by Rob Roper
Tuesday afternoon, during the second reading of the Energy bill (H.56), Republicans offered an amendment to kill a 55 cent fee that would appear on every electric bill for every meter in the state. Many Republicans took to the floor to make strong arguments in support of their case. No matter. Democrats were told to vote for the fee, and they succeeded in killing the amendment 99-39.
Fast forward less than 24 hours. A reporter asks Governor Peter Shumlin if he considers the electric bill fee to be a “broad based tax,” something Shumlin has promised he would not support. Although Shumlin said he did not consider the fee to be a broad based tax (then what is?!), he fired a shot at the fee, “Nothing becomes law unless the governor signs it.” And he indicated he had another idea “not ready for prime time” for raising the money needed for the Clean Energy Fund.
Shortly after, on the third and final reading of the energy bill, the House Natural Resources committee put forward an amendment (awfully similar to the one put forward by Republicans the day before) striking the 55 cent fee from the bill. This time it passed 139-0.
So, the good news is Vermont rate payers will not be “screwed” after all. (At least not in this one particular case. God knows what Shumlin’s idea will turn out to be.)
However, what is alarming is how disengaged the brains of these supermajority legislators are. They’re told to vote for the tax, they vote for it. They’re told to vote against the same tax, they vote against it. Where is the individual thinking here? How is this representing the interests of constituents, or governing on principle?
The same attitudes are at play on many other bills that intimately affect every Vermonter, not the least of which is the single payer health care bill. Nobody can answer any questions about this bill. Nobody knows how it will work, or how it will be funded. They can’t tell you how much it will cost or how much it will buy. But, they all voted for it in the House, and are moving in that direction in the Senate.
Let the clerk call the roll, “All those in favor of the bill say, ‘Bahhh.'”