Vermont: Fast Becoming A Favorite State


EDIT: We just received an e-mail response from State Senator Joe Benning. See comment # 2 for his remarks.

DISCLAIMER:  The pictures below are not my own, but we have seen many such beautiful scenes with our own eyes and have even taken our own pictures.
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The past two years we have made the grand tour of New England; in 2013 we drove from Hershey PA to New Haven CT, then North through central Connecticut, Massachusetts, and then Vermont where we spent a night close to the Canadian border. We then drove NE to Quebec City where we spent a week in a Beaupre, a town about 30 miles east of Quebec City on the St. Lawrence Seaway. We then drove through central Maine and spent 5 days at a friends “barn” on the small island of Islesboro along the coast of Maine.

This year, 2014, we did the same thing except instead of Main we spent a week at Smugglers Notch in Vermont.

Both trips were in mid/late October and the famed New England fall colors were displayed in all their splendor.

Canada and <b>New</b> <b>England</b> <b>Fall</b> Foliage | Sept. 16 to 28, 2014

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Below is the Von Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe   …  remember The Sound of Music?

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Vermont state government in Montpelier

Vermont State Capital building in Montpelier, Vermont.

I was raining all day so we decided this would be a good time to visit the state capital … this was indeed a highlight of the trip, at least for me, and here is why:

Our first stop was the visitors center across the street from the capital building. A friendly staff met us and was available for questions and conversation. As I wandered about I noticed a very prominent Vermont veterans display with pictures and bios of Vermont military who had recently given their lives in service in Afghanistan and Iraq. Accompanying this display was a very nice book showing the various military units from the state. I talked to one of the staff about this display and complemented him on it. He was a bit younger than me, but one of the Vietnam War generation of eligible draftees. He received his draft notice along with a high draft number which made him a likely candidate for serving in Vietnam. He told his parents that he would get a job and wait to see what happened regarding his call-up. He also told his mom that if called he would serve and would not go to Canada as so many did in those days. It turns out he wasn’t called.

This fellow also told me that Vermont sent more soldiers to Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq than any other state on a per-capita basis.

Walking across the street we entered the capital building. As you can see in the picture above, and counting the windows, it’s not a very large building.

As we waited for a tour, we wandered up and down the main hallway and I was immediately aware of the small scale of this building. To the left at the end of the hallway was the Lt. Governor’s office; the door was open revealing a single desk and an electrician doing some sort of maintenance. Next to that office was another one which was a state department of something or another – again, one desk and the room opened to the hallway. At the other end of the main floor the pattern was repeated – door opened to the hallway with only one desk … very minimalist, and that minimalism was noticeable.

The tour guide gathered us up and we went upstairs to the legislative rooms where she briefed us on the structure of the state government:

  • Senators and representatives are elected to two year terms.
  • The Governor and Lt. Governor are likewise elected to two year terms.
  • Senators and representatives are paid, as I recall, something less than $1,000 per session.
  • The legislative session runs, as I recall, from February to May.
  • The legislators have no offices – while in the capital building their storage space is limited to a school type lift-top desk about 3’ wide and maybe 10” deep.
  • The Governor is the only one having an office, and the only full time elected official.
  • Outside the Governors office is a large portrait of the previous governor. The guide asked a loaded question “do you notice anything unusual about the portrait?” She then pointed out that the governor, a politician, had his hand in a pocket … his own!

Back downstairs Steve and I were wandering around when I looked into what looked like a workroom. It was empty save for one individual who stood up and introduced himself and informed us that normally outsiders are not allowed in that room unless accompanied by a legislator … he then identified himself as a legislator – the Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning.  Senator Benning was very cordial and informative and pointed out a series of file folders prominently displayed in the hallway. These folders contained the bills that would be brought before the legislature in the next session. These bills were freely available to anyone who walked into the building and was interested in a legislative bill … nobody had to “pass the bill to find out what is in it.”

I commented to the Senator how impressed I was with the minimalist  flavor I was experiencing. He responded by saying  ‘yes, we like to keep government as close to the people as possible, and that began as you came in the portico – no guards and no metal detectors.’

This tour through a state capital like Vermont was exhilarating and inspirational – and a reminder of the direction from which we as a nation came … and a hope for a return to something akin to what Vermont appears to have:  “government of the people, by the people and for the people.”  This is the kind of hope and change I can sign up for.

Breaking news:

Gruber’s contract with Vermont ends after missteps on ObamaCare pile up

If you haven’t heard, or haven’t been paying attention, this Obamacare architect, MIT Professor Gruber, has been bragging on a number of occasions how the “Affordable Care Act (ACA)”  was constructed and passed based on lies and deception, and the “stupidity” of the American people.

So here is tiny Vermont, with its legislature not even in session, calling Professor Gruber to account:

A spokesman for Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin said Wednesday that the state would no longer pay the ObamaCare architect.

“As the Governor and I have said, the comments by Mr. Gruber are offensive, inappropriate and do not reflect the thinking of this administration or how we do things in Vermont,” Lawrence Miller, said Wednesday in a statement. “As we have also said, we need solid economic modeling in order to move forward with health care reform.”

Miller continued that he told Gruber, “that I expect his team to complete the work that we need to provide the legislature and Vermonters with a public health care financing plan. I’ve informed Mr. McGruber that we will not be paying him any further for his part in completing that work.”

Gruber’s original contract with the state was worth more than $400,000. He’s already been paid $160,000.

The news about Gruber was made public at an informational session for Vermont’s legislators.

Last week, the state’s Senate Minority Leader, Joe Benning, called on Shumlin to terminate Gruber’s contract following the release of videos showing the MIT professor intentionally deceived the public in drafting the Affordable Care Act.

“I join with my Senate colleague, Sen. Kevin Mullin, in urging the governor to terminate his contract,” Benning, R-Caledonia, told Vermont Watchdog. “If the powers that be attempted to trick them like that, then those people should be immediately removed from positions of authority, be they elected officials or hired contractors.”

Benning is the second member of the Vermont Senate to call for Gruber’s termination. Last week, Mullin, R-Rutland, a member of the Health Care Oversight Committee, told Vermont Watchdog the governor should “terminate his contract immediately.”

Good for you Vermont … and Senator Joe Benning – proud to have met you.

“Joe Benning … is shaping up to be the best leader in modern state government.”
[Caledonian-Record, December 7, 2013]

Don Johnson – November 2014

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2 responses to “Vermont: Fast Becoming A Favorite State

  1. Loved the pictures!

  2. This clarification just in from Senator Joe Benning.

    Don & Steve:

    Well, thanks for this! Completely unexpected! Very nice story and I’m glad you had a good time.

    A couple of clarifications to the story are in order. First, our session runs from the first Wednesday after the first Monday in January until (whenever we get fed up with each other, or), usually around the first week in May.

    Second, our pay isn’t quite as “minimal” as you reported. We receive a little over $500.00 per week plus meal and room allowances, or mileage reimbursement for those who commute.

    And now a bit of a twist on the Gruber-gate issue. Since our meeting I’ve taken the time to read Gruber’s contract. It is a “personal services” contract that identifies Jonathon Gruber as the sole contact person for work performed. In addition, it requires that any changes or modifications to his contract be expressly done in writing, signed by both parties. So here’s the concern: Lawrence Miller’s verbal statements to Gruber cannot alone terminate his contract. We Republicans have now put in a Freedom of Information Act to see what, if any, documents exist that reflect an actual termination. If there aren’t any, well, then we have another problem to deal with besides Gruber.

    For more on the issue, tune in to FOX news Monday night at 4:00pm Eastern for Your World with Neil Cavuto. You might see my smiling face again!

    Glad to meet you both and thanks for writing about your Vermont experience.

    Joe Benning
    State Senator & Minority Leader
    Caledonia-Orange District

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