by Doug McClure
HARDWICK – Two candidates are running for election for the Caledonia House of Representative District’s seat. The incumbent, Chip Troiano (D) is running against Republican James Clark.
Gazette towns represented: Hardwick, Stannard, and Walden.
“I have lived on Stannard Mountain with my wife for the past 47 years. In 2014, After 34 years, I retired from a career as a Criminal Defense Investigator covering the entire Northeast Kingdom. I have served my town as town moderator and I still hold the position of Lister, both for over 40 years, and I have been a Justice of the Piece for 30 years. I am a Vietnam combat Veteran serving in-country 1966-67. I am running for my 4th term in the Vermont House of Representatives. My father instilled certain values in me as I grew up, one being the measure of an effective government is how it cares for its citizens. This value holds strong for me dealing with the issues we have had over this past year, and particularly during this COVID Pandemic. The work in the Legislature is very rewarding and I want to continue to serve my communities.
“This is my home, I care about the people in my district, and I will continue to work hard to get our citizens a fair shake in Montpelier. I heard from members of our communities on a few things that come to mind. Rail Trail was one of them, I was asked to support funding for our 93-mile trail that will extend from one side of the state to the other. I worked with the House Corrections and Institutions chair and the House Transportation committee encouraging them to be sure to keep the funds in their budgets. The States funds will be matched with $11.8 million in federal funds with a two-year projected completion time. I have already heard from many Hardwick citizens that they are out enjoying the newly finished portions of the trail. Anticipated increased economic gains to our communities could be seen as soon as next year. The other piece I heard from community members on was our dying pollinators. a group of Hardwick area residents came to me asking that I think about sponsoring a bill to protect our dying pollinators. After 3 years of research, I was lead sponsor of a Pollinator Protection which removed pesticides that are dangerous to bees from the shelves. I had 67 cosponsors, the bill passed out of both houses unanimously and was signed by our Governor. I will continue to listen to the residents of our district and bring legislation to the floor that I am asked to support.”
“I am a native Vermonter and live in Walden with my wife and four children. I am a volunteer firefighter for Walden Fire Department and proudly served in the U.S. Army. The reason that I decided to run for State Representative is that the taxes in Vermont are unsustainable and are doing harm to many Vermonters. I feel that the overspending at the State level is responsible for this.
“It appears that much of what is done in Montpelier is catering to Chittenden County. I am running to speak for the people of Caledonia County! It is time that somebody is looking out for our interest.”
Affordability, Paid Family Leave, Minimum Wage
Troiano: “I have commented on this many times over the years, including when I reported the Livable Wage bill on the floor of the house. It was my committee that passed this bill out for consideration on the floor of the House. Over the years since I have been in Montpelier, I have done my own research on this in real time. When I am out and about in our communities and I encounter young families with one, two, or three children I have been in the habit of approaching them and asking, ‘what would keep your family here in Vermont. What is it that would bring young families like yours to Vermont?’ Without exception, the answer is better pay! and the second answer is affordable childcare. I have to say the Governor does not get it on this one. We constantly hear about affordability from him, but he does not seem to see this picture, that if you pay people better, then they can more readily afford to live here. Young people want to live here, raise their families here and enjoy the quality of life we have here, but low wages are the primary concern that these young families readily share with me. We also hear from the Governor that it is bad for business, this is also off the mark. Our committee took days and days of testimony on this bill. What I found from business owners, some in strong support of an increased minimum wage, and some strongly opposed, there were some common themes from which I drew the following conclusions. I asked each business owner, pro and con, who came to our committee the same questions. Would you agree that when you pay an employee more, they work harder and increase your productivity? The answer, sometimes reluctantly, was yes. If you pay your employees better doesn’t that cut turnover, and save training costs? Answer, once again: yes. Does an employee who feels cared for with better wages and benefits feel more connected to your business and have more interest in its success? Once again: yes. Some [were] not answering from experience but agreeing in theory. It is good for businesses to pay employees better and to extend benefits like Paid Family Leave. It is better for our communities and our state and will change the demographics and attract young families who are seeking a better quality of life, with better pay and benefits that care for our employees.”
Clark: “I believe that my constituency is most concerned by the lack of affordability to live here. It would be my priority to try and lower taxes and make it harder for them to pass laws that infringe upon our constitutional rights. I know that COVID is a high level of concern right now. I believe with the actions being taken that will be brought under control. Our out of control spending is here for the long term if we do not do something to put a stop to it. Our young people are leaving the state and as well as those who can no longer afford to live here.
“I think lowering taxes would make a big difference in bringing affordability to this state, for instance, lowering taxes would bring more business opportunities here.
“I think the minimum wage was designed for starting out to get experience to move on to the next job. I also believe that raising the minimum wage to $15/hr will make every business have to raise their prices to compensate for the wage increase. This will hinder first-time employees, as businesses will be looking to hire experienced employees at that wage. People that are currently making more than the minimum wage will also expect an increase in pay. This will be one more hurdle for small businesses in Vermont.”
Retail Market for Marijuana
Troiano: “Creating a legal market for cannabis was the right thing to do. I agree with the Governor on this, having cannabis legal, but nowhere to purchase it makes no sense. Some of the debate was around advertising. I would have liked to see advertising limited, but other states have run into 1st Amendment legal issues surrounding advertising. This bill leaves it up to the cannabis control board to try to figure out a legal way to limit advertising. Revenue predictions are limited but should grow as they have in other states and appropriating these revenues to after school programs and youth drug prevention is worthwhile. It is also important to have a safe cannabis product on the market, to be tested and found free of mold and pesticides and other drugs, for those who choose to use it, I am confident that this will work out well.”
Clark: “With the passing of S.54 it is imperative that citizens of Vermont are protected and law enforcement are given the tools necessary to treat marijuana as we do other controlled substances.”
Police Use of Force Bill
Troiano: “I think it is a good idea to have a consistent statewide policy on Police use of force. The language change in this statute also better defines cases in which use of force deadly or other use of force is acceptable. I have long been an advocate of the use of body cameras. I have sponsored two body camera bills that did not make it through committee, real time recording of the events of contact between police and a citizen is very valuable evidence of exactly what happened during that contact. I also think that holding other police officers who may witness unacceptable behavior by a fellow officer responsible is also a way to monitor use of force… if it was not for the chopper pilot who held a weapon of the soldiers who were killing women and children in Mi Lei the massacre would have continued. I think that having mental health professionals embedded with police will lead to better results in our communities assuring that crisis situations with disabled citizens are dealt with properly.”
Clark: “In regards to S.119, our law enforcement needs to have the proper training and resources to allow them to be able to enforce the laws and protect the citizens. Deadly force may be necessary, but every other option should be used first. I have spoken to numerous officers and deadly force is the last thing that they want to use!”
Troiano: “From the first time I read Act 46 after it was introduced, I thought that it would not work in our district. I did not see the savings that were being projected, nor did I see the educational enhancements opportunities that were also being touted as part of the bill. I thought that mandatory consolidation was a bad idea and would usurp much of our local authority and ultimately that is what happened. Schools in our district were forced to merge at the last minute and now we are at risk of losing two of our schools. Fortunately, about 70% of Vermonters receive income sensitivity rebates and that does help those who are most in need. It is my belief, at this time that the Legislature should be looking on an overhaul of our education funding system with a focus of making it more affordable to those who can least afford it. Our School taxes here in Stannard are up considerably and once again we are in need of some help.”
Clark: “I think Act 46 makes a lot of sense as it would make the state education taxes more affordable. The State still needs to afford every student a fair education. Therefore we must ensure that the small towns are treated equally.”
Troiano: “When our students were sent home for the rest of the school year in March, I checked to see how many students were without internet access for remote learning. I learned there were about 15 to 17% of students who were without access in part or entirely. Hopefully, that has been improved. At first that did not sound like a lot, but when you do the math that is over 150 students. In the case of remote learning in a small district, that is unacceptable. The Governor’s plan to attract remote workers to Vermont, like it or not, has only been focused on parts of the state that have access to broadband. When those funds come out of the general fund, we all pay for it, with no benefits to our rural areas with no access. Every year the Legislature makes a run at funding wider coverage to rural parts of the state, but the task of funding it is daunting. When we had access to funds via the COVID Relief Funds specific to increasing broadband in the state, we appropriated millions of dollars in an attempt to further this possible solution. It seems there is no one entity that can afford to accomplish this task, not the state, not the providers, not consumers, and not the Federal government. Providers were initially on board, but as time went by, we began to hear that they were not able to use the funds within the prescribed time (Dec 30, 2020 deadline). Then we began to hear from consumers who were running into problems with providers who were not able to provide service to outlying areas with the funds available. It has worked for some Vermonters, but when posed with the expense of thousands of dollars in addition to the subsidy to the providers, it left many Vermonters still unable to get access. It is critical for Vermont that all Vermonters gain access to broadband, and hopefully our congressional delegation in Washington will be able to extend the time past Dec. 30 to continue to extend service to more Vermonters and continue till we have reached all Vermonters.”
Clark: “We should evaluate what has been to date, and then we should quickly but wisely get broadband to everyone. COVID certainly brought this to the forefront. And again, almost all business requires internet to work effectively. We need to be able to attract business to Vermont.”
The Opioid Crisis/Criminal Justice:
Troiano: “I spent a year on the Governor’s Opioid counsel, we worked on streamlining certification for Alcohol and Drug counselors. I worked with Rep Peter Fagan from the Appropriations committee and Doctor Levine on funding for Medical Treatment centers. We were making headway making treatment available when someone was crying out for help, and not a month or two down the road, when it was too late. We saw a decline in opioid overdose deaths for the first time, and then COVID 19 hit and we lost the progress we had made. During the state shutdown our designated agencies were experiencing difficulties treating people. I do not know enough about police activities and how this may be impacting their policing. I am hoping with a good treatment mode in place, once this pandemic has passed we will be able to make gains and make our communities safer and care for those who are in need of help. It has been well established that locking up someone who is suffering from some addiction is not productive. When courts were operating, our service agencies were able to make treatment available when a judge ordered someone to be screened then to go into treatment rather than jail. It does not always work as expected, but then attempts at getting people to recover from this horrible disease is often met with less than favorable results. Poor Vermonters are the ones who suffer as a result of antiquated bail statutes. Our jails are overcrowded and Corrections is the largest budget in Human Services. Improvements in Department of Corrections field supervision makes it much more reasonable to supervise low-level, nonviolent offenders in our communities. Some newer programs to support these offenders in our communities are making progress, but still more is needed.”
Clark: “We need to ensure the opioid crisis is kept in the forefront, but we need to hold everyone accountable for their actions. If it continues to happen, stricter punishment should apply. There needs to be consequences. Repeat offenders will need to be prosecuted to the extent of the law.”
Protecting the Rights of Women, Minorities, and LGBTQ+ Citizens:
Troiano: “Vermont has already codified a woman’s right to choose in state statute with a wide margin voting in favor of a bill to do so. The Legislature will vote again this biennium to amend our State Constitution to further protect a woman’s right to choose. if it receives a 2/3rds majority in both Houses of the Legislature, the following year it will then go to the citizens of Vermont for a referendum vote. The decision to amend our Vermont Constitution lies with Vermonters, and not the Legislature. This will be a 5-year process that will rule over any changes in Roe v Wade in the event it is overturned by a conservative court.”
Clark: “I believe in the Constitutional rights that are afforded to everyone! The Supreme Court nominee is in the hands of the Federal Government. It is not an issue that we will be dealing with on a local level at this time. If changes are made in the Supreme Court, Vermont will then address how it affects our State.”