Rutland legislators reveal top issues
Toby Talbot Photo
The Vermont Legislature, pictured at the end of the 2012 session, is set to reconvene next week.
The Herald invited every state legislator from Vermont’s four southern counties to respond to the question, “What’s your single most important issue for 2013 and why?” Here are the answers from all the Rutland lawmakers who replied:
Sen. Peg Flory, R-Rutland:
My top priority for Rutland County is to improve the economy by creating an environment to increase jobs. Without this, we can’t adequately address my other three priorities: 1) Addressing and adequately funding the drug problem; 2) Addressing and adequately funding the Eastern equine encephalitis threat and 3) Supporting a wind moratorium. All of these issues are quality of life issues and essential to the people in our county and state.
Sen. Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland:
Our students will grow up to compete in a global marketplace. In this session, we must address the fact that we are not providing every student with equal opportunities to learn. Availability of early childhood education is not universal for Vermont families. Performance and course offerings vary substantially from district to district and school to school. Vermont must continue on its path toward excellence in education and branding ourselves as the pre-K-16 education state. Of equal importance on my list of priorities: economic development, sound energy policies, affordable and sustainable health care reform and making all arms of government effective, efficient and transparent.
Rep. Tom Burditt, R-Rutland-2 (Clarendon, Proctor, Tinmouth, Wallingford, West Rutland):
One of mine will be the governor’s quest to let law enforcement into our medical/prescription records without warrants. This was a hotly contested issue at the end of last session with the House adamantly against letting police into our private records and the Senate overwhelmingly in favor. The conference committee I was on butted heads pretty hard with the Senate trying to resolve the differences. This would fly directly in the face of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights and Article 11 of the Vermont Constitution.
Rep. Dave Potter, D-Rutland-2 (Clarendon, Proctor, Tinmouth, Wallingford, West Rutland):
For certain areas in my legislative district, the most important issue to face the 2013 legislative session will be a moratorium on ridgeline development of industrial scale wind energy. When something of this size and scale threatens to intrude into your tranquil, rural residential neighborhood, changing forever what you see, hear and feel in ways it is difficult to imagine, it’s about as important to those affected people as it gets.
Rep. Bob Helm, R/D-Rutland-3 (Castleton, Fair Haven, Hubbardton, West Haven):
Lower the drinking age to 18. I’m also going to ask the Legislature to look at term limits for itself and ask Congress to do the same. And I want to allow 65-plus-year-old hunters to use all-terrain vehicles on state logging roads and hard surface areas.
Rep. Thomas Terenzini R/D-Rutland-4 (Rutland Town):
To see Vermonters continue the financial and physical recovery from Tropical Storm Irene. So many of our neighbors are struggling financially; where can we make financial cuts to impact their personal finances? Tough choices will need to be made and it is going to be a challenging session. We must also be concerned with job creation and the loss of too many jobs in Vermont, including at the Waterbury complex.
Rep. Peter Fagan R-Rutland-5-1 (Rutland City):
The most important issue right now for Rutland and much of Vermont is drugs and drug crime. I have been to all of the community meetings and I have heard loud and clear that people want something done. The Rutland City delegation is working closely together to craft bills to make it uncomfortable for individuals to sell drugs and commit drug crimes.
Rep. Larry “Cooper” Cupoli, R-Rutland-5-2 (Rutland City):
To find a way to make sure that recipients of our social welfare spending are not abusing the system. Perhaps a drug-testing measure should be adopted to insure that our tax dollars are being spent on those who are not abusers and instead on our citizens that are truly in need of help. As I campaigned, I found that this was by far a most popular issue and perhaps a most difficult question for me to address.
Rep. Herb Russell, D-Rutland-5-3 (Rutland City):
Everything else is extremely important, but my main thrust is getting the western rail corridor completed from Rutland to Burlington for Amtrak and freight. Because we don’t have an interstate on this side of the state, we’ve got to find a way to get this done for economic development.
Rep. Douglas Gage, R-Rutland-5-4 (Rutland City):
Toughening the penalties for crimes involving hard drugs, which have increased greatly over the last decade. Many Rutlanders no longer feel safe. We need to significantly increase the penalties for the sales and distributing to make the cost of dealing hard drugs too high, forcing the dealers to stop selling and getting them off the streets.
Rep. Stephen Carr, D-Rutland-6 (Brandon, Pittsford, Sudbury):
While I’ve been concerned with Eastern equine encephalitis and transportation issues on the western side of the state, health care is my biggest priority. There’s nothing that hits on everyone’s life like this issue. We have the opportunity to accomplish some wonderful things. I believe in universal health care.
Rep. Butch Shaw R/D-Rutland-6 (Brandon, Pittsford, Sudbury):
To secure reliable and sustainable funding in the proper amount for a Vermont Arborvirus Program. With two deaths from Eastern equine encephalitis in my district, mosquitoes have moved from being a nuisance problem to being a public health problem. We need to support the Vermont Departments of Health and Agriculture in their efforts to expand the existing Arborviral Program. Additional financial support is needed for our current BLGS Insect Control District and other districts that wish to expand to other towns or additional districts that may be formed.
Rep. John Malcolm, D-Rutland-Bennington (Middletown Springs, Pawlet, Rupert, Tinmouth, Wells):
Achieving a strong Vermont economy and job opportunities through: good educational and training opportunities, good roads, bridges, rail and public transit, modern telecommunication and Internet availability, incentives for businesses and homeowners for weatherization and renewable energy projects, and affordable and accessible health care.
Rep. Anne Gallivan, D-Rutland-Windsor-1 (Bridgewater, Chittenden, Killington, Mendon):
My constituents are all concerned about their individual town school costs at a time of low enrollments. In order to preserve strong school programs in this climate, I will advocate for economic development measures that will draw young families and fill our schools to capacity, allowing for continued local control and preventing compromises of program quality. Streamlining all of the state permitting processes might also bolster business growth. The Legislature should review the school funding formula as well to assure that the taxes do not disproportionately burden lower incomes.
Rep. Dennis Devereux, R-Rutland-Windsor-2 (Ludlow, Mount Holly, Shrewsbury):
How we’re funding schools with property taxes has been one of the biggest concerns for my area. If we can’t change how we’re funding schools, let’s address cost containment issues. There’s a lot of pieces of the costs of education: health care costs, teacher pensions, special education, supervisory union district mergers. There are some difficult decisions to be made.
Rep. Will Stevens, I-Addison-Rutland (Benson, Orwell, Shoreham, Whiting):
Thirty-one years of experience as a vegetable grower means that my focus will be on the economic health of Vermont’s agricultural and forest product sectors, because of the enormous implications for our rural areas. Related issues that I’ll be involved with include: water quality and accepted agricultural practices, the continuance of statewide efforts to get more Vermont food into more Vermont homes, and ensuring a second year of appropriations for the Working Lands Enterprise Fund.