Friday, February 29, 2008


Thanks to everyone who turned out for our snow-covered meeting on Wednesday night. Special thanks to Emily Polak and Ben Palkowski, our guests. If anyone would like Obama materials please contact me as Emily left some for us at the meeting.

Just received this message from Matthew Lesser, one of Obama's Vermont staffers:

The Obama Campaign needs volunteers to get out the vote in the last 72 hours of the campaign. These last 72 hours are absolutely crucial to the campaign's success, as we will be working to make sure our supporters turn out. If you have any time at all on Saturday, Sunday, Monday or Tuesday we can use your help. Volunteers will be assembling at 10am. We need volunteers for our Barre and Montpelier offices.
If you are interested in volunteering in the Barre Office, please call Matt Lesser at 802-881- 4961. The Barre Office is located in Martin & Associates, at 104 N. Main Street in Barre City.

If you are interested in volunteering in the Montpelier Office, please call Emily Polak at 603-521-5588. The Montpelier Office is located above That's Life Soup, at 41 Elm Street in Montpelier.

We really appreciate the strong support we've received in Northfield, and just need to make sure we have the volunteers on hand to win the election.

Best, Matt
Matthew Lesser
Washington County (VT) Organizer
Obama for America
41 Elm Street, Second Floor Montpelier
(802) 881 4921

If anyone has information from, or about the Clinton camp, I welcome it. I got a phone call from one of their staff people, but have not heard back. I post this because the Obama folks have reached out to us, but I am sure there are folks in town supporting Hillary Clinton and I welcome submissions, or posts, or other information that could help her camp before Tuesday. CC

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Legislative Update by Rep. Maxine Grad

Here is Rep. Maxine Grad's most recent Legislative Update:

Committee Work:

H.859 An Act Relating to Increasing Substance Abuse Treatment. We are looking at this bill from the Institutions and Corrections committee. This would create a pilot project for court ordered substance abuse screening of those accused of a crime. The questions we addressed are: should this screening should be mandatory from the court, voluntary, and at what point in the judicial process? For example, should it be prior to conviction for use in pleas bargaining or should it be post conviction to use only for sentencing purposes. The Court Administrators office would like to see a screening project used early in the process to get people identifiend, the help they need and divert them from the court process. Therefore, the Court Administrator wants to consider if a judge should have the authority to mandate at arraignment if screening can be a condition of release into the community.

Probate Judges, Sherriffs and Deputy States Attorneys and Constable Qualifications

We voted out a bill that would require a candidate for probate judge to be an attorney admitted to practice in Vermont at time of election; a deputy state’s attorney and assistant attorney generals be an attorney admitted to practice in Vermont at time of appointment; and constables and sheriff meet minimun training standards established at the Vermont criminal justice training council parior to exercinsing law enfoecemnt authority. Elected officials who are in office on the effective date of the act are grandfathered. Currently, there are no sitting sheriffs who are not trained.

The bill originally did not include probate judges. However, the president of the probate association asked that the judges be added.

Constables were also not included, but my committee received requests from those in the law enforcement community, municipalities, and the constable association asking us to require that constables have law enforcement training if they are to engage in law enforcement duties.

We received the following email testimony that was read into the record.

The first is from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns:

“Representative Lippert had asked if we supported requiring law enforcement training in order for elected constables to perform law enforcement responsibilities. We do support that requirement and our board of directors has voted to support the measure.

We are concerned that if an elected constable does perform a law enforcement activity for which he or she is not qualified, that the towns be protected from liability for his or her actions.”

From Colonel James W. Baker, Director, Vermont State Police:

“As the Director of the Vermont State Police I support the elimination of the training exemption for Constables and Sheriffs.

In the current environment that law enforcement operates in no person should be allowed to function as a law enforcement officer without a minimum amount of training.”

From R. J. Elrick, Executive Director, Vermont Criminal Justice Training Council, Vermont Police Academy:

“I support the elimination of the current training exemption for elected law enforcement officers (Constables and Sheriffs). At present, the law makes training for Constables and Sheriffs "optional". In this day and age, it is unfathomable that we have individuals who may be performing law enforcement functions without requisite training and certification.
At a minimum, this creates the opportunity for tremendous liability to municipalities and the potential for unknowing violation of the rights of our citizens. The elimination of the last sentence in Section 2358 of Title 20 will be a huge step forward in furthering the
professionalism of the Office of Sheriff and Constable. If an individual is to perform law enforcement functions in our state, they should be held to the same basic training and certification standards.

I have personally spoken with the leadership of the following organizations who support this action:

Vermont Association of Chiefs of Police
Vermont Sheriffs' Association
Vermont State Police
Vermont Constable's Association
Vermont Police Association
Vermont League of Cities and Towns.”

Finally, from Nelson Tift, President Vermont Constables Association, President Rutland County Law Officers Association:

“I have spoken with the Elected officers, past president and several current members of The Vermont Constables Assoc. and we all favor the elimination of the current exemption of mandated training for elected constables, with the provision that there be a method in place that would insure that once Constables have completed the part one phase that there be in place a method for them to complete parts two and three. Currently it is nearly impossible, as few, if any agencies are will to field train personnel that are not hired for their department. This is largely due to liability, currently only one Vermont Constable is a certified FTO. Obviously the fact that the constable has only authority in his elected jurisdiction is also a problem in that if an agency in another town would be willing to take on the training, the constable would still not have enforcement powers in their town to work with their training officer. If these obstacles can be overcome, we would wholeheartedly support this move.”

We appreciated Mr. Tift’s testimony and determined through conversations with Mr. Elrick that we can resolve his concerns. We have also made the effective date of the bill 2010 to help people get trained and learn about the law.

We also continued our work on guardianship, juvenile proceedings, and lead in housing, and death certificates.

Please stay in touch. I look forward to seeing you at Town Meeting. 828-2228 or

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Damn the Torpedoes Edition!

It's snowing... hard. Old Man Winter must be a Republican! But our efforts to meet will not be thwarted!

I've been following the storm and it appears that it will subside sometime late tomorrow afternoon. As a result, we are going to stick to our plan and try to squeak in a February meeting. I'm bringing the pizza.
Hope to see you all at the Brown Public Library from 6pm - 7:30pm tomorrow evening.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Dodd to Keynote DWC Awards

The Vermont Democrats announced today that Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut) will headline this year's David W. Curtis Awards dinner on April 25th at the Hilton in Burlington. The annual fundraising event is Vermont Democrats' premier event and the biggest fundraiser of the year.

Quick, name three things you know about Chris Dodd! Well, you probably know he's a Senator for Connecticut. You probably know he was a recent presidential candidate; and you may even know he was widely supported by the firefighter's unions during that contest. All of the above are widely reported and were fairly recently in the news.

Here are three cool things about Dodd that maybe you didn't know:

1) He worked to ensure passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act ensuring that working families don't have to choose between their job and their family (he's now working to try to encourage that time off be paid time-off according to his Senate website) - as my wife and I recently had a baby I can attest to the importance of this federal protection;

2) He helped establish the "pay as you go" rules back in 1983 which ensured that any programs requiring budget increases enacted were disciplined by accompanying tax increases or budget cuts. It was this kind of fiscal discipline that enabled the Democrats and Bill Clinton to finally balance the federal budget, and later to begin an unprecedented era of budget surpluses (until the Bush Administration took a wrecking ball to their handiwork), and sound fiscal management. His work on this has helped to ensure that Democrats are now more trusted to handle economic matters than Republicans.

3) He served his Peace Corps stint in the Dominican Republic in Moncion, a tiny hamlet in the northwest part of the country. I traveled extensively in the D.R., living there between 1998 and 2000 and teaching 5th grade in Santo Domingo. But, I also lived in Santiago for awhile (the second largest city in the heart of the country), and traveled to that area up near Monte Cristi and Dajabon (the northwest crossing into Haiti). It's a fantastic, rugged country. Most folks associate it with the fine beaches, but I associate it more with the interior: miles of friendly people, rugged mountains (the highest peak in the Caribbean, Pico Duarte - Just over 7,000 feet and named for the father of the country), and backpacking everywhere. It's a wonderful travel destination if you enjoy getting off the beaten path.

You can find out more about Sen. Dodd at his Senate website.
Should be a great night for Vermont Democrats. My dad would be delighted.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Next Meeting: Wednesday, February 27th @ 6pm

All Northfield Democrats are invited to participate in the next town committee meeting at the Brown Public Library next Wednesday, February 27th from 6pm - 7:30pm.

We'll be talking about our local legislative races. Our guest will be Ben Palkowski who heads up the Vermont Democratic Party House Campaign Committee. He'll give us the low-down on progress we're making statewide, and share information about upcoming events. Together we'll discuss recruiting efforts in our district.

Hope to see you there!

Obama Wins Wisconsin/Hawaii; Field Staff Reaches Out to Vermonters

Sen. Barack Obama continues to pick up big momentum ("Obamo-mentum?"). Last night he won his tenth consecutive primary victory over Sen. Clinton by winning the crucial states of Wisconsin (a primary) and Hawaii (a caucus state).

Coincidentally, I received a friendly phone call from Obama's Washington County field organizer the other day. She asked that I post the following information for folks who want to get involved:

Please join the Obama campaign over the next two weeks to help drum up as much support for Senator Obama in Vermont, and Washington County as possible. If you are able to help out at all, from making phone calls to knocking on doors, we need you. Every vote will matter, and we're eager to have as many Obama supporters at the Primary on March 4th as possible.

We will have an office in Montpelier at 41 Elm Street, Second Floor, and a phone banking location in Montpelier as well, though we can also email you some phone calls to make from home.

If you are interested in getting involved, please contact Washington County Field Organizer, Emily Polak at (603) 521-5588 or by email at You can also check out the campaign website for news and events, here.

We're looking forward to working with you!
Note: don't be fooled by the New Hampshire exchange. Many of Sen. Obama's northeast region folks have been moving between New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont.

UPDATE: Just found out there is a "grand opening" for Obama's Montpelier office. Details below.

Montpelier Obama for America Office Opening
Thursday, February 21st - 7 pm
41 Elm St., Second Floor (Above the Soup Restaurant)

All are welcome

I have not heard from any of Clinton's people, but the Times Argus reports they are having a news conference today to kick off their efforts.

Legislative Update by Rep. Maxine Grad

My committee continues to work on a number of complicated bills, many of which I have discussed before. I am glad we are taking the time to take full testimony, and engage in a thoughtful deliberative process. Here are some highlights of what we have been working on.

H.615 Juvenile Judicial Proceedings. We continue to wrestle with many policy decisions in this bill. Here we are making decisions about when a court finds that a child is in danger, how far can the state go in removing the child from the home and determining a placement for that child, whether it is temporary or permanent.

We have therefore spent the past two weeks on definitions of terms like parent, custodial parent, noncustodial parent, parent child contact, guardian, custodian, care provider, legal custody, and residual parental rights and responsibilities.

How we define these terms needs to recognize that families are very different these days, children may have meaningful relationships with adults other than their parents who could serve as a placement instead of foster care, and while a parent may not have been involved in a child’s life and may not have custodial rights to the child, that parent may be able to play a meaningful role in that child’s life if a court determines that the child should be removed from his or her current home.

Some of the most helpful testimony was from a law enforcement officer who has handled many of these cases. As some of us pushed to require notification to a number of people when the child is removed, she reminded us that often these situations occur at 3 AM and the first order of business is to get the child or children out of the situation and away from imminent harm.

H.636 An Act Relating to Embezzlement By A Public Official. This bill was introduced in response to the unfortunate instances of embezzlement and other crimes committed by town and county officials. As first introduced, the bill focused primarily on sheriffs, due to the recent events in Washington and other counties. However, as the League of Cities and Towns and others testified, there are other town officials like town clerks and town treasurers who have been indicted for crimes and should be held accountable.

One issue we have been looking at is if a court has found probable cause of embezzlement, should the court have the authority to remove or suspend or remove the officer pending the criminal investigation. My committee concluded the court should, if it finds that permitting the officer to maintain his or her official duties will result in harm to the public. We heard testimony that these cases result in an erosion of public trust and the integrity of the municipality or county must be upheld.

The League of Cities and Towns has legislative policy that would support legislation that addresses other crimes beyond embezzlement. There is also a Senate bill that would allow a town to appoint the town treasurer instead of having the treasurer an elected position.

H.267 Industrial Hemp. This bill passed out of House Agriculture Committee and was sent to my committee for review on matters such as crimes and penalties. This bill is a good illustration of why it is important for my committee to review proposed legislation before it gets consideration by the full House.

The bill as it passed out of the Agriculture committee stated that a person with a prior felony conviction is not eligible for licensure to growing industrial hemp. We discussed if it should be any felony or just a drug related felony. Also, a felony in Vermont is a crime punishable after two years in prison, while in most states it is one. We took testimony from a member of the Agriculture committee on these issues to understand the legislative intent and create a clear legislative record on these issues.

H.617 Guardianship. We continue look at revisions to our current law on court appointed guardians. Here, our challenge is balancing personal autonomy, capacity, and health. We had the opportunity to take testimony from Representative Anne Donahue on this bill. She represents a dissenting view from the working group that drafted the bill that we have been considering. Her testimony has been very helpful is raising issues of possible discrimination in the bill as drafted and other issues that have caused us to pause, take more time and testimony to fully consider these issues. The appointment of a guardian especially in terms of involuntary medical treatment can be a serious infringement of a person’s liberties and any legislation we pass must be mindful of this.

H.352 An Act Relating to Reducing Lead hazards in Housing. This bill has gone through House Committees on Housing and General Military Affairs, Human Services, and is now in my committee. Despite the findings on high lead exposure in children and the serious adverse health effects, our health department does not support this bill.

H.397 An Act Relating to Death Certificates. Here we are balancing the privacy rights of the deceased and family members and the public’s access to information. Proponents of this bill that would remove the cause of death from death certificates as a matter of privacy. Examples we heard are is it the public’s right to know that a cause of death was a self-inflicted gun wound? Should depression be listed instead, or should that be hidden from the public? Should HIV be disclosed to the public? The bill would have the information available, put at the department of health instead of the land records. Historians, newspapers, genealogists and others have concerns about the bill and restricting access to the information.

Please stay in touch. 828-2229 or It is an honor to represent you.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Barack Star!

** Cross-posted at Mulish Behavior **

I've been remiss in not posting sooner on Sen. Barack Obama's tidal wave/tsunami/earthquake (choose your metaphor) in South Carolina. This was a victory he desperately needed - most important it showed he can take a punch (Bill's, not Hill's), absorb it, counterpunch, and win. Nice.

Obama's star is on the rise after a huge victory in South Carolina and being handed the key to Camelot by the Kennedys.

Not only did he take apart the Clinton machine in South Carolina (a stunning 55%-27% victory), but he laid claim to the Democratic establishment's mantle of leadership. The real Democrats. Remember how Bill and Hillary were the "New Democrats" (you know, the ones who "ended welfare as we knew it" and declared "the era of big government is over"?). Well, the "Old Democrats are back. And, they're back with a vengeance. Sen. Ted Kennedy (along with Caroline and Rep. Patrick Kennedy) gave perhaps the best (and most damning, as far as the Clinton's are concerned) endorsement speech of the year so far. At least that's certainly what David Brooks thought.

Obama is reaching out to Americans... and has them believing again.

Can he restore our faith in government? Kennedy's speech was good. Obama's was better. This guy is good. I'm starting to believe. See for yourself:

Letter to the Editor: Brad Denny

Great letter to the editor in yesterday's Times Argus by Brad Denny. As the primaries and town meeting day (and later on, the general election) get closer, I encourage you to do as Mr. Denny has done and take pen to paper, or keyboard to email box and send your own letter on Democratic issues or themes.


George Bush asks for perseverance from the American people. The president himself is the best evidence for our capacity to "persevere."

We have persevered through seven years of inept, misguided, dishonest and destructive policies promoted by an administration which he leads.

We have persevered through one high-sounding moralistic pronouncement after another designed to cover up the reality of policies that have had no higher purpose than securing more wealth and power for the already wealthy and the already powerful.

We have persevered through the loss of 4,000 American lives, 150,000 Iraqi lives, 10 times that number of shattering injuries, hundreds of billions of dollars in wasted war expenses and a crippling loss in American prestige and good will around the world, all in a war that has accomplished nothing and should never have been fought.

If we can persevere through seven years of George Bush as president, we can persevere through anything.

Brad Denny

Rep. Maxine Grad: Legislative Update

It has been a busy few weeks in my committee. The following is a summary of the bills we are currently working on.

H.617 Guardianship. This bill is a product of a study commission’s rewrite of our current law. The bill recognizes that people who are under guardianship, which is a court ordered relationship, are some of the most vulnerable Vermonters. It also recognizes that if a person is under guardianship, it does not mean that the individual should lose all of his or her rights. Instead, the guardian’s goal is to help the person under guardianship to maximize his or her potential and function as best as he or she can. Generally, there is consensus on this bill from the mental health advocates, legal community and administration.

The one area of disagreement is the ability of the guardian to consent to the administration of involuntary medication.

We took testimony from Judge Mary Teachout for the need for the legislature to clarify the authority of the probate and mental health courts in involuntary medication cases where the patient refuses medication but the guardian consents. This issue arose out of recent cases where Judge Teachout’s ruling had the effect that involuntary medication decision should be made by probate courts instead of the family court. The state mental health agency disagreed. According to mental health law, these cases are decided in family court. The probate courts generally do not have a role in these proceedings. There are no due process standards in probate court for making these decisions. Further, Probate court tends to defer to the wishes of the family that isn’t always consistent with patient’s.

This issue is of great concern to the mental health community. The Vermont Supreme Court recently held that involuntary medication is an even greater intrusion on a patient’s autonomy than involuntary commitment to the state hospital. We will continue to consider which court is the most appropriate.

H.203 Surviving Spouse’s Rights When There is Not a Will. Most people assume that if a person dies without a will, the surviving spouse gets everything. Currently, unless there are no kindred—i.e. cousins, kids, etc. the surviving spouse is not entitled to the whole estate, but one third. We need to recognize that seeing a lawyer for a will can be very expensive. When people do wills on their own, the wills are often not executed properly and are therefore invalid. We will continue looking at how to remedy this.

H.180 Qualifications for the Attorney General, States Attorneys, Assistant Attorney Generals and Deputy State Attorneys. Currently the attorney general does not need to be a lawyer. This bill would require it. It would also require that the other listed positions be attorneys who are licensed in Vermont. According to the Executive Director of the State’s Attorneys, “We would be crippled if we had nonlawyer state’s attorneys” given our case law. The Attorney General testified that he takes no position on whether his position should be an attorney. He said he has so many layers in his office; it would not present a problem if we continued with current law.

H.615 Juvenile Proceedings for children In Need of Supervision and Care Due to Abuse or Neglect and Delinquent Children. This is a rewrite of our juvenile laws that I have discussed in my articles before. We continue to spend each Tuesday and Thursday learning about the contents in the bill with the testimony of Administrative Judge Amy Davenport and representatives from the department for children and families and the juvenile defenders office. All of them served on the committee that proposed the bill. Here are some of the things we reviewed this week:

1. Bill changes the name of the emergency hearing where a child is taken into state custody from detention hearing to care hearing. This is a national trend that recognizes that detention is more like prison and the criminal system, which this isn’t. We noted that schools are still using the term detention for violations such as not having homework done.

2. Changed the manner a child is taken into custody—used to be always to court, but is this the best thing for a baby or small child? Is there a better place to take an infant or young child than the courthouse? The goal is to minimize trauma to child.

3. A hearing must occur within 72 hours of issuing an emergency a care order. Attorneys are appointed for the child and parents. Judge Davenport discussed the challenges of our rural areas and lack of cell reception's impact on the ability to obtain counsel ASAP.

We will continue our work on this very important issue.

We are also working on a bill that looks at when there has been embezzlement or crime committed by a municipal official or sheriff. In the next few weeks, we will take up bullying in schools and cyber bullying.

Thank you to Brenda Cruickshank for coming to the State House in her capacity as Legislative Liaison for the VFW. Ms. Cruickshank has been a mentor and advisor to me on veteran affairs.

Congratulations to the Moretown Town Hall committee for a great event on Saturday. The Town Hall is a jewel of the community. Thank you to the town and committee for its leadership in helping to p reserve this vital resource.

Please stay in touch. 496-4244 (home) or 828-2228 (State House). It is an honor to represent you.