In the Media

Articles from outside news and opinion sources.

Donation caps for statewide candidates could edge upwards

March 4, 2013; Nat Rudarakanchana; VTDigger

Sen. Anthony Pollina, P-Washington, pushed for lower contribution limits, which he said would curb the influence of money in politics.

But statewide candidates in 2012 elections from Democratic and Republican parties have suggested to Committee Chairwoman Jeanette White, D-Windham, that the advent of Super PACs in Vermont means that candidates need to raise more cash to compete. It’s a refrain that has also been heard from the Democratic and Republican state parties in recent weeks.

“What they told me is that in a world without Super PACs, lower limits were more reasonable,” White said to her committee. “But it’s a whole new world with Super PACs that have unlimited contributions. And unless we can limit the contributions to Super PACs … they need to have higher limits.”

Pollina fired back that this reasoning “sets up a scenario where everyone tries to outspend Super PACs, which no one can do, instead of finding a way to control the Super PACs.”

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Letter to the Editor: Ward 2 should elect Knodell

March 1, 2013; Martha Abbott; Burlington Free Press

What makes Burlington a special place? In the 1960’s, Burlington was divided into the working class and poor or the upper middle class and wealthy. College students all lived on campus. There were a couple of non-profit organizations like the Sara Holbrook Center and the Lund home and the Salvation Army. There was no Land Trust, no homeless shelters.

In the 70s and 80s things changed. Students starting living off campus. Many graduated and made Burlington their home. People with alternative lifestyles moved to Burlington and integrated themselves into downtown and the Old North End of Burlington.

We started the Burlington Land Trust (now the Champlain Housing Trust), the People’s Free Clinic (now the Community Health Center), People Acting for Change Together which started homeless shelters and eventually morphed into COTS, Women Against Rape, the Women’s House of Transition (now Women Helping Battered Women), Peace and Justice Center and many other initiatives.

In 1981 a young alternative politician by the name of Bernie Sanders was elected mayor. Affordable housing and livable wages, women and minority owned businesses, inclusionary zoning, the idea of merging public policy and non profit missions to create community and economic development was born and flourished.

This is a quick history of how Burlington became the unique and special place that it is today. Now we see a new group of people moving into Burlington, running for office and putting forth ideas to develop the public waterfront for private gain, to develop expensive housing, to make exceptions to our livable wage ordinance for selective private business interests located in our public projects.

What makes Burlington special is its economic diversity. Families of modest means living next to students on their way up the economic ladder next to a family with substantial resources side by side with retirees living in the same neighborhood. In order to preserve this fragile balance which makes Burlington such a special place, our leaders must understand and appreciate it.

Jane Knodell is an economist who has chosen to live in the Old North End for 24 years because she wants to participate in an economically diverse community. Tough decisions are being made about Burlington’s future. As a former City Councilor myself, and Burlington business owner and someone who has lived in the Old North End in two different decades, I urge Ward Two residents to elect Jane Knodell on March 5.

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House committee votes down major health budget bill

February 22, 2013; Andrew Stein; VTDigger

Poirier and Pearson voted against the bill for a different reason. They want to provide subsidies that maintain or come close to maintaining health insurance levels for Vermonters currently enrolled in the Catamount and VHAP programs. Those health insurance programs will end in 2014, when the state’s new health benefit exchange, or insurance marketplace, takes effect.

Pearson has repeatedly said that leaving lower income Vermonters with less coverage could jeopardize the state’s ability to implement a universal health care system in 2017, when Vermont would be eligible for a federal waiver to deviate from the Affordable Care Act.

“I’ve said from day one that I want to do more to insulate people shifting from Catamount or VHAP into the exchange,” Pearson said. “We came back with more and more modest proposals. There wasn’t the desire to (provide higher subsidies) even though we included new sources of revenue that would have alleviated pressure on the budget. It seemed really shortsighted to me.”

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Push to divest fossil fuel companies from Vermont college endowments is gaining momentum

February 21, 2013; Audrey Clark; VTDigger

It’s not just schools that are being pushed to divest. Gofossilfree.org lists four off-campus campaigns: the United Church of Christ, California Teachers Pension Fund, the city of Seattle, and the state of Vermont.

Reps. Christopher Pearson, P-Burlington, and Kesha Ram, D-Burlington, and 23 others introduced a bill on Feb. 14 to come up with a plan to divest state retirement funds from fossil fuel companies within three years. The bill is now under consideration by the Committee on Government Operations.

State retirement investments were worth nearly $1.4 billion as of June 2011, according to the state website — much bigger than many college endowments.

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Compassionate or Compromised: Doug Racine Sells Shumlin's Welfare Cuts

February 20, 2013; Paul Heintz; Seven Days

But Vermont’s naysaying third party isn’t along for the ride.

“The point is not to bring more money into the process. The point is to limit money,” says Vermont Progressive Party executive director Rob Millar. “You don’t close one floodgate by opening another one.”

Moreover, says Rep. Chris Pearson (P-Burlington), there’s a difference between super PACs and parties. While the former are legally barred from coordinating with the candidates they support, parties are free to share resources and strategy with candidates.

So if you reach the contribution limit of $2000 per election cycle to a candidate, you could simply write another $20,000 check to the Vermont Democratic Party, which could then spend that money on your fave politician.

“This is, in a way, a more direct workaround to any kind of campaign finance limitations for candidates,” Pearson says.

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GMO labeling back before lawmakers

February 17, 2013; Alexei Rubenstein; WCAX

MONTPELIER, Vt. - House and Senate lawmakers in Vermont are pressing ahead with another attempt  to require labeling of genetically modified food products.

Similar legislation failed to win passage last year, but backers say that a movement a-foot in more than a dozen states to pass similar legislation, combined with movement on the issue by some larger corporations, is sending a strong message that people want to know what's in the foods they eat.

"Walmart is now starting to get behind GMO labeling, some of these industries may prefer it on a national level, which would be great for that to happen, but in the meantime I think momentum is building in any number of ways, so if Walmart says things should be changed, that's a real change in the landscape," said Sen. David Zuckerman (P/D-Chittenden County), a sponsor of the Senate Bill.

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