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YCQM: February 9, 2014 - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

YCQM: February 9, 2014

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

>> Announcer: FROM VERMONT'S MOST TRUSTED NEWS SOURCE, WCAX BRINGS YOU YOUR NEWSMAKERS, YOUR NEIGHBORS. THIS IS "YOU CAN QUOTE ME."

>>> AND GOOD MORNING, EVERYONE. EYE COLLEAGUE JENNIFER READING AND I ARE TALKING WITH REPUBLICAN SENATOR JOE BENNING TODAY. THE SENATE MINORITY LEADER AT THE STATE HOUSE, MR. BENNING, THANKS FOR BEING HERE.

>> GOOD MORNING TO BOTH OF YOU. THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

>> WE WANT TO TALK ABOUT A NUMBER OF ISSUES FACING VERMONT LAWMAKERS AND LET'S START WITH HEALTHCARE REFORM AND VERMONT HEALTH CONNECT AND A RECENT ARTICLE IN NEWS WEEK. IT CONNECTS VERMONT'S TROUBLES WITH THE LAUNCH OF A NATIONAL EFFORT TO REFORM HOW PEOPLE GET AND PAY FOR HEALTH INSURANCE. IT READS IN OBAMACARE GETS BLOWN UP BY CONGRESS LATER THIS YEAR, YOU MIGHT WANT TO THANK OR BLAGE, DEPENDING ON YOUR PREJUDICES REGARDING THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT, THE STATE OF VERMONT. IF IT CAN'T MAKE IT THERE, SOME ARGUE IT CAN'T MAKE IT ANYWHERE. SENATOR, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

>> WELL, THAT'S THE FIRST I'VE ACTUALLY HEARD THE QUOTE, JENNIFER, AND I'M INTERESTED IN HEARING THAT BECAUSE WE'VE BEEN ON THIS IDEOLOGICAL MISSION TO DEVELOP WHAT HITHERTOFOR HAS BEEN AN ABSTRACT CONCEPT AND WE'RE FINALLY AT THE POINT WHERE YEAR TALKING ABOUT THE MECHANICS OF HOW SOMETHING LIKE THAT WOULD WORK AND TO NOW SEE PEOPLE LOOKING AT US WAITING TO SEE IF WE CAN MECHANICALLY ACCOMPLISH WHAT WE HAVE UP TO DATE THOUGHT OF AS AN ABSTRACT CONCEPT, THAT MAKES ME A LITTLE MORE NERVOUS ABOUT HOW WE'RE GOING TO PERFORM TO THE REST OF THE COUNTRY'S EYES. THAT PARTICULAR ARTICLE, I BELIEVE, IS CONSENTCENTRATEING ON THE HEALTHCARE -- SORRY, THE EXCHANGE AS IT'S NOW BEING ROLLED OUT. WE STILL HAVE TO GET TO GREEN MOUNTAIN CARE WHICH IS THE ULTIMATE OBJECTIVE THROUGH ACT 48 AND I'M CONCERNED AT THIS POINT THAT WITH THE PROBLEMS THAT WE'VE BEEN HAVING WITH THE EXCHANGE, WE LOSE SIGHT OF THE ULTIMATE OBJECTIVE WHICH IS GREEN MOUNTAIN CARE. THERE ARE MANY CONCERNS ALL AROUND FOR HOW WE GET GREEN MOUNTAIN CARE, WHAT IS IT, WHAT'S IT'S GOING TO COST, HOW ARE WE GOING TO PAY FOR IT. THOSE QUESTIONS HAVE BEEN UP IN THE AIR FOR THREE YEARS NOW IF AND WE HAVE NOT TALKED ABOUT IT UP UNTIL A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO. WHEN OUR REPUBLICAN CAUCUS IN THE SENATE GOT PETER GALBRAITH IN TO TALK ABOUT HIS PARTICULAR PLAN AND HOW TO PAY FOR IT AND THAT LEGISLATION TO ME SCARES ME MUCH MORE THAN THE EXCHANGE WHICH WE'RE CURRENTLY HAVING PROBLEMS WITH BECAUSE IT WILL BE THE BIGGEST THING WE'VE EVER ATTEMPTED TO DO AS A STATE.

>> NOW, GETTING BACK TO THE EXCHANGE PART OF THIS, THE GOVERNOR DISPUTES SOME OF THE NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT THAT'S BEING CAST ON, PARTICULARLY IN THIS NEWS WEEK ARTICLE. LET'S TAKE A LISTEN TO WHAT HE HAD TO SAY.

>> NO, I THINK THAT AS YOU KNOW, EVERY STATE HAS STRUGGLED WITH THIS ROLLOUT. SOME HAVE DONE BETTER THAN OTHERS. FRANKLY, VERMONT'S DONE BETTER THAN MANY AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT STRUGGLED WITH THE ROLLOUT.

>> VERMONT'S DONE BETTER THAN MANY, HE SAYS. WHAT DO YOU SAY?

>> HE'S PROBABLY RIGHT THAT WE HAVE, BUT WE'RE NOT ANYWHERE NEAR WHERE WE THOUGHT WE WERE GOING TO BE, SO I SUPPOSE IF YOU WANT TO PUT THE SPIN ON IT, THAT WE'VE ACTUALLY DONE BETTER THAN OTHER STATES, IT'S OKAY TO SAY THAT, BUT THE REALITY IS WE WERE EXPECTING A WHOLE LOT MORE PEOPLE TO BE ENROLLED ON THAT SYSTEM BY NOW AND THEY HAVEN'T BEEN. SO AT THIS POINT, YOU KNOW, WE WANT TO GET INTO THE POLITICAL SPIN OF THE ARGUMENT, MAYBE WE HAVE DONE BETTER THAN SEVERAL OTHER STATES, BUT WE'RE NOT ANYWHERE NEAR WHERE WE THOUGHT WE WOULD BE AS A RESULT PRIMARILY OF THE I.T. PROBLEMS THAT CONTINUE TO HAUNT US.

>> LET'S TALK ABOUT THE POLITICS SURROUNDING HEALTHCARE REFORM. DO YOU THINK THIS ROCKY ROLLOUT IS GOING TO HELP YOUR PARTY HERE, NATIONALLY?

>> I THINK NATIONALLY, PROBABLY IT WILL BECAUSE PEOPLE HAVE BEEN SO FRUSTRATED ABOUT TRYING TO SEE THIS WORK INDIVIDUALLY AS STATES. IN VERMONT, I'M NOT SURE. WE HAVE SUCH A LARGE GROUP IN THE POPULATION THAT IS SO CONVINCED THIS IS GOING TO WORK, THAT THEY DON'T WANT TO LET THAT GO. I'M WAITING FOR THE GREEN MOUNTAIN CARE BOARD TO COME UP AND SAY, ALL RIGHT, THIS IS FORMALLY HOW WE'RE GOING TO ATTEMPT TO DO THIS, AND THEN LOOK AT THE NUMBERS AND SEE HOW THEY WORK. IF MECHANICALLY IT DOESN'T WORK, THEN I THINK YOU'RE GOING TO UNDERSTAND THAT PEOPLE ARE GOING TO START LOOKING ELSEWHERE THAN THE SHUMLIN ADMINISTRATION FOR ANSWERS. AT THAT POINT, IT MAY HELP THE REPUBLICAN PARTY.

>> GIVEN THE SUPER-MAJORITY AT THE STATE HOUSE, DEMOCRATS CONTROL BOTH CHAMBERS, THE TOP SEAT IN THE STATE, ARE YOU FOLKS BEING HEARD? DOES THE REPUBLICAN PARTY EVEN PLAY A ROLE ANYMORE?

>> I THINK WE'RE BEING HEARD. I LIKE TO SAY THAT I EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE GET TO DROP A VERBAL HAND GRENADE TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS. SO WHEN PETER GAL BRAIT INTRODUCED HIS BILL, I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE A WONDERFUL IDEA TO BRING HIM INTO OUR CAUCUS AND HAVE A CONVERSATION ABOUT SOMETHING THAT THE DEMOCRATS HAVE BEEN ADVANCING. THAT FORCED A DISCUSSION AND BY FORCING A DISCUSSION AS A REPUBLICAN PARTY, WE HAVE DONE SOMETHING TO ADVANCE THAT DISCUSSION TOWARDS AN EVENTUALLY END. WHERE WE END UP IS ANYBODY'S GUESS, BUT AT LEAST WE HAVE THE POWER TO STILL DO THINGS LIKE THAT.

>> LET'S TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT WE'RE HEARING AS PERHAPS I'M INFIGHTING WITHIN THE REPUBLICAN -- PERHAPS SOME INFIGHTING WITHIN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY, SOME REALLY CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICANS TAKING AIM AT MORE MOD TER RAT REPUBLICANS, NAMELY PHIL SCOTT, THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF VERMONT, THE ONLY STATEWIDE ELECTED OFFICE REPUBLICAN. SOME FOLKS HAVE CRITICIZED HIM FOR NOT SAYING A HARDER STANCE ON THIS ISSUE. HE'S, YOU KNOW, EXPRESSED THAT HE IS SKEPTICAL, BUT HE HAS NOT COME RIGHT OUT AND SAID HE IS OPPOSED. WHAT DO YOU THINK?

>> I THINK THOSE PEOPLE HAVE NOT BEEN IN THE INTERIOR LOOP OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY LATELY. THOSE ARE PEOPLE WHO ARE EITHER LOBBYISTS OR WHO HAVE BEEN OUT OF THE LOOP OF WHERE THE REPUBLICAN PARTY HAS BEEN HEADING. WE NEED -- WHEN I SAY WE, DON TURNER, FILL SCOTT AND MYSELF MEET ON A WEEKLY BASIS. WE'VE BEEN HAVING A CONVERSATION ABOUT VIRTUALLY EVERY PROBLEM THIS STATE HAS AND PHIL SCOTT HAS BEEN RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THAT CONVERSATION. BY WAY OF EXAMPLE, WE HAD, ABOUT FIVE WEEKS AGO, BOTH DON TURNER AND MYSELF INTRODUCED BILLS TO DELAY THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE EXCHANGE HO-FOR-WHOM WHO -- FOR WHOM WHO RANBUSINESSES FOR A YEAR. PHIL SCOTT WAS RIGHT THERE. SO WHEN I TALK TO PEOPLE WHO TRY TO PUT PHIL SCOTT IN SOME KIND OF A CORNER OR HOLD OUT A LITMUS TEST, MY RESPONSE HE'S THE REPUBLICAN PARTY STANDARD BEARER, HE'S THE ONLY PERSON WE HAVE RIGHT NOW WHO'S BEEN ELECTED ON A STATEWIDE BASIS. WHEN YOU START THAT INFIGHTING, THAT CAT FIGHTING, THAT'S VERY UNFORTUNATE BECAUSE VERMONTERS ARE LOOKING TO US TO EXPLAIN WHERE WE WOULD TAKE THINGS IF WE'RE GOING TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT AND BEING INVOLVED IN A CIRCULAR FIRING SQUAD AS A PARTY, THAT'S NOT GOING TO HELP US AT ALL. I GIVE PHIL SCOTT A LOT OF CREDIT. HE'S TAKEN THE POSITION THAT HE DOESN'T KNOW WHAT THE PLAN IS. I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE PLAN IS. WE DON'T KNOW, WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS GOING TO BE, HOW ARE WE GOING TO PAY IT FOR AND WHO IS GOING TO PAY FOR IT? GOOD YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT THE PLAN IS, HOW CAN YOU STAND UP AND SAY I'M VOTING FOR OR AGAINST SOMETHING. I THINK HE'S TAKEN A RESPONSIBLE APPROACH TO THAT ISSUE AND THE PEOPLE WHO ARE MOST VOCIFEROUS IN TRYING TO CUT HIM DOUNL AS A RESULT OF -- DOWN AS A RESULT OF THAT ARE THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE A VESTED INTEREST IN JUST TRYING TO STAND UP AND SCREAM ABOUT ONE ISSUE.

>> AT THIS POINT, IF LAWMAKERS AREN'T SURE WHAT THE PLAN IS, WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO THE PEOPLE AT HOME WHO DON'T HAVE HEALTHCARE COVERAGE ANYMORE?

>> STRATEGICALLY, JENNIFER, WE'RE IN A PICKLE, IF YOU WILL, BECAUSE AS A MINORITY PARTY, WE CAN'T MANEUVER THE CONVERSATION. WE CAN MAKE NOISE BIT AND HAVE THINGS TALKED ABOUT THAT OTHERWISE MIGHT GET PASSED BY THE WAYSIDE, BUT WE'RE REALLY NOT IN THE POSITION TO OVERRUN AND MAKE VOTES. SO WHAT I SAY TO PEOPLE WHO ARE INTERESTED IN THE CONVERSATION, WE WANT TO MAKE SURE AS A PARTY THAT VERMONTERS HAVE ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE, THERE'S NO QUESTION ABOUT THAT. WE ALSO WANT TO MAKE SURE THAT WHATEVER HEALTHCARE PLAN IS DEVELOPED, IT'S DONE WITHIN CONSTITUTIONAL PRANL METERS AND WE CAN FINANCIALLY UPHOLD IT WHEN WE GET IT PASSED. WE HAVEN'T SEEN ANY PLAN. WE CAN'T PROPOSE OUR OWN PLAN BECAUSE WE DON'T HAVE ANY NUMBERS AND WE'RE UNDER THE GUN OF THE DEMOCRATS WHO HAVE DECIDED TO ADVANCE THEIR OWN PLAN AND WE HAVE TO REACT TO IT.

>> YOU'RE THE SENATE MINORITY LEADER. THE REPUBLICAN PARTY HAS YET TO PUT FORTH A CANDIDATE TO CHALLENGE GOVERNOR SHUMLIN. IS THAT GOING TO BE YOU?

>> LET ME BE VERY CLEAR ABOUT THAT. A GOOD GOVERNOR IN THIS STATE WOULD BE SOMEONE WHO'S VERY WELL VERSED IN HOW THE MECHANICS OF THIS STATE WORK. A GOOD GOVERNOR JUST DOESN'T COME TO THE TABLE WITH IDEOLOGICAL VISION. A GOOD GOVERNOR WOULD UNDERSTAND WHAT THE PROBLEMS OF THE STATE ARE AND WHAT THE STATE CAN ACTUALLY DO AND SUSTAIN. I AM STILL WAY EARLY IN THE LEARNING CURVE ON THAT SUBJECT AND I HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO BEFORE I'LL EVER FEEL COMFORTABLE LIKE I HAVE ENOUGH EDUCATION, IF YOU WILL, TO GET THERE. SO NO, IT IS DEFINITELY NOT ME. I CAN CERTAINLY POINT IN A GIVEN DIRECTION AND SUGGEST WHO I WANT IT TO BE, BUT I PROMISED I WOULDN'T DO IT FOR HIM.

>> HAVE YOU ALREADY MENTIONED HIS NAME THIS MORNING?

>> I'LL PLEAD THE FIFTH.

>> ALL RIGHT. LET ME ASK YOU THIS. SOME OTHER FOLKS HAVE PUT SENATOR -- FORMER SENATOR RANDY BROCK'S NAME IN THE MIX HERE. HE RAN UNSUCCESSFULLY AGAINST GOVERNOR SHUMLIN THE LAST TIME AROUND. DO YOU THINK THAT HE SHOULD BE THE PERSON TO TAKE ON GOVERNOR SHUMLIN THIS TIME AROUND, AND IF SO, DO YOU THINK HE'D HAVE MORE SUCCESS?

>> I THINK HE WOULD HAVE MORE SUCCESS BECAUSE OF THE CONFLICT THAT HAS EVOLVED AROUND THE EXCHANGE. WHETHER HE WOULD RISE TO THE LEVEL OF OVERCOMING THE PEOPLE WHO ARE SO IDEOLOGICALLY CONVINCED WE NEED TO GO DOWN THE SINGLE HEALTHCARE ROAD IS ANYBODY'S GUESS. IT WOULD BE A VERY TOUGH RACE. I KNOW RANDY AND I SERVED WITH HIM IN THE NATURAL RESOURCES COMMITTEE. HE IS AN EXTREMELY INTELLIGENT INDIVIDUAL. IF THERE'S ANYBODY THAT HAS THE ABILITY TO JUMP INTO THAT ROLE AND UNDERSTAND ALL THE MECHANICS INVOLVED AND HOW TO RUN THE STATE, RANDY WOULD BE SOMEBODY THAT WOULD DO IT. I THINK HE'D MAKE A GOOD GOVERNORS ABOUT -- GOVERNOR. CAN HE GET UP AND DEBATE IN SUCH A WAY THAT OVERCOMES THE STATE'S CURRENT DESIRE TO GO IN A GIVEN DIRECTION WITH PETER SHUMLIN? I THINK THAT'S TOO CLOSE TO CALL. IT WOULD MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE IF THE PROGRESSIVES WERE TO ADVANCE A VERY STRONG CANDIDATE.

>> THERE'S NO QUESTION THAT, AND YOU SORT OF AM LEWDED TO THIS, THAT THE GOVERNOR AS STRONG DEBATER. THAT'S ONE POSITIVE THAT YOU'VE KIND OF SAID. YOU'RE QUICK TO CRITICIZE THE GOVERNOR. WHAT ELSE DOES HE DO WELL? WHERE IS HE HELPING THE STATE?

>> I DON'T -- I WISH YOU HADN'T SAID THAT I'M QUICK TO CREDIT TIEKIZE THE GOVERNOR. I THINK THE GOVERNOR DOES A LOT OF THINGS THAT ADVANCE THE DISCUSSION OF WHO WE ARE AS A SOCIETY. I WOULD GIVE HIM CREDIT RIGHT OFF THE BAT FOR ONE VERY IMPORTANT THING. HE PUT BEALE AT THE HEAD OF THE GREEN MOUNTAIN CARE CARE BOARD. AL IS A VERY PATIENT, FORCEFUL INDIVIDUAL WHO HAS A WORKING KNOWLEDGE OF HOW A BUSINESS RUNS, AND I THINK IF WE HAVE ANY CHANCE AT ALL OF ANYBODY LOOKING AT GREEN MOUNTAIN CARE AND WHETHER IT WOULD BE SUCCESSFUL OR NOT, AL IS PROBABLY THE MAN, SO I GIVE PETER SHUMLIN A LOT OF CREDIT FOR THAT. I ALSO THINK THAT WHEN YOU ARE GOVERNING A STATE AND YOU'RE TRYING TO BE ALL THE THINGS THAT THE GOVERNOR IS, YOU'RE FREE FOR A LOT OF PEOPLE TAKING SHOTS AT YOU AND IT'S NOT FAIR THAT I SIT HERE AND TRY TO DISPARAGE HIM. I DON'T THINK HE SHOULD BE DISPARAGED. I DISAGREE WITH A LOT OF THINGS THAT HE DOES, BUT I'M NOT CRITICIZING HIM OTHER THAN TO SAY THAT PHILOSOPHICALLY I COME AT THINGS FROM A DIFFERENT APPROACH. CLASSIC EXAMPLE IS THE CLIP YOU JUST SHOWED. HE IS CLAIMING THAT WE ARE DOING BETTER THAN MOST OTHER STATES. ALL RIGHT, THAT'S SPIN TO ME. I LOOK AT THE SAME STATISTICS AND I SAY WE'RE NOWHERE NEAR WHERE WE THOUGHT WE WERE GOING TO BE ON THIS PARTICULAR ISSUE, SO YOU MAY WANT TO SPIN THAT WAY IN THE PUBLIC, BUT I HAVE A DIFFERENT PHILOSOPHY ON WHAT THOSE STATISTICS ACTUALLY MEAN.

>> SENATOR, WE NEED TO TAKE A QUICK BREAK AND

>>> WELCOME BACK. WE'RE TALKING THIS MORNING WITH SENATOR JOE BENNING.

>> SENATOR, RIGHT BEFORE THE BREAK, YOU MENTIONED THERE ARE FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCES BETWEEN YOU AND GOVERNOR SHUMLIN. I'M WONDERING, ONE RECENT BOLD MOVE THE GOVERNOR CLOSE TO MAKE WAS TO -- CHOSE TO MAKE WAS TO USE THE STATE OF THE STATE TO FOCUS ENTIRELY ON OPIATES. WHAT'SAR YOUR -- WHAT'S YOUR TAKE ON THAT MOVE?

>> I'M A CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY AND AMONG MANY OTHER THINGS I SEE IS PROBLEMS IN OUR CRIMINAL LAW AREA. OPIATE ADDICTION IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST. A LOT OF OUR COURT SYSTEMS ARE CLOGGED FROM THESE CASES AND OUR LK SYSTEM IS CLOGGED FROM THESE CASES AND WE HAVE TO GET A HANDLE ON THE OPIATE PROBLEM. I DON'T THINK THERE WAS ANYBODY IN THE THABLG DISAGREED WITH THE GOVERNOR WHEN HE SPOKE ABOUT THAT BUT ONE OF THE CONCERNS THAT I HAVE WHEN YOU START TO SAY WE NEED TO BUILD A STRUCTURE, A HUB AND SPOKE SYSTEM IN ORDER TO HANDLE THAT, ONE OF THE THINGS WE NEVER CONSIDERED WHEN CONSIDERING GREEN MOUNTAIN CARE WAS DOING JUST THAT. SO YOU HAVE THIS RIPPLE EFFECT IN THE WATERS, IF YOU WILL, WHERE YOU SAY I WANT TO BUILD THIS SYSTEM THAT'S GOING TO TAKE CARE OF THE OPIATE PROBLEM. WELL, WE'VE HAD PREDICTIONS FROM 1.6 TO $2.2 MILLION -- I'M SORRY, BILLION DOLLARS ON HOW TO HANDLE GREEN MOUNTAIN CARE. IF YOU DEVELOP THAT SYSTEM, YOU'RE INCREASING THE COST TO THE SYSTEM, AND I'M NOT SURE HE'S ACTUALLY THOUGHT ABOUT THAT YET. WE DON'T HAVE THE INFRASTRUCTURE IN PLACE AROUND THE STATE THAT CAN ACTUALLY HANDLE ALL THE THINGS THAT HE WOULD LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN. AND THAT IS A CONCERN. I THINK DR. CHEN HAS SPOKEN ABOUT THAT ON THIS PROGRAM, THAT WE MAY WANT TO JUST HOLD OFF A LITTLE BIT AND SEE HOW THIS WORKS WITH THE COURT SYSTEM FIRST BEFORE WE GO IN AND SAY WE'RE GOING TO DEVELOP A NEW HUB AND SPOKE SYSTEM. THE COURT SYSTEM, WE'VE BEEN WORKING VERY HARD TRYING TO DEVELOP A PROCESS WHERE PEOPLE WHO ARE CHARGED WITH CRIMES THAT HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH OPIATE ADDICTION CAN BE STEERED AWAY FROM THE CRIMINAL COURT SYSTEM IF IT'S THE RIGHT KIND OF CRIME. NOT FOR ALL CRIMES. VIOLATE CRIMES, WE DON'T WANT TO DO THAT WITH, BUT IF IT'S A NONVIOLATE CRIME AND IT INVOLVES AN OPIATE ADDICTION PROBLEM, WE WANT TO TAKE THOSE PEOPLE AWAY FROM THE CRIMINAL COURT SYSTEM AND GET THEM THE HELP THEY NEED. WE ARE A LONG WAY FROM HAVING A SYSTEM IN PLACE THAT WILL HANDLE THOSE KINDS OF CONCERNS, BUT WHEN YOU START TALKING ABOUT MOVING IN THAT DIRECTION, YOU HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THAT THERE IS A FINANCIAL COST TO IT AND WE HAVEN'T STARTED TALKING ABOUT THAT COST.

>> DO YOU THINK THAT IT IS A SMART MOVE TO HANDLE IT THE WAY IT IS MOVING IN TERMS OF THE CRIMINAL COURTS? DOES RAPID INTERVENTION, COMMUNITY COURT THAT YOU MENTIONED -- WHY I ASK THAT, I COVER COURT AND CRIME HERE AT CHANNEL 3 AND HADE A CHANCE TO SPEAK TO A LOT OF VICTIMS AND WHILE BURGLARY MIGHT NOT ALWAYS BE CONSIDERED A VIOLENT CRIME, THE VICTIMS CERTAINLY FEEL IT AND THEY NEVER FEEL THE SAME IN THEIR HOME.

>> I DON'T THINK THERE'S ANY QUESTION THAT THE VICTIMS HAVE A RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE IN THE PROCESS AND THAT'S ONE OF THE THINGS WE'RE TRYING TO DO IS MAKE SURE WE DON'T SIMPLY DISCARD THEIR INTERESTS WHEN WE'RE ADDRESSING THE OPIATE PROBLEM OF A GIVEN OFFENDER. I THINK DONOVAN HAS DONE A WONDERFUL JOB OF PUTTING THE INTERVENTION PROGRAM. WE HAVE THE SPIRITUALLYst -- SPIRAL PROBLEM. WE HAVE THE PROBLEMS WORKING AT THE LOCAL LEVEL AND STAYING INTO ACCOUNT NOT JUST THE OFFENDER'S PROBLEM, BUT ALSO THE VICTIM'S INTEREST AS WELL. WE WANT THEM AS PART OF THE PROCESS.

>> THE GOVERNOR'S MOVE TO MAKE OPIATE ADDICTION THE CENTER OF THE STATE OF THE STATE HAS GOTTEN HIM SOME NATIONAL MEDIA ATTENTION. DO YOU THINK THIS IS A SMART POLITICAL MOVE OR IN THE END WILL IT HURT VERMONT?

>> I DON'T THINK IT WILL HURT VERMONT BECAUSE EVERY OTHER STATE IN THE UNION HAS EXACTLY THE SAME PROBLEM AND THEY KNOW IT. I THINK GOVERNOR SHUMLIN TO HIS CREDIT WAS THE FIRST ONE TO STAND UP AND SAY WE HAVE A PROBLEM AND WE NEED TO DEAL WITH IT AND I STRONGLY SUSPECT THAT MOST OTHER STATES IN THE UNION ARE GOING TO FOLLOW RIGHT IN STEP WITH THAT.

>> LET'S TALK ABOUT SOMETHING THAT REALLY HASN'T BEEN DISCUSSED FOR QUITE A LONG TIME AND THIS IS PROSTITUTION IN THE STATE. YOU FOLKS ARE TAKING A LOOK AT THAT AT THE STATE HOUSE RIGHT NOW. THERE IS A LAW ON THE BOOKS DATING BACK TO 1919, I BELIEVE, AND YOU HAD MENTIONED DURING SOME TESTIMONY THAT YOU DIDN'T THINK THAT WE SHOULD PERHAPS INTERFERE WITH TWO CONSENTING ADULTS, THAT THERE'S A BIGGER PICTURE HERE TO BE LOOKING AT. WHAT DID YOU MEAN BY THAT? ARE YOU SUGGESTING THAT PROSTITUTION BE LEGALIZED?

>> LET ME BE VERY CLEAR ABOUT THAT BECAUSE I WASN'T SUGGESTING IT. I WAS RAISING THE QUESTION SO THAT WE WOULD HAVE A ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION ABOUT WHERE THE COMMITTEE WAS HEADING ON THAT DISCUSSION. I DON'T KNOW IF YOU WERE THERE AT THE TIME, BUT TWO SENATORS WERE VERY CLEAR THAT IN THEIR MINDS, CONSENTING ADULTS HAVE THE RIGHT TO DO WHATEVER THEY WANTED TO DO SO LONG AS IT WASN'T HARMING SOMEONE ELSE, AND I RAISED THE QUESTION, DOES THAT MEAN WE SHOULD BE LOOKING AT DECRIMINALIZING OR LEGALIZING THIS SUBJECT. I DON'T WANT TO COME OUT AS THE PERSON CHOMPING AT THE BIT TO LEGALIZE PROSTITUTION. THERE'S A BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RAISING AN ISSUE AS A POLICY DISCUSSION AND ACTUALLY ADVANCING THAT CAUSE.

>> WHAT'S THE POLICY THEN THAT YOU FOLKS ARE HOPING TO ACCOMPLISH? WHAT IS THE GOAL?

>> THE REASON WE'RE STAYING A LOOK AT IT TO BEGIN WITH IS THAT AN INCIDENT OCCURRED DOWNING IN BENNINGTON COUNTY WHERE -- DOWN IN BENNINGTON COUNTY WHERE A MASSAGE PARLOR WAS OPERATING WITH WHAT WE BELIEVED TO BE ILLEGAL ALIENS, WOMEN WHO PROBABLY HAD BEEN TRAFFICKED THERE, BUT THE STATE'S ATTORNEY WANTED TO BRING A CHARGE AFTER RAIDING THE PLACE AND SPEAKING WITH ALL THE WOMEN INVOLVED, BUT COULDN'T BRING A CHARGE BECAUSE THE ACTIVITY THEY WERE ENGAGED IN IS WHAT THEY CALL HAPPY ENDING. IT'S NOT SEXUAL INTERCOURSE. PROSTITUTION IS WHAT COVERS SEXUAL INTERCOURSE, BUT IF YOU DON'T GO THAT FAR AND ARE DOING SOMETHING DIFFERENT, HAPPY ENDINGS, IF YOU WILL, THE BOTTOM LINE IS THEY CAN'T PROSECUTE THE PEOPLE. SO WE'RE TRYING TO CLOSE THE LOOP AND MAKE SURE IF ANYBODY IS BEING BROUGHT INTO A HOUSE OF ILLINOIS REPUTE, IF YOU WILL ILL REPUTE, IF YOU WILL, IN A WAY THAT THEY ARE THREATENED OR COERCED, THEY NEED TO HAVE THE ABILITY TO PROSECUTE THAT. THE PROSTITUTION LAWS ARE ARCHAIC, THEY STEM FROM THE MATERIAL 1900s, THEY PRETTY MUCH SPEAK OF WOMEN OF ILL REPUTE AND WE'RE A LONG WAY FROM WHERE THEY WERE THEN ON THIS SUBJECT. THE CONVERSATION HAS BEEN STARTED, WE FOUND OURSELVES ASKING THE QUESTION, SHOULD WE LEGALIZE THERE BEHAVIOR OR NOT AND IT'S A FASCINATING CONVERSATION, BUT I CERTAINLY DON'T WANT TO BE THE STANDARD BEARER FOR MAKING THAT HAPPEN.

>> WHAT'S THE NEXT STEP? WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL COME OF THIS?

>> I THINK WE NEED TO CLOSE THE LOOP SO IF YOU ARE GOING INTO A MASSAGE PARLOR AND YOU KNOW YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE SEXUAL FAVORS DONE FOR YOU AND YOU PAY MONEY FOR THAT TO HAPPEN, THE STATE'S ATTORNEYS HAVE TO BE ABLE TO HAVE A WAY TO PROSECUTE YOU.

>> MOVING ON TO ANOTHER CONTROVERSIAL TOPIC, MOTORCYCLE HELMETS. THOSE WHO RIDE --

>> CONTROVERSIAL?

>> IT IS. THOSE WHO RIDE FEEL VERY STRONGLY ABOUT THE OTHERS TELLING THEM WHETHER THEY SHOULD OR SHOULD NOT WEAR A HELMET, AND, YOU KNOW, SPEAKING FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE, MY DAD FEELS VERY STRONGLY ABOUT THIS. YEAH. WHAT IS YOUR STANCE ON VERMONT'S MANDATORY HELMET LAW?

>> I WAS NOT REALLY INVOLVED WITH MOTORCYCLESES AT ALL UNTIL I CAME A LAWYER AND ITS ENDED UP WITH A DIVORCE CLIENT WHO COULDN'T AFFORD TO PAY HIS BILL AND HE GAVE ME AN OLD MOTORCYCLE IN TRADE. ONE DAY I WAS INVITE BY A GROUP OF, I'LL CALL THEM PILLARS OF THE LOCAL COMMUNITY, TO TAKE A RIDE TO PORTLAND, MAINE, WHICH I THOUGHT WAS THE FARTHEST OUTPOST OF PAN KIND ON A NOIRK. ON THE WAY BACK IT WAS ABOUT 90 DEGREES, BLAZING SUNSHINE, AND MAINE AND NEW HAMPSHIRE, YOU RIDE WITHOUT A HELMET, SO SEVERAL OF US DECIDED TO TAKE THEM OFF. AS WE GOT BACK TO THE BORDER, I LOOKED ACROSS THE RIVER TO THE WELCOME TO VERMONT SIGN, REALIZING WE HAD TO STOP AND PUT THESE HATS ON OUR HEAD AND I THINK TO MYSELF, EVERYTHING I'VE EVER LEARNED ABOUT VERMONT HISTORY TELLS ME THIS IS WRONG. I AM A MATURE ADULT, I HAVE INSURANCE, I HAVE EXPERIENCE, I'M ABLE TO MAKE ALL OF MY OWN DECISIONS, BUT THE STATE IS LITERALLY TELLING ME I HAVE TO WEAR A HAT ON MY HEAD AND IF I GET INTO A SITUATION WHERE I BELIEVE VERMONT SHOULD NOT BE DOING THIS, THEN I OUGHT TO SPEAK UP ABOUT IT IF I REALLY FEEL THAT WAY AND I HAVE WITH A BILL.

>> DO YOU THINK THAT HELMETS SAVE LIVES?

>> I THINK HELMET SAVES LIVES IN THE RIGHT INSTANCE. MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENTS HAPPEN IN ALL DIFFERENT WAYS. SOMETIMES YOU WILL HIT YOUR HEAD, OTHER TIMES YOU WILL HIT YOUR UPPER BODY AND I'M GOING TO SUBMIT THAT MOST MOTORCYCLISTS ARE ACTUALLY KILLED WITH INTERNAL INJURIES WHEN THEIR UPPER BODY CONNECTS WITH THE HANDLE BARS. THERE ARE SITUATIONS WHERE IF YOU ARE IN AN ACCIDENT AND IF DURING THAT ACCIDENT YOUR HEAD IS GOING TO CONNECT WITH SOMETHING HARD, I THINK THE HELMET STANDS A PRETTY GOOD CHANCE OF SAVING YOU. BUT LET'S JUST PRETEND YOU SKI. WE HAVE BETWEEN FIVE TAN TEN FATALITIES ON OUR SKI SLOPES EVERY YEAR. WE HAVE BETWEEN FIVE AND TEN FATALITIES ON MOTORCYCLE EXPECT EVERY YEAR. IS IT RIGHT FOR US AS A STATE TO SAY YOU AS A SKIER HAVE TO WEAR A HELMET AND MORE IMPORTANT, BECAUSE IF YOU ARE A KIER, YOU PROBABLY KNOW THE CHANCES OF YOU STRIKING YOUR HEAD ARE A LITTLE LESS THAN CHANCES OF YOU STRIKING THE UPPER BODY OR A HIM, SO SHOULD WE -- A LIMB, SO SHOULD WE ALSO ADVANCE THE IDEA OF MANDATORY BODY ARMOR. I THINK VERMONT HAS A LONG AND CHERISHED HISTORY OF BEING LIBERTARIAN. YOU CAN SEE ON THE WALLS OF THE STATE HOUSE IF YOU WALK DOWN THE HALL OF QUOTATIONS. WE'RE FAMOUS AS THE PLACE THAT WOULD REPLENISH ALL THE LIBERTY ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH SHOULD IT VANISH FROM EVERYWHERE ELSE. WE'RE NOT FAMOUS FOR FANCY ICE CREAM OR HEAVY TOPPER BEER. WE'RE FAMOUS FOR OUR LIBERTARIAN THIFT AND I AS A LEGISLATOR AND A VERMONTER, I THINK WE NEED TO MAINTAIN THAT.

>> HOW IS IT DIFFERENT THAN A DRIVER OR A PASSENGER BUCKLING UP?

>> A COUPLE OF DIFFERENT THINGS. FIRST OFF, THE SEATBELT LAW IS A SECONDARY OFFENSE. THAT MEANS IF YOU'RE DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD AND THE POLICE OFFICER SEES YOU'RE NOT WEARING A SEATBELT, THEY CAN'T STOP YOU. THEY CAN ONLY GIVE YOU AN ENHANCED PENALTY ON YOUR TICKET IF YOU'RE DOING SOMETHING ELSE LIKE SPEEDING. ONE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HELMETS AND SEATBELTS IS IF YOU'RE IN THE MIDDLE OF AN ACCIDENT IN YOUR CAR AND YOU'RE PROPERLY BELTED IN, THERE'S AT LEAST SOME ARGUMENT TO SAY WITH THE BELT AROUND YOU, YOU ARE BETTER ABLE TO REGAIN CONTROL OF YOUR CAR. IT PREVENTS ME FROM COMING INTO SKACT WITH YOU ON THE ROADS. NOT MUCH ARGUMENT CAN BE MADE ABOUT THE HELMET. IT'S STRICTLY A LAW THAT SAYS I HAVE TO PROTECT MYSELF FROM MYSELF AND I FIND THAT VERY OFFENSIVE.

>> SO WHAT SPECIFICALLY WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE CHANGE? ARE YOU CALLING FOR --

>> THE BILL CALLS FOR IF YOU ARE 21 AND OLDER AND YOU HAVE AT LEAST TWO YEARS EXPERIENCE OR HAVE PASSED MOTORCYCLE SAFETY COURSE AND YOU ARE FINANCIALLY RESPONSIBLE, MEANING YOU HAVE INSURANCE, YOU SHOULD BE ENTITLED TO CHOOSE WHETHER TO WEAR A HELMET OR NOT. IF YOU COMPARE VERMONT'S MOTORCYCLE FATALITY STATISTICS TO NEW HAMPSHIRE, MAINE, CONNECTICUT, AND RHODE ISLAND, OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS, WE GATHERED STATISTICS FROM ALL THE STATES AND FOR EVERY 100 ACCIDENTS, THE FATALITY RATE IN VERMONT IS HIGHER THAN THOSE OTHER FOUR STATES, WHICH ARE ALL HELMET CHOICE STATES. I CAN'T EXPLAIN THAT, BUT I CAN SAY THAT IF THE HELMET LAW WAS DOING WHAT WE HAD ASSUMED IT WOULD, THE STATISTICS WOULD BE COMPLETELY REVERSED AND IN A BIG WAY, THAT VERMONT'S FATALITY RATE WOULD BE FAR LOWER THAN THE FOUR OTHER STATES, BUT IT'S NOT, SO I QUESTION WHETHER OR NOT THE LAW IS WORKING THE WAY IT WAS INTENDED.

>> IT'S UNLIKELY THIS WILL GET ANY TRACTION THOUGH, IS THAT FAIR TO SAY?

>> I'VE LIVED IN THE BUILDING LONG ENOUGH TO SAY ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE, BUT IT CERTAINLY ISN'T GOING TO GET MUCH FARTHER THAN THIS DISCUSSION THIS SESSION.

>> LET'S ASK YOU --

>> IT WILL BACK NEXT SESSION.

>> LETS ASK YOU IN THE LAST 90 SECONDS, WHAT CAN WE EXPECT TO HEAR FROM REPUBLICANS AS THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION CONTINUES? WHAT ARE YOUR TOP PRIORITIES?

>> WE ARE DESPERATELY TRYING TO MAINTAIN THE STATE'S FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY. WE'VE BEEN MAKING SO MANY PROMISES TO SO MANY PEOPLE FOR TOO LONG WITH TOO LITTLE, AND IT'S COMING BACK TO HAUNT US. PEOPLE ARE RECOGNIZING THAT. WE CAN'T ADVANCE PROGRAMS LIKE THE OPIATE PROBLEM BECAUSE WE'RE STUCK TRYING TO DEAL WITH THINGS LIKE THE TEACHERS PENSION DEFICIT. WE CAN'T MAINTAIN THAT PATH IF WE'RE GOING TO DO THINGS CORRECTLY. SOMETHING FROM A REPUBLICAN PERSPECTIVE, WE'RE PROBABLY GOING TO TAKE A LOOK VERY HARD AT PROGRAMS THAT WE DON'T NEED TO DO ANYMORE, THINGS THAT HAVEN'T BEEN LOOKED AT IN A VERY LONG TIME, AND FIGURE OUT WHETHER THERE'S A WAY TO ELIMINATE THAT, PRESERVE WHATEVER THE EFFORT WAS THAT WE PUT THE PROGRAM INTO PLACE FOR, BUT TRY TO FIGURE OUT A WAY THAT WE CAN CUT COSTS AND MAINTAIN OURSELVES.

>> CAN YOU POINT TO A COUPLE OF PROGRAMS QUICKLY?

>> THE FIRST THING OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD, I'LL GET A LOT OF HASSLE FOR THIS, I WAS THE IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION. IT HAS AMONGST IT'S OTHER CHARGES THE RESPONSIBILITY OF MAKING SURE THERE'S NO DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN. THERE'S A GOVERNOR'S COMMISSION ON THE WELFARE OF WOMEN AS WELL. THEIR CHARGE IS ALSO TO HAVE -- MAKE SURE THAT THE STATE DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE AGAINST WOMEN. WE WANT THE SERVICE, WE WANT TO MAKE SURE NOBODY IS DISCRIMINATED AGAINST, BUT DO WE NEED TWO SEPARATE BODIES ADDRESSING THAT ISSUE? WE MAY DECIDE AS A STATE WE WANT TO KEEP BOTH, BUT HAVING THE CONVERSATION ABOUT WHAT CAN WE DO TO CONSOLIDATE AND PRESERVE THE SAME PROGRAMS AND CONCERNS THAT WE HAVE WITHOUT FINANCIALLY BANKRUPTING US.

>> SENATOR JOE BENNING, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US THIS MORNING.

>> THANKS FOR HAVING ME, GUYS. APPRECIATE IT.

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