Keelan: The 2019 legislative session was remarkable

By Don Keelan

The 2019 Vermont Legislative session came to a close. The House of Representatives closed down on Friday, May 24, and the Senate ended the following Wednesday — it had no choice, the House members had all gone home. So now the 180 members of both houses are back in their districts, celebrating on what must have been, to them, a spectacular session of accomplishments.

One such accomplishment was that we now have a statewide ban on plastic bags, straws and cups, if signed into law by the governor. Just think, Vermont may now tell the world that the dumping of plastics in the world’s waterways, oceans and landfills will no longer occur. Why? because the Vermont Legislature spent considerable time debating how to correct this pollutant.

Don Keelan

The removal of plastic bags and straws was so important to the 180 members that it trumped addressing a critical state issue, the out-migration of thousands of young adults from Vermont since 2010. Maybe next year the drain of Vermont’s young people might be addressed?

Another pressing issue for the members was that the state needed to change how we celebrate Christopher Columbus. It was found to be imperative that the date used to celebrate the 15th century explorer, Oct. 12, had to be permanently removed. Instead, after much debate and hearings, Oct. 12 would henceforth be known as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Vermont. Wonderful!

RELATED: Anthropologist says Christopher Columbus critics have their history wrong

This critical change took up so much time that it became necessary to set aside any early work on raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, as well as adopting some form of compensated family leave. By time the House and Senate got back to work on these signature issues, the clock just ran out and they closed up shop.

Both legislative bodies felt that this was the year to have a discussion on whether reparations should be made for the impact of slavery that had existed 150 years ago. Testimony was taken, discussions held, and any decisions on compensation for the time being, postponed. It was also important that the Vermont Constitution be changed to remove any reference to slavery.

One would have thought that with the session’s time constraints, the issue of the opioid epidemic and how to contain it would command all available time. This is especially so when there are over 7,000 Vermonters (mostly young adults) in treatment. Just imagine if we could have them free of addiction and in the workplace — where there is a critical need for employees throughout the state.

What was the centerpiece of this year’s session was, of course, to legalize the sale of marijuana for recreational and retail purposes. For a majority of the members, this issue had been foremost in their minds. The debate consumed so much of the session’s time. It was during that period that the legislators found out that the usage of marijuana could have a serious impact on policing, children and mental well-being.

By the end of the session, the issue was set aside for another year. Unfortunately, the time it took did not allow for any meaningful discussion on how to replace the 10,000 housing units the state needs or any meaningful way to reduce the state’s multi-billion dollar underfunded state employee pension plan.

It will be eight months before the Legislature reconvenes. I would hope the members think long and hard on what a spectacular disaster this session turned out to be.

What is even more disturbing is that the members, who had a super-majority, had agreed in January to work together on resolving the critical issues impacting Vermont. Somewhere over the past four months they lost their way. They could not comprehend the difference between what might be important and what is critical. Hopefully, they will have the time now to reflect. The 2019 session was not remarkable; it was regrettable.

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

Image courtesy of Public domain

3 thoughts on “Keelan: The 2019 legislative session was remarkable

  1. The individual is where Liberty lives

    Dear Elected official,
    I do not send you to represent me so you can give back or make a difference as that would make it about you and not the purpose of governing. Rather you are charged to measure all agendas that impact on the integrity of my individual Liberty and nothing more. As an individual I have a responsibility to be productive; while you must maintain my ability to do so.
    If I elect you, all I ask is you protect Liberty and individual rights above all else, without consideration for one person over another and without exception!
    If you place your allegiance to a party or a cause above my Liberty then you do not understand your job and you disrespect my rights as well as your own. When you ignore the rights of one individual by placing others above them we all suffer, even the ones you elevate. Sometimes you may be asked to be charitable, but who are you to give that which belongs to someone else? You may give freely what is yours but respect the fact that mine is not yours to give.
    You see I believe your job is to preserve the individual rights and freedoms of all, nothing more and nothing less. I’m sorry if you feel it’s about a political career or a lifetime legacy but my freedom and rights are more important to me than your Glory.
    Although many of you are law makers you should be sure the laws you craft do no harm to my liberty as long as I do not violate others.
    Some of you may consider yourselves public servants, but how can you serve more than one master? When you serve the individual you serve us all and that includes you!
    This simple task of guarding my Liberty will not be glamorous or easy and you will be tempted by many who would seek to complicate your mission, be mindful that the torch you pass to the next generation must stay lit or liberty will surely perish.

    Sincerely, Lynn J. Edmunds
    Wallingford, Vermont

  2. We have ELECTED way too many ‘representatives and even senators” pretty progressives who are single issue advocates, wind, solar, hospitals, subsidies all over the place, favorable legislation for single interests. No interest at all in running and funding a government in it’s Constitutional duties. Citizens who do want to do the basic work of government – don’t want to get caught in this horrid morass which has now become Vt. Legislature.

    We do not have legislators who will keep the administration on the straight and narrow, who will shepherd our tax money in the very most productive way and only for things which are essential.

    Well maybe we have a couple of dozen that have true governance and efficiency in mind. The other 200 want to “Pass laws and grab money” favorable to their special interests.

    The Key Word is ELECTED

  3. All the leftarded Fascist have is AGENDA Politics as they are incapable of solution orientated
    problem solving using common sense (which none have). It’s just easier to do as
    the whacked left coast demontards do… ban plasitc….revisionist holidays…..grab guns….
    You don’t have to think at all just listen to the Propaganda ministry’s cnn msmbc npr abc or any
    big city rag will give them direction. Time to ban ASSAULT AGENDA POLITICS and get back
    to electing problem solvers not resisters

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