By Mal Boright
The Selectboard rebuffed a request by Rep. Jim McCullough to include a resolution in support of universal health care on the Williston town meeting agenda this year.
McCullough, D-Williston, submitted the request in writing. The Selectboard turned down the request at its Jan. 10 session.
“The board traditionally has asked for petitions on these issues so we know there are significant numbers of people in the community who want to discuss the issue and vote on it,” said Ginny Lyons, board chairwoman.
As proposed by McCullough, the agenda item would ask town voters if they “should authorize the Selectboard, the Governor and state legislators to support and actively work for the creation of a universal and comprehensive health insurance system which is publicly financed and accountable to the citizens of Vermont?”
The Selectboard has the authority to place items on the town meeting agenda without a petition. Board member Jeff Fehrs noted three years ago the board allowed a question of whether or not the town should express its support for the Earth Charter on the agenda at the behest of a group of local students.
Board members, however, were reluctant to include the health care discussion on this year’s agenda.
Selectboard member Mary Peterson said she was not inclined to allow one person to produce an article for the agenda “no matter how vital the subject.” In addition, Peterson, also a Democrat, who serves in the Vermont House with McCullough, questioned whether the vote would produce a clear message considering the complexity of the issue.
McCullough said he would not lead a petition drive to place the item on the town meeting agenda. He instead suggested the issue "might be brought up from the floor" of the meeting.
The Williston representative appeared to back away from his idea, wondering if it was even necessary to debate universal health care at town meeting because a health care bill may be considered by the Legislature this session.
Williston’s town meeting will be held Feb. 28.
Observer reporter Tom Gresham contributed to this story.