Windsor legislators reveal top issues
Toby Talbot Photo
Senate Pro Tem John Campbell, D-Windsor, pictured at the Statehouse in 2012, is set to return when the Vermont Legislature reconvenes next week.
The Herald invited every state legislator from Vermont’s four southern counties to respond to the question, “What’s your single most important issue for 2013 and why?” Here are the answers from all the Windsor lawmakers who replied:
Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor:
The Legislature faces a myriad of significant issues this upcoming biennium, but none more important than completing the reorganization of our mental health system. For too long, the recipients of these services have been put on the back burner while the various special interest groups debate their issues. In the meantime we spin our wheels struggling to make it all come together. Not only do we have a responsibility, but we have an obligation to meet the needs of these folks.
Sen. Dick McCormack, D-Windsor:
Patient choice addresses not how to die, but who should decide — government (existing law) or individuals. Under the bill, patients decide according to their own beliefs and wishes, including the option of hastening inevitable, imminent death medically. In Oregon this has given dying people compassion, respect and peace of mind since 1997. None of the ghoulish scenarios opponents imagine have come to pass. Oregon leads in palliative and hospice care. Vermonters deserve no less.
Rep. John Bartholomew, D-Windsor-1 (Hartland, West Windsor, Windsor):
Require labeling of products made with genetically engineered ingredients. People want and have a right to know what’s in their food.
Rep. Donna Sweaney, D-Windsor-1 (Hartland, West Windsor, Windsor):
The further establishment of health care for all Vermonters. For the past year I have had the experience of billing insurance companies for a health care provider. I find insurance companies’ regulations to be cumbersome and, I believe, intentionally convoluted, all of which inflates health care costs. I believe a single payer system can work. Vermont should pursue this course and demonstrate to the rest of the country that health coverage can and should be for all citizens.
Rep. Leigh Dakin, D-Windsor-3-1 (Andover, Baltimore, Chester, Springfield):
There is still so much work to be done since the devastating arrival and then departure of Irene, including the completion of a new mental health facility and the strengthening of our outpatient services in communities throughout the state to serve the mentally ill.
Rep. Alice Emmons, D/W-Windsor-3-2 (Springfield):
Addressing gang-related issues. This issue is a sleeper out there. Many of our Vermont communities are being targeted because the gangs see a market out there. We need to identify that market because gangs are a business and they go where they can make money.
Rep. Cynthia Martin, D/W-Windsor-3-2 (Springfield):
I am always interested in promoting procedures that keep people out of prison and will continue advocating specifically for the consideration of restorative justice practices whenever possible. Additionally, an issue in which I have become interested is the labeling of products, both those that are consumed and those that are applied to the body.
Rep. Teo Zagar, D-Windsor-4-1 (Barnard, Hartford, Pomfret):
The labeling of genetically modified organisms in our food supply. GMOs are widely prevalent in the food we consume, with approximately 80 to 90 percent of all soy, corn and canola ingredients being derived from genetic engineering. Vermonters have a right to know when they are consuming food products that have been created using technology that has not been proven safe for long-term human consumption.
Rep. Sheila Vowinkel, D-Windsor-4-2 (Hartford):
Strengthening the laws that support strong families and the communities in which they live. When communities provide a safe place to live, work, attend school and retire, families feel cared for and are more likely to stay engaged with our institutions. Employment opportunities, affordable housing, quality education and mental health services are, I believe, needed to help families and children. Building strong families builds healthier communities, which creates a vital community.
Rep. Alison Clarkson, D-Windsor-5 (Plymouth, Reading, Woodstock):
Having visited 1,847 homes during the course of my “door-to-door” campaigning it seems that everyone has a different priority for the Legislature. Here is a sampling: cellphone coverage, high-speed Internet access, streamlining licenses and fees for small businesses, health care costs and coverage, drug related crime and drug addictions, speed on our highways, noise from motorcycles, property taxes, quality and cost of education, environmental protection and economic development. And a few things I’d like to accomplish: 1) Addressing the continuing challenges Tropical Storm Irene presents — especially the rise in unemployment insurance tax rates for businesses which had to stop doing business while they cleaned up and regrouped; 2) Figuring out the financing of health care reform in Vermont; and 3) Continuing my work improving and strengthening the current use program — essential to the health of Vermont’s working landscape.
Rep. Sarah Buxton, D-Windsor-Orange-1 (Royalton, Tunbridge):
The recent uptick in crime in Vermont is a red flag to budget-builders that the old adage still rings true — an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Vermonters rightfully rely on us to help keep our citizens safe and healthy. In 2013, I am committed to turning our attention to the root causes of the crimes we are experiencing — substance abuse, poverty, unmet mental health needs, isolation, and inadequate deterrence.
Rep. Margaret Cheney, D-Windsor-Orange-2 (Norwich, Sharon, Strafford, Thetford):
To help Vermonters who are vulnerable to continually rising heating costs. The price of oil and propane continues to rise for reasons beyond our control, but we have made little progress toward our statutory goal of winterizing 80,000 homes by 2020. We need an effective, low-cost way to help as many Vermonters as possible lower their heating bills, which will also lessen our greenhouse gas emissions and create jobs.
Rep. Jim Masland, D-Windsor-Orange-2 (Norwich, Sharon, Strafford, Thetford):
Against the immediate concerns about guns, violence in schools, budget shortfalls and getting the health care legislation right, my overriding concern is adapting our tax and revenue system to the realities of the 21st century. The current system is an adaptation to the economy of the 1950s, relies too heavily on the property tax, sales and an income tax that is still tied to then Bush tax cuts. The reality is that our sales tax base is being continuously eroded by online and out-of-state sales. Vermont gives away a billion dollars each year in tax credits, many of which have outlasted their usefulness. It’s time to change our tax structure such that taxes are equitable and raise adequate revenue while supporting entrepreneurs and working families that make Vermont strong.
Rep. Sandy Haas, P/D-Windsor-Rutland (Bethel, Pittsfield, Rochester, Stockbridge):
The highest priority we face every session is crafting a state budget that provides for the needs of Vermont and its citizens. As in each of the past several years, we are facing a significant gap between projected revenue and projected budget needs. After years of successive cuts, we need to assure that we do not lose further ground in protecting Vermonters and maintaining our infrastructure resources.