VT Progressive Party

Party Organization

Roll Call: Which Senators Chose Corporate Money Over Real Election Reform?

In an effort to keep you better informed about what’s going on in Montpelier, we’ve decided to start posting some of the key roll call votes this Legislative Biennium so you can keep track of who in the Legislature is really standing up for the people – and who is beholden to the rich and corporate interests.

On April 18th, in a shocking reversal, the Vermont Senate voted to remove a ban on corporate donations from a major campaign finance reform bill, despite having overwhelmingly voted to add it to the bill just weeks before.  This vote clearly shows which Senators are with the people and which were ultimately unwilling to wean themselves from the corrupting influence of corporate money.

The following Senators joined Progressives Tim Ashe, Anthony Pollina and David Zuckerman in standing strong against corporate influence in our elections:

• Phil Baruth (D-Chittenden)
• Joe Benning (R-Caledonia)
• Sally Fox (D-Chittenden)
• Peter Galbraith (D-Windham)
• Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden)*
    *Sen. Lyons originally voted against the ban, but on 4/18 voted to keep it in the bill
• Mark MacDonald (D-Orange)
• Dick McCormack (D-Windsor)
• Dick Sears (D-Bennington)

The following Senators voted for the ban initially, before ultimately deciding they were unwilling to part with their corporate donations:

• John Campbell (D-Windsor)
• Don Collins (D-Franklin)
• Ann Cummings (D-Washington)
• Bill Doyle (R-Washington)
• Bob Hartwell (D-Bennington)
• Jane Kitchell (D-Caledonia)
• Dick Mazza (D-Chittenden/Grand Isle)
• Norm McAllister (R-Franklin)
• Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland)
• John Rodgers (D-Essex/Orleans)
• Bobby Starr (D-Essex/Orleans)
• Rich Westman (R-Lamoille)

The following Senators have consistently voted against the ban, at least showing they are honest about being beholden to corporate money:

• Claire Ayer (D-Addison)
• Chris Bray (D-Addison)
• Peg Flory (R-Rutland)
• Eldred French (D-Rutland)
• Alice Nitka (D-Windsor)
• Diane Snelling (R-Chittenden)
• Jeanette White (D-Windham)

Vermont lawmakers consider early August primary election date

April 8, 2013; Terri Hallenbeck; Burlington Free Press

Progressive Party Executive Director Robert Millar said he has concerns about the earlier primary.

"It pushes the primary even earlier in the summer, when few folks are likely to be thinking about politics, which is bad for voter engagement and turnout. This change effectively favors incumbents over challengers."

Read the whole article >>

Vermont Senate’s campaign finance bill: many find something to like

March 19, 2013; Nancy Remsen; Burlington Free Press

Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group also praised the expanded reporting and other disclosure provisions.

“If this bill is passed, voters will eventually have a lot more useful information about where candidates and political action committees are getting their money,” Burns said.

“The bill also reestablishes limits on campaign contributions that are for the most part reasonable,” Burns added. “The final version of the bill passed by the Government Operations committee was certainly a vast improvement over earlier drafts that would have allowed wealthy individuals and corporations even greater influence over elections.”

The contributions limits were the most contentious provisions in the bill, said Senate Government Operations Vice Chairman Anthony Pollina, P/D-Washington.

He was prepared to reject the bill if the committee had stuck with contributions higher than in place today.

Read the whole article >>

Progressives on the Rise

Dear Friends -

It may soon be even more difficult to compete in Vermont elections.  Under pressure from Democratic and Republican Party operatives, Legislators recently made changes to a formerly promising campaign finance bill that would more than double what statewide candidates can raise from a single source, and triple what political parties can raise.  Democrats and Republicans are attempting to use Legislators’ legitimate fear of what “Super PACs” might do in future elections to convince them they should be allowed to raise more money, that the solution to the flood of money in our elections is even more money.

As you and I know, we are not going to overcome the Super PACs and corporate interests by throwing more money into our elections.  Allowing the corporate-funded parties and their candidates to accept even more money from the likes of Monsanto, Coca-Cola, Pfizer, AT&T, and HP (all actual donors to the VDP last cycle), doesn’t fix the problem, it exacerbates it.  Please join me in calling on the Legislature to stand strong and pass a bill that will help rein in election spending, rather than increase it.  If you live in Vermont, find how to contact your State Legislators here, or you can leave a message for them by calling the Sergeant-At-Arms at 802-828-2228.

Update from Burlington: Over thirty-two years since Burlington first elected Bernie Sanders Mayor in 1981, the Progressive spirit is alive and flourishing in Vermont’s Queen City!  On Town Meeting Day last week, Progressive Jane Knodell was elected in Ward 2 and Progressive Vince Brennan was reelected in Ward 3, bringing Progressives’ total on the City Council to four.  Democrats were held to seven Councilors and, in a result reminiscent of November’s results, Republicans lost the only race they contested, leaving them with just one member on the Council.

Once again, Progressives continue to be on the rise in Vermont, even as the Vermont Republican Party continues its decline.  But these wins did not come easily last week in Burlington.  It takes a lot of resources to run the kind of strong, grassroots campaign needed to take on the Democratic machine and win.  And we can’t do it without your help!  Have you considered becoming a monthly donor to the Vermont Progressive Party?  Becoming a monthly donor is the best way to ensure our people-powered party has the resources to stand strong against the corporate-funded parties, but any contribution is very much appreciated.

Finally, I want to make sure you are aware of an upcoming event.  On Saturday, March 16th at 10:00 am at Montpelier High School, Senator Bernie Sanders (who has sure come a long way since he was Mayor of Burlington!) will be holding a Conference on Global Warming, featuring Environmental Activist Bill McKibben as the Keynote Speaker.  You can learn more about the event here.

Thank you for all you do,

Robert Millar
Executive Director


Legislative Update: Prohibition Has Failed
by Rep. Susan Davis

It's been nearly a century since Vermont first prohibited marijuana in 1915. It hasn't worked and it's time for a new approach.

Just like alcohol prohibition, marijuana prohibition does not eliminate the use of the product and simply steers all of the profits to the underground market. Given the fact that marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol, it is time we have it produced and sold in a legitimate, regulated market.

Regulating marijuana like alcohol and allowing the production of industrial hemp would create hundreds of new, legal jobs and generate business for a variety of other Vermont industries.


Legislative Update: Weekly Update
by Rep. Cindy Weed

Town meeting week signifies the traditional halfway mark of the legislative session in Montpelier. Typically, the first year of the biennium starts off slowly, as committees get used to new members and each other, and begin the work of taking testimony on and passing a variety of bills out of committee. Last week was the deadline to submit any and all bills. In total, approximately 500 bills will be introduced in the House and half that amount in the Senate. Naturally, with a part-time legislature, many will not get attention and literally die on the wall. Next year we will start all over again creating and introducing new bills.


In the Media: Vermont Democrats Want More Money in Politics
by Paul Heintz

On Wednesday, they settled on a fivefold increase for statewide candidates, allowing them to collect $10,000 checks from each donor. But after Sen. Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington) protested, on Thursday, the committee scaled that back to $5000.

“There’s no reason why anybody should give $10,000 to a political campaign,” Pollina argued to his fellow committee members.


In the Media: Balance shifts in Burlington Council makeup
by Joel Banner Baird

Until the final vote count, Knodell said later, "I didn’t know if I was the underdog or not in this race. Both sides wanted it bad."

She credited a "classic, Progressive grassroots campaign" with her victory.


Balance shifts in Burlington Council makeup

March 5, 2013; Joel Banner Baird; Burlington Free Press

The evening’s closest race took place in the Old North End’s Ward 2, where veteran Progressive (and former councilor) Jane Knodell beat political newcomer Emily Lee, a Democrat, 269-243 — a mere 26 votes.

Until the final vote count, Knodell said later, “I didn’t know if I was the underdog or not in this race. Both sides wanted it bad.”

She credited a “classic, Progressive grassroots campaign” with her victory.

Read the whole article >>

Letter to the Editor: Ward 2 should elect Knodell

March 1, 2013; Martha Abbott; Burlington Free Press

What makes Burlington a special place? In the 1960’s, Burlington was divided into the working class and poor or the upper middle class and wealthy. College students all lived on campus. There were a couple of non-profit organizations like the Sara Holbrook Center and the Lund home and the Salvation Army. There was no Land Trust, no homeless shelters.

In the 70s and 80s things changed. Students starting living off campus. Many graduated and made Burlington their home. People with alternative lifestyles moved to Burlington and integrated themselves into downtown and the Old North End of Burlington.

We started the Burlington Land Trust (now the Champlain Housing Trust), the People’s Free Clinic (now the Community Health Center), People Acting for Change Together which started homeless shelters and eventually morphed into COTS, Women Against Rape, the Women’s House of Transition (now Women Helping Battered Women), Peace and Justice Center and many other initiatives.

In 1981 a young alternative politician by the name of Bernie Sanders was elected mayor. Affordable housing and livable wages, women and minority owned businesses, inclusionary zoning, the idea of merging public policy and non profit missions to create community and economic development was born and flourished.

This is a quick history of how Burlington became the unique and special place that it is today. Now we see a new group of people moving into Burlington, running for office and putting forth ideas to develop the public waterfront for private gain, to develop expensive housing, to make exceptions to our livable wage ordinance for selective private business interests located in our public projects.

What makes Burlington special is its economic diversity. Families of modest means living next to students on their way up the economic ladder next to a family with substantial resources side by side with retirees living in the same neighborhood. In order to preserve this fragile balance which makes Burlington such a special place, our leaders must understand and appreciate it.

Jane Knodell is an economist who has chosen to live in the Old North End for 24 years because she wants to participate in an economically diverse community. Tough decisions are being made about Burlington’s future. As a former City Councilor myself, and Burlington business owner and someone who has lived in the Old North End in two different decades, I urge Ward Two residents to elect Jane Knodell on March 5.

Read the original article >>

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