successful anti-poverty program in the country. Debate was ugly and paternalistic. The Democratic leadership never really budged on issue despite Governor’s call for weakening the EITC and that should be applauded. Limits to Reach Up benefits did get added, but it became mainly a media sound bite since the limit are almost eaten by the exceptions - including medical problems and domestic violence.

End of Life bill has been in the works for 9 years. Senate took the lead this year due to several defeats in House in recent years. Tense throughout whole process. Final law is very close to the laws in Oregon and Washington. The Washington law is very mainstreamed. VT will follow the Oregon model for three years and then model will sunset and evolve into something with less structure/less safeguards. Legislature may look at again, in a couple of years.

Rep. Cindy Weed’s Report: Served on Housing & Military Affairs committee, which was also charged with labor bills. Dealt with Equal Pay bill, flexible work hours, agency fee (fee charged to non-union members for being represented in collective bargaining), payment of wages, paid sick days (being taken up again next year), bottle bill (lead sponsor on this bill), GMO labeling bill (passed), hemp bill (passed), migrant worker driver’s license bill (passed), and proposals on clothing tax and bottled water tax. She also participated in EITC press conference. There was also a Progressive/Democratic caucus that proposed a more equitable tax structure.

Sen. Anthony Pollina: Tough session, it was hard to define victories. Vermont reaffirmed commitment to social liberalism, but the downside is economic/economy issues. Issues that stood out: end of life bill, marijuana decimalization bill, migrant workers driver’s license bill, opening up of police records, hemp and GMO bill, equal pay and free lunch issues, paid sick days (kicked into next year), home care workers’ legislation that allows them to organize into a union, childcare workers’ union bill as well (but faced huge obstacles). Anthony introduced two bills: closing the gap in higher education costs (Senate passed after a lot of debate, died in House) and protecting tenant’s water utility rights when landlord doesn’t pay bill. State bank issue passed out of committee but withdrawn from full vote due to an amendment that would have given more power over the study to State Treasurer, who opposes a state bank. Campaign finance reform died in conference committee. Catamount Program users will need to pay more going into health exchange, which is not a good path towards real health care reform.  Glaring lack of economic justice issues – that is what sets Progressives apart. How do we keep decisions out of appropriations committee where decisions are made based on money, but not justice?

Questions and discussion from the floor: Limiting corporate contributions has never been able to pass the VT legislature. Majority of Senators voted to ban corporate contributions so they wouldn’t have to look bad on Senate floor, then tried to kill bill, but were willing to vote against it when it came back up. End of life care. What’s the ethical choice? Nothing will be able to happen in a facility in terms of extending end of life choices to people, most nursing homes will say no. Law basically helps people who can die at home and mostly applies to people who are saying no to certain kinds of treatments. Other details of the bill on how this impacts doctors who are employed by hospitals and how many end-of-life patients this applies to (est. 10%). Very specific provision in the bill that says palliative care can continue. And bill looking to tax cannabis study committee failed.

3. Coco Update
Selene Colburn (Vice Treasurer) noted the Coco has formed four new committees and shared the purpose and scope of each committee. Volunteers were asked to step forward to serve on committees.

• Communications Committee – Responsible for reviewing press releases in timely fashion, building communications strategy, drafting a new brochure for party, website/e-newsletter content review, and other items related to building and promoting party. CHAIR: Selene Colburn
• Reorganization Committee – Build strategy for where to target growth of party in state via reorganization process, outreach to towns, follow up work with towns and county leaders.  CHAIR: Mike Bayer
• Fundraising Committee – Build a fundraising strategy for the party and raise some cash!
CHAIR: Katherine Sims
• Elections Committee – Build statewide candidate recruitment strategy starting now, review data and infrastructure tools within party for elections (ex: Civi), develop election skill training strategy (ex: door knocking training). CHAIR: Emma Mulvaney-Stanak

Selene also shared some updates from the Coco’s recent work to build its capacity and engage more people within the party, such as sharing minutes from the Coco meetings with the state committee and creating working committees.

Mike Bayer (Treasurer) made a fundraising pitch to the state committee to financially support the party and our important work.

4. Town Reorganization
Robert noted there is a committee working on developing a strategy for the town reorganization process this fall. It is a chance to build our capacity as a party.

5. Panel Discussion – The Road to Single Payer
Moderated by Meg Brook (Vice Chair). Panel comprised of Peter Sterling, VT Campaign for Healthcare Security, Ellen Oxfeld, Healthcare for All, David Kreindler, Vermont Worker’s Center, and Sen. Anthony Pollina. 

Peter Sterling noted the healthcare exchange is not healthcare reform. Obama care begins on Jan 1. 2014. People on public health care will actually be forced to go into private health care. People will be forced to go into exchange, cost is an issue. Governor and legislature had a chance to fix this. Shumlin cut Catamount subsidies to address other pressures in running the exchange and to help doctors. The good news is the exchange will be final nail in the coffin of whether private insurance can deliver affordable health care. Peter noted that the only people really supportive of real reform were Progressives. We need to elect more Progs in House and Senate. And State of Vermont needs to come up with additional revenue to subsidize exchange and make it affordable. Adult dental benefit needs to be added.

Ellen Oxfeld noted Act 48 did not have a financing plan. In January 2015, the Legislature will have to pass the financing/tax. Don’t confuse the exchange with single payer. We don’t want to repeal affordable care; we want to replace it with something better. Governor will call whatever he puts on table single payer no matter what it is. It is up to us to make sure that it is actually single payer. Financing package needs to be equitable. Progressives should take lead and make payroll tax happen to help fund system. There will be a fight to make hospital boards subject to open meeting laws.

David Kreindler noted it is important to think of the framework about policy & power. We need to create power. Workers’ Center created frame around issue based on human rights. Act 128 and Act 48 include the human rights principles. The challenge is seeing the vision become reality. Peter Shumlin wants the cache of creating universal health care, but he’s working for business & ruling class. He’s not going to give us health care as a human right. He’s going to deliver single payer as a publicly funded program. Message needs to be “from coverage to care” and “everybody in; nobody out” and fight needs to be for equitable financing and need to be publicly run and not-for-profit system.

Anthony Pollina noted it is a mess. It’s a political problem and it is about power. Have to constantly remind legislators about commitment to budget principles. There is not a lot of conversation about single payer – all diverted to the exchange and talk about hospitals and insurance companies. Legislators seem to see through the insurance lobbyists, but hospitals have more clout. Conversation on tax reform and funding being put off, but eventually we will get to discussion on publicly financed health care either through payroll tax and other methods. Also need to involve unionized folks, especially teachers, because they have good plans in place and probably don’t want to give them up, plus their benefits will likely be negatively impacted by exchange.  We need to build power and a clear message. Administration doesn't have a message. Every Vermonter is covered by Green Mountain Care and we need to insist on this.

(from panelists and attendees)

• Elect more Progressives (e.g. 78 Representatives and 22 Senators, or more)
• Advocate for public money to subsidize
• Ensure adult dental benefit gets added to the exchange
• Push for a financing plan
• Bill for open board meetings at hospitals
• Support Healthcare is a Human Right equitable financing legislation
• Get involved with Health Care is a human Right campaign
• Continue to build political power
• Have a coherent message (maybe the Governor and other will adopt it)
• Urge town committees to merge and work with their local Workers Center/Health Care is a Human Right groups
• Make single payer the #1 campaign issue in 2014
• Hold Progressive primary for Governor based on the single payer issue
• Tell the world: make a resolution or document on Progressives and single payer
• Look at the DVD made by Deb Richter on the issue; make something similar to use in getting the word out
• By the end of the summer draw up a resolution for March 14 town meetings

Protesters rally in Burlington against the basing of F-35s

July 13, 2013; Matt Ryan; Burlington Free Press

Fighter jets, be they F-16s or F-35s, aren’t going to protect the United States from terrorism, state Sen David Zuckerman told people crowded outside on Saturday Burlington City Hall.

“When I look at what our planes did on 9/11, they flew over a site that was already devastated by a terrorist action,” Zuckerman said, referring to the Vermont National Guard F-16s that responded to the attacks in New York City. “I don’t believe they stopped a single thing from happening.”

And neither, he said, will the F-35s.

“When we look at how the United States can be attacked by terrorists, it’s not gonna be from an aircraft carrier off the coast of Maine with 30 planes that we’re going to have to defend against,” said Zuckerman, a Progressive/Democrat representing Chittenden County.

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