David Zuckerman

Rep. David Zuckerman, Chittenden-3-4

Progressives Announce Slate of 21 Candidates

June 1, 2014; Anne Galloway; VTDigger

The Vermont Progressive Party will have four statewide candidates, three incumbent senators and 14 House candidates running for office in the 2014 election.

The Progressive party, one of four state major parties, announced its slate on Saturday — well ahead of the Vermont Democratic Party and the Vermont GOP, and the June 12 filing deadline for candidates. While the Democrats are fielding a preponderance of incumbents, the Republicans have announced some House and Senate candidates, but have yet to declare who will be running for statewide office, including the gubernatorial race. The Vermont Liberty Union Party, which gained major party status in the 2012 election, is also fielding a slate of statewide candidates and a candidate for the House of Representatives, who may be the sole contender for Rep. Peter Welch’s seat.

Progressive Party officials touted the “real growth” in the number of candidates since 2012.

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"As Consumers, We are Guinea Pigs": Vermont Set to Become First State to Require GMO Food Labeling

Click here to watch on DemocracyNow.org

Watch on DemocracyNow.org >>

"Vermont is poised to become the first state to require the labeling of genetically modified organisms in food products. Governor Peter Shumlin said he would sign the pro-GMO-labeling bill as early as this week. The new law would take effect in July 2016 and would also make it illegal to label foods containing GMOs as "all natural" or "natural." Vermont could prove to be the tipping point in a national movement to inform consumers about whether their food contains GMOs. Twenty-nine other states have proposed bills requiring labeling this year, and two have already passed similar bills. But those measures only take effect when neighboring states also approve the requirements. We speak with Vermont State Sen. David Zuckerman, who first introduced GMO labeling bills more than a decade ago when he served in the House."

Progressive Legislative Roundup

Aptil 18, 2014; Bob Kinzel; VPR

Click here to listen!

When the 2014 legislative session started, leaders in the Progressive Party were expressing concern with some of the policies of Governor Shumlin. How do they feel about the Governor now as the session winds down?

We’ll talk with the House Progressive Caucus leader, Burlington Representative Chris Pearson, and with Enosburg Representative Cindy Weed and Senator David Zuckerman about the progressive legislative priorities for the end of the session.

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Vermont puts lessons from past in GMO bill

April 15, 2014; Jenny Hopkinson; Politico

Vermont lawmakers seeking to make their state the first to require the labeling of genetically modified food are hoping history won’t repeat itself.

A bill (H. 112) that the state’s Democratically controlled Senate passed Wednesday in a 28-2 vote would mandate labels on all genetically engineered edibles sold, with exemptions for animal feed and some food-processing aids, such as enzymes for making yogurt.

The House passed the bill 99-42 in May. If that chamber backs the Senate’s amendments, which could happen as early as next week, the measure could shortly head to Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin for his signature.

But this isn’t the first time that the Green Mountain State has been challenged on its efforts to enforce labeling requirements on products. In those instances, which involved labeling dairy products from livestock treated with growth hormones and mercury-containing devices, the state has had mixed results.

Now, lawmakers are looking to learn from their mistakes, adding language to the bill that they hope will provide an iron-clad legal justification for the measure.

“Yes, it’s quite likely we will be sued, and we have looked at the various court cases out there” and wrote the bill to reflect those rulings, said state Sen. David Zuckerman, a member of the Vermont Progressive Party, who sponsored the bill.

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Momentum for school consolidation

In the past week there have been a number of signals around the statehouse that there is growing momentum for a school administrative consolidation effort.  The signals include a working draft of goals that was recently presented to the Education Committee (on which I serve). It includes moving towards approximated 60 governing bodies overseeing K-12 frameworks.  Currently there are approximately 280 governing bodies for a wide range of school administrative systems.

The draft plan allows for towns to decide which neighboring towns they would want to work with, but by if some towns have not "voluntarily" decided by 2019, then the state would finish allocating which towns and districts would need to work together.

This outline will raise flags for some (removing some local control), but will also work to alleviate many duplications in services and hopefully will improve educational options for many children in Vermont.  While the overarching goal is to offer a wider range of class options for many students in Vermont, it will also serve as a tool to work to reduce costs by eliminating many administrative functions/positions.  Not all savings will be realized right away, as there are costs in transition, but as that work is completed, and as our workforce retires, there should be a reduction in the number of administrators.

Throughout the discussion of education funding and the challenges that we are facing with the current funding formula and the reduced rate of property values and the slow growth of other broad based tax revenues, I have been broaching the topic of human services functions that our educators are performing.

As our local schools are asked to do more and more functions that and human serviced related, we have seen an increase in our education spending and therefore more pressure on our property tax funding system.  It is my belief that we should move some of those functions to the area of government that is in charge of that...the agency of human services.  I have been raising the question of whether we can house some of the human services staff (either govt folks or contracted services) right in the schools.  This seems like a particularly good option as we ought to have space in the schools considering we have reduced enrollments (nearly across the state).  By moving these costs to the Agency of Human Services, we can rely on other, more progressive broad based taxes to fund them and move away from the pressure we have been putting onto the education fund.  We also ought to be able to get better results. Rather than each teacher having to learn and address the individual issues that various children have due to family circumstances, there will be councilors and support staff who already have experience with those families in their roles as community councilors.  With greater stability for the children, they ought to be able to learn better.

I am no education nor human services expert, so I am still working to learn more about what is possible, but on the surface, it seems to make sense to me!  Please email me with your thoughts as the more input I have the better.  If you are in these fields in particular and you have examples or experiences, or red flags to raise, please let me know.

Senate Ag committee votes 4-1 to support GMO labeling

On Friday, the Senate Ag committee voted 4 -1 to support H.112, the GMO labeling bill, after making a few amendments.  The amendments were mostly to tighten up the bill’s language in order to make it more legally defensible in case the state is sued by those who do not want labeling to happen anywhere in the country.

This vote came after a month of a variety of testimony, as well as a very well attended public hearing on Thursday evening.  Everyday Vermonters, including: a scientist, a doctor, a Vietnam war veteran, a teacher, and many other professions, came out to testify in support of having labeling on processed foods that contain GMOs. In fact, only one person spoke against the bill -- and that was because he felt it did not go far enough!

The bill now moves on to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it will be taken up shortly after Town Meeting day. It is likely that the bill will be amended by that committee to include a "trigger" clause that is different than most laws that we pass.  Generally, laws go into effect either on a certain date or July 1st if a date is not specified.  However, in other states that have moved GMO labeling legislation (Maine and Connecticut), they have included language that requires other states to enact similar laws before their bill will go in to effect.

At the hearing on Thursday, we heard loud and clear that a trigger dependent on other states is not supported by Vermonters.  That's why I've worked hard to get a "reasonable" trigger in the bill that would enable Vermont to move forward alone, but at the same time, prepare us for legal costs if/when we are sued and if we lose that suit.  The good news is there is a very reasonable legal argument that we would win and that the state has a right to require such labeling.  But there has also been an argument made that we might lose and that it could cost the state upwards of $5,000,000 in legal fees.  So the reasonable trigger that I came up with is to create a legal defense fund under the jurisdiction of the Treasurer.  That fund could accept contributions from any (living) person (no corporations or other associations could contribute).  Once that fund reached $5,000,000, the labeling bill would go into effect.

I am hopeful that we can pass a strong GMO labeling bill and that we will be able to work out our differences with the House version.  It is an exciting day for Vermont and with any luck we will follow this success with more strong votes for this legislation in the Judiciary Committee and in the full Senate.

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