By Jason Herron, Convention of States District Captain Windham-1
Vermont’s Legislature just voted to pass a “law” that the Republican Governor signed, which authorizes individual cities and towns to pass temporary mask mandates. Vermont’s Senate Majority Leader Becca Balint (D-Windham) stated. “We need our executive branch, our governor and our Department of Health to step up and protect the people of Vermont when we are facing the most challenging and difficult time of the pandemic in Vermont.”
Senator Balint is a lawmaker, elected and entrusted to enact laws. She is adamantly trying to delegate that trust to the Governor or some other department. Not only does she prefer to delegate the authority trusted in her, but she sounds upset it hasn’t already been usurped. Does she have the authority to do that? If the answer is yes, why do we need legislators? Can the legislative branch transfer the power of making laws to anybody else, or place it anywhere, but where the people have?
U.S. Judge Terry Doughty doesn’t think so. In his recent ruling about President Biden’s vaccine mandate he states:
“If the executive branch is allowed to usurp the power of the legislative branch to make laws, two of the three powers conferred by our Constitution would be in the same hands. If human nature and history teach anything, it is that civil liberties face grave risks when governments proclaim indefinite states of emergency…During a pandemic such as this one, it is even more important to safeguard the separation of powers set forth in our Constitution to avoid erosion of our liberties.”
What is Senator Balint’s motive for delegating the trust given by her constituents? Once the trust has been delegated, who do the People hold accountable for the resultant policies? Is Senator Balint responsible or the newly delegated authority? Can the Governor create law and then execute the law he just made? Is the governor authorized to punish violations of mandates that were enacted by individual towns? This method of “law making” breeds confusion and a lack of accountability. Can the Legislature, if it conveniences them or promotes their agenda, make law makers to avoid the accountability of making laws?
Vermont’s Constitution Chapter 2 section 5 reads: The Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary departments, shall be separate and distinct, so that neither exercise the powers properly belonging to the others. The United States Constitution says: All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
The Legislative branch makes laws, the Judicial branch gives opinions on those laws, and the Executive branch executes the laws. Does Senator Balint want the Governor to make a “law” and then execute the enforcement of it? It appears, by her statement, that is exactly what she wants. Does the president of the Senate understand the fundamental principles behind the Separation of Powers? How does her method of “law-making” help Vermonters in Congress? Is she going to delegate her lawmaking authority to whomever the President is or whoever is running the department of health?
Why would the law maker want the executive branch or city councils to make a perversion of “law”, disguised as a mandate? Why not use the legislative process granted to her in the Vermont Constitution? Consider this: does the Constitution give any form of government jurisdiction over a citizen’s liberty to breath air without constraints? If the government is restricted from enacting laws that diminishes freedom of speech, i.e., the 1st Amendment, how can they have the jurisdiction to diminish the free flow of air in and out of your lungs? Do you only have the freedom of speech so long as you are wearing something covering your nose and, the most common method of communicating, your mouth?
Article 15 of the Vermont Constitution reads: The power of suspending laws, or the execution of laws, ought never to be exercised but by the Legislature, or by authority derived from it, to be exercised in such particular cases, as this constitution, or the Legislature shall provide for.
Can the Vermont Legislature “provide” the free citizens of their State with additional law makers to govern them?
If any member of the Vermont Congress, certainly the Senate Majority Leader, is too incompetent to make good laws and feels the need to delegate that trust to the Governor, an agency, town counsel or the local high school student counsel, they should resign their office and give it up to someone who is up to the task.
Stay tuned for the solution to this problem!
The author is a Guildhall resident active with the Convention of States.