It had been billed by Democratic State Sen. Peter Shumlin, the president pro tem, as an "informal" sort of "conversation" with the press, but the crowd of attentive onlookers in the formal Cedar Creek Room at the Statehouse included hired-gun business lobbyists and organization reps, as well as the chairman of the Vermont Republican Party who had a young fella with him making a digital video of the event!
Shummy said Vermonters are "frustrated with government" and want to see the legislature get results. How original, eh?
”So we’re gonna pass two energy bills, the first that creates an all-fuels, energy-efficiency utility and saves Vermonters money by reducing our dependence on oil, that implements many of the Governor’s Commission on Climate Change’s recommendations which really are extraordinary.
"The second piece is we want to pass a health care bill that expands Catamount so that any Vermonter can buy into it, have affordable insurance at an affordable rate."
Shumlin did not have an answer, however, when asked by reporters how Democrats would pay for it all and that omission drew the attention of Vermont GOP Chairman Rob Roper:
“He said that a year ago and the economy’s only slowed since then. Any new program has either got to come out of something that doesn’t exist or existing programs.
"I think right now Vermonters are worried about, you know, staying in their homes, heating their houses, keeping their health insurance on money that they have or can they expect a huge tax increase?"
Sen. Shumlin also said there will be action in the session ahead on decriminalizing possession of 1/2 ounce of marijuana while increasing penalties for possession and sale of harder drugs like cocaine and oxycontin.
Actually, Shummy of Putney played down hopes for any significant health care reform progress, even though he said he personally supports moving toward a single-payer system like the rest of the modern civilized world where folks get better results for half the cost!
Sorry, Pedro, a lot of folks ain't buying it. We've had good intentions on health care for the last couple decades and our system is drowning in bureaucracy, deteriorating in quality and costing a bloody fortune.
"Take Back Vermont Health Care," says Dr. Deb Richter, "is a network not an organization."
This is the sign that went up yesterday in front of her Montpeculiar home. Their website, she tells us, links hundreds of Vermonters including health care professionals, doctors and nurses who actually are determined to see real health care reform actually happen. They've had it with all the talk!
Despite the current lack of support from either the Republican Fifth Floor or the Democratic Statehouse leadership of House and Senate, Doctor Richter tells Freyne Land the inescapable reality is, "Our health care system needs major surgery."
"This movement is a work in progress and it's not going away," says Richter in a phone interview late Wednesday afternoon. "We’llmultiply in February, and just wait 'till March. We’re just gonna keep ongrowing."
The missing ingredients?
"Courage and leadership," says Dr. Richter.
H. 304, the bill sponsored by GOP Rep. Topper McFaun of Barre Town, the bill the GOP Guv and the Democrat Legislative Leadership both brush aside, would reduce premiums by 40 percent and guarantee that everyone - repeat: EVERYONE is covered for hospitalization. It would cut Vermonters annual hospitalization bill by $56 million, according to Dr. Richter. "A dedicated tax would pick up the tab."
"That's why it requires courage and leadership," says Richter, who emphasizes, "It is money we're already paying, but we'd be paying less!"
Shocking, indeed, eh?