Constitutional amendment on corporate personhood passes on party line vote in the House - VTDigger

Constitutional amendment on corporate personhood passes on party line vote in the House

Rep. Tom Koch, R-Barre, foreground and other lawmakers clap on the House floor. Photo by Ceilidh Galloway-Kane

Rep. Tom Koch, R-Barre, foreground and other lawmakers clap on the House floor. Photo by Ceilidh Galloway-Kane

The joint Senate-House resolution calling for a constitutional amendment on corporate personhood that has been rattling around the Legislature for some time finally passed in the House with a vote of 92-40.

Debate on the floor fell mostly down party lines, with several Republicans arguing against the bill and Democrats calling attention to similarly worded resolutions passed by 64 towns on Town Meeting Day.

Rep. Thomas Koch, R-Barre, argued the entire resolution infringed on First Amendment rights, while Rep. Brian Savage, R-Swanton, questioned the nature of the mandate given on Town Meeting Day because it represented less than half the state’s population.

“The U.S. government may not pick or choose those who are entitled to engage in public speech,” Koch said. “Just as Kennedy and Roberts in the majority opinion said that we find no basis for the proposition that in the context of political speech the government may impose restrictions on certain disfavored speakers, political speech does not lose First Amendment protection simply because its source is a corporation.”

Rep. Oliver Olsen, R-Jamaica, posed an amendment to the resolution that would have limited campaign contributions from the domestic subsidiaries of foreign corporations. Under current law, foreign corporations are barred from making contributions.

Olsen’s amendment alluded to Green Mountain Power’s close ties to the Shumlin administration and an inaugural party held for the new governor when he took office in 2010. Olsen expressed concern about the undue influence of foreign corporations and their governments on U.S. politics.

However, several representatives felt the amendment did not reflect the intention of Vermont towns that voted on resolutions similar to J.R.S. 11 on Town Meeting Day.

“I think it’s important that we honor the intent and specific requests of people who voted in those town meetings who so many of us in this body represent by asking us to do what they asked,” said Rep. Richard Marek, D-Windham.

Marek said that while it was unlikely the resolution would have a huge impact on Vermont, at least it reflected the will of the state.

Another amendment from Rep. Dustin Degree (R-Franklin) failed to add reference to unions in addition to corporations.

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14 Comments on "Constitutional amendment on corporate personhood passes on party line vote in the House"


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Hod Palmer,
4 years 9 months ago

Corporation speach is evil, union speak is good, huh?

4 years 9 months ago

Unions are at this time all corporations too.

Patrick Cashman
4 years 9 months ago

Really? It seems that many are actually 501(c)4 organizations, “Super PACS” if you will. Much like VPIRG. An excellent example would be UP-AFT.

4 years 9 months ago

Try incorporated as … 501(c) whatever are corporations.

howie ires
4 years 9 months ago

The uproar over the Citizens United decision comes from a basic misunderstanding of it.

The point of Citizens United is that free speech cannot be restricted, whether it comes from a corporation or a person.

The real issue is that of politicians accepting payments from corporations and people. The solution to that is to ban political contributions – completely!

Daniel Barlow
4 years 9 months ago

VBSR is very proud of our House and Senate members for supporting this resolution.

One quick correction: Yesterday’s vote was in the House, not the Senate. Your headline is wrong.

Michael Bayer
4 years 9 months ago
You are both missing the point. The Citizen’s United decision is based on a non Constitutional, non legal assertion that corporations are persons i.e. Human Beings,and therefore are entitled to free speech rights granted to “we the people” in the Constitution. The only precedent was a footnote to a decison added by a clerk in the nineteenth century. Even then, ALL DECISIONS of the Supreme Court prohibited corporate contributions to election campaigns for over 100 years. The Court also distinguished between free political speech and free commercial speech. This decision may invalidate all of those precedents and may well open… Read more »
Margo Howland
4 years 9 months ago

Does anyone have the actual roll call vote?

Walter Carpenter
4 years 9 months ago

God, we have to protect ourselves from our supreme court now or they will take everything from us that they can. Although I could not make the vote yesterday because of another meeting, I am proud that our house of representatives had the courage to do this. It speaks volumes about Vermont and its citizens legislature.

4 years 9 months ago
A constitutional amendment is indeed a tall order and that is why it is crucial for its advocates to gain a full understanding of the underlying issues and advocate for an amendment that is both powerful and can be widely acceptable to the vast majority of Americans of all political persuasions. Sen. Sanders and others advocacy of this issue is highly laudable however the issues of corporate personage and money equaling speech are in many ways red herrings and distract us from solving the issues at hand. As far as corporate personage is concerned, determining the legal status and nomenclature… Read more »
Ron Pulcer
4 years 9 months ago

According to the roll call for JRS 11, there were 17 VT House members that were ABSENT.

That is an 11.4% absentee rate. Is this typical for House votes? Or did these reps “go on strike” for the day?

My town rep was absent for this vote. I also heard he was absent for the public hearing on GMOs last week. It figures, given that he is an ALEC member.

walter carpenter
4 years 9 months ago

“It figures, given that he is an ALEC member.”

Ron, remember that in November.

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