By Guy Page
The Vermont 2018 primary election on Tuesday, Aug. 14 is just six weeks way.
Click on this State House Headliners spreadsheet to learn about all of the primary election candidates for the Legislature: who they are, where they live, what parties they represent, whether they are incumbents or challengers, their contact information, and – new this year – their financial disclosure forms.
The primary is only for candidates of Vermont’s three major parties: Democratic, Republican and Progressive. Minor party and independent candidates for must file by Aug. 9 for their names to appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. Also, early voting by absentee ballot for the primary election began June 30 – see Vermont Secretary of State sign-up form and other ways to vote by absentee ballot.
Here are four quick facts culled from the primary election spreadsheet:
1. Four incumbent senators won’t be seeking re-election: Carolyn Branagan (R) Franklin County, Peg Flory (R) Rutland County, Francis Brooks (D) Washington County, and Claire Ayer (D) Addison County.
2. There are only two Republican candidates for the six Chittenden County senate seats. All of the county’s senate incumbents are running again.
3. Three House seats now held by Republican incumbents have no 2018 Republican candidates. Neither GOP incumbents nor any other Republicans are running in these districts: Addison 3 (Vergennes, a two-seat district including incumbent Rep. Warren Van Wyck), Rutland-Windsor 2 (Ludlow, Rep. Dennis Devereux), Windham 1 (Vernon-Guilford, Mike Hebert). In every seat where a Democrat incumbent is not running, there are Democratic candidates.
4. The financial disclosure forms generally disclose very little specific dollars-and-cents information. However, they do reveal where the candidate and his/her spouse/partner earn their income.
As you contemplate how well your Legislature is serving you, your family, and your community, it might be helpful to consider how Congressional Quarterly (CQ) ranks Vermont against the other 49 states in manufacturing, energy, schools, and taxation. Vermont has the lowest:
- Crime – 11,537 crimes reported;
- Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – defined as “the total value of goods produced and services provided”;
- Student-Teacher Ratio – 10.5 – 1, compared to a national average of 16-1.
Vermont is first in:
- Per-pupil elementary and secondary school expenditures – $24,421, compared to a national average of $11,894.
- Percentage of instate renewable power generation – 99.7%. (Note however that much of
- Vermont’s electricity is purchased from the New England power grid, which is heavily reliant on fossil fuels.)
Thanks to Bill Moore of the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce for his fine blog post about the CQ “State Rankings for 2018.”
Vermont Air Pollution Update: More ozone now, but less sulphur this fall
July 1 brought both bad and good news for Vermont air quality. First the bad: thanks to the heat wave and southerly winds bringing bad air from the Atlantic corridor, ozone levels are “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” says AirNow, the State of Vermont air quality website.
Ozone is a colorless gas with a noticeable smell, the Department of Health says. Although ozone is naturally found in the atmosphere, it is also a main part of air pollution called smog. In the upper layer of the sky, ozone is helpful in protecting us from some of the effects of the sun. However, when it exists in the lower layer, close to the earth (outdoors and in our homes), it can be harmful to breathe it in, especially for people with asthma, emphysema and other lung diseases.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that as of July 1, per a law passed with the assistance and approval of the Vermont fuel industry, all heating oil sold in Vermont must be ultra-low sulphur – 15 parts per million or less. That means far less “fine particulate matter” i.e. brown smog being expelled from our furnaces into the air we breathe. The cleaner standards will not affect the consumer price per gallon. In fact, it could reduce the overall cost of heating with oil because a cleaner fuel means furnaces need less cleaning to be kept in optimal performance.
The industry led the way on this initiative, and is a good example of the kind of pro-consumer, pro-business, pro-environment policies Gov. Phil Scott has been urging Vermont to adopt. Heating oil is essentially the same stuff as automotive diesel fuel, which already has stringent, anti-smog standards.
VT NEA, state employees’ union can’t collect fees from non-members
Lost or at least back-burnered in last week’s furor over the resignation of U.S. Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy was the Janus U.S. Supreme Court decision prohibiting unions for public employees – including Vermont’s state and public school employees – from collecting negotiation fees from non-members.
The Burlington Free Press tagged its local-angle story with the headline, “how one Vermont union just lost a quarter of its revenue.” Vermont is one of 22 states allowing unions to charge non-members for negotiating wages. The Janus ruling prohibits this practice, incurring a major loss of income for the Vermont State Employees Association (VSEA) and the Vermont – National Education Association (VT-NEA). The VSEA budget predicament has won no sympathy from Ethan Allen Institute President Rob Roper. He writes:
If VSEA does end up losing $800,000 it is only because their membership does not value what they are selling. Sorry, but no sympathy here. Fix your product or go out of business — but the days of putting the government gun to somebody’s head and picking their pockets are, thankfully, over.
If you’re interesting in how Burlington celebrated July 4 as far back as 1839 – including fireworks and a hot air balloon – see the 2014 Burlington Free Press story by Tim Johnson.
And finally, if you’ve made it this far through my column and a tumultuous 2018, you DESERVE to jump into the air-conditioned Wayback Time Machine and travel 50 years to an even more chaotic year, 1968, and see and hear composer Irving Berlin sing “God Bless America” on the Ed Sullivan Show. Happy 242nd Birthday, Land That I Love!
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.