Press release sent @ 10am on May 16, 2017.
Burlington, VT – Campaign for Vermont Prosperity (CFV) concluded a four year legislative campaign last week when the House and Senate approved the final version of S.8, a bill creating a state ethics commission and standards of conduct for public officials. “This is a significant step forward,” said CFV Executive Director Ben Kinsley, “we have been fighting for this for years and the Legislature has been slow to act,” referring to a 2013 report the organization issued calling for the creation of ethics laws for public officials.
S.8 passed the Senate unanimously in early February, giving the House nearly three months to work on the bill. “They needed it,” said Kinsley, “the Senate worked on a very similar bill last year, but the House had yet to see language for a comprehensive ethics bill.” The House finally gave approval the first week in May – only a few days before the anticipated end of the legislative session. “There were several provisions added the day before it was set to be voted out of committee that would have gutted the independent oversight of the ethics commission,” Kinsley added. “We worked closely with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group and the Vermont ACLU to push back on the changes and were successful in restoring the commission.”
There was some concern that the bill would not make the end-of-session deadline, but legislators acted quickly after a compromise was worked out between the House and Senate Versions of the bill. The final vote in the House was 120-24. Campaign for Vermont has posted a list of legislators voting against the bill, asking voters to contact their representatives to demand answers.
CFV also wishes to thank those who advocated for change. “We would be remiss not to thank those who stood by us. There are a number of tireless advocates that deserve credit, including Secretary of State Jim Condos and his staff, VPIRG, ACLU-VT, Author Bill Schubart, David Coates, the Chairs of the House and Senate Government Operations Committees, and a number of others. We packed the committee room nearly every day,” joked Kinsley.
“This has been a signature issue for us,” said CFV Board of Directors Chairman, Louise McCarren, “we have viewed government ethics, transparency and accountability as the foundation for a prosperous Vermont. This is an exciting win for us and sets the stage for future initiatives.”
Many advocates are concerned the bill doesn’t go far enough. “We have made it very clear to legislators that this is only a first step,” said Kinsley, “there is more work to do to provide the oversight and transparency that will restore the public’s confidence in our state government. However, this is a critical first step in making that happen.”
More information about Campaign for Vermont’s position on ethics reform can be found on their website, campaignforvermont.org/ethics.