Keelan: make legislative terms 4 years, give them dental

by Don Keelan

Next January, a sea of change will occur in the Vermont Legislature. The most recent news: 10 out of 30 senators gave notice that they will not seek re-election, and 41 members of a 150-member House also announced that they too would not seek office. All gave many reasons for leaving Montpelier. 

Don Keelan

Over the years, I have had issues with the Vermont Legislature regarding specific pieces of legislation. One area where I have no issue is my gratitude to those who serve our state in Montpelier and their home districts. Just being in Montpelier in the dead of winter is to be commended. 

Our legislature is no longer a body of folks from the agricultural sector, meeting at a time of year when farms were, for the most part, “resting.” Would more folks be willing to serve if the Legislature met not from January to May but from March to June? 

With such a massive change in leadership and members about to occur, maybe it is time to rethink how the Legislature is elected, operates, and is compensated? 

The Vermont Legislature profoundly impacts our personal lives, businesses, and state operations in the short term and for years to come. Therefore, it is critical to have the best possible Vermonters in place, crafting the future laws of our state. 

These best Vermonters should not have to be independently wealthy to serve, nor should they struggle with child-care or housing once in Montpelier. It should not be a financial hardship to serve in the Legislature. Let’s start with changing compensation. 

The present compensation for representatives and senators is $774 per week for 18 weeks of the session (there is no compensation for Town Meeting Week.) This amount does not compensate for all the time legislators must devote to interacting with constituents, other legislators, and those impacted by bills under consideration. Why not double the amount paid; maybe more folks will step up to run for office?

Compensation should include a generous allowance for day-care costs and health insurance. Today, members receive free dental; let’s broaden the benefits package. 

Let’s change the service term from two to four years and limit the number of years one can serve to 12 years. The position was never meant to be a career nor the citadel for those “on a power trip.” 

One turn-off in developing a willingness to serve is that legislators must be beholden to the Legislature leadership. If one fails to do so, they don’t expect to be placed on a committee of choice, or worse, have critical suggestions or proposed legislation ignored. I suggest that all committee chairs and appointments be voted upon by the entire legislative body and not dictated by a handful of long-serving, influential members. 

The legislature should limit the number of weeks they are in session to no more than 12. This can be accomplished by a full legislature meeting in December to agree on a priority of bills to consider. An agenda, if you will. It is insane to review over 750 to 1,000 proposed bills; what a waste of time and effort. 

For transparency, monthly, each legislator should provide their constituents with a summary of their meetings with lobbyists, influencers representing special interest groups during the prior month. It would be nice to know who are legislators are really representing. 

If the Vermont Legislature is to represent the people of Vermont fully, one should not have to be retired, living off a trust fund, be independently wealthy, or self-employed to serve.

The author is a U.S. Marine (retired), CPA, and columnist living in Arlington, VT.

Categories: Commentary

8 replies »

  1. Before an employee or group of employees get new “generous” and added benefits, the employee(s) should have established a record of outstanding performance resulting in many notable accomplishments.

    Based on what the legislature accomplished in the last biennium, it’s hardly the time to talk about increasing benefits. Just take a quick look what the legislature produced over the past two years: the Global Warming Solution Act, the Clean Heat Standard, a band-aid approach to the multi-billion dollar state retirement problem and on and on all resulting in a record breaking and required number of gubernatorial vetos.

    It’s hardly the time to start handing out “generous” and added benefits based on the job performance of the legislature over the past biennium…….It’s time for the legislature to start focusing on legislation that meets the real needs all Vermonters as opposed to virtue signaling to the world.

    • 10-4 Peter, The goose that lays the golden egg is crappin’ blood, and they want moe money, moe money, moe money !

  2. $774 a week. Don’t forget, that’s a four day “work week”, they don’t “work” Mondays, and you should see the parking lots by noon on Fridays. If you divide $774 by 4 you come up with $193.50 a day. Why not pay them $967.50, (that’s $193.50 x 5) and have them work a five day week like everybody else, (you know, us little folks) and shorten the legislative session by 1/5. Also, I like the four year term in regards to the Governor, but in my opinion there are to many digbats in legislature that may need to be able to be voted out more frequently than every four years. And how about term limits ? JMOs

    • I’ve got a couple more wishes. Any legislator who violates their oath of office should be disqualified from serving. They take the oath under penalty of perjury to defund and not harm our constitution and then do just that, but there’s no enforcement or penalty. Next, A person running for office in the VT legislature should be required to be a citizen of Vermont for 5 years prior. And no candidate running for office to make laws for Vermonters should be allowed to accept money from organizations outside VT or through local offices affiliated with political organizations from out of state. And finally, the legislature should not be allowed (and it’s already unconstitutional) to pass laws to have committees creates legislation by fiat. All laws should have to be completed be legislators, so they are held responsible for the outcome. I’m sure others can add to the list. And Pat’s ideas also.

  3. Yessiree Dano; and Governor 4 years (at 2 its 1 serving and 1 thinking re-election..dumb) and Legislative sessions limited to 2 months…pick em…Farmers would NOT have wanted to be in Montpeculiar in april or may…….and hey march is surgaring! OR every other year for 4 months…Legislative sessions are TOO LONG for a 12 month budget; common sense is so very needed now. more money you say? the longer your there the more you get…….is why the session is soooo long.
    I have never experienced anything like this my 65 years; and talking to an 83 yr old today…”oh my never in my life” she says………

  4. Why is there so much whining from volunteer Legislators who are either employed or retired? Seriously?! I worked in that building and visited the cafeteria in 2019 a few times. Those people are far from hard up for anything. They dress to the nines and they look down their noses at anyone who is not one of “them”. They should work for zero dollars – civil duty – like jury duty. Mileage and free lunch. That is all they deserve for never listening to the People anyway!

    • I’m surprised that these progressives haven’t tried to move the capitol to Burlington where their home base is! Our legislature is comprised of transplants who either came here for their ego boost their ego or were planted here to turn Vermont on its heels. A small conservative state for 109 years was the target and here we are now fighting the monster. The extra $10K +/- for serving is mad money to manty Reps. in the legislature and more in the senate. The longer they serve, the more they get. They get the mine, and the taxpayers and normal working people get the shaft. TAKE BACK VERMONT from the progressive monster!

  5. The legislature profoundly impacts our personal lives & so we should be compensating them even MORE??? Yeah, they impact my life – in the past couple of years in an extraordinarily detrimental way!!!

    The dems & “progressives” seek to bring legalized prostitution to VT, they are demonizing police causing VT to become inadequately protected at this point, they gave themselves and THEIR “government employees” MORE rights to “equal” protection under the law than ordinary citizens (can you say: C-o-m-m-u-n-i-s-m?), they are power-mongering loons who now choose school mascot names instead of the school districts, they are working to have CHILDREN vote – along with illegals, and want the slaughter of unborn babies to be emblazoned in the State Constitution for ANY reason at ANY stage of pregnancy etc. etc.

    Yeah…I’ll agree to pay them MORE….when pigs fly. These incompetents have CHOSEN to do this work. If their teeth are rotting – let them ATTEMPT to get a job in the private sector.

    Wow Keelan, can you say: S-E-L-L – O-U-T?

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