Capitol Beat: The second election season
Waterbury Rep. Rebecca Ellis, and Barre Rep. Therese “Tess” Taylor are seeking a Democratic caucus vacancy in the Statehouse as the assistant majority leader, a position that helps facilitate communication between legislators and party leadership.
“I think in that process it’s really important for the individual legislators to know that they’re being heard and have an opportunity to speak and have an opportunity to discuss ideas and priorities,” Ellis said.
Ellis was appointed as a state representative by Gov. Peter Shumlin in 2011, and was recently elected to a full term.
She has also served on the Waterbury Select Board for seven years, including four years as chairwoman. She also served on the Waterbury Planning Commission from 2001 to 2006.
Ellis said in addition to helping build consensus through the funding and construction of two firehouses in Waterbury, she was moved by the ability of a group of people to work together in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene and that her experience was something she could bring to the job of assistant majority leader.
During the immediate aftermath of the storm, a key group of about 20 leaders often met daily for about a month, and Ellis also helped facilitate 22 long-term recovery projects.
Taylor was first elected as a state representative in 2008. She served two three-year terms as a school board member with Spaulding High School and the Barre Technical Center, which included time as chairwoman. She’s also been on the board of the Barre Supervisory Union, which she’s also chaired.
One of her major accomplishments in working with others includes helping resolve an 11-day teachers’ strike in 2005.
She also has board experience with the Central Vermont Workforce Development Board and the Barre Partnership, a nonprofit focused on revitalizing the city’s downtown that she has headed as president.
Taylor said she’s been able to reach out to others because of her experience with the Vermont Historical Society, where she previously served as the director of education and public programming.
As reported in Seven Days, the opening comes as the current Democratic whip, Addison County Rep. Willem Jewett, is seeking the position of majority leader. Caledonia County Rep. Lucy Leriche held that position, but she didn’t run for re-election.
The caucus will vote Dec. 8.
State bank idea stays alive
Anthony Pollina, a Washington County Progressive, Democrat and Working Families senator, wants the state to look again at the possibility of a state bank.
Currently, the vast majority of incoming tax revenues or federal money the state receives goes to TD Bank, which earns a profit and charges fees, Pollina says. Through a state bank, which would use existing local banks or a state agency like the Vermont Economic Development Authority, the state could earn interest and use the money to re-invest in businesses or student loans, advocates say.
In 2010, a preliminary analysis by the Vermont Legislative Joint Fiscal Office wrote the system has a number of potential long-term benefits, but it would likely have a complicated and controversial transition.
Committee hearings have gathered testimony about the possibility, but banking representatives have opposed the measure.
A bill to study the issue was introduced last year by Pollina and Chittenden County Sen. Ginny Lyons, a Democrat, but the proposal ultimately was tabled.
Pollina said during an interview last week a state bank would work in partnership, rather than competition, with banks. He also said he believes that public support is more receptive now than it was two years ago.
He also said the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute for Ecological Economics has supported the idea.
A fellow with the institute, Gary Flomenhoft, took part in legislative testimony on the issue.
He has suggested the North Dakota state bank was a key factor in that state having a budget surplus following the 2008 stock market crash while other states came out of it with deficits. He’s pointed to how in 2009 the North Dakota state bank returned $30 million to the state based on investments.
A conference from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier is set to include a discussion on the issue of state banks. The conference, called Vermont’s New Economy, costs $25. Attendees can register at www.global-community.org/cgi/gc/neweconomy/.
Pollina is also working to draft a bill for another study group to try to undo declining state funding for state colleges for the cost of college education.
The state currently funds about 12 percent of the cost, Pollina said. In 1980, state funding paid for about half, and tuition covered the rest, he said.