Each January, I seem to harbor this optimism that when the Vermont 180-member Legislature returns to Montpelier, they will not look to take away any more of my freedoms. Sadly, my expectations have been misplaced.
The Legislature settles in each year with three goals in mind – How much more can we take? How much more can we make Vermonters dependent on state government? And how much more in restrictions can we infuse into the lives of Vermonters?
A complaint we often hear is the perpetual mandates that come down from Montpelier. It was clear this year when reading a letter to the community written by Judith Pullinen, the Arlington School District's Superintendent. She stated that the district has been given the following Montpelier mandates to be put in place – Flexible Learning Paths, Proficiency Based Learning, Multi-Tiered Support Systems, Personal Learning Plans, and Vermont Virtual Learning Collaborative.
If these were not enough for the Arlington school board trustees to have to deal with, they are deeply engaged in attempting to meet the mandates of Act 46 – what other districts Arlington would need to merge with is a top priority. And this should not be a surprise – it was only 18 years ago, when Act 60 went into effect, that local control of schools was abdicated to Montpelier.
We do not have local control over the financing and teaching content within our schools. But local and individual control has also vanished when it comes to health care – at our doctor's office and at our local hospital. Here, as well as in education, there is a select group of a half-dozen government appointed individuals, residing in Montpelier, who have more control over our health as the erosion of our freedoms continues.
In a recent interview with both the CEO and board chair of our local hospital, I was appalled to have heard that at least one-third of all patients who are discharged have an untreated mental illness. What was even worse was the fact that, when asked why not treat the patients for their mental disease, the response was that Green Mountain Care Board would not allow them to do so. However, a few years ago, the hospital, if the need was there, would just set up a mental health unit and treat its patients. And it is not only in the sectors of education and health care, but in the day-to-day running of a business that the "finger prints" of state government are ever present. A session of the legislature does not pass without a host of regulations being churned out. God forbid that a requirement to be a legislator is to have had to meet a weekly payroll for 52 weeks and to have at least one half of his/her wealth invested in a business.
In the name of climate change, the oil furnace in one's home will be on a short life, if Montpelier has its way. It wasn't enough for those in the legislature to dictate how our education, health care, and businesses function – they have now entered into our homes – in the name of carbon free emissions.
And if they are in our homes, we have no one to blame but ourselves. We have, over the past 25 years, subordinated our lives to a handful of people in the legislature and the bureaucracy.
There might have been a time when Vermonters could legitimately and proudly state that they were an independent people. To hear that Vermonters are an independent people is a dishonest statement. We have become so dependent on the state in almost every aspect of our lives. The state motto, Freedom and Unity, is no longer. It is Montpelier Dependent Forever.
Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington.