We need balance in our Legislature

Gov. Scott cannot act as a brake on every foolish, unneeded, and wasteful piece of legislation by his veto. His veto comes into play only if it can be sustained. We need Republicans in Montpelier to keep the Democrats from having free rein in the State House.

BRATTLEBORO — I am the kind of guy who washes the edge of a jelly jar and salad dressing bottle and rinses out the cap before putting them away.

If there are crumbs in the microwave, I clean them out and then check if there are splatters on the roof.

My car gets vacuumed out every Saturday morning and fluids get checked.

The checkbook is balanced and stays that way.

I am a detail kind of guy. With all due respect to others who do not live like that, I fall short in other areas of living, I am sure. I probably have a blind spot for those.

So naturally, you should not be surprised that I am usually the treasurer of any organization of which I am a part. I was treasurer and on the board of directors of a local pregnancy resource center for over 13 years. It may not be surprising, but I worked at a community bank for 24 years, retiring as assistant vice president and compliance and security officer.

Yup, that is me - details.

I am also a pastor and part-time chaplain at an assisted living facility. My responsibility is to get together with residents usually one-to-one and chat with them and catch up on recent developments in their lives. Sometimes, we talk about frivolous things; other times, we laugh or occasionally cry together. Often, I pray with them hand in hand.

Some may know that I also chair the Brattleboro Republicans as well as Windham County Republicans. I organize town committees, find and encourage candidates to run for office, and help express our convictions in a helpful and community-affirming manner.

We seek a seat at the table and a respectful hearing of our views on a variety of issues important to us and, we think, to our communities.

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Now it gets political.

When Article 22 - otherwise known as Proposal 5, or the Personal Liberty Amendment to the state constitution - was approved by the Legislature this year, I was in a quandary. How should I respond to this initiative?

I do prayer walking almost every morning around our home. Behind us, up a small hill is a field where they do haying. About a month ago, at the end of haying season, I noticed a black clump in the field. Sadly, I saw a turkey with its neck broken, lying there, torn to pieces. It got caught up in the haying equipment.

Why didn't it fly or run away? Why did it wait so long that it got caught and died?

Then I saw the eggs, broken, nearby. That mother turkey died torn between flight and trying to protect her nest. All was lost.

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Why does this turkey tale apply here?

The sad episode of a dead turkey pales in comparison with deliberately destroying humans and enshrining that practice into the state constitution.

We have walled ourselves off from the anxiety and panic of women in an unwanted unexpected pregnancy from the solution our culture offers that ends the baby's life.

The pregnancy resource center I was associated with for 13 years came alongside such women and offered all services free: pregnancy tests, baby clothes, parenting classes for mothers or couples, fathering classes, referrals for adoption, and other important services.

We would educate them about all their options and explain what really happens in abortions.

Every abortion ends a life violently. Whether by saline injection, chemical pills, or unanesthetized dismemberment, a life is destroyed. The woman often has trauma afterward. Our pregnancy center was there for them then, too, offering post-abortive counseling and healing.

Up to 56,000 abortions occur annually in America after 15 weeks. Fetal pain begins around 12 weeks. Full viability is likely at 22 to 24 weeks. Do you realize that it is legal in Vermont to end a baby's life for any reason whatsoever up to the day of birth (approximately 40 weeks)? Ending Roe v. Wade did not change that.

Any form of abortion is already enshrined in Vermont statute. The fetus, the baby, has no rights, no protections of any kind whatsoever, throughout the pregnancy. That is what our Legislature has written into Vermont law.

Proponents of Article 22 highlight the right of privacy of a pregnant woman in consultation with her doctor at a vulnerable time in her life. What we must remember is that the “doctor” proponents refer to is the abortionist, who has only one objective. We know what that objective is.

In fact, the women they support are, sadly, all alone. Vermont statutes protect abortionists and the abortion industry from any oversight or accountability. Article 22 would enshrine this lack of protection of women and their babies in the Vermont constitution.

If approved, the language would be unchangeable and irrevocable. It took six or more years to get to this point - undoing a bad choice would take far longer if it is even possible at all.

And we are not even talking yet about unintended consequences from the vague language in Article 22.

-Do men have individual reproductive autonomy?


-Oh, great. What if their autonomy conflicts with the woman's?

Courts? Yuck. If every individual has this autonomy, does it apply to children in opposition to parental oversight? Does this language protect the transient counselors from parental interference if parents oppose puberty blockers and gender-affirming surgeries for their child?

Could government agencies remove children from homes of parents who question such irrevocable, life-altering decisions by their children?

* * *

The supermajority in Vermont's Legislature has pushed this situation upon us. It is unwise, unneeded, and divisive.

So I decided to run for Vermont Senate to have a braking effect on our runaway Legislature.

Another example: The Democratic legislative leadership in Montpelier in its “wisdom” has authorized the rewriting of Burlington's charter to remove prostitution as a crime there. They wanted to do this throughout Vermont but thankfully didn't have the votes for that. Will they try again next year? Of course.

This is craziness. Trafficking is a serious and growing problem in Vermont. Decriminalizing prostitution is precisely the opposite of actions we do need to take. A prominent antitrafficking organization, Polaris, gives Vermont a grade of F in dealing with issues related to trafficking. There are more examples of legislative malpractice. Ask me.

The Progressives who now lead the Democratic party have an idealistic but unrealistic and unconstitutional agenda - one they will be relentless in pursuing. The only way to slow this runaway train down is to balance the Legislature with several more Republicans.

This is not your parents' Democratic Party. More Democrats will just get steamrolled. Wake up. Independents must caucus with one party or the other, or they are simply standing alone - essentially voiceless and powerless.

The Republican Party offers two well-qualified, conscientious candidates for Windham County voters to consider: Rick Kenyon, a well-respected and accomplished tax consultant, now retired and available to serve in Montpelier, and me, a semi-retired banker and chaplain and available to serve.

Gov. Scott cannot act as a break on every foolish, unneeded, and wasteful piece of legislation by his veto. His veto comes into play only if it can be sustained. Now it cannot be sustained.

The governor must also weigh his response to legislative overreach strategically. He had to exercise a veto 17 times this year - a record, I think. Many legislators were livid when he did that. They want free rein.

Did you know that a mandatory registry of all properties used for rental housing was approved this year? Why? What do they have in mind for next session? There is a similar new registration requirement for whoever offers carpentry, masonry, electrical, or plumbing services.

Do you see where this is going? Can a neighbor or friend legally help you with a project anymore? What happens if the state finds out you worked on a project together and weren't in the registry? Will they add more restrictions, requirements, or hoops to jump through? We simply want to improve our homes. Will gas vehicles be outlawed here? Yes, if they have the votes.

I know. They are doing this for our own good, right?

Remember this, every legislative action or solution inevitably infringes upon the freedom and rights of one category of people as opposed to another. Legislation puts a thumb on the scale of life.

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We send 150 representatives and 30 senators to Montpelier for five months each year - to do what? Legislate.

We ask them: What are your priorities? How will you make our lives more complex? In what way will you make it more difficult to do ordinary things? What are your plans to interfere with towns, organizations, and our ability to survive in a tough world?

The process of running for state government is an extended job interview. Who do you want to hire to take your money, and for what purpose? They never have enough money because they are never done legislating. They refuse to live within our means.

As a Republican, my philosophy is to promote the most freedom and individual liberty possible with the least possible intrusion by any governmental entity. Our founders felt the same way. They instituted a constitutional republic with power vested at the level of citizen first. This was unique in human history.

Second, each level of government in America beyond the citizen was to have minimal authority. The federal government was to have only limited enumerated powers.

* * *

Every law chooses winners and losers. So, for any possible legislation, I would want to know a number of things: Why is state government intervention needed? Can other resources or entities better resolve the matter? Is it legal according to the constitution or state statute?

How did we get here? What failed? Is this the least intrusive solution possible? Is it temporary, or are we establishing a forever bureaucracy? At what cost? To whom? At what benefit? To whom?

What have other states done to address this situation? How did that go for them? Can we learn from their efforts? What existing state resources are already available to meet the need? Are there technical barriers we can remove so people can resolve the issue themselves?

Let's think about possible unintended consequences of following through on each legislative proposal. Let's always ask, “What could go wrong?”

In a legislature dominated by a supermajority, many of these questions don't get asked or if they do, the answers are ignored. With balanced legislative representation, these kinds of question will get asked by all parties at the table. That is a good thing: Discussion. Dialogue. Debate.

Legislative committees are tasked with asking these kinds of questions. That is what legislators do with their time in Montpelier. However, voters must measure the effectiveness of all their efforts by the legislative output.

I put forth the view that much of the legislative product is highly defective and a waste of time and money. In the early years in Vermont, the Legislature met once every two years to review and approve a two-year budget and not much else. Then they went home to their farms, businesses, and families.

It is a far different world today. What approach do you want espoused by those you hire?

The several candidate forums I have joined so far have necessarily given candidates one to two minutes to respond to complex issues. That is a necessary limitation, but is totally insufficient to do the questions justice. Therefore, this article is necessary.

I want to unleash creativity, not hinder it; to protect the vulnerable, including women, not enshrine our abandonment of them in the Vermont Constitution; and to free the slaves, offering trafficking survivors real hope.

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