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Voices / Legislative Update

We must keep our eyes on the prize

Despite the governor’s assertion that ‘now is not the time,’ we haven’t given up on single-payer health care — and the inaugural protests did not help the cause

Mike Mrowicki, David Deen, Carolyn Partridge, Mollie Burke, and Tristan Toleno, all state representatives representing districts in Windham County, jointly signed this statement.

Montpelier

Single-payer health insurance is not dead, contrary to recent headlines and the media spin on it.

Those of us in the Legislature who have been working for decades to bring about this change are not that easily deterred. Despite Governor Peter Shumlin’s statement — “Now is not the time” — we will continue to work toward this goal.

As determined as we are to see this change come about, though, we are equally inspired to make it happen in a way that is both physically and emotionally nonviolent.

Recent actions at the Statehouse inaugural — where, among other inappropriate actions, young children were screamed at and an elder minister was shouted down trying to offer a prayerful invocation — did not help.

All this protest accomplished was to alienate Statehouse supporters of single-payer health care and to galvanize opponents.

At that same inaugural, Beth Robinson entered as associate justice of the Vermont Supreme Court. She provides a textbook example of effective advocacy.

For decades, Beth led the efforts that achieved civil unions and, later, marriage equality. She helped affect both legal and cultural change — much in the same way that change is needed in the realm of health-insurance reform — by keeping it civil at all times.

* * *

We have a most ambitious agenda ahead of us in this 16-week legislative session.

We face the tightest budget since the start of the Great Recession (without the federal help we got then), and education financing and property-tax reform loom front and center. Alongside those challenges are other vital issues from all 25 House and Senate committees.

While our work is cut out for us, health-insurance reform/single payer is right in there with the rest of them.

In working toward all our goals for this session, we must stay respectful, positive, and faithful to the long-term goal. To borrow a phrase from another decades-long effort — the fight for civil rights — we must keep our eye on the prize, not only in what we do, but how we do it.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #289 (Wednesday, January 21, 2015). This story appeared on page D1.

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