Analysis: Vermont, the Declarative Government State

Under GWSA, Vermont moves away from representative government

By Guy Page

September 30, 2020 –  Sen. John Kennedy (R-Louisiana) could have been talking about Vermont’s Democratic legislature when he declared that today’s Democrats prefer “Declarative Government.”

Here’s what Kennedy told Fox’s Tucker Carlson Monday night:

“Many of my Democratic colleagues because they don’t believe — well, let me put it in a positive way — they believe in Declarative Government, as opposed to a representative government. Not all of them, but many of them. In a representative government, the people control policy through their elected representatives. In Declarative Government, which we’ve been moving toward, policy is made by unelected judges and unelected members of the administrative state. Another word for bureaucrats.”

Sept. 17, the Democratic caucus of the Vermont Legislature took a big step towards Declarative Government. It overrode Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of H688, the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). Only two House Democrats voted no – Notte of Rutland and Tully of Springfield. See how House lawmakers voted here

At the core of the GWSA is an appointed 23-person Climate Council charged with mandating 40% carbon emissions reduction (below 1990 levels) by 2030. Failure will result in a lawsuit filed against the State of Vermont by one or a combination of Vermont’s many alphabet environmental groups (VPIRG, CLF, etc.). These groups receive significant direct and indirect funding from the renewable power industry, which would benefit economically if fossil-fuel competition suffers.

The Vermont Legislature designed the Climate Council to be the epitome of Declarative Government. Once appointed, the Climate Council is empowered to work independently of both the Legislature and the Executive Branch. Effectively ban snowmobiles, ATV’s? Get rid of oil-burning furnaces? You don’t need our permission, the Legislature said. ‘Alas,’ the lawmakers could tell aggrieved constituents, ‘our hands are tied. The Council’s gonna do what the council’s gonna do.’ 

If Vermonters don’t want this exercise in Declarative Government, what can they do? Repeal the law. But first, the 100+ lawmakers who overrode the veto must either change their minds, or be exchanged. 

Another option is a court challenge, possibly led by our current governor. “My biggest concern is that it’s unconstitutional,” Gov Phil Scott explained September 18. “And in a big way the bill puts an unelected, unaccountable council in charge of policy making, which means Vermonters will no longer have a say in the process and the council will be able to put their policy recommendations directly into law.

“Think about that – there would be 23 members, one third appointed by the governor and the other two thirds appointed by the legislature, and they would have the power to make laws,” Scott continued. “The Legislature, the elected representatives of the people, would not have to vote on it. The governor – not just me, any future governor – the person elected by Vermonters to provide executive oversight and administration, would not get to review it or decide whether to sign it or veto it.”

There’s almost no limit to what a Climate Council can do, Rob Roper of the Ethan Allen Institute wrote Sept. 25:

“When Vermont’s Global Warming Solutions Act was being debated on the House floor, one member asked Rep. Tim Briglin (D-Thetford), chair of the committee reporting the bill, if under the GWSA the Agency of Natural Resources would have the ability to ban the internal combustion engine. Briglin said “yes,” but that it wasn’t likely. Well, California, a state with its own GWSA demanding greenhouse gas reductions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050 – same as Vermont — just announced it would be banning the sale of internal combustion engine cars and trucks by 2035.”

At least California legislators had the chutzpah to vote yes or no. California may be leading the nation in carbon reduction legislation, but Vermont appears poised to be the national leader in greenhouse gas reduction by Declarative Government. The People’s House Vermont’s appears to be re-imagining itself as a Climate Electoral College. It won’t actually make the decisions, but it will pick the executives who do.

If this Legislature will surrender its powers in the name of climate change, what’s next? Will tough decisions like limiting gun and ammo ownership, decriminalizing statutory rape, providing free housing for all, be next? We citizens of this Brave New World Little State will just have to wait and see. Declarative Government does what it thinks best. It doesn’t need our permission.