On February 13, 2019

Electing a new National Guard general is challenging

By Sen. Alison Clarkson

No matter the temperature outside, or the travel challenges, during this time of year the State House is humming with activity.  Whether it’s a public hearing, committee meetings, advocacy training, the governor’s open door coffees on Wednesday mornings, the lieutenant governor’s film series, or Farmer’s Night every Wednesday evening – the State House is teeming with people from all over the state and beyond.  It is energizing simply to be in the building.

At the beginning of each new biennium, the Legislature holds special joint sessions (with both the House and the Senate) to elect an adjutant general for the Vermont National Guard, a sergeant at arms, and legislative trustees for the University of Vermont and for the State Colleges.  This year four candidates for the adjutant general position have self identified:  retired Brig. Gen. David Baczewski, retired Lt. Col. David Graham, retired Col. Rosanne Greco and Col. Greg Knight.  After the disturbing VTDigger articles which exposed the challenges the guard faces with drinking, sexual harassment, and the recruitment of women – the Legislature is very concerned that the guard’s next leader is committed to, and capable of, making major culture changes.

The challenge Legislators face is that there is no substantive review or vetting process, and no reference checking of the candidates.  Few, if any of us, have military experience.  And, while the committees of jurisdiction and the Women’s Caucus, held meetings during which all four candidates answered questions, most legislators will vote based on meeting them briefly, with almost no objective information.  My guess is that by the end of this session, we will have a better, more objective and thoughtful process with which to choose the top military commander for our Vermont National Guard.

As many of you may be aware, the Department of Motor Vehicles has instituted new inspection and emissions testing.  Legislators have been hearing from many low income Vermonters that the cost of this emissions test has been a financial hardship.  In an effort to alleviate this burden, the Senate has passed a bill which exempts cars 11 years or older from being subject to the emissions test or on board diagnostic systems inspection.  About 24 percent of Vermont’s cars (113,000) are 11 years or older.  The Senate Transportation Committee (STC) wanted to be able to respond quickly to provide relief to these Vermonters.

Thirty-two states do some emissions testing and Vermont is one of only 13 states to have adopted California’s emissions regulations as an alternative to the federal standards, and one of nine states to have adopted the CA Zero-Emission Vehicle regulations – all good for protecting the quality of our air.  And, while Vermont has the highest growth rate per capita of purchasing electric vehicles – we still have a good number, about 113,000 cars, out there which may have emissions challenges.  Unfortunately, these are exactly the vehicles that tend to pollute our air.  While I appreciate the STC’s objectives, we are all uncertain of the environmental impact of this proposal.  I am hoping that as the bill proceeds through the Legislature, the House will come up with a better test of low income than the age of one’s car.

I can be reached by email:  aclarkson@leg.state.vt.us or by phone at the Statehouse (Tues-Fri) 828-2228 or at home (Sat-Mon) 457-4627.

Alison Clarkson is a state senator for Windsor County.

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