by Peter Freyne
Remember the time when many, many Vermonters were afraid the Green Mountains were going to hell in the wake of unprecedented actions taken by a Supreme Court, Democrat-controlled legislature and Democratic governor to establish in Vermont law the right of two homosexuals to marry one another?
Yes, indeed, 2000 was one hell of a legislative session. With the entire nation watching, the Vermont legislature passed civil unions. The Democratic governor, whatshisname, the Park Avenue-raised physician who is a household word today - Howard Brush Dean III - signed it that April behind closed doors. No photos or video of the historic moment that might pop up in a certain someone’s future presidential race, though!
In November of 2000 the Vermont GOP cashed in on the anti-gay backlash and Walter Freed became Speaker of the House in January 2001. Ol’ Walt held the job for two terms. Democrats, the ones who survived the 2000 voter backlash, moped and sulked in the Statehouse hallways for a few years.
Remember the fall of 2004 when the Vermont Democratic Party - legislature-wise - pulled itself off the floor? They found what they thought was the right message - healthcare reform!!!
And it was a winning message. The Ds took back the House easily and increased their majority in the Senate.
Just a few days after the 2004 election, Channel 3 News reported House Democratic leader John Tracy would step aside to let Gaye Symington become the new speaker of the House and Tracy would lead on healthcare. Ch.3 reporter Caroline Allen (since departed) told Vermont viewers:
Symington would become the second woman speaker in statehouse history. She says priority one is affordable healthcare for all Vermonters. “This is one issue where we start from very different places and the only way we're going to make headway is to be clear that we're willing to work together and talk together and we make those efforts.”
At his weekly press conference Governor Douglas echoed that sentiment -- and reiterated his pledge to work with the Democrats. “Douglas: I feel strongly that in the area of healthcare reform we need to hit the ground running in January”
“Tracy: This isn't about flexing muscles, this is just we have a strong majority in both chambers we want to get something done with Vermonters and shame on us if we don't.”
Shame on us if we don’t?
Well, fast forward to the present - the summer of 2006. What have Vermont healthcare reformers got for results?
They’ve got a report!
It’s called “Costs and Implications of a Single Payer Healthcare Model for the State of Vermont.” It was written by Kenneth Thorpe of Emory University. You can find it at the Legislature's website. Scroll down to "Major Issues." and then click on "Health Care, Overall."
P.S. Those interested is fresh poll numbers that indicate how effective Republican Rich Tarrant's unprecedented attack ads have been should check Today's "Inside Track" column in Seven Days.