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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The Session Shakedown

Monday May 13, 2024

Monday May 13, 2024

Advocates recap the eleven priority environmental and democracy policies taken up in the 2023/2024 biennium in the Vermont Legislature.

Monday May 06, 2024

On this week’s episode of Democracy Dispatch, we have a conversation with Senator Dick McCormack. The Windsor Senator recently announced his retirement from the legislature after more than three decades of service. He reflects on the pressing issues that the state faced in the late 80s and how they have evolved (or not) over time. He shares his inspiration for seeking the appointment to the Senate, his unwavering support for environmental policies, and the importance of Act 250 and its impact on Vermont. McCormack looks back on his work in civil liberties, including his support for civil unions and end-of-life choices, offers advice to his successors, and emphasizes the importance of finding common ground with colleagues, even when there are disagreements.
Also on the podcast, Lauren Hierl and I also give a timely update on all the action in the State House as we enter what is potentially the final week of the session. Which bills saw action last week, which will make it to the Governor’s desk, and which won’t be able to beat the sand in the timer? Hear our assessment on all of our priority policies.

Monday Apr 22, 2024

On this week’s episode of Democracy Dispatch, we welcome back to the podcast two statewide elected officials. Secretary of State Sarah Copeland Hanzas joins for a conversation reflecting on her first term in office including the challenges of responding to flooding and building new IT systems. She discusses the future of ranked choice voting in Vermont and two upcoming forums on the topic. She also explores the possibilities and concerns surrounding online voting and the use of artificial intelligence in elections. As she looks to the future, Secretary Copeland-Hanzas highlights the importance of civic engagement and the ongoing efforts to promote civics education in Vermont.
We also check in with State Treasurer Mike Pieciak, who discusses resilience investments and the Climate Superfund Bill, the concept of a green bank and leveraging federal funds for climate initiatives. He also shares the initiative to create a baby bond program to break the cycle of poverty in Vermont.

Monday Apr 15, 2024

Between Big Oil and toxic chemicals, it's time we clean up our act!
Just as the Vermont House passes S.25, a bill that would ban PFAS and other harmful “forever” chemicals from a slew of items including cosmetics, cookware, apparel, artificial turf, children’s products, and personal care products, it felt like a great time to hear from a national partner to see how Vermont stacks up when it comes to toxics reform. Gretchen Salter, strategic advisor for Safer States, walks us through the national landscape of toxics reform and education. Safer States is an alliance of diverse environmental health organizations and coalitions from across the nation (including VCV) that's committed to safeguarding people and the planet from toxic chemicals. 
We also hear from Anthony Iarrapino, an attorney at Wilschek Iarrapino Law in Montpelier, who walks us through S.259 and just how you make Big Oil pay should Vermont enact the Climate Superfund Act.

Monday Apr 08, 2024

On this week’s episode of the Democracy Dispatch Podcast, I’m joined by our 2024 legislative intern, Cora Smith. We will have a conversation about her role and the interests that emerged while spending many hours reporting on committee discussions this year. Later, Cora takes the wheel as host for an interview with Kathy Beyer, Senior Vice President for Real Estate Development at Evernorth, an organization with offices across northern New England that have developed and financed environmentally, socially, and economically responsible housing for low and moderate-income people. Cora and Kathy discuss Act 250’s role in allowing affordable housing and also unpack just how affordable housing is created and defined. 
Lauren Hierl and I recap action of the past week, including a strong tripartisan vote (26-3) in the Senate on S.259, Make Big Oil Pay, and the movement of a comprehensive PFAS bill, S.25, out of the House Committee on Human Services on a unanimous 11-0 vote. 
Lastly, we hear from Representative Jonathan Williams (D-Barre City) who discusses the response, recovery, and resilience measures needed for communities impacted by flooding. The conversation highlights bills S.310 and S.213 as important steps toward flood safety and management.

Monday Apr 01, 2024

Lauren speaks with Rep. Amy Sheldon following the floor discussion and vote on H.687, a bill that would modernize Act 250. Justin recaps the America Votes State Summit in Washington, D.C.

Monday Mar 25, 2024

Kati Gallagher, Sustainable Communities Program Director at Vermont Natural Resources Council, and Catherine Dimitruk, executive director of Northwest Regional Planning Commission, join for a conversation about Act 250 reform and the proposed changes within H.687, a bill heading to the House floor this week. 
The two outline the bill's nexus with planning, walk through the location-based jurisdiction and tier structure, and how regional planning commissions work to provide mapping and planning for communities.  
Also on the podcast, Attorney General Charity Clark adds her thoughts on PFAS regulation and the proposed creation of a climate superfund. 

Monday Mar 18, 2024

Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale (D-Chittenden SE), chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs and Kristin Warner, Public Policy Manager at Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility discuss the roles of businesses in shaping policy, how businesses band together to stack a stand on climate protections, and the apprehension some feel about getting political in the first place. To assist in that conversation is Kate Ogden, the Advocacy and Movement Building Manager at Seventh Generation.
Also, a deeper look at the climate superfund act known as Make Big Oil Pay with Senator Tanya Vyhovsky (P-Chittenden Central). 
And finally, a breakdown look at the League of Conservation Voters’ national scorecard to see how our federal delegation stacks up and their voting records on environmental policies in Washington D.C. 

Monday Mar 04, 2024

With the legislature on break for Town Meeting Day, it seemed like the opportune time to sit down with Lauren Hierl, executive director, Vermont Conservation Voters, to discuss the policy priorities outlined in the 2024 Environmental Common Agenda and provide a progress report on each. 
We update you on the latest surrounding Act 250, climate resiliency, the Renewable Energy Standard, cleaner transportation solutions, neonicotinoid pesticides, PFAS, the updated bottle bill, and ranked choice voting.

Monday Feb 26, 2024

Democratic Burlington City Councilor Joan Shannon and Progressive State Representative Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, both vying to be Burlington’s next mayor, answer the same set of questions on Burlington’s existing climate efforts and their vision for the future.
Senator Christopher Bray of Addison County talks about the advancement of S.213, the Flood Safety Act.


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