In the upcoming legislative session, House Republicans will have just 38 representatives to oppose a slew of progressive policies planned by Vermont’s majority Democrats. This presents an extraordinary challenge for state Rep. Pattie McCoy, R-Poultney, the House minority leader.
But McCoy isn’t conceding defeat. In an interview with True North, she says she’s working in familiar territory.
“We’ve been a super-minority for the last six years, it’s nothing new, but we have less people,” she said. “I continue to say that the work that we do as a minority is done in committee.”
According to McCoy, the GOP still has sway in committees. She said there may be one less Republican assigned to committees compared to last year, so that enables the minority to continue to speak up about the shortcomings of Democrat-led bills.
“We don’t control the agenda in the House, however we are there to point out … the rocks, so to speak, that are in the way of a bill — ‘this might not be good for Vermonters,’ or ‘this might cost Vermonters more than we’re willing to put in a bill,'” she said.
McCoy said the task of Republicans will be to figure out what are the majority’s “must-pass” bills and to scrutinize them in their assigned committees. She added that representatives may need to do more outreach to get the public engaged in the process.
Due to the inability of the GOP to sustain the governor’s vetoes, Vermonters can expect to see an ambitious Democratic Party agenda at the Statehouse: eradication of the Sportsmen’s Bill of Rights, an updated version of the clean heat standard, single payer health care, paid family leave, and a host of other priorities that were formerly out of reach.
At least one of those agendas, the clean heat standard, could run into opposition from economic realities people face: high heating fuel prices. That legislation, which narrowly failed to become law this year, would require fossil fuel companies and utilities that sell heating fuels to reduce their carbon emissions over time and pay for Vermonters to update their homes with weatherization and heat pumps.
McCoy says the clean heat standard could overburden Vermonters already struggling to afford life in Vermont.
“There were individuals paying maybe $3.50 a gallon for their heating oil [who] ended up paying $6 or $6.20 a gallon for their fuel oil, and that’s prior to the clean heat standard, which wanted to tack on an additional $2 a gallon,” she said.
“We need to look at what bills we pass and how they affect everyday Vermonters — the family that is trying to get by living week to week, paycheck to paycheck, to heat their homes and buy their food and pay their rent and pay their mortgage. We have to look at all of that,” McCoy said.
Longer term, Republicans have to figure out how to win elections in Vermont. McCoy says Gov. Phil Scott, the only Republican to win statewide office, holds the key for others who hope to run for office.
“We have to start listening to our Republican governor and what his programs are, and what he’s trying to do, and try to understand where he’s coming from,” she said. “I think some people just kind of … call him a RINO or something. I’ve worked with the governor for six years now and I unequivocally say the guy is not a RINO.
“When you look at it, in the past six years he has not raised taxes or fees. There’s no Democrat that would ever sit in that seat and do that.”