To the Editor:
First of all, I write to thank all those who voted in our recent elections. I am grieved that I did not win, and I regret that I did not do better for my supporters in the Bennington 4 race.
Secondly, I write to announce that I may run for Speaker of the House. If I ran, I would pledge to do everything that I can to ensure that legislation that moves through the House is based on reality so that it will really work. I would pledge to do everything that I can to ensure that all representatives are treated with respect as they seek to fulfill their obligation to represent their constituents, and that the rules of the House are respected.
There is nothing in the House rules that requires that the Speaker be a member of the House, so I could run for that office despite having lost re-election. In these uncertain economic times, it might be useful to the House to have my services as an experienced legislator and as an economist to manage the legislative process. It might work quite well to have a Speaker dedicated to evidence based policy, committed to respectful proceedings, and without the burden of direct constituent services.
We have so much to be proud of in Vermont, but sometimes legislation is passed that does not have a solid foundation in economic and financial realities. This may be due to inadequate policy development, or it may be that the priority is to score political points. Such legislation is unlikely to achieve the intended goals. To my mind this is why we have not made more progress in solving our long-standing problems. The House must put in place better procedures to ensure that policies put forward are evidence-based, especially under our current uncertain conditions.
Too often representatives are pressured by House leadership to vote in certain ways using threats and rewards. A member may be threatened with committee re-assignment or a primary opponent, or offered an incentive. Members sometimes vote against their own judgement as to the best interests of their constituents due to such pressures. To my mind discussions about support for a piece of legislation should be based on a discussion of the merits of the bill itself.
We cannot know now what conditions will be like in January. But it is fairly certain that we will face unusual challenges in financing state government, supporting Vermonters, and making needed investments for the future. We cannot afford business as usual. The discipline of reality must replace party discipline, and mutual respect must replace intimidation. I am exploring the possibility that I might have a useful role to play as Speaker in facilitating the work of House members as they engage with this important work.
Rep. Cynthia Browning,