The following press release was distributed by Governor Phil Scott this afternoon.
Statement from Governor Phil Scott on Economic Priorities
Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott today issued the following statement:
“As we reached the halfway mark of Vermont’s legislative session this week, it’s important for those of us in Montpelier to prioritize our efforts to make a real difference in the lives of Vermonters in the final eight weeks of this legislative session.
“On my first day in office, I signed an executive order establishing three goals that guide my Administration’s efforts: Strengthen the economy, make Vermont more affordable, and protect the most vulnerable. These are simple principles, but they are critical to solving the challenges we face and they should be the focus of each effort we undertake, and each policy we put forward.
“Vermont loses, on average, six workers from our workforce and three students from our schools every single day – trends that have persisted for years. Our population growth has been stagnant and a recent estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau showed an estimated 0.2 percent decline in Vermont’s mid-2016 resident population. National projections predict that by 2040 the number of working-age people in Vermont will drop by more than 10 percent.
“We must reverse these trends, which means it’s time to put party, politics and special interests aside. Instead of debating process and defending the status quo, we need a new approach that rethinks what state government can do. That includes rethinking how we approach the budget. We can achieve balance without raising taxes and fees, without cutting services to the most vulnerable, and while making critical investments in priority areas that will rebuild our workforce, attract businesses and working families to Vermont, combat our opiate epidemic, and protect our impaired waterways. That’s what my budget proposes to do, and there are still opportunities to achieve those critical goals.
“In the first half of the session, less than 10 percent of the bills proposed have a direct focus on economic growth. The Legislature is considering eliminating my budget’s essential investments in economic development and a cradle-to-career continuum of learning. We can’t afford a status quo budget that fails to invest in initiatives that will grow the economy, or for economic initiatives to take a back seat in policy discussions. If we want to change the State’s trajectory – and we must – we cannot ignore the need for these investments.
“I am encouraged to see many in the Legislature who agree with the goals put forward in my budget, which reflect the calls for relief I heard from Vermonters throughout the campaign. But we cannot relent or be resistant to change. Vermonters need us to spend these next eight weeks finalizing a budget and putting forward legislation that helps grow the economy, and allows Vermonters to keep more of what they earn. If we do, we will set a course for a more prosperous future that creates greater opportunity for all Vermonters.”
University of Vermont Men's Basketball team is going to the dance! They are ready to play, are you?
March MADNESS is here and the it's time to once again put together our brackets. You know, the brackets we will be agonizing over the next 4 days. We'll rant and rave when our sleeper-pick isn't actually a sleeper; or when a number 5 seed falls to a number 12...
Welcome back to the MADNESS!
Our executive director, Jeff Bartley, has also got the MADNESS! He is giving away TWO tickets to our next GOP dinner to the top two scores in our annual Vermont Republican Bracket Challenge! Oh and did we mention, it's FREE to sign up! The deadline is Thursday, March 16th at 12:15 PM.
Join in on the fun and sign-up for the Vermont Republicans Bracket Challenge today.
And GO CATS, GO!
Sugar! Ah, Honey, Honey!
"An act relating to imposing an excise tax on food products containing sugar" - H.477 (Read the bill here)
Rep. Jim Masland (Thetford) is quickly becoming one of the lead characters in our Looney Friday episodes. This week, he takes another aim at sugar. But instead of taxing "sugary drinks, he proposes a NEW tax on ANY food product that contains sugar.
Think about it, this new tax could easily add $20-$30 a year to your costs to shop at your local grocery store. A pint of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food ice cream could cost you an additional 6 cents per container. It may not seem like a lot on it's own, but when you tally all the foods you purchase over the course of a year; it really starts to add up!
Do you think Vermont Democrats will stop here? No. Every year they will increase this tax, syphoning more of your hard-earned dollars in favor of pet projects.
Sadly, this is what we've come to expect from Montpelier.
The affordability crisis will not only cause Vermont's hard-working families continue to struggle, it will bankrupt the state.
This week was like the old wild-west in Montpelier. Sadly, we're not all hanging out in a pub playing a game of poker. Instead we are watching Vermont House Democrats/Progressives' (it's hard to tell the difference these days) slow attempt to dismantle the integrity of our electoral process.
A good friend of mine gave me an amazing analogy which really does justice to the Democrats' attempt to overturn an election:
It’s like a terrible western movie. The bad dude with long, black greasy hair is grinning while he chews on a toothpick. You can barely see his eyes below the rim of his musty old hat. His hands are dancing as they hover over his guns holstered on his hip. He blinks and says ‘I’m going to get you!’ As quick as he can, he grabs the gun by the handle; but instead of pulling the gun out and shooting at you, he pulls the trigger too soon and shoots himself in the foot.
Thankfully, the Democrats were unable to steal this election and Rep. Bob Frenier was deemed the rightful winner he is, was and will always be.
The continued partisanship of the Democrats/Progressives, and lack of willingness to work with Governor Phil Scott on the budget is astounding. It’s time they step-up to the plate and work with Republicans as we continue to focus on the real issues.
But here we are with two gems for our “Looney Friday” edition: the carbon tax is coming back and the proposed "Artificial Intelligence Commission."
I'd say "enjoy," but you're probably shaking your head as much as I am...
Vermont Republican Party
An act relating to the creation of the Artificial Intelligence Commission - H.378 (Read the bill here)
Talk about "I, Robot" flash backs... The purpose of this bill is "to create the Artificial Intelligence Commission to support the development of artificial intelligence in the State." Seems like a good use of time funded by taxpayers.
This bill was proposed by only one Legislator, Brian Cina of Burlington.
And guess who's back!
"An act relating to a carbon tax and cap and trade study by the Joint Fiscal Office" - H.394 (Read the bill here)
The people have spoken. Governor Scott is committed to vetoing this ridiculous proposal. Moderate Democrats are speaking out against it. All for nothing.
Here we are again, like a bad mid-morning soap opera, Democrats in the House of Representatives are asking the Joint Fiscal Office to study the Carbon Tax.
Interesting enough, there are not 27 Democrats/Progressives signing onto this particular bill like they did two years ago... I wonder why...
Rep. Mollie Burke of Brattleboro
Rep. Selene Colburn of Burlington
Rep. James Masland of Thetford
Rep. Curtis McCormack of Burlington
Rep. Jean O'Sullivan of Burlington
Rep. Amy Sheldon of Middlebury
Rep. Maru Sullivan of Burlington
Rep. Michael Yantachka of Charlotte
I couldn't wait until Friday to share the latest, definitely not the greatest, idea coming out of Montpelier...
According to VTDigger.org, Vermont Democrats and Progressives are considering a tax on coffee.
That's right folks, according to David Deen, Democrat from Westminster, coffee contributes to water pollution via human urine; and it's a big problem.
So logically, we should tax coffee, right?
You can't make this stuff up.
We are nearly 50% of the way to our goal of raising $10,000 online in February. Will you contribute to our campaign by clicking here?
Everyday, we thank our lucky-stars for Don Turner's leadership and our 53 House Republicans who are pushing back against these ridiculous proposals in committee. We need to back them up.
If we hit our goal, we will hire additional staff to help us push back against radical ideas in the House and Senate. Our recruitment efforts are well underway for 2018 and we've already begun to collect data on the opposition. We need your immediate support.
Will you join us?
I know times are tough. Vermont Democrats and Progressives certainly aren't doing anything to make Vermont more affordable and life easier for you. If you can't make a contribution today, would you consider volunteering, hosting an event, or joining our finance team?
Vermont Republican Party
Visiting Vermont? Enjoy paying $2.00 more per night! (Click Here to view the bill)
Some of the more liberal members of the Vermont Senate are looking to discourage tourists from visiting Vermont. A new Senate bill, S.81, will impose a $2.00 per night and per room, occupancy charge. This is in addition to the 9.0% tax already imposed.
Who are these enemies of an affordable Vermont and promoting a vibrant tourist economy you ask...
Progressive Senator Chris Pearson (Chittenden County)
Democrat Senator Claire Ayer (Addison County)
Democrat Senator Alison Clarkson (Windsor County)
Democrat Senator Debbie Ingram (Chittenden County)
Democrat Senator Ginny Lyons (Chittenden County)
Democrat Senator Mark MacDonald (Orange County)
Progressive Senator Anthony Pollina (Washington County)
The Sugar Tax is Back! (Click here to view the bill)
Democrats in the House won’t back down. They were already successful in passing an additional tax on drinks; now with H. 214 Democrats want to add a two cent per ounce fee on sugary beverages. When is enough, enough? Never?
It's as if Democrats are saying: “Your choices are wrong and this tax is your punishment.” It certainly sounds like the House is working against the people, rather than for them.
You can thank the following for their work on taxing sugar.
Democrat Representative George Till (Jericho)
Democrat Representative Betsy Dunn (Essex Town)
Democrat Representative Ben Joseph (North Hero)
Democrat Representative Jim McCullough (Williston)
Democrat Representative Michael Mrowicki (Putney)
Democrat Representative Tom Stevens (Waterbury)
Democrat Representative Linda Sullivan (Burlington)
Democrats and Progressives in the Vermont Legislature are about to override a local election that was conducted correctly and lawfully by experienced town clerks and certified by a Vermont court. They are using the Legislature’s constitutional authority to rule on the “qualifications and elections” of its members to override the election of a Republican, by counting the votes in the Orange-1 District for a third time.
There are several troubling aspects to this. One is that the original vote count wasn’t all that close and the closely supervised recount changed by only one vote. The original hand or tabulator vote count in the six towns of the Orange-1 District showed Republican challenger Bob Frenier won the election with 1,853 votes while incumbent Progressive Susan Hatch Davis received only 1,845 votes. An all-tabulator recount and court certification process showed Davis’ vote remained unchanged at 1,845 while Frenier lost one vote and got 1,852. Why is a third count needed?
Another sobering element is the recount will be done by legislators themselves, not election professionals, and will be done according to rules of the majority party’s own making, not Vermont election statutes. The majority party specifically rejected a minority party amendment that would have required any further vote-counting to be conducted according to Vermont law. The partisan nature of that decision offers Vermonters no constitutional or statutory assurances the will of Orange-1 voters will be respected.
In her report to the Legislature, Government Operations chair Maida Townsend, D-South Burlington, said the main reason for wanting a third count of the votes was that, before ballots were inserted into the tabulator, they had not been inspected for stray marks on the paper that might have altered the tabulators’ legendary reputation for accuracy. She ignored the fact that state law requires such inspections after the tabulator count and she presented no evidence to the full House that any stray marks even existed.
Thetford Town Clerk Tracy Borst disputed Townsend’s allegations in a letter to House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and other state officials. “The ballots were viewed first, as they went into the tabulator, then either viewed a second time for voter intent, or counted (viewed) a second and third time if they were in the hand count pile. Visual inspection is certainly part of our procedures.”
The impact of this fact-free legislative decision to interfere in Vermont’s nonpartisan election process will be considerable for some time to come unless House Democrats reconsider. What losing candidate in a future close election will accept the outcome of a court-certified recount if they can address their grievances to their party colleagues in the Legislature, even if no meaningful procedural errors can be cited?
More importantly, how can Vermont voters be guaranteed their votes will always be counted in a fair and nonpartisan way if this third counting of the ballots in Orange-1 is allowed to be conducted for spurious reasons by legislators who voted along party lines, to ignore existing law when they count votes? Alexander Hamilton said, “This great source of free government, popular election, should be perfectly pure, and the most unbounded liberty allowed.” Our own Vermont Constitution has similar sentiments: “That all elections ought to be free and without corruption …”
But based on a sloppy investigation that misrepresented crucial facts, the Vermont House of Representatives has chosen along party lines to override a court-certified election result. So, their new vote count will be neither “perfectly pure,” nor guaranteed to be conducted “without corruption.” Since all the traditional safeguards have been removed, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson needs to review all the facts and put a stop to this before real damage is done to Vermont’s sacred tradition of nonpartisan elections.
Bob Frenier is a newly elected representative to the Vermont House from the Orange-1 district. A Chelsea area resident since 1992, he is an active trustee of the Chelsea Health Center and a former volunteer firefighter/ EMT.
To: Vermont House of Representatives
Cc: Governor Phil Scott, Jim Condos; Secretary of State
From: Tracy Borst; Town Clerk of Thetford, Georgette Wolf-Ludwig; Town Clerk of Fairlee
Date: February 6, 2017
RE: H.R. 8; House resolution relating to conducting a recount in the election for the House of Representatives for the Orange–1 District
As you may know, we were Election Officials for the District Orange 1 recount that took place on November 21, 2016 at the Orange County Court House. We are deeply concerned that the officials that conducted the recount for District Orange 1 were not invited to testify in the House Government Operations committee.
Lisa Eastman, County Clerk, organized the recount; she called us to assist with this recount as election officials. We are both trained, experienced tabulator officials, and neither one of us are from the Orange 1 district. The others present were Bill Huff; Chair of the Board of Civil Authority in Thetford, in addition to election assistants from each of the Orange 1 district towns. Mike Carlson; LHS Associates, was present to assist with any tabulator questions. LHS services the tabulators and programs the memory cards that are used in the tabulator.
Representative Maida Townsend, Chair of House Government Operations Committee was quoted in VT Digger as saying:
“We know if the visual inspection is not paired with the tabulator, it is possible that votes may have been missed,” she said. “We just want to be very, very careful.”
This is what actually happened at the recount:
- -- The voted ballots were removed from ballot bags, placed into piles of 50. They were placed top down (back side of the ballot viewed) and then turned over (front side up) and fed into the tabulator one at a time – this allowed for visual inspected by the election officials, the tabulator official and the election assistants.
- -- The two of us (Town Clerks) took turns feeding the ballots into the tabulator machine. There was not forcing of ballots into the machine.
- -- If a ballot was unreadable by the tabulator, as indicated on the readout, it was set aside for hand counting. As each ballot was inserted into the tabulator, the ballot number advanced and was easily read on the readout as a counted ballot.
- -- After all ballots for the town had been fed into the tabulator, the ballots were removed from the tabulator ballot box and were distributed to teams that were balanced (Dems and Republicans) to be visually inspected for any mark that could represent voter intent that the machine couldn’t possibly pick up, i.e. A name circled but no oval colored in. This was the second visual screening of all ballots.
- -- Three ballots were pulled by the balanced counting team(s) to be determined by the judge.
- -- The results of votes counted, by tabulator printout, at the recount was compared to the results of the Town’s Official Return of Votes (OVRs) from the town count; with the exception of the one additional vote from one town’s ballots, they all balanced.
The ballots were viewed first, as they went into the tabulator, then either viewed a second time for voter intent, or counted (viewed) a second and third time if they were in the hand count pile. Visual inspection is certainly part of our procedures.
In my opinion, the recount team did their due diligence, followed procedures, and confirmed the results. Representative Townsend is mistaken if she believes the ballots were not visually inspected in the recount process. This all could have been clarified if the officials that conducted the recount had been invited to testify.
Tracy Borst, Thetford Town Clerk
Georgette Wolf-Ludwig, Fairlee Town Clerk
We wish this was all folks, but sadly there has been enough looney legislation proposed that we've launched a weekly update. We'll be casting a bright light on the dark legislation Vermont Democrats and Progressives propose.
10 cent tax on plastic bags - H.88 (Read the bill here)
As if a trip to the grocery store wasn't expensive enough for so many families across Vermont, now six Democrats and Progressives have teamed up in an effort to add a 10 cent tax on any plastic bag you use. That's right, the following Representatives want to make your shopping trip even MORE EXPENSIVE.
- Michael Yantachka of Charlotte
- Curt McCormack of Burlington
- Mary Sullivan of Burlington
- Annemarie Christensen of Perkinsville
- Betsy Dunn of Essex
- John Gannon of Wilmington
Banning Plastic Bags - H.105 (Read the bill here)
Three out-of-touch Representatives have proposed a bill that will ban the use of plastic bags by retail stores. If passed, you will no longer have the option of "paper or plastic." Instead, you'll be forced to purchase your own reusable bags or use paper. The following Representatives have signed on to this legislation:
- Michael Mrowicki of Putney
- Trevor Squirrell of Underhill
- George Till of Jericho
Registration of Bicycles - H.46 (Read the bill here)
February 1, 2017
RE: H.R. 8
Madame Speaker –
I offer the following minority report regarding House Resolution 8. The facts need to be stated so it can be understood why the Republican minority party representation on the House Government Operations Committee oppose any affirmative action on this resolution.
Let me state the facts.
Fact: The general election was held on November 8, 2016; and
Fact: The seated member secured the second highest votes, 1,853, in the Orange-1 house district.
Fact: The petitioner finished third in a two-seat district with 1,845 votes, not enough to secure her re-election.
Fact: The Secretary of State certified the election results, confirming that the Representative from Williamstown finished first; and the seated member from Chelsea finished second and declared the winners of the Orange-1 district house race.
Fact: The petitioner then filed for a recount.
Fact: The recount was conducted and the results certified on November 28, 2016.
Fact: The results of the recount confirmed the petitioner’s vote count at 1,845, the exact same number as the General Election.
Fact: The results of the recount changed the seated member from Chelsea’s vote count to 1,852, one less than the general election; and was confirmed by the Vermont Superior Court Judge, Orange Unit.
Fact: The petitioner again asked the court to present evidence relating to the recount, and a hearing pursuant to 17 VSA S/s 2602j(c) was held on December 19, 2016.
Fact: The outcome of the recount and the subsequent hearing held confirmed the number of votes as follows:
The representative from Williamstown – 2,015;
The seated member from Chelsea – 1,852;
The Petitioner – 1,845;
And the fourth candidate - 1,006;
The Superior Court Judge, Orange Unit issued a judgment confirming the results and following candidates are declared the winners in the General election for State Representatives for district Orange-1: the members from Williamstown and Chelsea, respectively.
Fact: On or about December 19, 2016, the petitioner decided to contest the results of the recount and filed a petition with the Secretary of State, who forwarded it to the Attorney General.
Please keep in mind the following: The General Election was conducted as follows:
Chelsea, Corinth, Orange, Vershire and Washington ballots were counted by hand. Williamstown ballots were counted by tabulator.
The subsequent recount was counted by tabulator.
Fact: There were 4,406 voters checked off on the checklist on Election Day.
Fact: There were 4,406 ballots in the General Election.
Fact: There were 4,406 ballots in the recount; the exact same number in both counts.
The proponents of this resolution would like you to believe the process may have been flawed.
However, the facts show beyond reasonable doubt, beyond reasonable doubt, that the vote counts remained essentially the same, confirming the accuracy of both the General Election and the recount.
Let me reaffirm the recount numbers:
Representative from Williamstown – 2,015
Representative from Chelsea – 1,852
Petitioner – 1,845
Fourth candidate – 1,006
On the first day of the session, the Representative from Middletown Springs rose for a point of order, requesting the member from Chelsea not be seated or sworn in due to the contested election.
The Vermont Secretary of State, the Presiding Official, stated that the member from Chelsea was duly elected and was entitled to be sworn in and take his seat in the House of Representatives.
Fact: In 2011, when the house race for Windsor-Orange 1 district (Tunbridge/Royalton) was decided in a recount which determined that the member from Tunbridge was the winner by one vote over the member from Royalton, the House Government Operations Committee reported to the House of Representatives that they confirmed the one vote victory and due to the fact the member from Tunbridge was already sworn in and seated, that they would not recommend “unseating” her.
Now, here we are, six years later having a similar discussion. But let’s be very clear; the facts as stated cannot be disputed. The Representative from Chelsea is the clear victor in the Orange-1 contested House race and has every right to be a member of this body.
We may hear compelling arguments that certain “defective” ballots should be considered. However, the facts show that defective ballots have never been considered in any election or recount. Let me reiterate: defective ballots have never been considered in any election or recount.
Vermont statute, Title 17, Subsection 2547 clearly states the definition of a defective ballot and those ballots are not to be considered in the election results… Ever
Fact: Testimony offered by each of the town clerks in the Orange-1 district, confirmed their accurate handling of “early absentee voter ballots” to be deemed defective. There was no question at the end of those testimonies that would indicate any contrary opinion.
In conclusion, the Republican Minority Party of the House Government Operations Committee states that the facts presented are clear, crystal clear. The Representative from Chelsea is the clear winner of the Orange-1 contested house district. The former Representative from Washington has not substantially provided or produced any evidence to compel this body to rule in any other manner.
The burden of proof rests on the petitioner. It is our conclusion that she has not provided any clear and concise evidence to change the outcome of this election.
It is our duty to do the right thing. The honest thing. The correct thing.
To vote in any other manner is a travesty to the democratic process. It sheds doubt on our Vermont town clerks and election officials, and the process and procedures they follow. It sheds doubt that every vote matters. It sheds doubt that your vote is your voice…
This should not be a partisan issue. It should be an issue of black and white, right and wrong, clear and concise
The entire state, our constituents are watching and listening. We should not be questioning the will of the voters.
They are who we represent and if we cross them, we will not be here in the future to represent them. Keep that in mind.
I urge this body to listen to the facts, the undisputed facts, and rule the representative from Chelsea is the clear winner of the Orange-1 contested house district, by defeating this resolution.
The Republican Minority Members of the House Government Operations Committee.
Rep. Patti J. Lewis, Berlin/Northfield