In January 2019, public interest advocates weighed in on the Vermont Conversation with their priorities for the 2019 legislative session in Vermont. Five months later, they return to discuss what happened: who won, who lost, what’s still in play on key legislation including banning plastic bags, $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, medical monitoring for toxics and campaign finance reform. (June 5, 2019 broadcast)
Paul Burns, executive director, Vermont Public Interest Research Group
A long awaited report on carbon pricing from the Vermont Legislature’s nonpartisan Joint Fiscal Office Leg’s was released this week. It’s key conclusion is that carbon pricing could enable Vermont to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without adversely impacting low-income residents or the state’s overall economy. The report was followed by a press conference of 25 organizations representing youth, low-income, business, public health, environment presenting a Climate Action Plan for Vermont legislators to advance. We discuss the new impetus for carbon pricing and other climate change strategies in the Vermont legislature. (January 23, 2019 broadcast)
Will 2019-2020 bring Vermont paid family leave, $15 minimum wage, smart justice reform, stronger protection from toxic chemicals and clean water? These are some of the goals of advocates for social, economic and environmental justice who have descended on the Vermont State House pressing for change on these and other issues in the new legislative biennium. We hold a roundtable discussion with leaders from some of Vermont’s key advocacy groups to hear about their priorities and strategies for the 2019-2020 legislative session. (January 9, 2019 broadcast)
In the aftermath of the discovery in 2016 of widespread contamination of drinking water around Bennington, Vermont, citizen’s groups have lobbied for laws to tighten restrictions on toxics. But on April 16, 2018, Gov. Phil Scott vetoed legislation intended to help protect children from toxic chemicals in toys and other products. The Vt Senate overrode the governor’s veto, 22-8, three days later, leaving the fate of the veto in the hands of the House. The legislation, S.103, would give the Commissioner of Health greater authority to regulate toxic chemicals, provide more information to consumers about toxins in children’s products, and require testing for toxins in new drinking water wells. “In the choice between protecting kids and pleasing industry lobbyists, [Scott] went with the lobbyists,” said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG). Burns discusses the battle over toxics in Vermont, as well as the future of renewable power, regulating data companies, and the future. (April 18, 2018 broadcast)
Paul Burns is executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, a position he’s held since 2001. In just the past few years, VPIRG has played a major role in the nation’s first ban on fracking, new regulations on toxics, and the movement to have GMO foods labeled. Previously, Paul worked for 15 years as an attorney, advocate and organizer for PIRGs in New York and Massachusetts. Burns talks about Ralph Nader and the PIRG movement that he launched, why he pursued public interest law, and how he was inspired by Lois Gibbs and her fight for environmental justice in Love Canal. He also discusses the backlash against renewable power in Vermont, toxics, government ethics, clean power, Gov. Phil Scott and Donald Trump. (January 11, 2017 broadcast)
Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, discusses what makes a business socially responsible, his Stamp Stampede campaign to get money out of politics, the boycott campaign against Ben & Jerry’s over ice cream sales in Israel and the Occupied Territories, his thoughts on Occupy Wall Street, and humor in organizing. We also talk with Falko Schilling of VPIRG about the campaign to require labeling of genetically engineered food.