by Rep. Tom Koch
I am reminded of the song “Send in the clowns.” For three days now, I have been watching the disgusting spectacle in Washington, D.C., while a fractured Republican majority fails to elect a Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. After four years in the minority, Republicans finally have a majority in the House, albeit a narrow one. One would think they would get right down to business and pass some significant legislation to effect a much needed change in the direction of this country. But I guess Republicans just can’t stand prosperity!
What we see is a ten percent minority of the Republican majority holding out for rules changes, committee assignments, and promises of votes on certain legislation, most of which have been agreed to by the other ninety percent. But the tail continues to wag the dog, and the ten percent continues to deny Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California the votes he needs to become Speaker of the House and get on with the people’s business. One wonders how these jerks ever got elected and how they expect anything to get done in the next two years. To them, compromise is a dirty word, no bread is better than half a loaf to a dying man, and stalemate is better than working with the opposition.
Rep. McCarthy’s aspiration to be Speaker may lead him to make some concessions that will prove to be improvident over the long term and allow the ten percent to hold him hostage for the next two years. The Democrats might be well advised to prompt 20 of their members to vote for McCarthy, making it clear that the Speaker is beholden to them rather than to the minority of Republicans; but I don’t think they’re that smart either. There will be some resolution to this mess, and as I write, I cannot predict what that resolution will look like. What I do know is that it will be a product of a process of which we can all be ashamed.
Send in the clowns? As the song ends, “Don’t bother; they’re here.”
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I voted for Donald Trump, twice, although not with a whole lot of enthusiasm.
I think on the whole, he was a pretty good president.
But he lost the election in 2020 and insists on saying that it was stolen. It was not. He lost.
His post-election antics cost us two Senate seats in Georgia that should have been a walk in the park for the two Republican incumbents.
He has since demanded personal loyalty from Republican candidates. That’s what they do in banana republics and communist countries.
He endorsed a lot of candidates this year, and most of them won. But the ones who won were mainly going to win anyway. In the critical races, he endorsed a group of losers: Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania, Blake Masters and Kari Lake in Arizona, and of course, Herschel Walker in Georgia.
Now Donald Trump has announced that he will run for president again.
But he has also said that he thinks we should “terminate” the Constitution! Has he lost his mind?
Enough is enough! He has hurt the Republican Party quite enough, and it is time for the Party and the country to move on.
The GOP has a large bench of people who are capable of leading Republicans to victory and, more importantly, of leading the country to a stronger economy and a greater leadership role internationally. Among my favorites are Senators Tim Scott and Marco Rubio. But there are many others, including Gov. Ron DeSantis; Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; former Vice President Mike Pence; Ambassador Nicki Haley; Gov. Kristi Noem; Gov. Brian Kemp, and our own neighbor in New Hampshire, Gov. Chris Sununu. These are all people who can give us the policies we need without the personality flaws and cult-like behavior of Donald Trump. These are people who can inspire us and lead us to victories up and down the ticket. Donald Trump can no longer do that.
There are two words that can get Joe Biden re-elected in 2024: Donald Trump! We must not let that happen.
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One bill that the Democratic majority in the Vermont House appears determined to bring forward this year is a bill to prohibit no cause evictions. Burlington passed a charter change several years ago that would accomplish this goal, but the bill approving that change has not made it through the legislative process. That may change this year with a bill to prohibit no cause evictions on a statewide basis, and if the bill passes, it will be a big mistake.
The concept is deceptively simple: if a tenant has done nothing wrong, why should he or she be evicted or the lease not renewed? Well, as a retired attorney who handled evictions on behalf of landlords, I can tell you that a tenant who pays the rent on time, causes no damage to the premises, leads a peaceful existence, and conducts no unlawful activities on the premises is very unlikely to be the subject of eviction proceedings. Such tenants are valued and appreciated.
A tenant who fails to pay rent can be evicted, but it may take some time, and thanks to a bill passed by the legislature that I originally adopted years ago, a tenant who is sued for eviction on grounds of non-payment of rent can be required to pay rent into escrow with the court clerk until the case is finally heard. If the tenant fails to make those payments, as frequently happens, the tenant can be evicted without a formal court hearing; if the tenant does make the payments and finally loses the case, the escrowed payments are turned over to the landlord. One should note that this can take perhaps four or six months. And if for some reason the tenant wins the case, any amount due to the tenant can be deducted from the escrowed funds, with only the balance being paid to the landlord. That’s fair to both sides.
But landlords may seek to evict tenants for other reasons, even if the rent is being paid. The tenant may frequently hold loud parties that disturb other tenants in the building, perhaps tenants who have been there for many years. The tenant may be causing extensive and expensive damage to the premises. The tenant may be selling drugs out of the building, with a frequent line of customers coming and going. How do you evict someone on these grounds? A landlord needs to bring a lawsuit at substantial expense, including court fees, processes server fees, and attorney fees. Then the tenant has 20 days to respond to the landlord’s complaint, and all the tenant has to do is say, “I deny the allegations.” In cases such as this, there is no requirement for paying rent into escrow, so the tenant may stop paying the rent. And court dockets are congested, so it may take several months before the case can even be scheduled for a hearing by the court.
There are other difficulties. If the problem is that the tenant is disturbing other tenants, it may be difficult for the landlord to get the other tenants to testify in court, for fear of retaliation. And proving that the tenant is running an unlawful “pharmacy” out of the apartment is not easy to prove.
The solution to date has been to give the tenant 30 days’ notice to vacate, for no cause. If the tenant fails to move out, as is typical, the landlord will still have to bring a lawsuit, but the problems of proof, reluctant witnesses, and excessive delay are greatly reduced, as is the expense of prosecuting the action. The “no cause” eviction, therefore, has been a very useful tool for getting rid of an undesirable tenant. It is not an abusive tool, as the proponents of the bill prohibiting the procedure would suggest. It cannot be used to discriminate against a tenant in a protected class, such as race, religion, national origin, etc. It is subject to being defeated by proving unlawful actions on the part of the landlord. And above all, it is highly unlikely that a landlord will use it to evict a tenant who is paying rent faithfully and taking good care of the premises.
There’s a shortage of affordable housing in Vermont, and maintaining all the rental housing we have is part of the solution. It’s not easy to be a landlord in Vermont, and I’ve often wondered why someone would want to be one. Taking actions to make it more difficult to be a landlord, such as adoption of bills such as this, will backfire by reducing the availability of affordable housing. And for what? To protect tenants whose behavior is undesirable? No, this is a bill that should not see the light of day.
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Finally, I note that the Vermont legislature convened this week, and unfortunately, it appears that there is a bit of retribution being conducted.
In the House, the Speaker makes all committee assignments. Theoretically, a committee assignment can be appealed to the full House. In practice, such an appeal is useless.
Rep. Jill Krowinski, re-elected Speaker this week by her overwhelming Democratic majority, used to be the executive director of Planned Parenthood of Burlington, including during her first years as a member of the legislature. She eliminated that conflict several years ago by resigning her position with Planned Parenthood, but her sympathies are well known.
Rep. Anne Donahue of Northfield is an acknowledged expert in the field of health care, especially mental health. She has served the last several years as vice-chair of the House Committee on Health Care and had hoped to continue in that position. But she also served this summer as spokesperson for Vermonters for Good Government, an organization opposed to adoption of Article 22, the “reproductive autonomy” amendment to the Vermont Constitution.
This week, Speaker Krowinski took Rep. Donahue off the Health Care Committee and assigned her to the Human Services Committee. Retribution? Punishment? Of course not, says the Speaker. But would anyone expect her to admit to it? The facts, however, speak louder than the Speaker’s denials. Shame.
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Scribblings” originated as a report on legislative affairs while the writer was a member of the Vermont House of Representatives from Barre Town. Since then, it has been written less frequently and with less focus on the legislature and more of whatever happens to move the writer. If you are not on the distribution list and wish to be added, simply send your name, town of residence, and email address to TomKochVT@gmail.com. If you are currently on the distribution list and wish to be removed, make that request at the same address—no offense taken.