Commentary

By Heidi Scheuermann, December 2018

 

https://vtdigger.org/2018/12/12/heidi-scheuermann-vermont-republicanism-proud-distinguished-tradition/

 

Six years ago, upon the considerable electoral defeat in 2012 of Vermont Republicans, I wrote an opinion piece asking where Vermont Republicans were to go from that point (Where To Go From Here, November 2012).

 

Specifically, my concern was that we had lost our way; that we had become lifeless and uninspiring; that our traditional core values of individual liberty and responsibility, a free market economy that ensures economic opportunity for all, fiscal responsibility, and a smaller, more efficient government in place to ensure programs and resources are there to help our friends and neighbors in need were being drowned out by other, more divisive issues; and that our big tent from years past inclusive of Republicans from the conservative wing to the liberal wing, was somehow becoming smaller rather than larger.

 

I followed the opinion piece with travels around the state with fellow Vermont Republican, Senator Joe Benning, presenting our case for refocusing on our core issues and developing a clear, inspired message, thus broadening our tent again and reinvigorating and reviving traditional Vermont Republicanism.

 

Unfortunately, while we had some success over the next four years in expanding our reach to discontented former Republicans, independents, and moderate Democrats, that success came to a halt with the 2018 election.

 

The question now is why.  Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple one.

 

Indeed, the disgust among Vermonters at President Trump’s caustic, boorish behavior and the frustration and anger with the national Republican Party that accompanies that disgust is an obvious challenge for Vermont Republicans.  Make no mistake, though, these feelings are shared by people from across the political spectrum – Republican to Democrat, conservative to liberal. 

 

That said, it is too simple to lay all of the blame for last month’s significant defeat on Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and the lot in DC. 

 

The same can be said with the recent debate about whether Vermont Republicans have become too liberal or too conservative for the voters of Vermont and the blame for the electoral loss being placed on either side of that debate.

 

Our challenge is a far more nuanced one than both of these allow.

 

In fact, Vermont Republicans have lost our way all on our own.  We continue to be lifeless and uninspiring.  We lack a clear message that inspires and welcomes Vermonters into our fold, and, in fact, in some cases, we are moving away from our traditional core values that have served this state so well for so many years.  And, for that reason, we don’t have the organization in place to compete electorally.

 

With last month’s significant defeat, I call again on Vermont Republicans to re-examine carefully where we are and how we move forward.  And, I respectfully propose that the only way to move forward successfully is to look back at our state’s proud and inspired Republican history, to become more inclusive of all, and to distinguish ourselves from the national party.  This is the only way we will be able to gain ground with young families, women, and other working Vermonters and voters so important for electoral success.

 

First, I call on all of us to examine both the character and legacies of the recent decades of work by distinguished Vermont Republicans, and consider what we might learn from them going forward.  Some of those we might look to include Governor and Senator George Aiken; Governor, Congressman, and Senator Robert Stafford; Governor Deane Davis; Attorney General, Congressman, and Senator Jim Jeffords; Governor Richard Snelling; Secretary of State, Auditor, and Governor Jim Douglas.

 

What made each of these individuals successful was simple.  It was their integrity, their independence; it was their frugality, their fiscal responsibility, and their decency.

 

Even more importantly, the legacies each of these Vermont Republicans left were of huge importance to our state and our nation.  For example, every significant piece of national education policy created over the past 50 years has the fingerprints of every Vermont Republican in Washington, from pre-K and special education, to K-12 and post-secondary educational opportunities.  They were firm believers in fiscal responsibility, fighting for smart tax policy, debt reduction, pay as you go laws, and more.  They were leaders on environmental policy, including our land use planning law (Act 250), the clean water and clean air acts, and so much more.  They believed strongly in workforce and job training opportunities, much-needed worldwide humanitarian aid, and disaster relief.  They all fought relentlessly for health care access and affordability, and for important disability policies in an effort to ensure the greatest possible opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

 

Just as our prior leaders faced serious challenges like those above that needed to be addressed, so do we now.  And I submit that Vermont Republicans can lead the way in this regard.  If we refocus on our core values, we can lead the way in fiscally responsible state spending, in growing our economy, in economically sustainable energy and environmental policies, in caring for our friends and neighbors in need, in returning the education of our children to those who know them best (the local communities) and set the bar for educational excellence, rather than mediocrity in the pursuit of equity, and ensuring all Vermonters have the best possible opportunities available to them.

 

In order to do so, however, we need to change.

 

Just as I said in 2012, we need to understand that government is not the enemy of our ideas, or of the people.  Government is, and should be, an instrument of the people put in place to help those in need.

 

Economic liberty and free enterprise, personal liberty and responsibility, and a limited, non-invasive government in place to help those in need are the very ideals that help everyone, and are the ones proven to work.  Vermont Republicans have a proud and accomplished tradition in this regard, and it’s time to embrace them within the 21st Century landscape.

 

It’s time to start anew; to break down and rebuild ourselves around our core, timeless principles of liberty and responsibility.  It’s time to acknowledge the demographic shift in Vermont; to understand Vermonters’ priorities are different, and their needs more complex.

 

It’s time to lead. 

 

As a political party, we are down.  But our voice is necessary and our ideals sound.  We simply need to embrace our traditional Vermont Republicanism.  Toward that end, I plan to do just that by continuing to serve my constituents accordingly, and embracing an idea from 2012 of a marketing friend of mine.

 

I am a proud

 

November 28, 2018

I don’t recall a time during my service that I have been more ashamed of a governing body in Vermont as I am today of the State Board of Education (SBE).

I am grateful to SBE members Oliver Olsen, Callahan Beck, John Carroll and John O’Keefe for truly understanding the joint Alternative Governance Structure (AGS) proposal submitted by the Elmore-Morristown and Stowe School Districts, and for their support of it today. But, the final decision by the remaining members of the SBE to forcibly merge EMUU and Stowe — two very high-functioning school districts that both already separately meet, and even exceed, the goals of Act 46 in a cost-effective way, is as disappointing as it is wrong.

After all, following more than a year of study, both Stowe and EMUU districts agreed that the Alternative Structure is the best way to ensure the highest quality education for all of our students in the most efficient way. The Secretary of Education agreed, and recommended its approval. Yet, the State Board has now forced upon us a structure that is in neither of the school district’s best interests.

When Act 46 was proposed and advanced in 2015, this kind of action was my greatest fear, and why I fought so hard against the legislation. That Gov. Shumlin, his Secretary of Education, and the majority in the legislature in 2015 believed it was appropriate to give the authority to dissolve local school boards and local school districts to a body of nine unelected individuals, accountable to nobody, was exceptionally frustrating.

Rest assured, I will continue to do everything legislatively possible in the upcoming session to ensure we retain local control of our schools.

Finally, I want to thank and commend our districts’ School Boards and the Lamoille South Supervisory Union for their incredible work throughout this process. It has been a pleasure working with them since the beginning of this process, and by all measures, the AGS application should have been approved.

In addition to my upcoming legislative work to fight the forced merger, I look forward to continuing to work with the Boards as they move forward with legal action. I know we are committed to doing all we can to achieve results that are in the best interests of our communities and children.

By Heidi E. Scheuermann

October 4, 2018

https://www.stowetoday.com/stowe_reporter/opinion/letters_to_the_editor/i-worked-on-the-bill-then-i-supported-it/article_75dabe1e-c7e9-11e8-87d0-7f48d00e04e5.html

I feel compelled to respond to the letter in last week's Stowe Reporter from Melissa Sheffer in which she falsely accused me of voting agains the pregnancy accommodations bill, as this is simply not true.

In fact, I supported the bill as it passed and was signed into law.  Even more, I worked with the Attorney Genera's office to ensure the bill, which was a poorly crafted bill as it passed the House, was fixed before final passage.

Indeed, I was unable to support H.136, the Pregnancy Accommodations bill, as it first emerged from my committee and the House of Representatives for a very simple reason: It was an extremely poorly crafted bill.

The intent of the bill was admirable: to ensure that employers provide reasonable accommodations to an employee with a condition related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition if needed.

My years of working for U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords on education and disability policy taught me a great deal about “reasonable accommodations.” The purpose of existing state and federal laws requiring reasonable accommodations is to remove barriers for individuals with disabilities. This is so that a disabled individual can work — can perform the essential functions of a job — and, therefore, enjoy equal opportunities for employment.

H.136, as it passed the House, would have greatly expanded these provisions in law. It would have essentially given pregnant women greater protections than any other employees, including individuals with disabilities.

Under current employment law, reasonable accommodations must be provided to a qualified employee with a disability if it will enable that employee to perform the essential functions of the job. H.136, as it passed the House, didn’t require the reasonable accommodations in order for the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. In fact, it might have even required a wholesale change in the job altogether.

Even more, the bill, as it passed the House, would have required employers of all sizes to provide, potentially, unlimited/indefinite amounts of leave to employees for any condition related to pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions.

To be clear, I absolutely support the ability of pregnant employees to continue working. But the House version of this bill essentially established a whole new class of worker — a pregnant woman — and would have provided rights to pregnant women above those for any other employee, including individuals with disabilities.

As the bill was being developed, and even after it passed the House, I expressed these very concerns. I even met with the assistant attorney general to share them, and asked that their office help to redraft the legislation to ensure it does not have any of these unintended consequences.

So, I was pleased that, with the help of the attorney general’s office, the Senate realized the failures with the House version of the bill and wrote a completely new version of it. That new version allayed my concerns, and I was happy to support the bill that became law.

Our campaign is exceptionally disappointed in these tactics of using false allegations to smear us. The information is all out there, readily available, and transparent, so there is no reason for this kind of false accusation.

https://www.stowetoday.com/stowe_reporter/opinion/opinion_columns/key-elements-are-missing-from-state-budget-proposal/article_403401aa-4ee3-11e8-b0ec-1b5ed0071467.html

... the fiscal year 2019 state budget is winding its way through the process, and without much debate at all, if any, passed the Senate earleir this week.  While I supported the budget as it emerged from the House of Representatives, I have some concerns about the Senate version of the bill.  Specifically, two of the investments I most want to see pass are not funded in the Senate-passed bill.

https://www.stowetoday.com/stowe_reporter/opinion/opinion_columns/a-night-occupancy-fee-is-back/article_93120ac4-43f4-11e8-a717-43a7b5d99019.html

We simply cannot make it more difficult for these small Vermont businesses to achieve success.

https://www.stowetoday.com/stowe_reporter/opinion/opinion_columns/minimum-wage-worthy-goals-but-may-bring-more-harm-than/article_3ba2b8fa-38f6-11e8-a20b-df2beb2ec34a.html

From what I understand, from the perspective of proponents of the mandated increase, the underlying goals are simple, and include: 1) reducing poverty; 2) reducing income inequality; and 3) putting more money in the pockets of low-wage workers so that things are more affordable for them.

Indeed, these are all very worthy goals. Unfortunately, this proposal will do little to address them.

https://www.stowetoday.com/stowe_reporter/opinion/opinion_columns/bill-levels-the-playing-field-for-brewers-and-distributors/article_772d4ae2-2de4-11e8-ac85-af48df7cfab5.html

After a great deal of consideration in the House General, Housing, and Military Affairs Committee, H. 710, a bill I co-sponsored that reforms Vermont's beer franchise laws as they apply to small brewers, passed the full House overwhelmingly last week.

A number of items continue to progress in the Vermont Legislature as we head toward Town Meeting Day Break.

The House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee, the committee on which I serve, will soon be taking up the #1 priority of some of the Democratic leaders in Montpelier: the increase in the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour.

 

This legislation passed the Senate two weeks ago on a 20-10 vote.  Specifically, the bill proposes to increase the minimum wage to $15.00/hour over the course of the next six years.  While the implementation is now over six years, rather than four, this is still a very problematic proposal for our local small businesses.

A number of items continue to progress in the Vermont Legislature as we head toward Town Meeting Day Break.

The first of these is the #1 priority of the Democratic leaders in Montpelier: the increase in the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour.

This legislation passed the Senate last week on a 20-10 vote, and will now be sent to the House where I believe it will be referred to the committee on which I sit.  The bill proposes to increase the minimum wage to $15.00/hour over the course of the next six years.  While the implementation is now over six years, rather than four, this is still a very problematic proposal for our local small businesses.

While playing politics is certainly not unusual among leaders under the Golden Dome, last week’s particular effort at political opportunism came as a bit of a surprise to many.

 

We are all acutely aware, as it has been well-documented for several years, that Vermont has a significant challenge with regard to our demographics.  As one of the grayest states in the country and one with one of the lowest birth rates, the Vermont workforce is inevitably decreasing.  As a result, many of us are laser focused on trying to reverse that trend.

 

For some reason, however, last week the President Pro Tem of the Senate, Tim Ashe (D-Chittenden), tried to claim that Governor Phil Scott’s oft-repeated emphasis of this challenge is “just not true.”