Appeals court ruling: A chilling effect on legislative deliberation

Good for you, Vermont. Good fight. Good expression of your love for Vermont and New England. Better to have loved and lost rather than to have never loved at all.

It would take a chief executive or attorney general brave beyond the standard definition of political courage to attempt an appeal to the Supreme Court - but please consider what has been said, and why.

Vermont legislators' real concerns and the reasons they passed legislation directed at Vermont Yankee are two different things. In addition, the people's elected representatives must not express concerns about preempted areas, such as radiological safety, before considering and voting on legislation directed at a nuclear plant because such conversation might be interpreted as the “real” cause for their vote.

Apparently, one cannot select which way to vote by weighing objective, non-preempted criteria if one has ever expressed a concern for nuclear safety.

So, as Entergy and the federal courts would have it, based on snippets of recorded conversation, much of it casual conversation between deliberations, Vermont's legislators (and by extension, their constituents) are liars when they say that the criteria they applied to their vote not to renew Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee's Certificate of Public Good were overall economic good, orderly regional planning (as in stifling alternatives, and the planning around and economic impacts of hosting an interminable waste site), and the odious manner and behavior of Entergy VY management.

Sure, you legislators are the liars! But you can get over that.

I am concerned about the free-speech implications of this appeal and the original Murtha ruling. If you were to roll back free political speech rights, I would think that the first bastion in a democracy would be the halls of the legislature. On or off the record, mind what you say, young legislator, because anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.

It's a chilling effect on legislative deliberation.

A court's reliance on carefully edited snippets of sound confetti to plumb the hearts of citizen legislators regarding their true intentions is something that has not been in the least examined, and it should be - before the nation's highest court if that's what it takes.

And really, if people thought that their citizen legislators surrendered their free speech rights at the state house doors, would anybody vote?

Well, as my Shaker and Benedictine mentors would quip, “Hearts to God; Hands to work, or Hammer Stoutly, Pray Devoutly.”

Please make a substantial donation to New England Coalition today to help offset the costs of our ongoing work before the Vermont Public Service Board and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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