I have heard from several of you who expressed concerns about the fate of H.722, the process and timing of last weeks hearing and rally, David Zuckerman’s ‘wake up call’, and the visit of Illuzzi and Galbraith to the Brattleboro/WRJ bus after the hearing. I share your concerns. I decided to answer everyone at once with this email in the interest of good communication and full disclosure. We need to keep these conversations going to build strength in our community.
I have gotten some clarification on the timing of the sequence of events. Here is what I learned:
On Wednesday afternoon the governor was evidently asked in a press conference on another topic how he felt about the GMO labeling bill. At that time he answered as we have now come to know his ‘auto reply’ to be, that he supports the concept but is afraid of legal strife. This news did not reach the coalition until after the hearing. Andrea also reports that at 5:45 PM on Thursday the 12th the governor came out with his official response, at this time we were all at the rally. Too bad we were not checking our email at that time or the news would have surely changed our tone at the rally and certainly many would have altered their testimony. I know I would have. This news of the governor’s response did not reach us until after the hearing. I read it on Facebook around midnight on Thursday.
The day before the hearing, Wednesday the 11th, Andrea Stander from Rural Vermont met with Carolyn Partridge who was at that time reportedly in support of the hearing, wanted it to ‘go well’, offered advice as to how to make it run smoothly, and felt that it could sway the committee to vote the bill out of Ag and on to Judiciary as is precedence. My understanding is that Carolyn likes unanimity in her Committee for what ever that is worth and that may be why the bill STILL sits in the Ag Committee despite the hearing having reportedly switched two minds to support the bill. I understand they are expecting more testimony this week! I cannot imagine what else they think they will learn and am convinced it is yet another stall tactic. The testimony given on this bill was extensive from both sides, never mind the very well-informed statements from 112 citizens in favor of the bill at the hearing.
We went round and round for about a week about even holding a rally and hearing at all because the timing of the session is so tight and the Committee had already heard LOTS of testimony and had heard in large numbers from the public via calls, letters, and emails. It seemed a waste, but we learned from Carolyn that it would be a good idea and so we went with it and knew that having a good crowd there would be critical. One reason to hold the hearing was to create a public record with which to hold legislators accountable. We know which legislators came to the hearing and what they heard. We also know who did not come to the hearing. We also know that our public is very well-informed and responsive.
The news of Senators Galbraith and Illuzzi getting on the Brattleboro/WRJ bus after the hearing was surprising and also curious. What was their intention? And who do they work for? If they were my reps I would certainly be questioning them on that move and their cowardly stance. Give up? Give up our sovereignty and our basic right to know what we consume? Are they serious? I have listed their contact info below and I encourage everyone to question them on this action.
Also disconcerting is the complete lack of coverage from the media on the hearing.
The coalition held a press conference on Wed the 11th ands sent press releases far and wide throughout the state. Other than a mention in Mark Bittman’s NY Times article, the only press I heard was that NPR streamed the testimony and that supporters around the nation were able to hear it. On Saturday ( I think ) on Vermont Edition, Chuck Ross, Sec. of Ag., announced his stance, identical to the cowardly Governor’s response.
As I understand it, the plan of the Right To Know coalition now is to continue creating that public record, push the bill out of Ag, straight through Judiciary, and get a floor vote before the session ends next week. This is all to be in a better position next session. The coalition is working out the feasibly and logistics of this as we speak and in the next day or two we’ll launch a campaign against the House leadership and/or the Governor. As of today, the bill has 8 out of 11 on the Agriculture Committee in support, yet it still sits!! Other national and state entities are planning a major assault on the Vermont legislature and the Governor. Please respond when they ask you to add your name to the millions who support labeling around the world. This is important for Vermont and also nationally as what happens here will effect California and many other states working on similar to identical bills. There is a national effort to create a Legal Defense Fund to help States fight against Monsanto. Collected funds will be donated to the State when and if we get some courage in our legislative body.
I believe that the members of coalition (VPIRG, Rural VT, and NOFA-VT) are indeed working hard for all of us to navigate the manipulative game-playing of the legislature. Regrettably, if we participate in politics we risk being pawns in t
he game. I am a bit cynical about trusting any of our legislature to do the right thing in a system that does not support the people over corporate interests. The legislature is stalling the bill on purpose, as David Zuckerman indicated in his ‘wake up call’. They have passes one bill out of Committee this session. Just one.
Stay tuned for updates this week on the status of H.722 and in the coming weeks for plans to prepare for next session and how we are going to sway the governor or make sure he does not get reelected. Evidently, trying to sway the governor to change his stance is not a favorable tactic as he is unlikely to change for fear of being considered a flip-flopper. I have only my vote to sway him with and I will use that as best as I am able.
Tim, I would be interested in discussing with you your ideas for, as you say, to “step outside the(ir) box, become more imaginative and creative in what we do…”. Personally, I think the time has come for the people to rebuild society from the ground up and take back the State.
Governor Peter Schumlin
109 State Street, Pavilion Montpelier, VT 05609
SEND A MESSAGE http://governor.vermont.gov/
Galbraith, Peter W. (D ),
P.O. Box 335, Townshend, VT 05353
E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
WINDHAM DISTRICT Committees: (clerk) ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, HOUSING AND GENERAL AFFAIRS, GOVERNMENT OPERATIONS
Illuzzi, Vincent, (R )
P.O. Box 1, Orleans, VT 05860
ESSEX-ORLEANS DISTRICT Committees: (chair) APPROPRIATIONS, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, HOUSING AND GENERAL AFFAIRS, and REAPPORTIONMENT
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE (Room 31)
list of contacts: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/
Partridge of Windham, Chair
Lawrence of Lyndon, Vice Chair
Bartholomew of Hartland
Conquest of Newbury, Clerk
Howrigan of Fairfield
Kilmartin of Newport City
McAllister of Highgate
McNeil of Rutland Town
Stevens of Shoreham, Ranking Member
Taylor of Barre City
Zagar of Barnard