Keelan: Double pay for Vermont lawmakers, increase benefits, extend terms — but track lobbyists

By Don Keelan

Next January, a sea of change will occur in the Vermont Legislature. The most recent news: 10 out of 30 senators gave notice that they will not seek re-election, and 41 members of a 150-member House also announced that they too would not seek office. All gave many reasons for leaving Montpelier.

Don Keelan

Over the years I have had issues with the Vermont Legislature regarding specific pieces of legislation. One area where I have no issue is my gratitude to those who serve our state in Montpelier and their home districts. Just being in Montpelier in the dead of winter is to be commended.

Our legislature is no longer a body of folks from the agricultural sector, meeting at a time of year when farms were, for the most part, “resting.” Would more folks be willing to serve if the Legislature met not from January to May but from March to June?

With such a massive change in leadership and members about to occur, maybe it is time to rethink how the Legislature is elected, operates, and is compensated.

The Vermont Legislature profoundly impacts our personal lives, businesses and state operations in the short term and for years to come. Therefore, it is critical to have the best possible Vermonters in place, crafting the future laws of our state.

These best Vermonters should not have to be independently wealthy to serve, nor should they struggle with child-care or housing once in Montpelier. It should not be a financial hardship to serve in the Legislature. Let’s start with changing compensation.

The present compensation for representatives and senators is $774 per week for 18 weeks of the session (there is no compensation for Town Meeting Week.) This amount does not compensate for all the time legislators must devote to interacting with constituents, other legislators, and those impacted by bills under consideration. Why not double the amount paid; maybe more folks will step up to run for office?

Compensation should include a generous allowance for daycare costs and health insurance. Today, members receive free dental; let’s broaden the benefits package.

Let’s change the service term from two to four years and limit the number of years one can serve to 12 years. The position was never meant to be a career nor the citadel for those “on a power trip.”

One turn-off in developing a willingness to serve is that legislators must be beholden to the Legislature leadership. If one fails to do so, they don’t expect to be placed on a committee of choice, or worse, have critical suggestions or proposed legislation ignored. I suggest that all committee chairs and appointments be voted upon by the entire legislative body and not dictated by a handful of long-serving, influential members.

The legislature should limit the number of weeks they are in session to no more than 12. This can be accomplished by a full legislature meeting in December to agree on a priority of bills to consider — an agenda, if you will. It is insane to review over 750 to 1,000 proposed bills; what a waste of time and effort.

For transparency, monthly, each legislator should provide their constituents with a summary of their meetings with lobbyists and influencers representing special interest groups during the prior month. It would be nice to know who are legislators are really representing.

If the Vermont Legislature is to represent the people of Vermont fully, one should not have to be retired, living off a trust fund, be independently wealthy, or self-employed to serve.

Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington, Vermont.

Image courtesy of Public domain
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7 thoughts on “Keelan: Double pay for Vermont lawmakers, increase benefits, extend terms — but track lobbyists

  1. twice the pay for twice the amount of nothing,,,”leaders”??? right career politicians, more BS “laws” to oppress not govern,,,anti 2A. I wonder who’s sharing EIN numbers under the desk,,,,,er,,,,,dome for “non profit” status and tax evasion, money laundering ??? I bet Kevin Hoyt and the fbi knows just who’s doing what. Vermont’s new trend is run what “”they” want, and do exactly the opposite.It’s a haven for rino’s, bend the farmers over and blame the cows for a fart here n there, while corporate vt laughs all the way to the bank. “buy clean air credits” so we can look good on paper,,,send a crew up on the roof every day to pick up dead birds,,,,and they want more money,,,,ok.

  2. I have to jump in here with a comment. Van Jones was interviewed on CNN Friday night and had this to say about democrats. What struck me was that he sounded like he was describing Vermont’s liberal legislatures;

    “….as Jones points out, predominantly over-educated and wealthy. They are in no way connected to the normal struggles of everyday life, and their lack of religious observance has left them with no feeling of purpose. In order to make themselves feel better, they’ve decided to create victim groups to “help.” That’s how you get the stupidity that is “Latinx,” a name with which essentially no Hispanic people identify.

    https://redstate.com/bonchie/2022/06/17/van-jones-leaves-cnn-anchors-stunned-after-spitting-truth-about-the-democrat-party-n580178

    While Jones is an extreme socialist, at least he has the gumption to call it as he sees it.

  3. I’d rather seen them meet for 6 or 8 weeks, every other year. And if they vote for anything that raises taxes, they can’t run for 4 years.

  4. I proposed going to 4 year terms to run with the national election, and do not recall if I had anything formally drafted. Asked a few Sen.. Implied answer was yes for us NOT for the house. We are more important!
    I know one or more are still there might recall the question.

  5. If these Legislators are looking for a few “Tears ” and expect me to feel that they are over
    worked and stressed and should be compensated, they are barking up the wrong tree !!

    If they had passed legislation that made this state a ” none ” debt-burdened state, and over
    taxed, the people working every day in the same conditions or worst, I guess they didn’t realize
    that we have inclement weather conditions in the state, I might entertain an increase in
    their salary and benefits, but they worked the last two cycles on ” zoom ” give me a break !!

    ” If they can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen “

    • Agreed CHenry…….shorten the session as well……into 5 months to do a 12 month plan……that is out of control. i say 2 months or 4 every other year…..and its 5 days a week
      governor at 4 years to save (now 1 yr working if new less…1 yr thinking re-election)
      a citizen legislative body has no business taking the amount of time in montpeculiar …as it is now…..
      and pay raise…….you have got to be kidding……

  6. I attended the debates for lieutenant governor of vermont the other night in Rutland vermont

    I know for fact that there are democrats running that have no problem denying the law-abiding gun owning tax paying people in the state of vermont their constitutional rights and have expressed that if elected they have no problem taking them away

    That leaves two people what is a republican and I’m not sure and question the other. Greg Thayer and Joe Benning

    I understand these guys are fighting each other in a primary but to purposely degrade Greg for attending the january 6th hearing to witness history in the making is absolutely disgusting.

    Joe, you don’t even have the decency to stop there in front of the complete state of vermont that has decided to tune into these hearings as you degrade the rest of the republicans that stood by our president that created the best times we have had in years…

    This is unacceptable behavior from a man claiming to be a republican yet did not vote for the republican candidate for president… And supports a rino governor who did the same.

    I have to question your loyalty…

    I know both of you and I have spoken to both people however there’s only one person I can support.

    I couldn’t be more disappointed in joe benning and his rino buddies went along with our turncot governor, Phil Scott who voted for joe biden, and the other rhinos that decided to gang up on president Trump during one of the worst periods of his presidency.

    Now joe claims to be a republican and wants to represent all republicans.

    One of the first things he mentions in every debate is that he is a lawyer and runs his own practice.. I think that’s wonderful everyone should have the ability to succeed in america.

    He goes on to mention the five things that he thinks represent the republican party however one thing he leaves out is the right to life…

    Joe gleefully claims he voted for prop 5 that gives everybody the freedoms they deserve however WHO speaks for the unborn and gives them their freedoms from the slaughter being perpetrated on them across this country? I guess you agree with democrat leader hillary Clinton who states they have no rights.

    Joe what is worse is to denounce a president just because doesn’t speak like politicians. He is a new yorker and speaks just like a new yorker. He may have spoke in ways that you couldn’t imagine but he also achieved things for americans that could never be imagined.

    I however am disappointed in the things you say about the president that provided the best four years of my life under any president.

    The safety he brought to america and the things he achieved for the American people will never be matched unless we the people are intelligent enough to put him back in office.

    You see there are things joe that separates you who claim to represent the republican party and the things that Donald Trump did for us that separate you from the republican party.

    When Donald Trump spoke he didn’t speak from a spot where he felt he was better than the American people he always wanted to return the power of government to the citizens… That’s why government is we the people… You know when all of the speeches Donald Trump gave I never once heard him say he was better or smarter or more successful than anyone else in spite of the fact that I do have to admit he’s a pretty successful guy. He always gave credit to the American people.

    On the other hand joe you have always been cordial when spoken to but you always offer a feeling of superiority….

    I don’t know if that comes from the fact that you are a lawyer or that you are a senator…

    You claim that Donald Trump was harsh….

    My claim is there is nothing he could do to anyone anywhere that compares with looking down on people…

    Before you go into your spiel of everything you have done for everyone around the globe I have heard it.. I don’t deny you have done some good things but I can’t let you sneak away without calling you out for voting for prop 5 and for the murder of The unborn and the desecration of children.

    Could you please let everyone know all of the ramifications of the passage of prop 5 and what it will do for the years to come and how it will affect each and every one of us.

    As a lawyer who voted for that I think you should be willing to post some sort of an article that completely exposes everything about prop 5 and the dangers it represents.

    Now for a moment back to being republican and representing the republican party….

    First of all we still don’t know what happened on january 6th despite your claims that voter fraud was never proven it is being exposed on daily basis but the sad thing is that we have to wait for judicial watch to sue our government to expose the truth.. yes this is the same government under joe biden in the corrupt administration that we are now living under that is destroying america..

    Have you taken into account the lies told about Donald Trump that include hillary Clinton and our own department of justice.

    Again thanks to Tom fitton we can read about what the FBI did with the russian collusion hoax with hillary clinton’s paid for dossier thanks to people who really care about america.

    You see joe you’re quick to hop on the bandwagon and as an attorney I think you should be more interested in the facts than the expedience of burying a person with lies.

    As an attorney I hope you understand that this total january 6th fictitious drama is nothing but a hoax to try to convince people in america of the same beliefs you have of Donald Trump.

    There are videos of people that were there that denounce all of the bull crap that the media is telling us took place… Have you seen those videos? Are you jumping to conclusions again to get your exercise?

    You were one of the first people in the republican party to defy what we should believe and what we do believe in the republican party and that is the constitution of the united states of america that clearly states you are innocent until proven guilty.

    Knowing that I cannot even begin to perceive how anyone in their right mind that believed in the republican party and our constitution would come up with some ignorant petition to remove a man that was proven of no wrongdoing from an office that he was already leaving…

    Do you think that properly represents our republican party?

    And today we have to sit through fraudulent hearings that are not properly represented by both parties that are not forcing people to testify and asking for their documents and phone records so all of the facts in this case can be presented to the American people and be investigated by the republican party that you claim you hold so dear.

    Joe you can’t play both sides of the aisle by claiming you are a republican and those of us that support our constitution and the truth and the facts surrounding this fraudulent kangaroo trial are not…

    It is disgraceful for you to utter such a disingenuous comment at a time when you are asking republicans to elect you to the second highest office in the state of vermont…

    Since you and our governor voted for joe biden and the democratic corruption taking place in america today please explain to me how you justify hunter biden’s laptop being lied about by this president and hiding it by the FBI agents that were involved fraudulently trying to take president Donald Trump down with the hillary Clinton paid for dossier and the FBI hoax..

    Please feel free to list all of the wonderful things happening to americans and around the globe at the hands of this corrupt biden administration…

    Feel free to explain to the republican voters you denounce how this inflation rate helps them

    That is why everything that went on in america at the hands of this corrupt administration being orchestrated by nancy pelosi and the very people you voted for need to appear before congress or a bipartisan committee to be investigated so the truth can come out for the American people.

    I hate to use an old cliche…BUT..

    COME ON JOE YOU CAN DO BETTER

    As always I am committed to truth, justice and the American way.

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