Saturday, July 17, 2010

Northfield Democrats Caucus and Candidate Meet and Greet - July 21st

Northfield Democrats will caucus Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at the Brown Public Library from 7-9pm in order to nominate candidates for Justice of the Peace.

In addition to the caucus and selection of a slate of JP candidates, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Dunne will meet with Northfield Democrats. The meeting is free and open to local Democrats. The Northfield Democrats encourage Democrats wanting to hear more from the various gubernatorial and state senate candidates to attend this and other upcoming meetings.

"If you haven't made up your mind about which candidate to support, now is the time to kick the tires and hear what the primary candidates have to say," said Christopher Curtis, Chair of the Northfield Democrats. "We're pleased to have Matt Dunne, and any of the other gubernatorial candidates, come to Northfield to share their plans for Vermont," said Curtis. "Democrats are lucky to have five incredibly well-qualified candidates running for Governor this year," he said.

The local Democratic committee will also meet Wednesday, August 4, 2010 from 7-9 pm at the Brown Public Library. Most of the Democratic primary candidates for Washington County state senate have indicated they will attend either the July or August meeting. Democrats in Washington County have a 5-way primary for 3 seats. Incumbent Sen. Ann Cummings is running for re-election. The other Democratic candidates are Kim Cheney, Laura Moore, Donny Osman, and Anthony Pollina.

"The other really exciting race is for state senate in Washington County," Curtis said. "Democrats have a great slate to offer to try to maintain a Democratic seat and pick up an open seat this year, in addition to competing for the other Republican seat," he said. County senate hopefuls Anthony Pollina and Donny Osman are expected to be at the July meeting, Laura Moore will attend the August meeting. Kim Cheney met with the Northfield Democrats in June. "Because we are running such a strong slate of Democrats for state senate, we're very optimistic about our chances to pick up seats in Washington County," Curtis said.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Public Assets Institute Presents "Looking Beyond the Recession" in Northfield

The Public Assets Institute (PAI) will present "Looking Beyond the Recession," an analysis of Vermont’s budget picture on Wednesday, April 7, 2010 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Kreitzberg Library (Community Room) of Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont. The presentation by Paul Cillo, President of PAI looks at the current budget crisis, what future budgets may look like, and offers a balanced perspective on how Vermont can move toward a sustainable economic future using data and projections gathered from the Joint Fiscal Office, the Vermont legislature, and others.

"The economic crisis means many more Vermont families are struggling while the state’s ability to help them shrinks,” said Mr. Cillo. “The immediate crisis comes on top of decades of economic changes that make it increasingly difficulty to produce balanced budgets that meet Vermonters' needs," he said. “Our goal is to raise Vermonters’ awareness about the state's budget options so we can have a state that works for all Vermonters.”

Paul Cillo is the founder and president of the Public Assets Institute. He has been active in public policy work for over thirty years, as a local and state political representative, consultant on health care, education finance, and other tax and budget issues; and on energy efficiency. He represented Hardwick, Walden, and Stannard in the Vermont House of Representatives for ten years, serving four years on the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee and four as Majority Leader. During those years he designed and led the Legislature to adopt a groundbreaking education financing system that equalizes opportunity for all Vermont children, regardless of where they live.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Town Meeting Day: Budgets and Brownies Popular

Northfield Democrats successfully organized the 2nd Annual Bake Sale to benefit CERV. Together, we raised over $120 in small cash contributions in addition to canned or non-perishable food items we collected. It's a fun and easy way to help our local food shelf. A big thank you to everyone who helped make it happen!

The Times Argus reported the news, but it bears repeating: for the second year in a row, our school budget passed the first time out. This is great news for the district. The school board has worked diligently to keep costs low and the budget in line. The budget passed by an almost 2-to-1 margin (552 - 307). Other items that passed included the town's spending plan ($2.2 million), and an increase in the percentage of voters required to rescind a school budget vote (from 5% to 10%). There were no contested races.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Rep. Maxine Grad - Legislative Update

Legislative Update 2.14.10

I had the honor and pleasure to visit with Doreen Allen and Wendy Rea of the Merchants Bank during their State House visit on Bankers Day. I was pleased to be able to discuss the foreclosure bill I am working on and learn their perspective on this very troubling situation.

House Judiciary Committee Work:

H.470 Judicial Restructuring: We are continuing our work on court restructuring. Our Supreme Court Chief Justice gave very impassioned testimony regarding the urgency of the judiciary’s budget crisis. I asked him if the restructuring is good policy that will create on-going savings, better delivery of services and access to justice. We wanted to know if the current budget crisis aside, would he still recommend such restructuring. He said he would. My committee is getting close to formulating a proposal that will meet the required current financial savings, be fiscally responsible in years to come and meet the judiciary’s constitutional obligation of access to justice.

H.530 Foreclosure. We are continuing to look at the foreclosure problem in Vermont. In 2009 there were 1924 primary residence foreclosures. Many of these could have been prevented if third party, out of state servicers complied with the new federal program that requires a calculation to be done to see if payments could be modified.

We heard testimony by the state agency of Banking Insurance Securities and Health Care Administration (BISHCA) that these foreclosures for the most part are a “true total meltdown of the system”. There is “complete mayhem in the servicers’ world due to lay-offs and turnover”.

Our Vermont banks are doing an excellent job working with their customers. They are not at the heart of these cases. However, with the exception of the Merchants Bank, all of the banks sell their mortgages. At that point, it is between the homeowner and the servicer. We heard testimony that it is virtually impossible for homeowners or even other lending institutions to get in touch with the correct servicer and have it and the homeowners come to the table to consider if a modification is possible.

BISHCA’s representative stated that he has a weekly phone conference with every other state to try to sort this out. He suggested to us that we “don’t put anything on the shelf” in terms of legislation, but to keep working to see if we can find a solution that will keep folks in their homes, while protecting the banking and lending industries’ interests.

Highway Safety

I appreciate hearing from a number of you on highway safety issues. Many of you heard me on VPR's Vermont Edition talking about the House and Senates’ positions regarding doing just a ban on texting or going further by passing legislation regarding cell phones, nighttime curfews for junior operators (16 and 17 yr olds) and increasing seatbelt use. My committee and the House are committed to a comprehensive approach, like the one we passed last year that the Senate has rejected. While I am glad the Senate passed a ban on texting, it is only part of the larger problem. Data shows that cell phone use quadruples a driver’s risk of a crash. Youth are over-represented 2:1 in crashes, yet are a much smaller portion of the driving population. Each year highway crashes cost Vermont 234 million dollars in Medicaid, emergency services, law enforcement, and other programs and

H.363 DUI: Ignition interlock devices. We are continuing to review the use of this technology as part of DUI sentencing. This bill raised questions about our laws on forfeiture and immobilization of motor vehicles. Law enforcement testified that the law became very expensive for the state to enforce, and wasn’t of much value. While it did get cars off the road, forfeited vehicles had liens on them or had very little value, making prosecution in the end more costly to the state. Also, law enforcement found it expensive and difficult to remove and store impounded vehicles.
I am hopeful that we can craft legislation requiring the use of ignition interlock devices.

Other Legislative Issues:
New Law Regarding The Amount Of Lead In Plumbing Fixtures, Pipe & Solder. Thank you to my constituent who contacted me regarding the confusion in the new lead law. Apparently, the department of public service (DPS) sent out a letter that was confusing to many in the plumbing industry. I contacted an attorney at the state house about this issue. After consultation with the Attorney General’s office, DPS revised it’s website. It states:
“Effective January 1, 2010, a new law (known as “Act 193”) restricting the sale or use of plumbing fixtures, pipes and solder, with lead amounts that are above the new limits applies in all plumbing fixtures which convey or distribute water for human consumption (i.e. water that is used for cooking or drinking). The restrictions of Act 193 apply in all buildings, even those buildings not covered by the Plumbing Rules.
The Vermont Attorney General’s Office has issued guidance on Act 193 and lead in plumbing supplies:

Vermont Yankee (VY):

I have received many emails and calls expressing concern over the current situation at Vermont Yankee. Many of you asked what authority the state has regarding VY. A vote by the legislature would be whether to extend VY’s license beyond 2012. The federal government has most of the authority. The state does have some however. As always, the legislature has the authority to monitor the situation and work with our federal delegation.

The following is testimony from Vermont Health Commissioner Davis:

"We have the authority to ask the plant to takes action if our allowances are exceeded, that’s the best way to state it…we have the authority to ask for that suite of steps be taken in order to take what is prudent caution as a response to new information....We make active effort to keep town health officers informed, engaged and up to date on information.......our authority lies in reference to the allowable limits that are provided in the radiological rules.”

Other legislative action: The House Natural Resources and Energy Committee continues to receive updates about the tritium leaks at Vermont Yankee from the Vermont Department of Health, the Department of Public Service. Last week, it heard from the NRC and the EPA in a joint hearing with Senate Natural Resources and House Fish Wildlife & Water Resources. The Health Department, Agency of Natural Resources, and VY employees are working around the clock (with their services paid for by Entergy) to monitor tritium levels on-site and try to locate the source of the leak or leaks. In phone testimony from the NRC and EPA, the committee learned that neither agency is likely to take any action or assume direct responsibility at this time. Testing does show tritium levels rising, though not yet in drinking water wells.

I have been told that here are daily conference calls between our Congressmen, House and Senate leadership and others with the National Regulatory Commission to monitor the situation.

Please stay in touch:; 828-2228 (State House); 496-7667 (home).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Next Meeting: Saturday, Jan. 23rd at 9:00 am (Village PIzza)

Join us to talk about plans for town meeting day, updates on the state budget, and other announcements/plans/ideas for the months leading up to election day 2010!

At the holiday party/December meeting we agreed to hold another fundraiser/bakesale for CERV at town meeting day.

Please come to Village Pizza (formerly the Red Kettle - and yes, they serve breakfast) this Saturday, January 23 @ 9:00 am. Come for breakfast, a cup of coffee, or just to catch up. I don't expect the meeting to take longer than an hour. Hope to see you then.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Updates on Race for Vermont Governor

Recently 200 Vermonters turned out in Windsor County for a Democratic candidate's forum in Hartland, Vermont. You can read about the forum here. This is great news for Vermont Democrats and shows the level of enthusiasm for all the excellent candidates we have to choose from.

But, it got me thinking that I should put together a brief synopsis on what our candidates have been up to recently. This is not exhaustive (check their respective websites for scheduled events and more details). But, here is at least a cursory effort to provide you with one-stop shopping with respect to the latest from Vermont's Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls (in alphabetical order):

Sen. Susan Bartlett is promoting "Challenges for Change" on Green Mountain Daily. Read her post here. This is the plan put together by consultants and promoted by Gov. Douglas, Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, and House Speaker Shap Smith. The goal is to save $38 million in Vermont's budget through streamlining and efficiency measures. Is it possible? You decide. You can read the report here. More information at the website:

Former Senator Matt Dunne wrote recent articles on Vermont Yankee and has an op-ed reflecting on Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the importance of community service in today's Burlington Free Press: Honor King With Service. He will be doing community service work at CEDO sites in Burlington on Monday. More information at the website:

Secretary of State Deb Markowitz was endorsed by Emily's List and is promoting a fundraiser directed to her supporters. She has also been active on the issue of moving Vermont's primary election date. More information at the website:

Sen. Doug Racine worked with his House committee counterparts to convene a public hearing on health care reform. Over 400 Vermonters turned out last week to Vermont's statehouse to make their views known on this issue. You can read about it in the Times Argus and VPR. He's also formally kicking off his campaign on Saturday, January 23, 2010 at various sites around Vermont. More information at the website:

Sen. Peter Shumlin has been in the news with respect to the latest revelations about Vermont Yankee, and told over 100 marchers opposing Vermont Yankee relicensing that he opposes relicensing it if it comes to a vote this year. He was also present for the unveiling of the "Challenges for Change" report referenced above. More information at the website:

** Also, there was news about the Douglas Administration's efforts to allow ATV's onto state lands. At a recent candidate's forum before VASA, the sports group representing ATV riders, Senators Bartlett, Racine, and Shumlin all made statements on the issue (Sec. of State Markowitz and former Sen. Dunne were unavailable, or did not appear) - all opposed the way the Douglas Administration is attempting to implement a rule change to allow ATV's on state lands. Sen. Shumlin flatly opposed allowing ATVs on state lands. Senators Bartlett and Racine said they might be open to limited ridership, but not the way the Administration has proposed. You can read the article here, and an editorial on the issue, here.

Finally, a word about the presumptive Republican nominee, Brian Dubie. Apparently, he's kicked off something he's calling a "Jobs Tour" to kickstart his campaign. It's good that the Republicans are trying to figure out how to create jobs. After seven years holding the Governor's office, they have failed on their promise of providing jobs or a positive economic climate. Don't forget the Douglas-Dubie team were prime cheerleaders of the failed economic policies of the Bush Administration that squandered the budget surpluses left by the Clinton Administration. Maybe Dubie's effort would be more appropriately called a "Jobless" Tour?