July 2, 2020

By John McClaughry

The news media was overflowing last month with the story that some unknown racist had left a noose hanging in the Talladega track garage assigned to NASCAR’s only black driver, Bubba Wallace.

Wallace himself didn’t raise the issue, but when it hit the front pages he lamented – not surprisingly – that such people were still on the loose inflaming racial animosities, but he wasn’t going to let it stop his career. Wallace’s fellow NASCAR drivers engaged in an on-track procession of support for Bubba. That would have been a commendable show of support for a black man threatened by sinister racists.

But meanwhile, fifteen federal agents – fifteen – descended on Talladega and with the aid of track technicians discovered in only two intense days of investigating that far from being a hate crime, the menacing noose was merely a pull rope used to pull down the overhead door, and it had been there at least since last October, long before that garage was assigned to black driver Wallace.

In short, there was nothing to this wild story, but the national news media and politicians grabbed it to illustrate their narrative that America is under assault by racism, and no desperate measure to combat it, like banishing Teddy Roosevelt’s statue from the New York Public Library, is beyond the pale.

Yes, there is unfortunately a lot of racism still in evidence, but sensationalizing false accounts doesn’t help to stamp it out.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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Rob Roper

By Rob Roper

Slavery was and is a horrible, dehumanizing institution, but to call it the United States’ “original sin” and to tear down statues and deface memorials to our founders (not to be confused with Confederate generals) is historically ignorant and dangerous. Slavery was hardly an original concept in the late 18th and 19th Century. In fact, pretty much every society since the modern version of humans evolved had slavery up until that time.

The Greeks had slaves. The Romans had slaves. The Egyptians had slaves to build the pyramids, and the Chinese had slaves to build the Wall. Vikings enslaved Saxons. Muslims enslaved Vikings. The English enslaved Irish and Scots. The Russians had serfs (potAYto, potAHto). The Incas, Mayans and Aztecs all had slavery, as did the North American native tribes. African nations had slaves themselves and sold them to European slave traders. Slavery was the norm for all 5500 or so years of recorded human history — until those crusty, old, dead, European white guys abolished it.

Western Europeans and early Americans were not unique in having slavery; they were unique in declaring the practice immoral and putting laws into effect to stamp it out. For this, despite any or even many other faults, they deserve to be celebrated. 

Ending five millennia of slavery and the healing process to follow was never going to be an immediate process, nor a smooth one. There was staunch resistance in some quarters such as the Southern United States. Europe was quicker than the US to abolish slavery, but the U.S. beat Europe to the punch in declaring innate human equality and eliminating legal class distinctions, which was also remarkable step forward in societal evolution and deserving of celebration.  

Today’s critics like to point out Thomas Jefferson and others who signed their names beneath the words in our Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” owned slaves. Hypocritical? Yeah. But the more important point is they chose and adopted the principles equality and liberty as the cornerstone upon which we built our nation. In doing so they doomed slavery to the ashbin on history. Immediately? No. But inevitably.

The principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights were the vaccine injected into the national bloodstream that killed the virus of slavery and are still at the heart of all battles for civil rights – equal treatment under the law, freedom to make a living, to worship as you choose, the right to fair trial. Without the Declaration and the Bill of Rights set down by our founders, there would be no Civil Rights movement for the simple reason that these are the civil rights marginalized groups want and deserve access to. Invalidate them, wipe them from our body politic, and then what exactly is left that we are we fighting for?

Before and during the Civil War, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln did not argue the that the concept “all men are created equal” was invalid because the people who wrote it down didn’t fully live up to the promise. The opposite. They insisted on the validity of these principles and the moral necessity of applying them to all. As did Martin Luther King. As did the suffragettes in the battle for women’s civil rights. These are the principles we both stand on and reach toward in order to do better. To be, as the preamble to the Constitution intones, “a more perfect nation.”

We’re not perfect. The legacy of slavery in the United States is real, and its impact on the lives and opportunities of Black Americans persists. But the improvements we have made over the past hundred and fifty years were because of, not despite, the principles laid out in our founding documents by the likes of Jefferson and Washington. If we want to continue to make progress into the future, we had better not toss these tools into the trash.

The United States is unique and special in history: a multi-ethnic society built upon the shared ideals of its citizens and bonded together by a common history. These ideals and history are what inspire millions of people of all races from all other parts of the globe, sometimes at great personal risk, to come here every year. If we invalidate these ideals and eradicate the history behind them, we will have destroyed our country. And replaced it with… what exactly? A collection of angry tribes that do not respect each others’ rights to liberty, equality, property rights, and fair treatment under the law?

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

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by John McClaughry

The pressure is on, in Washington and Montpelier, to take far-reaching (and long overdue) action to insofar as possible prevent future police-citizen interactions of the sort that led to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

Last Wednesday in Washington, Senate Democrats mustered 45 votes to prevent even consideration of a reform bill. That produced the familiar partisan gridlock that will likely   prevent any reform action until after the November election.

In Vermont, legislators are agreed on mandating police use of body cameras, banning potentially lethal suspect control techniques like chokeholds, and creating a better guide to use of force by police. 

Two large issues, however, remain hotly controversial: qualified immunity and police unionization. A third related issue is aggressive police enforcement of illegal possession of small amounts of controlled drugs. George Floyd had previously been found guilty and did jail time for four low level drug offenses, three of them involving a gram or less of cocaine.

As part of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, the Republican Reconstruction Congress allowed individuals (notably freedmen) to sue state and local officials, including police officers, who violated their rights. In 1967 the Supreme Court invented the doctrine of qualified immunity. Under this doctrine, police are held immune from liability unless the person whose rights they violated can show that there is a previous case in the same jurisdiction, involving the exact same facts, in which a court “clearly established” that the actions violated the constitution. That condition drastically reduced the chances of police officers being found liable for any violation of rights. 

In 2009, reports Reason’s Jacob Sullum, the Supreme Court held that federal courts can dismiss lawsuits against cops without even deciding whether they violated the plaintiff’s rights. Today, overcoming the qualified immunity roadblock has become increasingly difficult. 

This term the Supreme Courts received a bunch of petitions that provided an opportunity to revisit that doctrine. Sullum reports that “The defendants in those cases include police officers who shot a 10-year-old boy while trying to kill his dog; wrecked a woman’s home by bombarding it with tear gas grenades after she agreed to let the cops inside so they could arrest her former boyfriend; knocked out a woman and broke her collarbone by lifting her up and throwing her to the ground while responding to an erroneous report that she had been the victim of a domestic assault; and sicced a police dog on a burglary suspect who said he had already surrendered and was sitting on the ground with his hands up.”

Unfortunately, the Court, over Justice Thomas’s protest, declined to hear any of the cases seeking modification of the qualified immunity doctrine.

On a more hopeful note, on June 9 the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the trial of five West Virginia police officers could go forward. In 2013 the officers shot a schizophrenic homeless man 22 times after stopping him for walking in the street instead of on the sidewalk.  

But here’s the dilemma. Cops regularly put their lives on the line to protect and serve, in a rough world of criminals committing antisocial, violent and destructive acts. It’s a risky and demanding profession, and society owes its law enforcers some benefit of the doubt in dealing with situations that threaten the lives and property of citizens, as well of the officers themselves.

Further, it’s not possible to imagine and make detailed rules for handling an infinite variety of dangerous confrontations. Nonetheless, a code specifying what sorts of behaviors are out of bounds, intense and continuing training of  officers to stay within that boundary, and instilling an awareness of where going too far will deprive an officer of the qualified immunity shield, are important ingredients of a solution. Merely making officers and departments liable for unspecified “egregious violations” is not enough.

The other huge problem centers upon the political dynamics of a police union.  Unions are created to negotiate for salaries, benefits, and working conditions.  But an important concern of the union is to defend its members against charges of misbehavior, and minimizing troublesome outside review of a department’s practices, which laymen cannot be expected to fully understand. If there are going to be police unions – that’s another question – they must come to be alert  to what their members do, work to straighten them out where they cross the line, and ultimately discipline irresponsible officers in the union itself. 

This will be a bitter pill for many police unions to swallow; but on the other hand, purging bad cops ought to ease the consciences of the responsible union members who cherish the respect the citizens owe them for good service. It would also preserve the reputation of law enforcement in the society that relies upon that profession for public order and safety.

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John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute (www.ethanallen.org).

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Vermont is learning that starting and stopping the economy is anything but easy. The most glaring issue is that when the economy does come back, many organizations (most specifically smaller healthcare providers) will have gone extinct. Vermont’s grant writing process will salvage what it can, but far more institutional change is needed.

On June 17, the House discussed H.965, a bill for “determining whether and how much to award an applicant from the Health Care Provider Stabilization Grant Program.” Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe) questioned Rep. Anne Donahue (R-Northfield), who helped draft the legislation.

SCHEUERMANN: “It seems as though the large portion of this money is going to public hospitals, public health care systems, entities and organizations. I’m asking now about the independent providers: the dentist’s office, the independent doctors’ offices…. I really want to understand how much is available specifically for those independent providers of our healthcare services.”

DONAHUE: “You might have a very tiny budget compared to a hospital, but if 90% of your budget is gone, you are in worse situation for survival… than a large organization that’s 50% down on its revenue. (…) We think it needs to be based on the specific needs of each of the specific providers, to ensure that the ones who are in the greatest need stay open and keep delivering their essential services.”

SCHEUERMANN: “I want to make sure we manage people’s expectations, because that’s critical right now. I don’t want people to believe that we have enough grant money going around, that they’re going to be saved because that’s just not the case.”

DONAHUE: “It’s by listing out that criteria that we tried to put the parameters in place. The specific details will be the grant process that the agency (of Human Services) has to work out.”

The five criteria the Agency would use allocating grant funds are…

  1. To sustain or improve the quality of health care services that can be used during the Covid-19 emergency
  2. Responding to anticipated surges in Covid-19 cases or to prepare to meet increased needs for specific types of services (ie mental health services)
  3. To provide support services that would otherwise have been limited as a result of business disruptions caused by Covid-19 (and/or) to enable the applicant to withstand and recover from business disruptions caused by Covid-19
  4. To assist patients hurt financially by Covid-19, especially patients on Medicaid
  5. Finally, “the applicant appears capable of making appropriate and efficient use of the grant funds.”

These criteria make as much sense as can be expected. But time and time again, we’ve seen how emergency funds tend to get spent on politically favored organizations. VPR is “in good financial shape” with a $9.5 million budget “almost $2 million in reserves available.” And yet, they received $100,000 from our legislature. ‘Free money’ as they say, money that small health care providers can only dream of getting.

While Rep. Donahue and other legislators have done their best to create an even playing field for which Vermont healthcare organizations of all sizes can compete for the right to survive on state grants, independent organizations are at a significant disadvantage.

As a large organization (healthcare nonprofit or a business) grows, it must keep asking itself if that next $100 is better spent attracting new customers or buying preferential treatment at the state or federal level. Larger organizations like the UVM health network know the ins and outs of lobbying and grant writing that the smaller Vermont healthcare providers can only dream of.

And while Vermont’s Agency of Human Services will do their due diligence, there are very real limits to what the Agency’s 57 people can do with $250 million before the deadline for spending the federal funds of January 1, 2021. As both Rep. Donahue and Rep. Scheuermann stated, there isn’t enough grant money to save every healthcare provider. The best small healthcare providers can hope for is that they will get a shot at funding to save their businesses. But of the 5 criteria, only the third and fifth criteria are tangentially related to preventing a small healthcare provider from going under.

It appears that each provider will have to justify its survival by an impersonal grant writing process. In such an increasingly centralized healthcare sector, the casualties will be those who know how to provide personalized care to patients but don’t know the first thing about how to compete in the bureaucratic arena of grant writing. The victors of this political game gain more the freedom to dictate healthcare, unimpeded by competition.

Unfortunately, alternatives to such grants are few and far between- the House voted unanimously to pass the legislation. As soon as the Covid-19 emergency order hit, too many small providers (already weakened by the state’s preferential treatment to those in the UVM health network) stood ready to fall. Even a perfect grant process would not save them. When the crisis abates, the only way to ensure that the next crisis does not kill more Vermont small providers is to reduce the unnecessary regulations that cocoon Big Healthcare from innovative competitors, such as Certificate of Need (CON) laws. It is far easier for the government to destroy than to protect.

To watch the discussion in the House, click here

David Flemming is a policy analyst at the Ethan Allen Institute.

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June 24, 2020

by Rob Roper

This week we learned that two stalwart Vermont companies are cutting jobs due to the Covid-19 economic shutdown, and an iconic Vermont business is leaving the state.

Darn Tough socks announced that they are laying off 50 of their 330 workers, a 15% cut. It’s hard to conjure a more resilient, successful Vermont company than Darn Tough. They are a poster child for businesses “making it in Vermont.” Back in December, before Covid they were announcing a major expansion. Due to their military contracts Darn Tough is considered an essential business. Even this wasn’t enough to prevent this hit. If Darn Tough isn’t tough enough to handle this, who is?

Are Physicians the Canary in the Coal Mine of Medicine

National Life is one of Vermont’s largest private employers and one of our most successful. They are laying off 53 of their 800 person Vermont workforce, as well as making cuts in offices in other states. These are some of the best paying jobs in our state.

Magic Hat Brewery is hailed as a pioneer of the craft brewing industry that has become such a strong pillar of the Vermont Brand. But now the company (owned by FIFCO USA since 2014) is pulling out of Vermont and consolidating its operations in Rochester, NY. While this may have occurred without the Covid impact, why is it that when an out of state company purchases a Vermont company and decides to consolidate operations, they never do so in Vermont?

These companies aren’t the canaries in the coal mine, they’re the coal miners. If they’re struggling, imagine what’s happening throughout the rest of our economy.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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By John McClaughry

It’s crunch time for the Climate Action Network’s most urgently sought legislation: The Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). The House passed this bill (H.688) – that I earlier described as the “worst democracy-shredding bill of the past 50 years” – back in January. The Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee has been considering it remotely for a month. If it doesn’t get a Senate vote this month, the bill is dead until next year, when the climate change juggernaut will bring it in again and pull all the stops to get it passed.

Here’s what the GWSA would do. First, it recites a lot of grim United Nations pronouncements about our mounting climate emergency, if we don’t take drastic measures to rein in the alleged culprit, human-caused carbon dioxide emissions. Then it declares how much state government must force Vermonters to reduce such emissions by 2025, 2030, and 2050.

To prevent any foot-dragging by the governor that would slow Vermont’s  rush to enforced climate virtue, the GWSA bill sets up what amounts to an alternative government called the Climate Action Council and directs it to create an all-inclusive Climate Action Plan. The Council will have eight members from the Executive Branch, and 14 picked by the legislative leadership to make sure that the Governor’s eight can’t sidetrack any proposal urged by the climate action coalition that has been working hard to get the bill passed. 

The grand Climate Action Plan will instruct the Governor’s appointees, mainly the Secretary of Natural Resources, to write and enforce countless rules to control or prohibit anything and everything that contributes to CO2 emissions. Unlike legislation, where you can find out how your legislator voted and hold them accountable, the GWSA-mandated rules will never be voted on by your elected representatives. The rules will just be proclaimed, complete with fines and penalties if you don’t obey.

What if the elected head of our government, the governor, does not wish his appointees to gin up some particularly expensive, invasive, useless, or noxious rule, that would operate against the goal of affordability, especially in light of the urgent need to somehow pay down the estimated $430 million all-funds deficit projected for the approaching fiscal year? He would have to tell his appointee to forget about it. The Council’s climate warrior majority would howl that the Governor was obstructing the law. How that comes out no one knows, because in the past 243 years no legislature has every tried such a stunt.

What if the emissions reduction rules emerging from the bureaucracy appear to be too feeble to force Vermonters to give up the required amount of CO2 emissions to save the planet? The backers of the GWSA have provided for that. A key section of the bill invites ”any person” – meaning the Conservation Law Foundation – to sue the State of Vermont to get a judge to order the bureaucracy to speed  up the regulating and prohibiting.

That’s just what CLF did in Massachusetts in 2015. They used that State’s GWSA to persuade the state supreme court to instruct the Department of Environmental Protection to get cracking with sufficiently oppressive emissions regulations. And oh yes, if CLF or whoever brings the lawsuit “substantially prevails”, it gets to send to the taxpayers its bill for the legal costs for doing this service. 

No self-respecting Governor would stand for an alternative climate government accountable to his political opponents telling his or her appointees that they must move faster and harder, or face a judge’s order to wreck the state’s economy more quickly.

If this misbegotten bill makes it to the Senate floor, responsible Senators should offer amendments to require that the Climate Council make recommendations to the governor, not instruct the bureaucracy. They should move to strike out the “anybody can sue the state” provision, that includes the “make the taxpayers pay the plaintiff’s legal expenses (along with the State’s)” clause.  

They should also move to add language to specifically bar rules to regulate methane from cattle, force homeowners to switch to electric heat, further subsidize electric cars, reduce fossil fuel used in manufacturing, hospitals, schools, and municipal governments, prohibit snow machines, motor boats and ATVs, and regulate trucks that bring vital food, fuel and supplies into Vermont and haul Vermont products out to markets. 

Above all, they should require that no rule originating with this counterfeit climate government can take effect without an affirmative vote of the General Assembly. 

It’s hard to see how, four months before an election, even the most ardent climate warriors of the Senate would welcome casting roll call votes on a long list of such amendments. A far simpler and better solution: consign the democracy-shredding GWSA to a place of eternal rest, and focus on rescuing Vermont’s precarious economy from the depredations of COVID-19.

Addendum: On July 25-26 the Senate voted to pass GWSA 22-6, but stripped out the $972,000 funding needed to put the Climate Council into operation. Not one of the six Senators opposing GWSA offered a single amendment, other than two of them cosponsoring one to make sure that CLF gets its legal costs reimbursed for suing the state and “substantially prevailing”. The bill now goes back to the House for concurrence, or negotiation, when both bodies resume in August.

 – John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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June 23, 2020

by John McClaughry

The media has excitedly announced that the Trump administration took a beating at the Supreme Court, in its effort to undo  2012  Obama executive order giving  benefits to children who were brought here by their illegal immigrant parents. This is known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. 

Justice Clarence Thomas

The Court held that the Trump administration didn’t correctly follow the Administrative Procedures Act when it revoked the executive order that Obama issued without complying with the Administrative Procedures Act.

Actually a majority of both parties in Congress would be happy to legalize DACA children, who have lived here almost all of their lives. But the Democrats want to open the immigration gates and legalize DACA, while the Republicans want to tighten immigration and legalize DACA. So they can’t legalize DACA.   This is pathetic.

Personally, I’m all for legalizing the DACA children. But what Obama did was clearly illegal. In dissent, Justice Thomas wrote  “Today the majority makes the mystifying determination that this rescission of DACA was unlawful from its inception. …. So long as the agency’s determination of illegality is sound, our review should be at an end. … The majority erroneously holds that the agency is not only permitted, but required, to continue administering unlawful programs that it inherited from a previous administration.”

I couldn’t agree more. Five  Justices are telling Trump that he can’t reverse his predecessor’s illegal act. This is utterly ridiculous.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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June 19, 2020

by John McClaughry

The New England Ratepayers Association has petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to assert exclusive jurisdiction over the net metering subsidy program in Vermont and forty other states..

A supportive brief filed by the Heartland Institute explains that net metering laws require utilities to purchase excess electricity from households that have their own electricity generation source. In Vermont utilities must pay full retail price for these electricity purchases. Usually these generation sources are rooftop solar panels.

Utilities typically buy electricity wholesale or generate it on their own. As a result, the power utilities purchase from “distributed-generation” like roof-top solar panels, as opposed to centralized large power plants providing power for many customers, costs them more. Utilities then pass on these costs to other ratepayers in the form of higher prices.

In addition, managing power from rooftop solar sources and other distributed sources connected to the grid requires special equipment to regulate electricity flowing two ways. The costs of installing and maintaining this equipment under net metering laws are paid by ratepayers in general rather than the customers or companies who have installed or operate distributed generation sources. Such cost-shifting is regressive, because rooftop-solar owners have generally higher incomes than others, so lower-income ratepayers end up subsidizing higher-income customers.

The bottom line here is that the state should stop subsidizing upscale rooftop solar owners by making everybody else Py those extra costs.. I’ve been arguing for that for a long time.

— John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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June 17, 2020

by Rob Roper

The latest Vermont standardized test scores are out, and the results are not good, especially for students who have been “historically marginalized.” This is nothing new. The “achievement gap” has been persistent for decades.

In 2017, when these numbers came out, then Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcomb stated, “The achievement gaps between our vulnerable youth and students with greater privilege remain….”

Cut and paste from 2016 when she said, “Our most vulnerable youth- those living in poverty, with disabilities, from marginalized populations and who speak English as a second – continue to have test scores that are on average lower than our general population.”

Cut and paste from Holcomb’s predecessor, Armando Vilaseca, who said when he left office in 2013: “I am particularly concerned that we still have not made major progress in closing the achievement gap for students living in poverty.” Though it would be more accurate to say that our public school model has not made ANY progress in addressing this issue.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

In a 2015 report titled, Kicked Out! Unfair and Unequal Student Discipline in Vermont’s Public Schools by Vermont Legal Aid reported, “Vermont’s students with disabilities and students of color were two to three times more likely to be excluded from school through suspension and expulsion.”

The “reforms” put in place, designed to bolster a flawed system not alter it (expanding public school oversight to Pre-K, Act 46 consolidations, etc.), clearly are not working and are arguably making the problems worse. As you can see from looking at this year’s posted scores from the Agency of Education…

X.1 ~~~English scale scores~~~ X.2 X.3 ~~~Math scale scores~~~ X.4 X.5
Grade Historically marginalized Not historically marginalized Difference Historically marginalized Not historically marginalized Difference
Grade 3 2394 2459 65 2407 2470 63
Grade 4 2434 2506 72 2446 2507 61
Grade 5 2471 2550 79 2470 2541 71
Grade 6 2491 2568 77 2475 2557 82
Grade 7 2516 2598 82 2497 2582 85
Grade 8 2524 2605 81 2502 2595 93
Grade 9 2528 2616 88 2492 2583 91

… the longer marginalized populations remain in the system the larger the gap grows.

Perhaps it’s time to accept that this is a structural problem with the system. The way we provide education does not work for the most vulnerable in the system, and hasn’t worked for a long time. Forcing any child, especially those from marginalized groups, into a system that, as the evidence repeatedly shows, does not work for them is a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

According to a VT Digger article, “Bill Mathis, the managing director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, said that both the age of the scores, and the fact that they largely reflected longstanding and stubborn achievement gaps, suggested that they offered little insight into what is working or not in Vermont’s schools. ‘The ball game is socio economics,’ said Mathis, who also sits on (but was not speaking for) the State Board of Education. ‘You’re measuring socio economics more so than the quality of the school.’”

In any other context this would be derided as a “dog whistle.”

Stop Police Terror D.C. Project organizer Sean Blackmon said in a June 9 NPR story regarding policing reforms, “We keep seeing a massive investment into the D.C. police even though policing isn’t working. I mean, homicides are going up in Washington, D.C. So, we have to ask ourselves, why does money keep going to an institution, an agency that is clearly not working?”

The same could be said of the Vermont public school system. And should be.

— Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute

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June 18, 2020

By David Flemming

On June 11, the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance held a webinar to discuss a bill “establish(ing) a task force to study and consider a State apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery. Vermont lawmakers remain SILENT on the matter, despite the national racial unrest.”

VRJA asked attendees of the webinar to read H.478, a bill aptly titled “an act relating to establishing a task force to study and consider a State apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery.” It has 6 sponsors:  Rep. Brian Cina (P-Burlington), Rep. Kevin Christie (D-Hartford), Rep. Selene Colburn (D-Burlington), Rep. Harold “Hal” Colston (D-Winooski), Rep. Mari Cordes (D/P-Lincoln), and Rep. Diana Gonzalez (P-Winooski).

H.478 would “recommend (four) appropriate remedies in consideration of the Task Force’s findings on the matters described in this section:”

1. “How the injuries resulting from matters described in this section can be reversed (?) and provide appropriate policies, programs, projects, and recommendations for the purpose of reversing the injuries”

2. “How, in consideration of the Task Force’s findings, any form of compensation to the descendants of enslaved Africans is calculated”

3. “What form of compensation should be awarded, through what instrumentalities, and who (indeed!) should be eligible for such compensation.”

4. “How, in consideration of the Task Force’s findings, any other forms of rehabilitation or restitution to African descendants is warranted and what the form and scope of those measures should take.”

The Task Force would consist of 11 members, 3 appointed by the Governor, 4 by the Senate Committee on Committees, and 4 by the Speaker of the House. “At minimum, 4 appointees shall represent major civil society and reparations organizations that have historically championed the cause of reparatory justice, including the NAACP, Justice For All, and Black Lives Matter.”

It’s no surprise that legislators have “remained silent” the bill, letting it languish in the Government Operations committee since February 27. After all, Governor Scott declared a state of emergency on March 13. Even before Covid-19 wrecked Vermont’s economy, the idea had questionable merit. Now that Black Lives Matter has become a lead headline, the bill is likely to receive renewed consideration.

David Flemming is a policy analyst at the Ethan Allen Institute.

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