David Zuckerman

Rep. David Zuckerman, Chittenden-3-4

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.

Supporters of GMO labeling law fill House chamber

February 7, 2014; Andrea Suozzo; VTDigger

More than 200 people filled the floor of the House chamber for the joint hearing by the Senate Agriculture and Judiciary committees on H.112, a bill that mandates the labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients.

The House passed the bill in May, and the Senate Agriculture Committee took the bill up beginning first week of the legislative session this January.

Sen. David Zuckerman, P-Chittenden, vice-chair of the committee, said Friday that the panel approved the bill, 4-1, without a trigger clause that would delay implementation of GMO labeling until other states pass similar bills. H.112 now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Read the whole article >>

February 2014 State Committee Meeting - Proposed Agenda

Vermont State Committee Meeting
February 8, 2014; 1:00 pm
North End Studios, Burlington

REGISTRATION (12:30 PM)
STATE COMMITTEE (1:00 PM)


Welcome: Emma Mulvaney-Stanak (5 minutes)

Burlington Update: City Councilors & Candidates (25 minutes)

Panel Discussion – Economic Rights & Paid Sick Days (60 minutes)
  *Panel Members: Rep. Cindy Weed, Lindsay DesLauriers (Voices for Vt's Children), Cary Brown (Vt Commission on Women), Dan Barlow (VBSR), & Cecile Reuge (Vt Workers' Center)

Break/Raffle Drawing (15 minutes)

Regional Networking/Discussion (45 Minutes)

Platform Process Update: Emma Mulvaney-Stanak (15 minutes)

Party Committee Reports: Committee Chairs (10 minutes)

Legislative Update: Progressive Legislators (20 minutes)

Closing: Emma Mulvaney-Stanak (5 minutes)

Minutes - November 2013 State Convention

November 9, 2013; 1:00 pm, 
Capital City Grange, Berlin


In attendance: 125 people

Welcome: Martha Abbott
Martha started the meeting at 1:15pm and thanked the VT State Employees Association for sponsoring the lunch, Elizabeth Skarie for ice cream, Tina Scanlon for organizing the raffle, the current CoCo members and Robert Millar, staff.

A special video message: Prof. Bill McKibben
Convention attendees watched a video message from Prof. Bill McKibben on the climate change crisis and the activism of 350.org. Vermont was a birthplace of the climate change movement and that movement is growing. However, he is dismayed on how little has been done in VT on climate change. In VT Legislature, home heating efficiency never went anywhere and environmental efforts were limited to shutting down wind debate. He called for a more expansive discussion and work to be more self-reliant closer to home. Best thing to do is to sever ties between fossil fuel industries and VT organizations that invest in these industries to force them to change their practices. The cities of Seattle and Portland, Sterling College and Green Mountain College, and the United Church of Christ have all divested from fossil fuels. VT should be the first state to do this. Anthony Pollina said there should be no negative investment performance impact from divesting from fossil fuel. Chevron gave largest corporate donation since Citizen United to make sure election kept climate change deniers elected.

Divesting from the Fossil Fuel Industry: 350.org & Student Activists Panel
Student panel discussed their activism at UVM and Middlebury College, along with Maeve McBride, coordinator of 350Vermont, affiliated with 350.org. Students included Sam Ghazey, UVM, Michelle Galecki, UVM, Jack Hanson, UVM, Caroline DeCunzo, UVM, Teddy Smyth, Middlebury and Greta Neubauer, Middlebury.

UVM Campaign - Nov 2012 students presented to the Board of Trustees on the idea of divestment from fossil fuels. Continued with on campus direct actions and research on process for divestment over winter. Asked all representative groups on campus to pass resolutions to support divestment. Based campaign off off 1990s apartheid campaign. During that campaign, UVM organizers created a liaison group – Social Responsibility Advisory Council – that required research on investments as a result of that campaign. Students are attempting to use this council as part of their divestment strategy. Students helped to launch responsible investors fund – an escrow fund created so donors can donate to UVM but only released once UVM divests from fossil fuels and if they don’t divest, UVM will never get those dollars. Students reaching out to major donors to donate this way to leverage divestment. Board of trustees had divestment subcommittee and working on getting all representative groups on campus to pass resolutions. Still no answer from Board. Students noted that environmental movement needs more connectivity so doing best to build out the network.

Middlebury campaign - Used fake press releases to increase awareness in beginning. 3.6% ($36 Million) of Middlebury endowment in fossil fuels. Administration had panel in spring 2013 and had financial experts say that divesting was not possible, but up against Bill McKibben on same panel who disputed that. Presented to board of trustees in spring 2013. Middlebury announced that they would not divest in fall 2013, but will put more money in endowment and think about values related to endowment investments. Trying to engage alumni to get them organized and energized.  Students noted climate change issue impacts poor, people of color, etc and made case for narrative to be more inclusive, not just for white people as reflected on campus and students are pushing for that.

350Vermont – Working on state divestment for public pensions. Progressives have been really helpful already. Chris Pearson and Dave Zuckerman introduced divestment legislation for teacher, state employees, and some municipal workers’ pensions to divest. Anthony Pollina pushed in Senate Govt Ops to get testimony and bill to move last session. VT Pension Investment Committee (chaired by Beth Pearce) got wind of legislation, hired consultant saying that we should NOT divest, claiming it was not financially viable and voted unanimously against this effort. Govt Ops know we need to divest, but don’t know how to alleviate risks of divestment. Trying to get legislation to pass this session – three rallies planned. Also working on VPIC side and working with Beth Pearce to get committee to see things differently. Asked Progs in attendance for their help this session. 20 cities committed to divesting and only 8 colleges so far – cities have democratic process and colleges facing corporate bureaucratic structures.

Q&A and comments from floor - Glennie Sewell, Montpelier, urged students to be mindful of language about stopping climate change because can’t stop it, but can lessen impact. Ken Eardley, Underhill, urged debate not to get stuck in definition of what energy sources are renewable or not, focus on divestment. Peggy Sapphire, Craftsbury, noted her town is home of Sterling College and they divested. She shared copies of Progressive platform with students on environment, etc. and encouraged growing solidarity between Party and students. Ben Eastwood, Montpelier, asked what kind of outreach has been done on and off campus to build out network? A: Middlebury working on VT Gas pipeline too and realizing that students leave after 4 years and there are community members who stay behind and are impacted. Trying to get students in frontline communities impacted by pipelines. UVM reaching out to other activists groups and hope to go beyond fossil fuels, ex: divest from Monsanto. Liz Blum, Norwich, asked do you consider nuclear power to be a fossil fuel? A: Middlebury students said nuclear is not part of campaign; they are focused on top 200 fossil fuel companies with reserves in the ground. But they are happy VT Yankee shut down. Nuclear is based on fossil fuels for start, so it is indirectly a root cause of fossil fuel cycle.

CoCo Updates: Coordinating Committee
Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Chair of the Elections Committee, provided an update. Committee formed in early summer and started up door knocking trainings this fall (Winooski in October and Burlington in September). Looking to replicate the training in more places and use it for candidates in 2014, as well as volunteers and campaign managers. Training also helps us build lists, build skills, seek out and find more volunteers. If interested in hosting a training or joining committee, contact Emma.

Martha noted several CoCo members helped to coordinate party reorganization work on town and county level. Took a lot of effort, but we organized more towns than last cycle.

Selene Colburn, Chair of the Communications Committee, gave an update. Committee is newly formed and looking first to build up support around corporate donation petition campaign with communications strategy and using social media. Committee will also look to use virtual meetings and project management tools to do work virtually, looking for volunteers. Richard announced his public access TV – Progressive Thought – would love to have more folks on the show, please contact him. See Selene to join the Communications Committee.

Joe Sherman, Montgomery, made an announcement. He is an author and interested in writing on climate change and how to talk with kids about that issue. Contact him if you have thoughts.

Corporate Donations Petition Update: Robert Millar
Robert Millar, staff, and Selene Colburn, CoCo member, updated Convention on Corporate Donations Petition Campaign. Progressive Party doesn’t accept any corporate money. Other two major parties (Republicans and Democrats) take a lot of money from corporations (ex: Mansanto, Fairpoint, ATT, Green Mountain Power). In response to Citizens United and increase of corporate money in elections, Party decided to launch this petition. In VT, candidates can still take direct corporate donations, one of few states. Petition puts statewide candidates and parties on spot to call for getting corporations out of campaigns. Petition directed to Ds and Rs and their statewide candidates to agree to remove corporations out of elections. Looking for organizational cosponsors. Party will start 2014 with a public signature drive to align with the 2014 election cycle. Asked people to sign online.

Peggy Sapphire, Craftsbury, asked what happens for a P/D endorsed candidate and if they take corporate donations? Martha said Party would need to discuss that. Another attendee asked does signing the petition require the signer to not vote for those candidates who take corporate donations? Martha said no, just calling on major parties and candidates to say no to corporate money. Rep. Cindy Weed said she ran as a P/D and she said Dems never gave her money.

Chair Remarks
Martha reflected on 12 years of leadership and commended group of party members who have helped build this party. She thanked several people for their mentorship and support. She offered thoughts on future of party – focus on economic issues that face Vermonters and will galvanize average Vermonters, focus on what we can agree on and try not to get sidetracked. Republicans are shrinking and Democrats are beginning to monopolize and candidates will seek progressive endorsement to distinguish themselves. Has confidence in new leaders within party, but seasoned leaders need to stay engaged in party. And made a request for donations – we will have more impact when we have more resources.  Other Party members then thanked Martha with a round of speeches and announced $6500 had been raised leading up to Convention in honor of Martha’s leadership.    

Break/Raffle Drawing

Town Meeting Resolutions: Martha Abbott
Martha reported on a town meeting resolution for party members to use in March. Health care resolution came out of state committee meeting discussion in May and CoCo presented language today based on financing mechanism that state legislature will put forward this session. This resolution would help connect the dots by having towns ask how single-payer would impact their town budgets. Easy way to get people to talk about this issue. This resolution is not a formal Prog campaign, just an option/tool to use. Anyone who is interested should contact party leadership and we can connect those interested.

Notes from the Auditor’s Office: State Auditor Doug Hoffer
Auditor Doug Hoffer reported on recent audits from his office on: 1) state employees workers’ compensation program ($8M a year, didn’t do claims audit, looked at whether state was doing its work to prevent workers’ comp issues). Cuts in state government make reducing workers’ comp claims hard; many departments did not implement safety fixes because they don’t have resources. 2) Agency of Transportation, looked at Bennington Bypass project and it was done within budget and on time. Another paving project was very late and over budget. If contractor is late, contract includes a penalty on contractor, but state only charges cost of overrun when late, not other delay costs such as overtime and this always happens in every AOT contract. 3) Bidding process for fuel prices – 5% more than cost included in contract, but if more than that when project actually happens, state pays extra cost. This cost us $14M over last 10 years because of this process. Pushing AOT to get real cost figures vs. artificial cost formulas that have caused this cost. 4) Corrections health care costs and looking at overseeing contractors’ cost. No one can estimate actual cost so they make it uncapped and this went $4M over. Working to create more oversight of contractors and maybe bring back state employees to do that work vs. private contractor. 5) State employee cell phones - $200-300K overrun, state management doesn’t oversee this. Each department oversees this and should have consistent policies. Administration said they would take all Doug’s recommendations.

Forthcoming reviews/audits of: 1) Mental health contractors - we spend $300M on these services each year and need to look at whether we are monitoring the services and they are meeting performance requirements. 2) State liquor stores – private stores, but state administers store. What does sale of alcohol have to do with state’s purpose? Doug will look at other models that might work better for state. 3) State energy plan for state infrastructure – will look to reduce energy expenditure on state buildings and vehicles, etc. Because state is very decentralized, suspect there are potential cost savings. In the future reviews of: 1) Tax department – collections are flat, receivables keep rising, how aggressive have they been on people underreporting 2) Special education cost - $300M a year, concerns about expenditure and how funds are being used.

Doug noted that his office gets a lot of whistleblowers and ideas on what to investigate. Auditor can’t keep whistleblowers names confidential in VT, no law protects them. State employees have protection on paper, VSEA doing survey on this issue and most say they will never report because they would be retaliated against by boss. Looking for VT Legislature to deal with whistleblower issue.

Announcement by Shawn Jarecki, Pittsfield, Rutland County Chair, VT rep for Lawyers Guild event – legal observer training and civil disobedience training at Chandler Music Hall in Randolph coming up.

Point of order by Ed Stanak, Barre, regarding the platform. Bylaws Article 3 Sec 5 says primary role of Convention is to adopt and revise the platform – last time we did that was Nov 2011 based on website. Revision of platform is not on agenda. He suggests a platform committee be formed, but there is no annual meeting again until Nov 2014. This is a problem because he feels the platform should be tweaked ahead of legislative session to give Progressive legislators more guidance.

Martha responded, process of having dozens of people wordsmith at Convention has not work so have set up a committee in past. Can form another committee of state committee members and present modified platform at a future state committee meeting (not annual meeting). Also encouraged people to talk to legislators now and not wait for platform to change.

Ed questioned this process based on process outlined in by-laws. Peggy Sapphire, Craftsbury, noted that when she chaired platform committee in past, they realized we need to renew platform every two years under state law. Peggy willing to help with this process to update/review platform.

Barry Kade, Montgomery, suggested we could suspend this meeting and take up again at a future meeting so Convention could continue. Peggy Sapphire seconded. Tabled item until end of meeting.

Legislative Priorities for 2014: Progressive Legislators
Sen. Anthony Pollina, Rep. Chris Pearson, Sen. Dave Zuckerman, Rep. Sandy Haas, Rep. Cindy Weed, Rep. Susan Hatch-Davis all gave updates based on their committees and issues they are putting forward in January. Sen. Zuckerman working on GMO issue again and looking at private school vs. public school mandates and what inhibits teachers from being effective in classroom. Rep. Haas working on reduction of mental health issues and barriers for Vermonters in corrections system. Sen. Pollina will focus on issue of divestment from fossil fuels, “pay it forward” college funding concept, increasing state funding for education, and state bank issue. Rep. Weed will focus on labor bills, including paid sick days. Rep. Hatch-Davis will focus on paid sick days, early education organizing, changing the minimum wage to a livable wage. Rep. Pearson will focus on health care transition issue and how to get us to single-payer, also working on an economic bill of rights bill and continuing work on myriad climate change bills.

Watch for updates from Party to help weigh in to help with bills.

Party Platform
Martha suggested a motion be made to suspend the Convention to reconvene at the next state committee meeting to address platform issue raised earlier in the meeting. Ben Eastwood, Montpelier, quoted the state statue and said that major parties must adopt a platform on or before 4th Tuesday of November (even year). He moved to table discussion until the Chair calls a meeting to address platform. There was some confusion on when platform last addressed. Chris Pearson, Burlington: If people want to change platform or by-laws, submit it to leadership and it starts process. Barry Kade, Montgomery, withdrew motion from earlier in the meeting because state statue requires action in even year. Tony Smith, Wolcott, asked how the state statue works with what Chris Pearson says. Martha, state law says 2014 is the rule, not odd years. Peggy Sapphire, Craftsbury, said party members can provide revisions anytime, not just in even years, and the Coco can create a committee to review the platform. No vote was taken.

Motion by Tom Kingston, Colchester, Second by Ben Eastwood, Montpelier to adjourn state convention. Unanimous approval at 4:12pm.

STATE COMMITTEE ACTIONS: Robert Millar 
Robert Millar called State Committee to order at 4:12pm.

Election of Officers & Coordinating Committee
 - Candidates:
Chair: Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Winooski, nominated by Chris Pearson, Burlington
Vice Chair: Selene Colburn, Burlington, nominated by David Zuckerman, Hinesburg
Secretary: Chris Brimmer, South Ryegate, nominated by Nancy Potak, Greensboro
Treasurer: Martha Abbott, Underhill, nominated by David Zuckerman, Hinesburg
Vice Treasurer: Katherine Sims, Lowell, nominated by Marjorie Kramer, Lowell

At Large: 6 seats
Caryn Connolly, South Royalton, nominated by Liz Blum, Norwich
Mari Cordes, Lincoln, nominated by Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Winooski
Corey Decker, Fletcher, nominated by Phil Bronz, Bakersfield
Ben Eastwood, Montpelier, nominated by Jeremy Hansen, Berlin
Richard Kemp, Burlington, nominated by Kyle Silliman-Smith, Burlington
Lee Madden, Brattleboro, nominated by Tim Kipp, Brattleboro
Adam Norton, Burlington, nominated by Chris Pearson, Burlington
Nancy Potak, Greensboro, nominated by Marjorie Kramer, Lowell
Becky Raymond, Middlesex, nominated by Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Winooski

Glennie Sewell and Peggy Sapphire counted ballots. Election results: All officers ran unopposed. 6 At Large Seats elected: Caryn Connolly, Mari Cordes, Corey Decker, Lee Madden, Adam Norton, and Nancy Potak.

Discussion: CoCo Subcommittees


We did not address this item.

Submitted by Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Secretary 11/13/13

Press Release: Progressive Party Concludes 2013 Reorganization With A Bang

On Saturday, Progressives gathered at the Capital City Grange in Berlin for the final stage of the 2013 reorganization process, their State Convention.  Over 125 people attended the event and 73 ballots were cast by State Committee Delegates in the election of a new Coordinating Committee at the Convention.  To put those numbers in perspective, only 58 ballots were cast in the hotly contested races for leadership at a State Republican Party meeting earlier the same day.

Emma Mulvaney-Stanak of Winooski was elected State Party Chair; Selene Colburn of Burlington was elected State Party Vice Chair; Chris Brimmer of South Ryegate was elected State Party Secretary; Martha Abbott of Underhill was elected State Party Treasurer; and Katherine Sims of Lowell was elected State Party Asst. Treasurer.  The following At-Large Coordinating Committee members were also elected: Caryn Connolly of South Royalton, Mari Cordes of Lincoln, Corey Decker of Fletcher, Lee Madden of Brattleboro, Adam Norton of Burlington, and Nancy Potak of Greensboro.

In addition to the elections, those in attendance viewed a video message from Professor Bill McKibben, participated in a panel discussion with college students from UVM and Middlebury who are leading fossil fuel divestment movements at their schools, and heard from many elected Progressives about their priorities for 2014, including State Auditor Doug Hoffer (D/P).

Newly elected Progressive Party Chair Emma Mulvaney-Stanak had this to say:

“I'm excited the new Party leadership reflects some of the new and young leaders who have emerged within the Party in recent years. I am honored the State Committee chose me to be their new Chair.  I can’t thank Martha Abbott enough for her years of service as Chair and look forward to continuing to work with her in her new role as Treasurer, and with all the new members of the Party’s Coordinating Committee.

“As a lifelong Vermonter, I have seen the Progressive Party grow from a Burlington-focused party into a truly statewide, major party, which has changed the way we do politics in Vermont.  As Chair, I intend to continue that growth by focusing on building the Party's capacity to run strong candidates for office and to push the core issues of our platform. I will also focus on recruiting young people and women to run for office and to get engaged in the Party.”

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