By Guy Page
Thursday night, young Vermont conservatives will meet 6:30 – 8:30 pm at a rally hosted by Charlie Kirk’s Turning Point USA at the Capitol Plaza in Montpelier. It’s an effort to expose young people to the value of freedom, free markets and limited government – and the future bill they will pay for today’s big-spending government.
Or as the TPUSA hashtag says: “#biggovsucks.”
When you’re the conservative minority in the Vermont Legislature, that’s how you bring along the next generation. When you’re the liberal majority, you also hold events like that. And – some critics say – you create a taxpayer-funded State Youth Council.
Today, the House of Representatives will consider H293, establishing a State Youth Council. All 25 co-sponsors are Democrats or Progressives. This bill would “create within the Agency of Administration the State Youth Council to advise the Governor and the General Assembly on policies that impact young persons in Vermont.”
Members would be paid per-diem. Like all state advisory boards, the State Youth Council would benefit from state employee staffing and oversight.
“The Council shall be composed of not more than 28 Vermont resident youths between 11 and 18 years of age at the time of appointment,” the bill says. “The interagency workgroup Youth Services Advisory Council shall appoint members from an applicant pool with a focus on prioritizing diversity and inclusion, including characteristics such as county of residence, gender identity, racial identity, disabilities, age, and other characteristics identified by the applicants.”
The Youth Services Advisory Council is a 31-member Agency of Human Services, social workers, and educators.
In the past, youth in support of gay rights, the $15 minimum wage, childcare funding hikes, climate action and other generally ‘liberal’ causes have demonstrated at the State House, testified before committees, and held press conferences. These visits are usually organized by well-funded advocacy groups led by adults. ‘Conservative’ groups also have brought children before the Legislature – notably school choice advocates and opponents of legalized marijuana.
As proposed, the Council would include subcommittees on equity, anti-racism and climate change. Chairs of these and other subcommittees would staff the Council’s executive committee.
At least one lawmaker hopes it won’t become a partisan organizing tool and has – for now – successfully inserted language to pump the brakes on partisanship.
Rep. Mark Higley (R-Lowell) sits on the Government Operations Committee where H293 was discussed and approved. He managed to insert a requirement of reporting on how well the Youth Commission preserves Vermont traditions and its rural character.
“I considered this Commission to be a possible partisan group of youth and wanted to somehow have them consider this: ‘The Council shall annually report its advice and recommendations to the House and Senate Committees on Government Operations and to any other standing committees it deems appropriate on the preservation of Vermont’s traditions and the future of Vermont’s rural character, activities, and professions,’” Higley told Vermont Daily.
Higley’s ‘hey, remember rural Vermont traditions’ clause is there now, on page 428 of today’s House Calendar.
The bill still needs House, and then Senate approval – and at any stage the Higley Clause could be deleted, as he well knows. “Not sure how long it will remain in the bill,” Higley said.
As the great Rep. Cola Hudson (R-Lyndon) once remarked in his Yankee drawl about how a bill can change, “there’s many a slip between the cup and the lips, and therein lies the mystery.”