By Rob Roper
PR.9 is a proposed amendment to the Vermont Constitution that would essentially, and in effect, ban the private ownership of real estate in Vermont. It’s short. You can read it all (except for Section 3, the effective date, which I cut for some brevity) here:
PROPOSAL 9. Sec. 1. PURPOSE This proposal would amend the Constitution of the State of Vermont in order to provide that the citizens of the State have a right to a clean environment. Sec. 2. Article 23 of Chapter I of the Vermont Constitution is added to read: Article 23. [Right to a clean environment] That the people have a right to clean air and water and the preservation of the natural, scenic, and cultural values of the environment. The State of Vermont’s natural resources are the common property of all the people. The State shall conserve and maintain the natural resources of Vermont for the benefit of all people. (Bold/underline added).
The first part is scary vague. What is a “right to a clean environment”? Does that mean I am entitled to taxpayer funded trash pick up? A court will decide, I guess, cuz I’ll bring that suit myself. Does it mean I can sue my neighbor for grilling out on his back yard barbecue? Or my neighbor can sue me for driving a low mpg truck? Who knows? But you can bet there will be a whole lot of suing going on if this were to pass.
The last part is even more frightening. “Vermont’s natural resources are the common property of all the people.” That means the trees on my yard, the water in my rain barrel, the soil my grass grows on as well as the grass, my pond (if I had one), if I strike gold, or want to quarry granite or slate — all of a sudden none of this is mine anymore, but the property of “all the people,” and what do with it is not my prerogative anymore, as these things “shall be” conserved and maintained by the state, not for my benefit, but for the benefit of all people. Farmers, you might want to pay attention to this.
It could end all new housing development because the state’s constitutional obligation would be to preserve the “natural and scenic” resources of the state. So, somebody wants to build a not-natural house in the empty lot next door that would mess up my (Cough, cough. I mean “the people’s) scenic view, 1-800-LAWSUIT!
PR.9 is straight out communist. The only thing missing is a section mandating that we all call each other comrade. And perhaps the most alarming part of this whole thing is that 15 senators — enough to pass it through that body with the lieutenant governor breaking the tie (and you know he would) — actually sponsored this insanity! Didn’t see a problem with it at all.
I had an exchange with the lead sponsor of PR.9, Sen. Chris Bray (D-Addison) on Facebook over this.
ME: Chris, the amendment you are pushing appears to ban private property. Are you out of your freakin’ mind?
Christopher Bray: Rob — I’m a little surprised at your response, given how well you know me. The provision in no way bans private property. Let’s talk in person about how similar constitutional provisions work (and have worked for decades) in other states. And consider as well — we have a federal clean air act and clean water act; did they ban private property? The simple truth is that air, water, and wildlife are not private because they are held in trust by all of us — because they are a shared natural resource base upon which all life depends. I look forward to a longer conversation — and perhaps you can help us improve the proposal.
ME: The trees on my property are a natural resource, as is my well, as is my lawn. This amendment would declare all this the common property of all the people, under the control of the state. If it says or implies something different than that, explain how.
That was two days ago. Still no response on line or in person.