Right to the Point (2/25/10)

Three issues for our legislators

Feb. 25, 2010

By Mike Benevento

In my last column, I urged citizens to give feedback to our representatives in Montpelier. I requested they also inform me so I can spread the word. With that in mind, here are three responses from some of this column’s readers.

Ralph McGregor of Williston quickly took up the challenge and e-mailed Reps. Terry Macaig and Jim McCullough his opinion on school choice. Although we pay taxes, we seemingly get little say in the schools our children attend. Ralph wrote, “We are way past time for school vouchers. How would educators feel about being only allowed to buy Ford cars or could only shop at Shaws?”

Giving Vermonters the flexibility to use education dollars to send their children to the school of their choice allows schools to compete for students and money. Because school vouchers give parents the choice of public, private and religious schools, competition would help make all schools more efficient and accountable.

Rob Roper, grassroots coordinator for EdWatch Vermont, believes the best solution is reform that allows for full, statewide school choice with money following the child. As Ralph wrote, “This would probably cut education costs by at least 30 to 40% and the kids would get a better education.”

Ralph finished his e-mail with, “If you still need to cut expenses, call in a few businessmen to look at other state expenses and start CUTTING!!!!”

Williston’s Jay Michaud wholeheartedly agrees with cutting expenses. As a business owner, Jay experiences what he terms Montpelier’s unrelenting economic and bureaucratic burden. According to Jay, the Legislature is unresponsive to the needs of the people. While it espouses pro-business rhetoric, many of the actions the Democrat-run Legislature take are anti-business.

Like many entrepreneurs, Jay has had enough. They feel representatives need to wake up, act responsibly, stop paying lip service to job creation and take action. Otherwise, they may be out of a job in November because they do not represent their constituency’s will.

Jay points out that last year — during serious economic times — both McCullough and Macaig voted to override Gov. Jim Douglas’ veto. In doing so, they helped pass a bloated state budget that increased spending during the same time business and families had to cut back. Either the Legislature was out of touch with the state’s inhabitants, or it did not care. In times of decreased business and family revenues, increasing spending is wrong.

Business as usual in Montpelier severely hampers Vermont’s commerce. The Legislature fosters an ever-growing welfare state and appears beholden to special interest groups. There are too many unfunded mandates. Delays in building the Circ Highway, pension obligations, unemployment insurance and increasing energy costs by closing Vermont Yankee are among the many issues hurting Vermont’s economy.

A severe exodus of jobs from the state began long ago. With business at the breaking point, if Montpelier does not change its ways, more will surely follow.

One can easily tell that Jay is passionate about improving Vermont’s business climate. Because of his enthusiasm, I know we will be seeing great things from him in the future.

Like a growing majority of Americans, Patricia Crocker of Essex Junction is concerned about the unborn. Pat urges the Legislature to pass an unborn victims law giving protected status to fetuses affected by criminal acts.

Pending legislation was sparked by separate auto accidents involving Patricia Blair and Sarah Cardinal. Both were pregnant with twins and in each accident the fetuses were killed. Strangely, because Vermont does not recognize unborn children, none of the four babies lost counted as official deaths.

Ideas being discussed in Montpelier addressing fetal homicide include increased penalties for intentional or negligent crimes against pregnant women. Another proposal would allow prosecutors to charge people who kill a fetus with murder, manslaughter or negligent homicide. Some versions give limited legal status to the unborn victim while at the same time protecting a woman’s ability to have an abortion.

Abortion advocates almost reflexively reject any legislation protecting the unborn as they fear it may eventually lead to an all-out ban on abortion. Any proposal bestowing any right — no matter how small — is seen as a threat and must be immediately snuffed out. While the pending legislation is not about abortion — and may contain language exempting women and doctors concerning abortions — they oppose it out of habit.

According to former Vermont State Sen. Mark Shepard, 35 states have fetal homicide laws, so there is no rational reason why Vermont does not enact one. Let’s hope the Vermont Legislature agrees and votes one in place.


Michael Benevento is a former Air Force fighter jet weapon systems officer. He has a bachelor’s degree in Military History and a master’s in International Relations. Mike resides in Williston with his wife Kristine and their two sons, Matthew and Calvin.