Democracy Dispatch

Vermont Conservation Voters’ Political Outreach Director, Justin Marsh, hosts a weekly conversation with legislators, energy and climate leaders, and environmental champions.

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Monday Jul 31, 2023

As Vermonters begin week four of clean up from the devastating flooding that occurred the week of July 10th, we hear from four legislators from across Vermont as they share stories from their communities and efforts of recovery. I walked the streets of Johnson with Representative Dan Noyes, assessing firsthand the damages and work to rebuild. I spoke with Senator Alison Clarkson of Windsor County, who shared how her home district was impacted and also how resiliency efforts made following the flooding from Tropical Storm Irene likely helped areas in Bethel and Stockbridge that had been damaged in 2011 but were not as badly hit this time around. Representative Katherine Sims talked with me about the gaps in capacity for smaller towns, especially in the Northeast Kingdom, where she represents 4 towns hoping for FEMA relief designation. And lastly, Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale, who has stayed home with her newborn but took on a vital role of connecting supplies and volunteers, using her connections and relationships to provide aid to the affected communities.

Friday May 26, 2023

On the Season Finale of the Democracy Dispatch Podcast, Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski discusses her role as Speaker, and House leadership’s priorities both currently and with an eye on the second and final year of the biennium. After passing the Affordable Heat Act this year, she lists the environmental policy priorities she hopes to see make it across the finish line by next year. Speaker Krowinski shares what led her to Vermont over two decades ago, what has kept her here and politically engaged, and what it means to be just the 4th female Speaker in Vermont history and one of only 6 in the country currently. Plus, hear how she spends the summer and fall during a non-election year. 
In an expanded edition of the Session Shakedown segment, Lauren Hierl and I give the full report of where our policies made it, using our 2023 Environmental Common Agenda as a guide. We see how far our policy priorities made it and what will be our focus in 2024.

Monday May 08, 2023

Wisconsin Conservation Voters’ Deputy Director, Seth Hoffmeister joins the podcast from the 2023 Conservation Voters Movement Conference in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN. Seth shares about the incredible field organizing his organization led, resulting in successfully blocking a Republican supermajority in the Wisconsin House of Representatives. Despite being a majority democratic state, having elected Democratic Governor Tony Evers for a second term in 2022, the state is plagued with the worst gerrymandering in the country. He talks about the undemocratic district maps that strengthen Republican control and hopes for reversing that movement thanks to last month’s Supreme Court election, giving the court liberal control for the first time since 2008.
For our Deep Dive conversation, Lauren Hierl speaks with Representative Seth Bongartz (D-Manchester) about the progress of S.100, the housing equity bill, as we near the end of the 2023 session. Lauren and I recap the week in the State House and movement on environmental priority policies, including news of Gov. Phil Scott’s vetoing of S.5, the Affordable Heat Act, and its potential override vote this week. 

Monday May 01, 2023

Representative Emma Mulvaney-Stanak (P/D-Burlington) speaks about proposed legislation that would incrementally increase the pay and benefits that legislators receive over the next two bienniums. The former director of the Vermont Livable Wage Campaign addresses historic wage disparities for women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+ persons, and the ways that the current compensation structure in the legislature perpetuates those gaps. Rep. Mulvaney-Stanak, the Progressive Party House Caucus Leader, also takes time to discuss her party’s priorities, share progress on those policies and what looks poised to be enacted. Lastly, she gives advice to those who might be considering a run for state legislature themselves. 
Lauren Hierl speaks with Senator Ruth Hardy (D-Addison) about bills her committees have worked on this year, including a bill to remove PFAS and harmful toxics from several consumer products, as well as ranked choice voting measures. She also gives her perspective on legislative pay as former Executive Director of Emerge Vermont, an organization that recruits and trains femme-identifying people to run for office. 
Plus, Lauren and Justin give the latest updates on our environmental priority policies in our Session Shakedown segment, including news that S.5, the Affordable Heat Act, has passed the Senate on a vote of 20-10 and will now spend the week on the Governor’s desk before he vetoes the bill, which he has publicly indicated he will do.  

Monday Apr 24, 2023

We examine the Affordable Heat Act, S.5, with co-chair of the Vermont Legislature’s Climate Solutions Caucus, Representative Gabrielle Stebbins (D-Burlington). Last week, the House voted to advance the Affordable Heat Act by a vote of 98-46. As the bill inches its way closer to the Governor’s desk, we felt it was an opportune time to really get into the substance of the bill with a policymaker who championed the bill and spent a great deal of time working on it and improving it while it was in the House Committee on Environment and Energy. Rep. Stebbins breaks down the major elements of the bill, what it will mean for Vermonters, and the timeline for implementation of the program it creates. If you still have questions about the Affordable Heat Act, our conversation will hopefully help you understand it better.
During our Deep Dive conversation, Lauren Hierl catches up with Senator Anne Watson (D-Washington) to hear about the work the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy has done on the modernized bottle bill, the 30x30 land conservation bill, as well as the Renewable Energy Standard.

Monday Apr 17, 2023

Senator Nader Hashim (D-Windham), Representative Golrang “Rey” Garofano (D-Essex), and Representative Mary-Katherine Abdel-Ghany Stone (D-Burlington) comprise the MENA Caucus. MENA is an acronym referring to the group of countries situated in the Middle East and in North Africa. The three share the stories of their journeys to Vermont, campaigning, their experiences with assimilation, as well as being visible leaders for other Iranians and Egyptians living in Vermont.
Representative Dara Torre (D-Moretown) shares the latest from her committee, including the vote on Affordable Heat Act and work on the housing equity bill.

Monday Apr 10, 2023

Mike Pieciak was elected as our 31st State Treasurer last November after completing his “Road to Victory” - taking part in the 251(+1) Club, visiting every town and city in the state - ending in Victory, VT, and with a resounding victory on election night. The Brattleboro-native, who previously served for six years as the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, talks about the honor of serving in a statewide capacity of public service, his role as a top elected LGBTQ+ official, and how his background in law helps shape his work as Treasurer. We discuss his ‘slow and thoughtful’ approach to divestment from fossil fuels in state funds and the impact his role has on climate-related decisions at the state-level. 
With crossover in the rearview, things have settled down a little bit in the state house. Now it’s just a countdown to the end of the session to see what will make it past the finish line with bills voted out of the Senate now in their respective House committees and vice versa. Last week we saw S.25, a bill that would regulate cosmetics, personal care products, textiles, and athletic turf from contacting PFAS, passed the Senate by a unanimous vote. Hear more about the action in our Session Shakedown segment, and then hear our conversation with Representative Laura Sibilia (I-Dover), fresh from hearing a week’s worth of testimony on S.5, the Affordable Heat Act.

Monday Apr 03, 2023

On this week’s Democracy Dispatch podcast, we get the chance to speak with Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman, who is currently serving as our state’s 84th lieutenant governor, returning for a third term after one biennium break following a run for Governor. Zuckerman is a Progressive/Democrat who was the only third-party candidate to be elected in a statewide race this past Election Day nationwide. He served in both the Vermont House and Senate until being elected as lieutenant governor. Zuckerman discusses his day-to-day duties, his political career path, and the challenges and opportunities of being a member of the Progressive Party. With nearly a quarter century of experience in Montpelier, he also reflects on incremental change, the pace of lawmaking, and what may be next for him.
With the House and Senate enduring very long days in their respective chambers on top of their committee work, we decided to give our Senators and Representatives the week off from our in-depth investigative interviews, and instead, Lauren and Justin give a rundown on the many votes we witnessed last week – as well as what we expect to see voted on this week. With two House votes and four Senate votes on our priority policies, now is a great time to check out our environmental scorecard to see how your elected officials are voting. 

Monday Mar 27, 2023

Secretary of State Sarah Copeland Hanzas speaks with Justin a few months into her transition to the role after an incredible 18-year legislative career representing Bradford in the Vermont House. During her tenure she was the lead sponsor of the Global Warming Solutions Act and most recently co-chair of the Climate Solutions Caucus. Copeland Hanzas reflects on her past climate work and why action is so crucial. She shares more about the role of Secretary of State, what the office has done in recent years to expand and protect democracy, and the goals she has for her tenure, including the advancement of ranked choice voting in Vermont.
For our Deep Dive segment, Lauren catches up with Representative Gabrielle Stebbins (D-Burlington) to get the latest on work in her committee, House Environment and Energy, including updates on the updated Bottle Bill and testimony on Affordable Heat Act.
Last week the House passed H.126, known as the 30x30 land and water conservation bill. Many more votes are expected in the Senate and House this week, which Lauren and Justin recap in our Session Shakedown segment of the podcast. 

Monday Mar 20, 2023

Attorney General Charity Clark is our state’s 28th AG, and the first woman to ever be elected to the position. In a candid conversation with Justin, she talks about her upbringing in Southern Vermont, how the intimacy of Vermont's politics allowed her access to role models where she could see herself reflected, her passion for Vermont's climate and environment, and the role of the AG in shaping that conversation.
Lauren talks with Senator Christopher Bray (D-Addison) on the Deep Dive segment for updates on the Energy Efficiency Modernization Act, the housing equity bill, and the Affordable Heat Act.
Lauren and Justin discuss crossover week with updates on what made it across the line and what did not in the Session Shakedown segment.


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