Evolving Peace

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

2007 Legislative End

The Vermont Legislature has just ended their session and as that has ended so has a path in my own personal life. For the last five months I have been interning with an organization that advocates within the State House. While it has been a complete learning experience to me, I honor and respect each and every Representative for their time and commitment for working for solutions on the problems of the day.

For myself, I ventured into the Vermont State House not having a clue of how the process works and unfortunately there are many there who had to learn the ropes, just as I. Many a legislators come into the process with grandiose visions of promoting their ideology, however there is much more to legislative work than simple logic. It appears to me that most of the legislators are deep down concerned individuals, however there is just not enough time for them to immerse themselves with every piece of legislation or in that matter every issue.

The best description I have heard depicting the schedule of a legislator is that it is like they are in Graduate School. I sat through many committee meetings with topics ranging from waste water runoff from farms in the Missisquoi Watershed, fees assessed to farmers for the hauling of their milk, to workman’s compensation issues in regards to slaughterhouse facilities. As someone new to the process each committee hearing I sat in was like sitting in on a college symposium. Expert witnesses testify from all sides of an issue and legislators are given the responsibility of how they want to proceed from there.

While sitting there and observing the proceedings of the committees somewhere else in the building other committees were taking testimony on many other important issues, whether it was education spending or global warming. The fact of the matter, I was immersed within the State House on an issue and while I was just an observer of a couple of committees there was countless legislation worked out between committees. Although, I had been in the State House quite frequently, I was totally unaware of other issues resonating throughout the building. Each legislator has the responsibility of keeping themselves immersed with their committee dealings as well as what is coming out of other committees.

So, while I saw as an observer that I could not keep track of all the pieces of legislation, I gaze and wonder just how a legislator can. In many cases, a legislator whether it be a Democrat, Republican or Progressive will vote the party line on matters that they are just not informed on. I do not criticize them for that, since at least the legislator is taking guidance from some one else who supposedly knows the issue and not just merely voting on a coin flip. However I do fault us, the citizens for that method and what we as responsible citizens should do is engage ourselves with the process to keep things in check. Legislators are human, and they do not have super-human powers to read our minds and therefore it is imperative to speak your mind.

I have contacted my representatives on issues I am in support of and most off them have graciously called me or emailed me back. Just recently, I received a postcard from a representative, not of my own, thanking me for a recent letter to the editor. Representatives do listen to their constituents, but only if they voice their opinion.

Common perceptions of politicians are that they are vile and loathsome but in reality of they are just one of us. Yes, some such as The President, Tom Delay or Hilary Clinton may meet that stigmatism; however our local elected representatives live in our own backyards and share a desire to better our communities. It is important that we as society reach out and connect with our locally elected officials for that is where the true roots of democracy lie.

While the Vermont Legislature ended their session on Saturday and the city of Montpelier has slowed down to a crawl, I look forward to my future involvement with the Vermont Legislature. I too would eventually like to serve my community in the betterment of our lives but for now I must progress into other areas. I encourage others to get actively involved with your own government, it is more than just a learning experience it is democracy.

Robb Kidd

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Sir Edmund Burke


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