Letter to House Government Operations

TO:                      REPRESENTATIVE TOWNSHEND
CC:                      HOUSE GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS COMMITTEE
FROM:                BENJAMIN KINSLEY, PAUL BURNS, BILL SCHUBART
SUBJECT:           CHANGES TO GOVERNMENT ETHICS BILL S.8

 

Dear Representative Townshend:

First, we would like to thank you and your committee for the considerable amount of time you have put into S.8. As you are well aware, ethics legislation can become complicated as you get into the nuts and bolts of it.

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House Guts Ethics Bill

Email Blast Sent to Supporters on April 24, 2017. Subscribe!

Friends,

The House Government Operations Committee has stripped the last remaining piece of oversight authority from the state ethics commission created by S.8. Research shows that strong ethics enforcement is critically important; any conflict of interest, revolving door, or nepotism regulations will not be effective. The piece removed by the House committee gave the commission authority to enforce oversight of egregious violations such as bribery.

Perhaps Representative Brumsted said it best; “[the commission] seems really fake to me, almost.” Yes, yes it does.

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Make Vermont an Education Destination

Originally appeared in the Caledonian Record on April 19, 2017

While the Vermont Legislature has been grappling with Vermont’s shrinking student enrollment with heavy handed mandates like Act 46, which in some school districts will do more harm than good, the Campaign for Vermont has put a more creative and more promising proposal on the table. Issued March 23rd and entitled “Re-Energizing Vermont’s Public Education System: Making Vermont an Education Destination” the proposal calls for Vermont to become more active in recruiting international exchange students.

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Ethics Hits Roadblock

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Ethics legislation hit a roadblock in the House on Wednesday when Representative David Deen mislead lawmakers about what was contained in S.8. He cautioned lawmakers to resist independent ethics oversight. We pushed back, but we need your help to make sure Vermont enacts meaningful ethics reform!
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April 6 Ethics Testimony - House Government Operations

As the committee has dug into S.8 you have discovered that perhaps some of these ethics issues are not quite as simple as they first appeared. In my previous testimony I said that an ethics commission must be independent, nonpartisan, and quasi-judicial to act as a meaningful enforcement mechanism.

After yesterday’s testimony there were a number of questions about the jurisdiction of an ethics commission and where the line is for separation of powers between the Legislative and Executive Branch. This is a question that has been debated for a few years now and the Secretary of State, CFV, VPIRG, and others had argued that there are ways to handle perceived delegation of power issue.

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Mathis Highlights Need for Ethics

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – MARCH 31, 2017

CONTACT:
Benjamin Kinsley
ben@campaignforvermont.org
(802) 448-2380

Bill Mathis again made headlines amid controversy last week when he was elected as vice-chair of the State Board of Education (SBE). Two new members of the board voted against him because of his involvement in proposed changes to how the state treats independent schools.

This argument, however, misses a more important point. In January, a group of independent legislators questioned whether Mathis’ employment at a national education research group that received funding from teachers unions violated the Vermont Executive Code of Ethics. “Much of the work conducted by the NEPC – including materials authored by Dr. Mathis – have direct bearing on public policy matters before the SBE,” they wrote.

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A Huge Opportunity

Email Blast Sent to Supporters on April 2, 2017. Subscribe!

Friends,

We released a report last week on Re-Energizing Vermont’s Education System and introducing $350 million in potential savings for Vermont property tax payers.

Vermont is well-positioned to take advantage of increasing global demand for access to American education systems. International applications for U.S. student visas has increased tenfold since 2008. Vermont’s public school system has the capacity to meet this demand (having lost 20,000 students since 1998) as well as small classroom sizes and good educational outcomes that would be attractive to these students. In fact, there are three public high schools in Vermont that are already doing this!

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CFV Releases Plan to Save Taxpayers $350 Million

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: MARCH 23, 2017

CONTACT:
BENJAMIN KINSLEY
(802) 448-2380
BEN@CAMPAIGNFORVERMONT.ORG

 

Group Releases Plan for $350 Million in Taxpayer Savings

Burlington, VT – Campaign for Vermont Prosperity (CFV), a non-partisan advocacy and policy development group, today released a plan that could save property taxpayers as much as $350 million per year.

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Partnering with NewGrassroots

Email Blast Sent to Supporters on March 20, 2017. Subscribe!

Friends,

We are proud to announce a partnership with NewGrassroots, a grassroots solution to put THE PEOPLE back in control of our government. Legislators often tell us that phone calls are the most effective way to influence their decision-making. The problem is, phone calls are difficult to track and there's no good way to tell how many calls a legislator gets from one side of an issue or the other. NewGrassroots fixes this problem.

How does it work? WE let you know when there is an important issue being debated in the Statehouse; YOU simply record a short voice message for your legislator. NewGrassroots delivers the message and then provides data on how many messages were sent and which ones were listened to. We can then use this data to hold our public officials accountable!

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Sunshine Week: Vermont on Long Road to Accountability in Government

Posted in Vermont Watchdog on March 13, 2017.

Two studies since 2013 have shown that Vermont government is doing poorly when it comes to everything from independent oversight of state officials to public access to information.

State lawmakers have a proposal that aims to address those shortcomings.

Vermont is ranked among the lowest of the 50 states in government integrity laws, according to the Better Government Association. And the state received a D- grade, when it comes to integrity, by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Center for Public Integrity.

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