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Lange: End of Session


The smallest capital in the United States has returned to its customary somnolence; the Vermont legislature has adjourned for the year. There were a few bills that stalled in committee, or got put off till the next session because they weren’t going to get settled any time soon and would keep the members from their day jobs.

They passed a few measures guaranteed to secure Vermont’s place at the forefront of the Progressive States of America, but backed away or stalled on others.

A new gas tax was enacted, somewhat problematic because its burden falls more heavily on low-income commuters. Death with Dignity is now legal, something many of us folks beyond seventy-five find comforting. Undocumented farm workers can get driving permits; and possession of small amounts of pot is no longer a criminal offense. As Huck Finn says, “That warn’t hard, so we done it.”

One crunch came on a money issue. Even with his own party in majority in both houses, the Governor wasn’t able to persuade the legislature to shift funds from the earned-income tax credit (a blessing for low-income families) to pay for subsidies for child care, which would also be a blessing for them. They got a fairly paltry three million dollars. On gun regulation, which in Vermont’s cultural climate may be a solution in search of a problem, the Governor switched from his usual posture of leading the nation to one of waiting for the rest of the nation.

Eighty-five years ago Calvin Coolidge famously said, “Vermont is a state that I love.” His reasons were nostalgia, people, landscape, and climate. I feel the same way about the place, for different reasons. In many states new ideas are regarded with deep suspicion – “If ‘twas a good idea, we’d’ve had it 200 years ago.” Vermont seems to say, “Well, it sounds wacky, and it’s bound to upset some folks, but let’s give it a try. Doesn’t work, we can repeal it.” We have more people than only Wyoming, and half as many as Iceland, which recently turned itself around dramatically. We’re not so much a ship of state as a modest little yacht: Unlike the Titanic, we can dodge icebergs.

So once again, there are no dark suits on State Street in Montpelier; they’ve all gone home. The Capitol Grounds coffee shop is again the domain of superannuated hippies with laptops and serious expressions; and you can begin to hope to find a parking place downtown – till next January, anyway.

This is Willem Lange in Montpelier; and now we can all get back to work!