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Editorial: GOP’s Turner sends anti-business message by politicizing S.230

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Posted on June 8, 2016 |
By Angelo S. Lynn



Rep. Don Turner, R-Milton, is conducting a public lesson on how to politicize legislation, rather than simply fixing a problem and getting the job done.

And Turner, the leading House Republican, is also teaching Vermonters how the state gets viewed as anti-business.

The issue is Gov. Peter Shumlin’s veto of S.230, the Legislature’s effort to define rules for siting renewable energy projects. Specifically, the governor noted that in the rush to complete the bill during the last hours of the session, four specific mistakes in the bill’s language were made that do not represent the Legislature’s intent. Two measures deal with the siting of wind power, one measure deals with the siting of solar units, and the fourth is adding $300,000 for training to help towns understand the legislation and how to incorporate it into their town plans — a provision that was mistakenly left out of the original bill.

Each of the items is essentially a house-keeping measure that could easily be resolved.

Sen. Chris Bray, D-New Haven, chairman of the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee that crafted S.230, sent an email to his fellow legislators on Monday urging them to salvage S.230. He included a draft of a replacement bill that he said “fixes the items cited by the governor.” All the Legislature has to do is meet, confirm the changes in the new draft and vote on the corrected bill.

“The achievability of this ‘fix’ is reflected in the draft bill itself: In a 43-page bill there are only 14 changed lines, and one section inserted (Section 10A was left out of the final bill due to a drafting error),” Bray said. “In short, the changes are very narrow, maintain all the original provisions, and precisely correct the ambiguities which caused the veto. This Thursday, I hope to see the Senate and House come together one more time to get our best work — a ‘replacement’ S.230 — passed into law.”

In past veto sessions, Bray noted, lawmakers have adopted new bills in as little as three hours. “Really all this stuff depends on deciding to get work done, rather than slowing the process down,” Bray said. “From my point of view, if we were in a normal legislative day … by Friday or even the same day, if we wanted to, we’d make the fix, and nobody would debate whether to eliminate ambiguity and make it more clear.”

But Rep. Turner smells political opportunity and he is seeking to exploit it. On Tuesday this week, he said his Republican caucus is prepared to overide the governor’s veto, and would prevent any attempt to modify the bill. He also tried to pull House Speaker Shap Smith into the fray by declaring: “If Shap doesn’t support an override, he’s an obstructionist.”

Name-calling, bullying, being antagonistic — the very definition of a dysfunctional politician advocating for dysfunctional government.

But it’s not madness. Turner’s political ploy would seek to drive a wedge between residents opposed to wind power and Democrats who are proposing a fix to legislation to which some residents remain steadfastly opposed. Turner is politicizing the issue to get some Democrats to switch political allegiance.

What Turner is proposing, however, has a political pitfall for Republicans. If the legislation passes as is (as Turner hopes it will), it would bring to a halt any commercial scale wind power in Vermont and make it harder for small solar farms to be developed. Vermont would be the first state in the nation to essentially decree wind power as a health hazard at any size and prevent its siting. The message would be decidedly anti-business.

What will happen? Thankfully, Turner’s bid will likely fail because Republicans are in the minority.

House Speaker Smith has the right approach when he refutes Turner and explains he (Smith) is simply “trying to bring clarity to what happens, and (to put) some funding in place for the process that municipalities want. I would think the Republicans would want the same thing.”

Many probably do. We hope Addison County Republicans do and will refrain from the anti-business message that Turner is sending, while also rejecting his partisan attempt to sabotage legislation rather than work to get the job done right.

— Angelo S. Lynn

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