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Journal of the House

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TUESDAY, APRIL 8, 2008

At ten o'clock in the forenoon the Speaker called the House to order.

Devotional Exercises

Devotional exercises were conducted by Representative Daryl Pillsbury of Brattleboro, VT.

Pledge of Allegiance

Page Victoria DeLuca of Williston led the House in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Message from Governor

A message was received from His Excellency, the Governor, by Ms. Dennise Casey, Secretary of Civil and Military Affairs, as follows:

Madam Speaker:

I am directed by the Governor to inform the House that on the fourth day of April, 2008, he approved and signed bills originating in the House of the following title:

H. 557    An act relating to postponing the sunset of the Fish and                                                          Wildlife Board’s authority to adopt rules regulating the deer                                   herd

H. 788    An act relating to awarding moose permits to Vermont                                                           veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq

House Resolution Referred to Committee

H.R. 33

Reps. Marek of Newfane, Ancel of Calais, Aswad of Burlington, Barnard of Richmond, Chen of Mendon, Cheney of Norwich, Clarkson of Woodstock, Courcelle of Rutland City, Deen of Westminster, Evans of Essex, Fisher of Lincoln, Frank of Underhill, French of Randolph, Godin of Milton, Grad of Moretown, Haas of Rochester, Heath of Westford, Hunt of Essex, Hutchinson of Randolph, Jerman of Essex, Jewett of Ripton, Kitzmiller of Montpelier, Klein of East Montpelier, Kupersmith of S. Burlington, Larson of Burlington, Lenes of Shelburne, Lippert of Hinesburg, Martin of Springfield, Masland of Thetford, McCormack of Rutland City, McCullough of Williston, Milkey of Brattleboro, Minter of Waterbury, Mitchell of Barnard, Moran of Wardsboro, Mrowicki of Putney, Nuovo of Middlebury, Obuchowski of Rockingham, Ojibway of Hartford, Pellett of Chester, Shand of Weathersfield, Smith of Morristown, Spengler of Colchester, Stevens of Shoreham, Sweaney of Windsor, Weston of Burlington and Zuckerman of Burlington offered a House resolution, entitled

House resolution expressing strong opposition to and urging effective and immediate congressional action to stop human rights violations by the government of the People’s Republic of China’s human rights violations in the geographic area known as Tibet;

Whereas, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted on December 10, 1948; and that has been reaffirmed by all United Nations member states provides in part:

Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.”

Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Article 9.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”

Article 15.

(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.

(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.”

Article 17.

(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.”

Article 20.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.”

Article 21.

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.

(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.

(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”

Article 30.

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein,” and

Whereas, the international Convention On Human Rights indicates in its preamble that disregard and contempt for human rights deserves condemnation by the international community when it results in barbarous acts which outrage the conscience of mankind, and prevent or delay the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from want and fear, and

Whereas the UN Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1993/77, entitled “Forced Evictions” states, “the practice of forced evictions constitutes a gross violation of human rights,” and

Whereas, the Chinese government has forced both Tibetan natives and Han Chinese to relocate in direct violation of both Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the UN Commission on Human Rights Resolution 1993/77 and

Whereas, the barbarous acts of the government of the People’s Republic of China, within the area known as Tibet, have jolted and continue to jolt the conscience of mankind, now therefore be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives:

That this legislative body expresses its strong opposition to the government of the People’s Republic of China’s fundamental human rights violations in the geographic area known as Tibet, and be it further

Resolved:  That this legislative body urges Congress to take effective and immediate action to stop these fundamental human rights violations, and be it further

Resolved:  That the clerk of the house be directed to send a copy of this resolution to the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to the United States, to the International Campaign for Tibet, and to the Vermont Congressional Delegation.

Which was read and referred to the committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs.

Bill Amended; Third Reading Ordered

H. 230

Rep. Manwaring of Wilmington, for the committee on Government Operations, to which had been referred House bill, entitled

An act relating to legislative appointments to the human rights commission;

Reported in favor of its passage when amended by striking all after the enacting clause and inserting in lieu thereof the following:

Sec. 1.  9 V.S.A. § 4551 is amended to read:

§ 4551. HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION; MEMBERS; COMPENSATION

* * *

(c) A member of the commission whose term has expired or who resigned during a term shall be eligible to act as an alternate at the request of the executive director of the commission if necessary to convene a quorum of the commission to act upon complaints pursuant to section 4554 of this title.  An alternate shall only participate in the consideration of complaints at meetings attended and shall not be involved in setting the policies of the commission. 

(d) Each member of the commission, including an alternate who is called to act, shall receive compensation as provided by 32 V.S.A. § 1010 with a maximum of $1,000.00 a year, and shall be entitled to expenses actually and necessarily incurred in the performance of his or her duties.

(d)(e) Three members of the commission shall constitute a quorum.

Rep. Keenan of St. Albans City, for the committee on Appropriations, recommended the bill ought to pass when amended as recommended by the committee on Government Operations.

The bill, having appeared on the Calendar one day for notice, was taken up, read the second time, report of the committees on Government Operations and Appropriations agreed to and third reading ordered.

 

 

Favorable Report; Third Reading Ordered; Rules Suspended;

Bill Read Third Time and Passed; Rules Suspended and

Bill Messaged to Senate Forthwith

H. 876

Rep. Martin of Wolcott, for the committee on Government Operations, to which had been referred House bill, entitled

An act relating to approval of amendment to the charter of the town of Middlebury;

Reported in favor of its passage. 

Rep. Aswad of Burlington, for the committee on Ways and Means, reported in favor of its passage. 

The bill, having appeared on the Calendar one day for notice, was taken up, read the second time and third reading ordered.

On motion of Rep. Adams of Hartland, the rules were suspended and the bill placed on all remaining stages of passage.  The bill was read the third time and passed and, on motion of Rep. Adams of Hartland the rules were suspended and the bill was ordered messaged to the Senate forthwith.

     Joint Resolution Committed to Committee

J.R.S. 60

Joint resolution, entitled

Joint resolution requesting the Attorney General of Vermont to initiate legal action on behalf of the state and its citizens to seek reimbursement for the costs of illegal price-fixing, price-gouging, and conspiracy to restrain trade in retail gasoline and diesel fuel;

Was taken up and pending the question, Shall the resolution be adopted? Rep Adams of Hartland moved to commit the resolution to the committee on Commerce.

Pending the question, Shall the House commit the resolution to the committee on Commerce? Rep. Adams of Hartland demanded the Yeas and Nays, which demand was sustained by the Constitutional number.

Thereupon, Rep. Adams of Hartland asked and was granted leave of the House to withdraw his request for a roll call vote and the resolution was committed to the committee on Commerce.

 

 

Message from the Senate No. 50

     A message was received from the Senate by Mr. Marshall, its Assistant Secretary, as follows:

Madam Speaker:

I am directed to inform the House that the Senate has on its part passed Senate bills of the following titles:

S. 350.  An act relating to energy independence and economic prosperity.

S. 371.  An act relating to the creation of an agency of education and the elimination of the state board of education.

In the passage of which the concurrence of the House is requested.

The Senate has considered a bill originating in the House of the following title:

H. 859.  An act relating to increasing substance abuse treatment, vocational training, and transitional housing for offenders in order to reduce recidivism, increase public safety and reduce corrections costs.

And has passed the same in concurrence with proposals of amendment in the adoption of which the concurrence of the House is requested.

The Senate has considered House proposal of amendment to Senate bill of the following title:

S. 280.  An act relating to prosthetic parity.

     And has concurred therein.

The Governor has informed the Senate that on the fourth day of April, 2008, he returned without signature and vetoed bills originating in the Senate of the following titles:

S. 108.  An act relating to the election of U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator by the instant runoff voting method.

S. 278.  An act relating to financing campaigns.

Governor’s Veto Letter; S. 108

“April 4, 2008

The Honorable David A. Gibson

Secretary of the Senate

State House

115 State St., Drawer 33

Montpelier, VT 05633

Dear Mr. Secretary:

     Pursuant to Chapter II, Section 11 of the Vermont Constitution, I am returning S. 108, An Act Relating to the Election of U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator by the Instant Runoff Voting Method, without my signature because of objections described herein.

     There are serious flaws with this proposal to alter Vermont's system of elections. This system has served the people of Vermont well for more than 200 years and is one I had the privilege of administering for a dozen years as Secretary of State.

     This bill circumvents the fundamental democratic principle of one person, one vote. That is entirely unacceptable. The authors of our Constitution applied this standard — compelling each voter to choose the candidate for each office that she or he deems most qualified — to ensure that elections are in fact a clear choice.

     The Attorney General's office has confirmed in a formal, written opinion that attempts to amend the law in order to apply the so called Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) process to races for Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Treasurer would, in fact, be unconstitutional. While S. 108 would apply to the election of our U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator, this does not render the attempt to legislatively impose IRV democratically sound.

     Our state Constitution provides a clear and effective mechanism for changes to its provisions. Voter approval, through the process set forth in our Constitution for its amendment, necessitates a statewide ballot that includes the voices of all Vermonters. If the Legislature proposes to fundamentally alter our election process, this is the procedure Vermont should follow.

     Moreover, voters should not be asked to cast their ballots based on a wide range of hypothetical, theoretical or imaginary outcomes. Elections have always been, and ought to remain, contests among individual candidates and their ideas. Voters have always, and should continue to, cast their constitutionally protected vote for the individual for each office they believe would best serve Vermont.

     In addition, the process offered by this bill cannot result in a candidate being the top choice of a majority of voters. It is mathematically impossible for the candidate chosen by the IRV process to receive a majority of first votes cast. In other words, use of an IRV system requires a significant number of second and third choices — not the voter's real choice — to be counted. It is therefore not valid to conclude, as the advocates and special interests do, that the winner of an IRV election would receive a majority of the vote.

     Finally, this system would undoubtedly lead to backroom deal making between candidates who urge supporters to vote for or against a second choice candidate if no one receives a majority. This would erode public confidence in the process.

     This proposal would cause a deterioration of our time tested, democratic and egalitarian electoral process. The current system has served the people of Vermont well for more than 200 years. There is no basis to make the democratically unsound change this bill proposes.

Sincerely,

/s/James H. Douglas

Governor”

Governor’s Veto Letter; S. 278

“April 4, 2008

The Honorable David A. Gibson

Secretary of the Senate

State House

115 State St., Drawer 33

Montpelier, VT 05633

Dear Mr. Secretary:

     Pursuant to Chapter II, Section 11 of the Vermont Constitution, I am returning S. 278, An Act Relating to Financing Campaigns, without my signature because of objections described herein.

     I was optimistic that after last year's veto we could come together to craft meaningful campaign finance legislation that establishes reasonable and responsible limits on contributions to candidates for public office — limits that do not favor incumbents whose advantage over challengers is undeniable. It is with great disappointment that I am unable to support this legislation because it does not address the flaws contained in last year's bill.

     I continue to support campaign finance laws that do not advantage incumbents and that set reasonable contribution limits, establish timely and transparent reporting requirements and reflect Vermont's values and commitment to free speech. This bill still contains among its flaws a provision that would restrict political party contributions and therefore allow our elections to be controlled by outside special interests. I cannot allow that to happen.

     After hearing from lawmakers that they wished to have my administration more directly involved during this session, I answered that request. While I have expressed a number of concerns with this legislation, I focused on two of the most problematic provisions. Unfortunately, the area of greatest concern — the limits on party contributions to candidates — was not addressed and remains at the core of my objection to this bill.

     The proposed party contribution limits extend unfair political protection to incumbents by establishing an obstacle for challengers. These limits would particularly disadvantage potential candidates of modest means who are unable to fund their own campaigns. Vermonters want and expect real reforms that ensure a truly level playing field for incumbents and challengers alike — a fundamental component of democracy. This bill falls short of meeting that goal.

     I had the privilege to serve as Secretary of State – Vermont's top election official – for 12 years and understand well the impacts of our election laws. While this bill does not directly affect me as a candidate for Governor, it would have unfair consequences for other candidates, especially those for the Legislature. Because of my continued commitment to protecting our election process, I cannot support this bill.

     I am proud that Vermonters run clean, honest and transparent elections. This bill would undermine that tradition by limiting party involvement and encouraging the swift proliferation of special interest political action committees (PACs). PACs, by design, represent special interests. Political parties, however, are the very framework around which individuals of similar political beliefs can work together toward a common goal, a common good. Unfortunately, this bill favors the special interest over the common good. It has the regrettable distinction of being influenced by special interest groups with their own self-interest and not the public's interest in mind.

     One of the bill's findings states that "in Vermont, campaign expenditures by persons who are not candidates have been increasing and public confidence is eroded when unidentified expenditures are made, particularly during the final days of a campaign." The proposed limits on the activity of parties would not lessen the amount of money spent in a particular race. Instead it would create a vacuum that candidates themselves would be unable to fill. The result would be the empowerment of special interest groups who are poised to fill this void. Their independent actions, fundraising and expenditures without the input, and worse, without the approval of the candidate, are unlimited. This provision would ensure that these well financed, often out-of-state, organizations to run more attack ads and make more independent expenditures than ever before.

     An election system once predominantly financed and organized by Vermonters would be influenced more significantly by special interest PACs. No candidate should be at the mercy of these groups. I do not believe that the voice of a candidate should be drowned out by the noise of special interests.

     While I make no determination as to the constitutionality of S. 278, like the law rejected as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States, we can expect that it would be challenged. In fact, the winning attorney in Randall v. Sorrell has testified that this bill contains provisions that – in his legal opinion – are most certainly unconstitutional and would result in a challenge. The previous lawsuit took ten years to resolve in court and cost taxpayers nearly $1.5 million in fees to the prevailing attorneys alone. It is only prudent that as we face challenging economic times we not ignore the possible fiscal impacts of legislation we consider.

     I do not believe this is the direction Vermonters want to move in or what anyone except the special interests themselves would consider reform. I again extend to the Legislature my commitment to establish campaign finance standards that are fair and enhance transparency.

Sincerely,

/s/James H. Douglas

Governor”

Adjournment

At eleven o’clock in the forenoon, on motion of Rep. Komline of Dorset, the House adjourned until tomorrow at one o’clock in the afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us