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Vermont Progressive Party Platform

PREAMBLE: The Vermont Progressive Party offers this platform to preserve and sustain democracy, guarantee inalienable rights, and promote the general welfare of the citizens of the State of Vermont.

 

Health Care
Progressives believe health care is a human right, and support universal, single-payer health care, birth to death, provided through a nonprofit, publicly financed system. We will work to:

• Implement a comprehensive, full-spectrum single-payer health care system, including dental, vision, hearing, preventive and mental health care as well as providing coverage for proven alternatives to western medicine such as acupuncture, naturopathic, and chiropractic treatments.
• Establish Community Health Centers to deliver health care services throughout the state.
• Subsidize tuition for students in underrepresented medical fields, who agree to remain and practice in Vermont Community Health Centers after graduation.

 

Education
The VPP believes that a strong public educational system is an essential foundation to citizen participation in a democratic society. We will work to:

• Promote a public education system, Pre-K through college that provides comprehensive opportunities for all ability levels.
• Replace or supplement the residential education property tax system with an income-based tax and other progressive forms of taxation such as a wealth tax.
• Increase the federal and state share of special education funding and improve the quality of services through increased local professional and parental control.
• Reduce post secondary tuition cost for Vermonters attending state schools with programs such as “pay it forward” and the Collegiate High School programs. The long-term goal of the VPP is a tuition-free college education for Vermonters at state schools.
• Oppose ongoing federal and state efforts to undermine public schools through high-stakes testing, standardized curriculum, vouchers, and charter schools.
• Enable teachers to exercise more influence on the quality of education via greater respect for the contract negotiating process, school governance, and curriculum design and implementation.

 

Criminal Justice
Progressives are committed to public safety. We will work to:

• Invest in prevention and anti-violence programs.
• Discontinue the failed “war on drugs.”
• Fund drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs.
• Limit incarceration to offenders who pose a threat to public safety.
• Re-evaluate the sentencing structure, which often imposes sentences that are purely retribution and not conductive to rehabilitation.
• Increase accountability and public oversight of the Department of Corrections through an independent Citizens Oversight Committee.
• Create effective penalties against driving under the influence to ensure public safety.
• Work to provide in-state placements and treatment (rather than out-of-state).
• Set up half-way houses in each county.
• Advocate for vocational and workplace training for offenders and youth at risk.
• Remove barriers to employment for those who have served their time.
• Provide education and literacy support in all corrections settings.

 

Civil Rights
Progressives will preserve Vermont’s national leadership as a champion of civil rights, in the tradition of Vermont’s history as the first state to outlaw slavery. Progressives believe our right to personal privacy, guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, is unconditional. We will work to:

• Ensure an individual's right to control their body and their medical choices with complete confidentiality.
• Establish a statewide Zero-Tolerance standard toward all forms of discrimination and harassment in public places, schools, and workplaces.
• Ensure that control of each person's private information and communications remains with that individual, and that state and local governments may not access, monitor, or eavesdrop on these protected personal effects without due process.
• Protect the privacy of individuals from commercial interests.

 

Economy
Progressives believe that a strong, local economy is the foundation to a vibrant and sustainable future that promotes a high quality of life for all Vermonters. We will work to:

• Establish and guarantee that all working age Vermonters are afforded the opportunity for full time employment, which provides a living wage.
• Advocate for the rights of workers to unionize.
• Insist that Vermont contract only with responsible employers that hire local employees and pay a livable wage.
• Require that state-funded institutions buy products and services from Vermont farms and businesses wherever feasible.
• Promote cooperatives, worker-owned businesses, public benefit corporations, and publicly owned enterprises as alternatives to profit-driven multinational corporations.
• Change from the sole reliance on Gross Domestic Product to include other metrics, such as the Genuine Progress Indicator, to factor in social and environmental costs when evaluating our state’s economic development.
• Establish a publicly owned state bank, which would invest state monies into our local economy, instead of Wall Street banks.

 

Environment
Progressives believe that Vermont’s natural environment is the foundation of our health, quality of life, and economy. We appreciate the intrinsic value of nature, and understand the need to be good stewards of this treasure so future generations can enjoy the same benefits as we do. We will work to:

• Protect our water, air, and biodiversity through strict enforcement of existing regulations, the creation of new regulations when necessary, and financial incentives that reward responsible stewardship.
• Strengthen effective land-use planning policies (e.g., Act 250, Current Use Program) that support town centers, farming, forestry, and conservation.
• Promote environmentally sound use of Vermont’s natural resources by supporting composting, expanding recycling, reducing hazardous waste, and restoring polluted sites to environmental health.
• Support and develop locally controlled, community scale, sustainable energy resources and practices, statewide mass transit, and energy-efficiency programs to combat climate change, protect our diverse ecosystem, and enhance our scenic beauty.
• Create a carbon tax that is used to develop alternatives to carbon-based energy.

 

Agriculture
Progressives know that a diverse variety of small scale agricultural operations, such as family farms, orchards, and woodlots, are essential to Vermont’s food security, economy, and cultural heritage, while large scale agriculture tends to threaten our environment, has dubious effects on our health, and promotes a debt-based economy. We will work to:

• Support fair trade pricing for Vermont family farms, and develop farm and community based food hubs, processing centers, and other infrastructure needed to broaden the market for Vermont agricultural products, and to make locally produced food more readily available statewide.
• Promote and enforce agricultural regulations that will protect food safety and the environment from the risks associated with factory farms, without becoming onerous burdens to small producers.
• Promote agricultural regulations which allow small producers to offer products that are unavailable otherwise, such as raw milk and farm slaughtered meat.
• Support efforts to transition to sustainable, organic farming practices, such as changing the laws so compost can be considered a tax exempt agricultural product and ensuring that those planting GMOs are held accountable for any damages caused by those crops or the methods needed to grow them.

 

Housing
Progressives believe a safe, stable and affordable place to live is the birthright of every Vermonter. We will work to:

• End homelessness by providing safe, stable, and affordable housing, rent subsidies and supportive services to all who desire and need them.
• Facilitate the creation of affordable housing by easing building and land use regulations without compromising safety, smart growth principles, or the livability of existing neighborhoods.
• Reverse federal cutbacks and increase funding for affordable housing, including Section 8, Community Development Block Grants, Public Housing, and the HOME program, among others.
• Maintain the balance between the rights and responsibilities of renters and landlords.
• Make it easier to apply for subsidized housing by instituting a universal, online application form.
• Increase the state's supply of affordable housing by providing full statutory funding for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Trust Fund.
• Preserve existing subsidized housing when current subsidies expire or the owner decides to sell or otherwise end its affordability.
• Create a statewide system for ensuring basic minimum standards of safety and habitability in the state’s rental housing.

 

Public Participation
Progressives believe that progress in the face of multi-billion dollar corporate interests requires serious participation by people in our communities, workplaces, and schools between elections. We will work to:

• Encourage events in our communities and at the State House to bring out the voices of the people.
• Preserve and strengthen local participation in Town Meeting Day and local decision-making on local/regional issues.
• Advocate for Town Meeting Day to be a state holiday to encourage local civic participation.
• Encourage participatory budgeting and an assessment of people’s needs on a local and state level to empower citizens to be involved in the financial decision making by government.
• Ensure all residents, regardless of citizenship status, have an effective voice in decisions that affect them in their communities and the state.
• Work to reduce exceptions to the Public Records Act and hold governmental bodies at all levels accountable to the Open Meeting Law.

 

Military
Progressives believe that, although a well-trained military is necessary for national defense, military expenditures must be weighed in the context of domestic priorities. We oppose the concept of military spending as economic development. We will work to:

• End the occupation of Iraq and the on-going military commitment in Afghanistan/Pakistan.
• Support all proceedings to hold accountable any violators of the U.S. Constitution, international laws, and/or treaties.
• Restrict Vermont National Guard troops from assignment to war zones.
• Prohibit the use of torture.
• Oppose preemptive war.
• Support non-military initiatives and policies to resolve international conflict.
• Ensure Vermont’s veterans receive medical, emotional, and financial support according to their service-related disability.

 

Energy
Progressives believe Vermont can develop safe, secure, and stable energy sources. We will work to:

• Decommission Vermont Yankee safely with funds entirely provided by the plant owner (i.e., Entergy), and with a just transition for affected employees and communities.
• Promote investments and job development in energy conservation and weatherization programs.
• Promote the use of safe, clean, renewable, publicly and locally owned energy resources.
• Take positive and effective steps to significantly reduce, and ultimately eliminate, fossil fuel use.

 

Transportation
Progressives believe Vermont’s transportation system is essential to a vibrant statewide economy and quality of life. Progressives understand that transportation is one of the main contributors to carbon emissions and that climate change adds new challenges to our transportation infrastructure. We will work to:

• Place a moratorium on all new major highway construction and focus on repair backlogs and improving the resilience of our existing infrastructure.
• Support development, improvement, and access to a comprehensive public mass transportation system including bicycles, light rail, Amtrak, buses and van services.
• Introduce transportation and land-use planning with incentives that promote walkable and bikeable access between and within communities.
• Promote modes of transportation which reduce carbon emissions and implement incentives to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

 

Taxes
Progressives believe that taxes are essential to funding our social and economic needs and should be generally based on one’s ability to pay. We will work to:

• Eliminate Vermont’s capital gains tax exemption, and tax investment and unearned income at the same rate as low to moderately income households.
• Remove or significantly reduce Vermont’s education funding system reliance on residential property tax and find more a more progressive based revenue stream. Maintain property tax on industrial, commercial, and vacation homes as a source of revenue for education and other state services.
• Require overseas businesses with Vermont ties to pay the same corporate taxes as in-state businesses.
• Adopt a progressive income tax system where wealthier Vermonters, especially the top 5% wealthiest Vermonters, pay a higher percentage of tax on their income than low to moderate income Vermonters.

 

Government Reform
Progressives believe government should work for the people, not corporate interests, and it should do so transparently, and accessibly, without wasteful bureaucracy. Progressives insist on fair, accountable, and representative elections. We will work to:

• Prohibit the use of any proprietary-code or paper-trail-less voting machines and ensure all elections are transparently audited to ensure accurate results.
• Ensure government accountability to taxpayers for taxpayer dollars.
• Institute Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), or another system of proportional voting, for state and local elections.
• Enhance campaign finance laws, to provide public financing for all elected positions, strictly limit or eliminate campaign contributions from corporations, PACs and political parties and reverse the doctrine of “corporate personhood.”
• Close the revolving door between government and industry, by implementing strict ethics laws which transparently hold lobbyists and public officials accountable, and which place a buffer between when a lobbyist can run for office, or an elected official can lobby their former colleagues.

 

Amended November 15, 2014

How to Get a “P” - A Quick Summary of the Party Nomination & Endorsement Process

First, you need to understand the difference between an endorsement and a nomination. In the simplest terms, the difference is that a nomination is determined by state statute and procedures, while an endorsement is controlled solely by our party bylaws and procedures. More importantly, a nomination affects how party labels will appear next to a candidate's name on the General Election ballot, but an endorsement will not.

The standard and most straightforward way to be nominated by the Party is to win the Progressive Primary, either as a write-in or as a listed candidate. As a write-in, a candidate must get more votes than a listed candidate, OR, if there are no other listed candidates, get at least half as many votes as they would have needed signatures to get on the Primary ballot. For example, a candidate for State Representative needs 50 signatures to get on the primary ballot, so they would need 25 votes to win the primary as a write-in.

The other way to get the Party's nomination is to have a district committee fill an “anticipated vacancy” by holding a meeting by the filing deadline for the Primary (June 12th this year). The odd thing about this is it has to be done before we even know for sure who will be running in our primary. It's also a little confusing on the Senate and House level, as the District Committee isn't necessarily the same as a Town or County Committee. Burlington, for example, is divided into several House Districts, while other House Districts are made up of multiple towns. And Senate Districts do not correspond exactly with counties (so a Chittenden County Committee member from Colchester would not be a part of the Chittenden Senate District Committee, as Colchester is part of the Chittenden-Grand Isle Senate District).

District Committee meetings must be warned in writing to all members in the district at least 5 days before the meeting. At the meeting, the District Committee must elect officers (as with Town Organizing) and then can fill anticipated vacancies. On the state level, the Party's State Committee will address “anticipated vacancies” at our meeting on May 31st. It's important to remember that no matter who a Committee nominates (or endorses), the results of the primary take precedence. But although who we endorse (or choose not to endorse) has no binding control over who can run as a Progressive, it allows a party to publicly show support or lack of support for a particular candidate.

By our bylaws, endorsements are controlled by the appropriate Party Committee (Town, County, or State); there's nothing about “district committees.” At our May 31st meeting, it's likely that the State Committee will endorse all the candidates that it nominates to fill “anticipated vacancies” in the statewide slate. However, it should be noted that there is nothing that says they have to, or that they must only endorse one candidate for each office.

May 2014 State Committee Meeting - Proposed Agenda

Vermont State Committee Meeting
May 31, 2014; 1:00-4:00PM
Vermont Statehouse, Montpelier

12-1PM: New Pre-Session: Progressive Women’s Caucus
Bring your own lunch and join the women of the Progressive Party for an informal discussion of politics, running for office, & being a woman in a world where we are far from equal representation.

12:30PM: Registration

1PM: State Committee Meeting Begins
1. Welcome: Emma Mulvaney-Stanak (5 minutes)

2. Election to fill Coordinating Committee Vacancies: Emma Mulvaney-Stanak (10 minutes)
Vice Chair and one At-Large Position

3. Statewide Nominations & Endorsements: Emma Mulvaney-Stanak (25 minutes)
Statewide offices: Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Treasurer, Auditor

4. Legislative Update: Progressive Legislators (20 minutes)

5. Break/Raffle Drawing (15 minutes)

6. Platform Update Discussion: Platform Committee/Emma Mulvaney-Stanak

Review of platform review process to-date & summary of submissions received via online polls (Ben Eastwood and interns Indra Acharya and Anna Nicolosi) (10 minutes)

Small group discussion (45 minutes)
Meeting attendees will be asked to break into groups to discuss amendments (if any) to the current planks of the platform. Suggested topics: Wind; Taxes & Economy; Energy & Environment; Healthcare; Education; Criminal Justice. Attendees may propose additional groups if there is interest. Facilitators will be designated for each group and attendees will have about 20 minutes per topic before moving to a second topic, although they may also “vote with their feet” and move to different groups at any time. The State Committee will consider any amendments to the platform and take a final vote at its September 2014 meeting.

Break – Gallery walk to review notes/charted information by small groups (10 minutes)

Full State Committee comes back together for general discussion of platform topics (30 minutes)

7. Closing: Emma Mulvaney-Stanak (5 minutes)

Letter to CCTA Management

On Monday, March 17th, three Progressive City Councilors and Progressive Councilor-Elect Selene Colburn issued the following open letter to CCTA management in support of the bus drivers' strike.



We, the undersigned members of Burlington’s City Council, are writing in solidarity with the Chittenden County Transportation Association’s organized bus drivers and calling on management to deliver a fair contract that improves public safety and working conditions.

Earlier this week, what’s now being called snowstorm Vulcan delivered up to two feet of snow around Chittenden County. Schools closed, businesses delayed openings, food bank deliveries were canceled, and people struggled to get out of their driveways. The only thing it didn’t slow down was the bus drivers who got us where we needed to be, safely and soundly, as a blizzard raged all around.

A strike will have a major impact on Burlington and the region. Over 9,700 riders a day rely on the drivers to receive transport to school, to work, to medical care, to grocery stores and drug stores, to visit and care for relatives who live one town over. The loss of these essential transportation services will disproportionately impact low income Vermonters, who may not be able to avail themselves of other options.

And yet, the support for the bus drivers has been unwavering. Riders are standing up and announcing their solidarity, day by day. Earlier this week, Burlington high school students delivered a petition to City Council in support of the drivers. In one day, they amassed 500 signatures -- almost half the student body. Environmental and social justice student activists at UVM are rising up with a unified voice. In a near unanimous vote, the Burlington school board voted to stand with the drivers in their efforts, rather than to hire non-union workers in the event of a strike. Working people are turning out to rallies and pickets on cold winter mornings and nights; sister unions including the Vermont NEA, the Vermont Federation of Nurses, United Electrics, United Academics and the Vermont State Employees Association are voicing unity.

Drivers are asking for basic rights that everyone understands: reasonable working hours, the security of full time work, and the right to collective bargaining in the face of management conditions that by many accounts include surveillance, bullying, and disrespect. Vermont needs more full time workers who can support families without having to juggle multiple jobs, not more part-time workers without benefits. Vermont and Burlington deserve drivers who can operate safely, without being pushed to the point of exhaustion or intimidation. We deserve a robust transportation system that helps us protect our environment, not one that undermines the principles of sustainability by devaluing the very workers who make it run.

When unionized drivers agree to strike in a unanimous vote, rather than accept the terms of a contract, despite the risks to their livelihoods and their families, it signals a deep concern for the existing working conditions. We call on CCTA to deliver a fair contract to drivers.

Sincerely,

Councilor-Elect Selene Colburn, Ward 1
Councilor Max Tracy, Ward 2
Councilor Vince Brennan, Ward 3
Councilor Rachel Siegel, Ward 3

Letter to Bill Watterson from Rep. Susan Hatch Davis

Dear Bill,

As a member of the Vermont General Assembly and a Co-Chair of the Legislative Working Vermonters Caucus I am naturally concerned with the welfare of our communities. Like me, I am sure you recognize that Vermont’s hardworking families are our greatest economic assets.  I also recognize that good paying jobs are harder and harder to come by and the pressure on working families is real and growing. Vermont needs more full time workers who can support families without having to juggle multiple jobs, not more part-time workers without benefits. 

So, I am writing in solidarity with the Chittenden County Transportation Association’s organized bus drivers and calling on management to deliver a fair contract that improves public safety and working conditions. There is still time for Chittenden County Transportation Association to do the right thing. Anything else sells Vermont short.

I call on CCTA to deliver a fair contract to drivers.

Sincerely,
Representative Susan Hatch Davis

Let’s pass the earned sick days bill

Vermont’s state motto is “Freedom and Unity” for a reason. While we revere our independence, we’re still a very community-oriented state and need to rely on each other. Vermont small businesses are no different. There is often a close relationship between business owners and employees. In the event of a personal emergency, such as an illness of an employee or their loved one, most small business owners accommodate and support their employees because they care and because it makes good business sense. That’s the Vermont way.

When employees can work with dignity — knowing that their employer respects their right to good health and wellbeing — employees’ loyalty and dedication to their job and their employer increases. The value of loyalty is worth more than the time an employee may miss due to illness. When an employer earns a reputation based on fairness and respect for workers, it becomes more attractive to job seekers. Employers who provide workers with livable wages, adequate time off, and who promote healthy lifestyles — through flexible schedules, on-site child care, benefits that include comprehensive insurance and earned sick time — are rewarded with dedicated and steadfast employees who will go above and beyond to get the job done.

Employers and employees are human beings and therefore susceptible to illness and other emergencies that demand our time and attention away from work. Everyone gets sick. It may be a child with a severe cold, an employee with a stomach bug, an ailing parent, or a victim of abuse struggling to survive and free themselves from the cycle of violence. We all need time off to get healthy, or to assist a family member to get healthy, and it doesn’t always fall neatly outside of regular work hours.

Vermonters are known for their resourcefulness and tenacity. I believe we can harness those qualities and apply them to paid sick days legislation. It is our resourcefulness that both allows and demands our flexibility to adapt to Vermont’s new economy of two-parent working households, working single parents, and adults caring for children and aging parents. The legislation is drafted so an employee earns sick leave based on an accrual system as they work at a job, much like those of us with sick leave now earn sick days. We, as Vermonters, owe it to ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities to equalize access to this basic right to health and dignity by passing this legislation to support all working Vermonters.

I disagree with those who believe we need to prioritize corporations’ and the business communities’ needs over the needs of working Vermonters. I believe we can find a balance between the two and this legislation is it. Yes, we need healthy businesses, but we also need healthy Vermonters. You can’t have a healthy business without a healthy workforce. Healthy employees are a benefit to employers and to our communities. Let’s pass the earned sick days bill in Vermont and support working Vermonters by giving them access to sick leave. It’s the right choice for Vermont.

This commentary is by Corey Decker, a member of the State Coordinating Committee of the Progressive Party. She lives in Fletcher. It first appeared on VTDigger on 2/24/14

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