Scott OK with ‘Liberty and Justice for All’ street mural

Montpelier mayor, councilor haven’t seen application; Scott concerned about funding, lawsuit parts of Global Warming Solutions Act bill; Guv questions Leahy’s furlough figure of 1111 immigration employees

By Guy Page

July 1, 2020 – Gov. Phil Scott is fine with gubernatorial candidate John Klar’s plan to paint “Liberty and Justice for All” in big red, white and blue letters next to the Black Lives Matter mural on State Street. 

“It sounds very patriotic and fitting for the 4th of July,” Scott said when Vermont Daily asked his opinion about Klar’s proposal during his Wednesday press conference.  “I wouldn’t say it’s inconsistent….with Black Lives Matter – it’s almost one and the same.” If the City of Montpelier consents and then approaches his office with a request, “we would consider it, I don’t see why” it would be opposed, he said.  

Today, Montpelier Mayor Anne Watson and Councilor Conor Casey said they haven’t yet seen Klar’s application. A completed special event application form to the City of Montpelier was emailed to Vermont Daily Monday. The application requests that State Street between Taylor and Baldwin streets, just west of the existing BLM mural, be closed off 8 am – 8 pm Friday, July 3.

The Klar campaign is hosting an Independence Day celebration Saturday, July 4 on the State House lawn, 10 AM – Noon. “Celebrate the founding of our country with live music, speakers, select readings from the founding documents and more!,” the campaign Facebook page says. The event is not being organized by the campaign, but by others on its behalf, a campaign spokesperson said yesterday.

In other news, Gov. Scott said he opposes current Global Warming Solutions Act legislation because it allows the State of Vermont to be sued for not meeting carbon reduction goals. H688, the GWSA bill, establishes a regulatory structure to impose and require carbon emissions reductions across the Vermont economy. If the State fails to meet the steep reduction targets, the law allows not-for-profit groups to sue the State of Vermont to force compliance. 

During the press conference, Scott was asked whether he would veto H688 if it reaches him. He said he thought consensus had been reached, but in the current versions, the power to sue and the funding are “problematic,” he said. 

The State of Vermont will soon begin a public education campaign to encourage wearing masks in public, Gov. Phil Scott said at his Wednesday press conference.

He doesn’t think mask requirements are helpful – they just invite pushback from citizens who resent being told what to do, Scott said. “I would rather educate, lead and inspire people to do the right thing,” he said. Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said the campaign will feature paid social media and “earned” (free) media. The budget has not yet been determined. 

Gov. Scott expressed skepticism when told by VT Digger editor Colin Meyn that Sen. Patrick Leahy said today 1111 U.S. Customs and Immigration Services Vermont employees are scheduled to be furloughed. He said he is unaware of the exact figure, but would be surprised if it’s that high. The revelation was clearly unwelcome news to Scott, who said that 40,000 – 50,000 Vermonters are already unemployed, and that businesses relying on Vermonters’ paychecks are suffering. Like the U.S. Post Service, USCIS is funded by user fees, not tax funding. Between the pandemic and the federal government’s immigration restrictions, revenue is down.

A US Supreme Court decision about private schools in Montana may open the door for some public funding of religious education. It could mean that public money funding private education must be extended to religious private education. 

Education Secretary Dan French said he hasn’t had an opportunity to evaluate the SCOTUS decision, but said Montana’s constitution and government structure is different than Vermont’s. An Associated Press story today referenced an Alliance Defending Freedom suit arguing that Vermont public education money dispensed to private institutions should not be permitted to discriminate against private religious schools. State education officials have prevented parochial school high students from participating in some “early college” programs eligible to other private school students. 

There will be no press conference Friday, July 3. Beginning next week, press conferences will be held twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays at 11 am.