By Rep. Jim Harrison
In a few short weeks, ballots will be mailed to all registered voters in Vermont for the general election this fall. Voters can choose to fill the ballots out ahead of time and return to their town or choose to wait and vote in person on Nov. 8. For me, my preference is to vote in person as it gives me more time to consider the different candidates and ballot initiatives. I also plan to be greeting district residents at the polls in any case on Nov. 8. But that is your choice, vote early or on election day. The important thing is to vote! Unlike football, politics is not a spectator sport. Voting is our responsibility and right.
In addition to all Vermont statewide offices, county offices (State’s Attorney, Sheriff, Probate Judge), town justices of the peace and every state legislative seat, there are also two proposed amendments to Vermont’s constitution up for consideration (more on that below).
On the election front, Phil Scott is widely viewed as the favorite for re-election as governor. The lt governor race could be a bit closer, although David Zuckerman is the likely frontrunner against Joe Benning, a moderate Republican State Senator from the St. Johnsbury area. Zuckerman, who has held the post before losing badly to Scott in the 2020 race for Governor, holds a commanding fundraising lead over Benning. However, in the recent Democratic primary, a majority of voters preferred other candidates over the Progressive Zuckerman, so the question may be how those that voted for a more moderate Democrat in August, will vote in the General Election.
The election for Rutland County’s three State Senate seats will feature incumbent Republican Brian Collamore, along with David Weeks and Terry Williams facing a new Democratic slate: Josh Ferguson, Bridget Remington, and Anna Tadio.
Aside from the open U.S. House Seat (Becca Balint (D) v. Liam Madden (R) and Erika Redic (L) and U.S. Senate (Peter Welch (D) v. Gerald Malloy (R) ), there is also the Vermont House Rutland-11 District. Please vote for me! (Editor’s note: Jim Harrison is running unopposed). Amending Vermont’s constitution can only be done by the voters and only after two successive legislatures approve a proposed amendment. This year there will be two amendments on the ballot for your consideration.
Proposal 2 would amend the Vermont Constitution to state that slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited: Article 1 of Chapter I of the Vermont Constitution would be amended to read: Article 1. [All persons born free; their natural rights; slavery and indentured servitude prohibited]
That all persons are born equally free and independent, and have certain natural, inherent, and unalienable rights, amongst which are the enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety; therefore no person born in this country, or brought from over sea, ought to be holden by law, to serve any person as a servant, slave or apprentice, after arriving to the age of twenty-one years, unless bound by the person’s own consent, after arriving to such age, or bound by law for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited.
If this amendment passes, the article will now clarify that slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited, including for those under 21. The nation outlawed slavery in 1865 with the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, so this change might be considered symbolic.
Proposal 5 would amend the Vermont Constitution to add an article regarding personal reproductive liberty: Article 22 of Chapter I of the Vermont Constitution is added to read: Article 22. [Personal reproductive liberty]
That an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.
Should Prop. 5 prevail at the ballot box, Vermont would be the first state in the country to add such language to its state constitution. This amendment is considered more controversial than the first change in Article 1. We encourage voters to review information both for and against the proposed change.
Here are two good sources of information, one for each side of the debate: Vermonters for Good Government – To preserve the Vermont Constitution and stop Article 22, vermontersforgoodgovernment.org and Vermont Coalition to pass the Reproductive Liberty Amendment, reprolibertyvt.org.
- Governor Phil Scott recently announced that starting in 2024, individual and small group health plans will cover one set of prescription hearing aids every three years and annual hearing exams. This follows the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services approval of xpanded coverage in Vermont’s essential health benefit (EHB) for services including prescription hearing aids.
- New Covid-19 booster vaccine is now available in Vermont. State Epidemiologist Dr. Patsy Kelso indicated the new vaccine is specifically designed to deal with the Omicron variant and should reduce the chances of catching the virus.
- The Scott administration announced that a federally funded rental assistance program instituted during the pandemic, has begun scaling back due to the diminishing supply of funds and need to progress past the acute pandemic stage.
In closing, please vote in the General Election this fall. Don’t be a spectator.
Jim Harrison can be reached at JHarrison@leg.state.vt.us or harrisonforvermont.com.