Stowe rep pushes ethics bill modeled after CFV proposal

Vermont is one of three states that does not require public officials to disclose financial information, and it is one of eight states that does not have an ethics commission, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

While ethics policies are standard elsewhere, state officials have long maintained such rules aren’t necessary because Vermont has a citizen Legislature that is unusually accessible to the public.

Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, disagrees with the conventional wisdom.

Reps. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, and Paul Ralston, D-Middlebury, have proposed a new economic development strategy to grow business within the state. Photo by Hilary Niles/VTDigger

Reps. Heidi Scheuermann, R-Stowe, and Paul Ralston, D-Middlebury. Photo by Hilary Niles/VTDigger

“Just because our state is small, and we’re very accessible to our constituents doesn’t mean that transparency and accountability are there,” Scheuermann said. “I’m not accusing anyone of anything but I think it’s important. Even the perception of a conflict of interest can be reality. In politics, perception is reality. That perception or true conflict should be considered.”

Scheuermann wants to see the General Assembly adopt guidelines for ethical behavior that would establish strict rules of conduct for lawmakers, statewide officeholders and appointed officials. Her bill, H.846, also includes the formation of a Vermont Ethics Commission.

H.846, is sponsored by 23 other lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, and it is modeled after a proposal floated by Campaign for Vermont, a 501c4 advocacy group that has been critical of the Democratically controlled Legislature.

Scheuermann’s bill would address the “revolving door” phenomenon in which state officials leave public office to lobby on behalf of unions and corporations, or work for the very entities they once regulated. Several recent examples include Vince Illuzzi, the longtime senator from Essex County who lobbied for the Vermont State Employees Association nine months after he left office, and Karen Marshall, who led the governor’s ConnectVT initiative and then left to work for VTel, a broadband company in Springfield.

Under the proposal, an official who has served as an elected official or appointee would be restricted from appearing before the Legislature for a two-year period.

Certain conduct for current officeholders and appointees would also be prohibited, including: use of a position to secure special privileges; personal use of state property; any action taken in which the official has a conflict of interest; actions that “materially advance” the interests of a potential employer; the solicitation of favors, gifts or trips; and stock trades or business transactions based on privileged information gained from service in the Legislature.

An official who is charged with regulating a company would not be allowed to conduct business with that entity.

The policy would apply equally to representatives, agency secretaries, appointees of the governor and the governor himself. Though Gov. Peter Shumlin signed an executive branch order establishing a code of conduct it applies only to appointees of the governor.

H.846 also creates a five-member Vermont Ethics Commission that would have the authority to investigate violation complaints, complete with subpoena power. The commission’s findings would not be subject to Vermont’s Public Records Act. Annual reports about the number of complaints and investigations would be made available to the public.

The civil penalty for violating the code of conduct would be as much as $10,000 per violation. An official would also be responsible for reasonable attorneys fees associated with enforcement.

Scheuermann says this component of the bill is important because currently when there is a question about conduct in the Statehouse there is no one to go to. “If we did think there was some impropriety or something not above board there’s no place to go to say anything or have an inquiry,” Scheuermann said.

The financial disclosure language in the draft now circulating in the House Government Operations Committee is not likely to survive the cutting room floor. Scheuermann says she doesn’t oppose pulling the provision, which currently requires all officials to disclose the name of their business or employer, assets of more than $5,000, and the source of any income that exceeds $30,000.

“It’s a part-time Legislature, it’s a citizen Legislature, we have a difficult time recruiting people to do this kind of job,” Scheuermann said. “I don’t want to make it so really qualified people wouldn’t run.”

Rep. Donna Sweaney, D-Springfield, chair of Government Operations, hopes to move a proposal forward this session, though she is concerned that the Senate will be less inclined to take it up, and there isn’t a clear signal that the governor would endorse legislation. It may be more effective, she says, to adopt new House rules.

Follow Anne on Twitter @GallowayVTD

Comments

  1. Al Salzman :

    Good for Rep. Scheuermann in proposing a Vermont ethics code with teeth in it. The old palsy-walsy ethics system never really worked. It was one of the Vermont myths – you know: “I know him he’s a nice guy, he’d never do anything like that!” Yeah, like George W. Bush was declared to be a guy you’d like to have a beer with. As a society we have become a kleptocracy, a disease that even Vermont is not immune to. The sad truth is that even on the town level our neighbors reflect the felonious behavior of our bankers and our political leaders who are bought and paid for by our corporate oligarchs. Not so long ago a town clerk in Bakersfield Vt. embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Rep. Scheuermann must be aware that Vermont placed 26th on the ‘Corruption Risk Report Card”
    compiled by the Center For Public Integrity. Vermont’s overall rating was D+. We got an F in judicial accountability – an F in ethics enforcement – an F in legislative accountability – a D+ in public access to information – a D- in executive accountability. Sorry “Vermont Life” it doesn’t look as rosy as your issue on leaf peeping.

    And now the legislature wants to increase the risk of corruption by raising the amount special interests can contribute to political campaigns in the hope of influencing our ‘citizen legislators.’ Hard working low paid Vermonters can only look on with astonishment.

    Al Salzman Fairfield, Vermont

  2. Bob Stannard :

    Let’s see how this works. Campaign for Vermont test drives a few issues, like accountability and transparency to see what they get for a response. Obviously, they get big support for this issue, because everyone wants to hold their elected officials accountable.

    Once they determine enough support, then they get one of their top members, who happens to be a Republican Rep to introduce legislation. If it passes anywhere we can be sure to see CFV take credit, which then leads people to think that this group has influence, which is what Mr. Lisman is desperately trying to gain.

    Oddly, what CFV is not mentioning is that any amount of money spent to influence state gov’t; either the general assembly or the administration, over the amount of $5.00, that’s right FIVE DOLLARS, must be declared to the Sec. of State’s Office and is public information.

    This is basically a feel-good, non-issue, which exemplifies CFV. This group formed after the void left by the departure of Gov. Jim Douglas. The Republican Party was adrift when along came former Bear Sterns exec., Bruce Lisman with a truckload of money and a plan to revitalize the Party (although he says his group is non-partisan). He’s done a pretty good job of tossing out “Mom & Apple Pie” issues and this appears to be his first attempt to get one of them passed into law.

    The first thing the legislature does is to ask, “Is there a problem and if so what it is and does it need fixing?”

    If there is a problem with the revolving door issue that can easily be resolved without creating a new commission that would need staff, a part of a building, computers and more bureaucracy.

    It is ironic how on the one hand politicians scream about our bloated bureaucracy while simultaneously advocating more bureaucracy.

    This sounds more like a scheme to boost the image of CFV than trying to resolve a problem that probably doesn’t exist.

  3. Keith Stern :

    Would it also cover lying by the politicians such as Shumlin and his telling the legislature that the feds would pay to rebuild the state offices in Waterbury or Welch who said that he couldn’t understand why the ethanol industry was subsidized after having voted for it.
    Also shady deals such as Shumlin trying to cheat his neighbor out of his property or sweetheart deals where he acquired property well below its value should be included in the bill.

  4. Kim Fried :

    Good work Rep. Scheuermann and your Committee. Can you imagine Vermont is one of last States in the Union to have such a completely appropriate law? When you look at what happpened to the recent campaign fund raising law and it’s fate I wish you only good luck. It’s so obvious what’s going on in Montpelier during the past couple of years and that is what makes this law so important.

  5. timothy price :

    Good luck with what appears to be an effort to keep bad influences out of our government through applying ethical guidelines. However, I do not think that this goes nearly far enough.

    There is no requirement for office seekers to disclose their relationships with such organizations as The Council on Foreign Relations, which is now become seen as the principle driving force in the US toward instituting a North American Union, and a global government. There are many more such organizations which operate in the shadows, disguised and protected by their media.

    Corruption is the objective for the globalists to achieve a One-World-Government. For a better understanding of this please read Dr. John Coleman’t book, The Story of the Committee of 300, available here:http://img560.imageshack.us/img560/4598/thestoryofthecommitteeo.pdf

    I hope many will take seriously the actions taken against the US through control of government, at all levels, and read this book.

  6. sandra bettis :

    would this ethics bill cover lobbyists too?

    • Lauren Greenfield :

      You’re kidding, right? I’d bet there are lobbyists gearing up now to fight the evil ethics bills.

  7. Ralph Colin :

    Is it interesting that, so far at least, Bob Stannard is the ONLY commentator who opposes Rep. Scheurmann’s proposed bill.
    Most people would find it difficult to come up with reasons why the state should not have an Ethics bill. What is Bob afraid of?

    Well, we know that basically he dislikes anyone who doesdn’t agree with his political views and that means that Republicans are all persona non grata on his territory. He suspects that Citizens for Vermont is a surreptitious front organization for the Republican Party, so
    they are, in his book, automatically suspicious. Moreover, Heidi Scheurmann, being both a Republican and a leader of CFV, is a per se threat to all Democrats so she should probably be sent to Gitmo to protect Vermont Democrats from imminent danger. And besides, nobody in his political party would ever think of, let alone commit, an ethical violation of any kind, so who needs an Ethics law? And if a Republican makes naughty, well don’t worry: we’ll just string ‘em up on a convenient tree and that’ll be that!

    Of course no Democrat that Bob knows – and he knows lots of them both in and out of the political landscape – has ever lied,
    slipped a buck to a friend for a political favor (notice that he’s worried about the low $5.00 threshold for buck-slipping) other otherwise transgressed in a way that might be considered an ethical boo-boo, especially where politics are concerned.
    That kind of stuff is only seen on Republican turf. Oh, and by the way, didn’t Bob once run for public office (wasn’t it as a Representative from Manchester?) before he found salvation in the Democratic Party.

    So again, what’s he so concerned about having an Ethics law in Vermont? You gotta wonder.

    • Fred Woogmaster :

      Your question at the end of your comment is perhaps itself unethical, Mr. Colin, or – support your notion that Mr. Stannard is “so concerned about having an Ethics law in Vermont”.
      THAT in my opinion is not the case.

      Is there not some truth, Mr. Colin, to what Mr. Stannard poses in relation to Mr. Lisman and his organization? Are you simply partisan bookends?

      Or – dangling partisans?
      I am a political Independent.

  8. Bob Stannard :

    Well, I see my old friend Ralph Colin has read much more into my words than he normally does.

    No, I’m not at all worried about the $5 reporting threshold for lobbyists. Quite the contrary. I supported the idea. The day that law was adopted was the day that big money dried up for legislators. Oddly enough, big money is now back in the for a PACs (yes, I did start one some time ago to draw attention to how bad they are).

    I am also fully cognizant of the fact that both (or all) parties are subject to corruption due to money in politics, which is why I’ve dedicated some time to try to thwart the measure.

    And yes it’s true that I am suspicious of CFV, because it’s not a campaign for Vermont so much as it is a campaign for its founder. Like I said it rose from the ashes of a defeated Republican Party after Gov. Douglas left office. The party was, and still is, in the minority and was/is struggling to find a way back. The best path is to try to find issues that everyone loves and promote them as your own.

    That’s what I see happening here. I could give a rat’s behind if we take every extreme action possible to make government more transparent. Make everyone who holds office, or wants to hold office, declare each and every stock that they own, their personal wealth, their personal/private relationships; let’s get it all out there. Let’s see who Rep. Scheuermann uses to fix up her apartment houses and see if we can determine any malfeasance going on there. I doubt there is but hey let’s get digging.

    As I stated before I’m not sure I understand what the problem is. Is it that we have to know each and every aspect of our legislator’s lives? If that’s the case I’d say we pretty much know that already, because we’re electing our neighbors to represent us. Are we saying we may know our neighbors, but not your neighbors and we don’t trust you to know your neighbors? Maybe. Who knows.

    I think that CFV is doing everything it can to appear influential and relevant. Maybe we should ask them to disclose each and every holding of all of its members.

    Oh and yes, I did serve three terms as a Republican prior to changing parties; after which I was defeated a quarter of a century ago. What else would you like to talk about?

    In closing, let me state that I’m fine with an ethics law in Vermont. I’m a Democrat. We love big gov’t right? Let’s have another commission that will need staff and accommodations and will meet once every 10 or 15 years to investigate some hideous wrong doing where we learned that a legislator used a particular oil company to heat their apartment houses and maybe the owner of the oil company gave a hundred bucks to that Rep’s campaign. Big freakin’ deal.

    For those of you out there who believe that graft and corruption has run amuck in Vermont I would ask that you step back and take a breath. This is nothing more than a solution in search of a problem.

    Many thanks to my friend, Ralph, for allowing me the opportunity to clarify my position.

  9. Bob Stannard :

    Oh, and yes I do tend to find myself more in agreement with the Democratic Party than the Republican Party, primarily because the Republican Party of today is no longer the Republican Party to which I once belonged.

    It’s become the party of right-wing, religious extremists; the same people my ancestors couldn’t tolerate and came to Vermont 250 years ago to get away from.

    • Kathy Nelson :

      A commission on ethics in the legislature? Bob, you must be absolutely horrified at this. From your comments I see that a nerve has really been rattled. Why waste money on such a thing? Because you don’t like the organization that proposed it? Where were you when Pete Shumlin whipped up the Energy Siting Commission (during an election year of course) and wasted the taxpayer’s money on this distraction when he just could have said industrial wind was not welcome in VT. It seems that you have always supported Shumlin’s unethical conduct and are doing so now with your opposition to this new legislation.
      It is true that there is a big faction of Republicans that have fallen into the fire of religious fanaticism, it is also true that a sizable proportion of Democrats have fallen into the well of corporate greed. As a lobbyist, Bob, we can only guess where you really stand.

      • Bob Stannard :

        There is a difference between disagreeing with one’s position and having the person you disagree with be unethical. You don’t agree with Shumlin on wind development. I happen to think that every little bit helps the bigger problem. I don’t see where an Ethics Commission would make a bit of difference in anything the governor has done.

        You don’t like him so don’t vote for him. It’s pretty simple. As a retired lobbyist I can tell you where I stand. I believe that if a member of the General Assembly is acting in a truly unethical way, that it will be discovered by his/her peers. It’s unavoidable. There are no secrets in that building, as much as you and others would like to believe that the place is rife with nefarious behavior. It’s not.

        If establishing an Ethics Commission will make people feel good then I’m all for it. But then let’s not hear that we’re peeing away tax dollars on bloated gov’t, because this will be adding to our bureaucracy.

  10. Ralph Colin :

    If an Ethics law already exists in forty-two other states, I still don’t understand to what Bob objects in such a law being adopted in Vermont other than the fact that it has been proposed by Heidi Scheurmann who also happens to be associated with CFV. Whether or not one may be a proponent of CFV, what does that have to do with having an objective view
    of the benefits that would be derived from
    having an Ethics law in our state.

    Bob still hasn’t explained that despite his lengthy onfuscation of the merits of the proposal.

  11. Bob Stannard :

    Ralph, you are too enamored with your own voice to listen. Go back and read what I’ve said. If people feel that we need an Ethics Commission, because the NCSL tells us we do then go ahead and establish one.

    And whoever is on it will be chastised by one party or another and it will be perceived as being partisan by one party or another, but if it makes everyone feel good, by all means let’s get it going.

    They will meet once every twenty years or so or whenever there is a complaint that can’t be resolved. Or better yet, one party can use it as a witch hunt against the other party than everyone will cry that the Commission is not objective, because they won’t agree with the findings (see any recent decision by the PSB).

    As I said before and apparently have to say again for your benefit, this is happening because the issue was presumably tested by CFV and determined to be a winner. It’s being pushed by a founding member of CFV.

    I would just like to know where’s the problem that this issues is trying solve? Who in the General Assembly is acting unethically to the degree that we need a referee?

    The only example cited was two people; one who left the legislature to go lobby and one who left the private sector to go to work in the public sector.

    I would agree that if we don’t want this to happen, and we might not, then pass a simple law that says a person shall not lobby the legislature for ______ period of time after they’ve left office. We don’t need a commission to do this. This can happen any time without a ton of fanfare.

    Of course, without the fanfare than CFV won’t be able to take credit for the idea. Let’s just see what happens. Let’s see if this idea comes to fruition and if so let’s see if CFV takes credit for it. If they do, then I’ll be proven right. If not, then I’ll be proven wrong.

    Again, if you, or anyone, would point out specifically what the problem is that we’re trying to fix then I’m all ears. Name the one legislature who is acting unethically. Not the one with whom you disagree, but the one who is in violation of ethics according to the rules of either body.

  12. Coleman Dunnar :

    Thanks Heidi – the establishment of an ethics commission is long overdue. Sunshine is good for getting rid of mold.

  13. Dave Bellini :

    For a “citizen legislature” we have many people making a career out of being a politician. I wonder what a few of our elected leaders actually do for “work” or if they even have a real job beyond being a legislator.

    • Bob Stannard :

      I’m not sure just what the compensation is today, but I’d would wager it’s not much more than $25k/session. They most likely have to do something else, which creates another burden of its own. If you think the job is easy, go run for office and let us know how easy it is.

  14. Ron Pulcer :

    In regards the specific bill, H.846, a fair question is if the Representative of the citizens of Stowe, Rep. Scheuermann, is also representing “Campaign For Vermont”? She is listed as a “Partner” of CFV.

    http://campaignforvermont.org/who-we-are.php

    While there might not be any financial connection, this H.846 bill does seem quite similar to the way ALEC-sponsored “model legislation” gets submitted in other U.S. States. Except, in this case, you could just substitute ALEC with the CFV acronym.

    I agree that given there is “no one to go to” or “no place to go” to bring ethical concerns to within the Legislature, that this might be an issue to address. However, when in the past 10 years has such a case came up, where the Legislators were left scratching their heads wondering whom to address the concern to? Can someone name one such ethical case?

    The two-year term in Vermont does have the drawback of an every other year campaign season, and Legislators might look at proposed legislation through an “Election Year Lens”, rather than always wearing their “Vermont glasses”. But on the positive side, voters can “vote the bums out”, if there are any “ethical bums” to be voted out.

    In addition, that is why we have the press, to keep tabs on any ethical “issue” that might arise, IF there are any to be be looked into. VTDigger has covered embezzlement cases at the town level. I am sure VTDigger would look into any question of ethics, were they to bubble to the surface.

    • Fred Woogmaster :

      Campaign for Vermont, Mr. Lisman, what is your position on ALEC?

    • Tom Pelham :

      Ron….usually I find your comments thoughtful, informative and balanced, but the above speculative comment about ALEC is not of that sort. Campaign for Vermont’s interest in governmental ethics comes from a long standing, multi-year conversation among Bill Schubart, David Coates and Bruce Lisman. The research legwork on CFV’s proposal was done by two interns, Ben Kinsley and Kris Jolin, graduates of Norwich and Castleton respectively and was reviewed by Allen Gilbert of the ACLU, among others. ALEC wasn’t involved at all and if ALEC were involved, I wouldn’t be part of Campaign for Vermont. I respond to your comment because when a speculative bone like your comment gets tossed in the air, less thoughtful people or those seeking to manipulate perception, as lobbyists are employed to do, grab on and try to spin such speculation into perception, regardless of the reality, as you can see by Mr. Stannard’s efforts below.

      • Ron Pulcer :

        Tom,

        My intent was not to say or infer that CFV took an off-the-shelf ALEC “model bill” and tweaked it, or even that CFV is a member of ALEC. Sorry, if you interpreted my question that way.

        I was instead asking the question as to whether this proposal came about from using a similar “process” that ALEC follows to craft legislation. I’m not talking about inviting state legislators, using “scholarships” to entice attendance to out-of-state events, to help craft model legislation, and participate on ALEC subcommittees. Rather, the point of the question was whether CFV is using some kind of input or research process to craft proposed legislation (a model bill), and then handing it off to a state legislator to put it into the legislative hopper for consideration by the Vermont Legislature, in committee, or as a whole.

        Your explanation answered my question very well. I appreciate that you are being transparent as far as who was involved in the process of crafting this ethics oversight proposal, and how they were involved.

        I thank you for specifying how the proposal came about, as that was the crux of my question. At least you and CFV are being more transparent than ALEC is. If you try to find out anything from the ALEC website, good luck. Their model bills are locked down tight.

        While I appreciate your explanation of the process, I not sure that you or CFV would have offered it to public, without a question like mine being asked, however awkwardly asked or worded.

  15. Bob Stannard :

    I had not made the ALEC connection, but I’m not surprised to learn that CFV might be promoting this right-wing group’s agenda.

    For those who are unfamiliar with ALEC you might want to check this out: http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed

    They promote issues like voter suppression and get a substantial amount of their funding from the Kochs.

  16. As of this moment, there have been 20 comments made on the ethics topic, seven of them from Bob Stannard. All of Bob’s comments made in an effort to kill and bury the concept of public official accountability.

    Instead of wanting to rationally address the issue on its merits, Bob elects to attack the messengers.

    Vermont is one of only three states in the entire nation without some sort of ethics law and one of eight states without a mechanism to oversee ethics, making progressive Vermont an odd outlier. So its time to have a serious conversation on the matter proposed by a bi-partisan group of legislators.

    How many times have we seen a public official caught with his hand in the cookie jar and then hear him say: “I didn’t break any law”?

    The answer is, too many times.

    So its time for Vermont to join the rest of the nation and set standards for ethical behavior.

    • Tom Pelham :

      Peter..You might remind Bob of former Speaker Ralph Wright’s trips to Boston and Montreal with the “Hockey Team”. The Hockey Team was a bunch of R’s that Speaker Wright groomed for votes when needed. They went to Bruin’s games in Boston and word has it strip clubs in Montreal.

      Here’s a 1990 summary by former lobbyist David Wilson, a great guy, profiling Wright’s efforts.

      “First, in mid-March, the Speaker of the House and several of his closest Republican allies (later to become dubbed “The Hockey Team”) enjoyed a dinner in Boston followed by attendance at a Bruins hockey game, compliments of an old childhood friend of the Speaker who also just happens to be employed as a government relations representative for a major insurance company.”

      I don’t know if Bob was in the House back then or whether he was still a Republican, but he was close to Speaker Wright.

      http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/2014/resolutn/HCR167.pdf

      • Tom:

        Believe it or not, a couple of Saturday’s ago, we had one of our selectman and his wife over for dinner. This person, along with his father-in-law, were both in the legislature during Ralph Wright’s time.

        My wife and I were regaled with stories about Ralph, the R’s and the good times. So I know what you’re talking about.

      • Bob Stannard :

        Yes, I served with Ralph and was quite close to him. I never went to Montreal, but did go to two NCSL conventions and one Red Sox game. I believe that it was all perfectly legal as there were 30 other members who went to the convention.

        You might also be interested to know that it was Ralph Wright who instituted lobbyist disclosures of any expenditure over $5.00.

        That one act completely slammed the door on lobbyists showering legislators with perks.

        You were around back then, Tom, I think working for Kunin; back when you were a Democrat. I would’ve thought you would remember this.

        • Tom Pelham :

          Bob…Speaker Wright didn’t do it because he wanted to, he did it because the press backed him into a corner. Here’s the rest of David Wilson’s 1990 report on the topic, continuing from where I left off in my comment to Peter above.

          “When the press got hold of this earth-shattering information, stories were written that played for several days. The Speaker, combative as always, immediately had a new lobbyist disclosure bill drafted (there was already one that had been passed by the Senate in 1989 languishing in Rep. John Murphy’s General and Military Affairs Committee). There was general agreement that the Speaker was bluffing, and the only people who paid much attention to the hearings on the bill were lobbyists for ACLU and Common Cause. It was anticipated that, after all the noise died down, the Wright version of the bill would also quietly die. That might well have been the case had the second incident not occurred. In April, shortly after two bills unfriendly to the tobacco industry were defeated in the House, a tobacco lobbyist sent $40 checks to several legislators who had voted in support of the industry on both bills. The checks had been written in the fall and were going to be given to the legislators no matter the VV (voice vote) outcome of any particular vote, but the timing couldn’t have been worse. When an avid anti-smoking legislator heard of this imagined “payoff,” the media was alerted, and the sleeping giant, Ralph Wright’s lobbyist disclosure bill, was jostled awake and propelled into action. The result is a law (it took effect the very day it was signed) that raises more questions than it answers.”

          • Bob Stannard :

            Well, that’s David’s recollection, but the fact is that Ralph never particularly cared about what the press said and/or did. He really didn’t.

            He was pissed that the idiot tobacco lobbyists handed out checks (mostly to Republicans). He pulled his bill out to put an end to that nonsense.

            But you are back 25 years ago, Tom. What’s happening today in the legislature that’s causing the impetus for this initiative; other than your organization’s desire for attention and relevance?

  17. Bob Stannard :

    OK Peter, let me make it 8. Can you name one instance where a member of the House or Senate has acted unethically? Just one will do.

    While I wait I would again state that I believe that this is a solution in search of a problem. If someone is acting unethically it will come to light and you can vote him/her out at the next election.

    Again, is there an estimation as to how many times this new commission will meet? Is there an estimate as to how much it will cost to staff and house this new commission?

    I would think that Mr. Pelham, co-founder of CFV and former tax commissioner and finance commissioner would be outraged at spending more state dollars to increase the bureaucracy for a problem that, to date, has not yet been defined.

    Just because all the other states do it, is not a good reason. Just about all other states have billboards.

    I’m still waiting for anyone to define the problem that this initiative is hoping to fix. Not could’a, would’a’s, but a real live example of a member who acted unethically and that there was nothing that could be done about it under current law and rules.

    • Bob:

      Eight is fine, we always enjoy hearing from you.

      If some of your some of reasoning on ethics standards had been applied to establishing renewable energy and health care reform policy, those programs would have been dead in their tracks and we wouldn’t have the mess and costs in each of those areas currently confronting us.

      I agree with you that a whole new bureaucracy is not required. To start, a single person in the AG’s office dedicated to ethics matters would be sufficient to start.

      In the meantime, the bi-partisan sponsorship of the bill has it right and action needs to be taken. There is no merit in waiting for suspects to be dragged in as you suggest before taking action on ethics.

      Next, number nine !

      • Coleman Dunnar :

        Peter:
        Glad to see your have begun a list of some or the areas where more the one pair of eyebrows have been raised regarding the appearance of or the actual occurrence of ethical transgressions. Let me add to the list. CVPS /GMP merger – Same household representing the utilities and the ratepayers, the software contract for the health care exchange at nearly the same cost as the federal system just slides through without an explosion from the auditor’s office. I’m certain other commenters have myriad of other examples. Let’s keep the list growing.
        Regarding asinine comment number nine “We’re holding people who are already accountable, accountable”. Yes us voters would hold them accountable if there were a body to go to whose only responsibility would be to examine the ethical aspects of actions and bring the findings to voter. Currently this isn’t happening and the transgressions are conveniently spun away.
        Wow nine comments – the adrenaline must be flowing. Don’t worry Bob I’m sure the bill will be amended to include a very short statute of limitations and/or a grandfather clause.

        • Bob Stannard :

          Coleman, can you give one example of a legislator who is acting unethically; i.e. the problem that supposedly needs fixing with this initiative from CFV?

      • Bob Stannard :

        Yet no one has answered my question as to what, exactly, is the problem?

        What was the occasion when a Rep/Sen. acted unethically and no resolution was possible?

        If there is no answer to that question then I go back to my point that this is a solution in search of problem orchestrated by a group looking for a win.

        I can easily be proven wrong if someone would answer my question.

      • Bob Stannard :

        In my first term in the House the federal gov’t was breaking up AT&T. It was clear to many of us that once that happened that there would be people who would fall through the cracks.

        I introduced a “telephone lifeline” bill. I brought it to the Commerce Committee where the Chair, Stu Hunt, asked me “So, what’s the problem?”

        I explained that the problem was on the horizon and was plain to see. The bill died on the wall.

        Over the summer AT&T was broken up and sure enough people were falling through the cracks. I had reserved bill #1 for the lifeline bill. It got almost 90 co-sponsors. It became law that year.

        The legislature responds and reacts to problems. It doesn’t go seeking solutions to a problem that doesn’t exist.

        I would ask, once again, could we see one example of the problem that needs fixing?

  18. Bob Stannard :

    and once again I suspect that since this is an initiative of CFV that this group has tested this issue and found it to be winner. Who could possibly be against such a noble idea? We’re holding people who are already accountable, accountable.

    It’s one of the Mom & Apple Pie issues that you can’t lose on. Once it’s passed then CFV can hold a press conference to show how in sync they are.

    Next maybe we can talk about recognizing the contribution of Maple Syrup to Vermont. I’d vote for that one, too!

    • Fred Woogmaster :

      The Maple Syrup Party.
      I like that even better
      than The Garden Party.
      How sweet it is.

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