Dems join Senate GOP in supporting Scott veto of Brattleboro charter change
By Guy Page
With five Democrats voting with every Senate Republican, the Vermont Senate yesterday upheld Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of H361, the Brattleboro charter change that would have given 16-17 year olds the right to vote in municipal elections and hold local office.
The vote was 15-12 to override, well short of the two-thirds needed. Senators who voted to override were: Sens. Phil Baruth, Chris Bray, Brian Campion, Allison Clarkson, Ann Cummings, Ruth Hardy, Cheryl Hooker, Jane Kitchel, Virginia Lyons, Chris Pearson, Andrew Perchlik, Anthony Pollina, Kesha Ram Hinsdale, Michael Sirotkin, and Brattleboro resident Jeanette White. (All are Democrats and/or Progressives.)
Those Senators who voted in the negative were: Joe Benning, Randy Brock, Tom Chittenden (D), Brian Collamore, Russ Ingalls, Mark MacDonald (D), Richard Mazza (D), Richard McCormack (D), Alice Nitka (D), Robert Starr (R/D), Josh Terenzini, and Richard Westman. (Unless indicated otherwise, all are Republicans.)
Several of “No” Democrats – including Nitka and Mazza – are often considered to be among the more conservative, independent Democratic senators. All of the Progressive senators voted in favor.
Those senators absent or not voting were: Richard Sears, Corey Parent, and Becca Balint, also of Brattleboro. A subdued Balint was presiding over the roll call vote, which was taken without any debate. Presiding senators only vote in the event of a tie.
The upheld veto was a clear loss for Senate Pro Tem Balint, who had postponed the vote for two weeks. Republican senators had been quietly informing their supporters that several Democrats appeared willing to uphold the veto. Despite apparent pressure from the Democratic leadership (Balint and Senate Majority Leader Clarkson), enough senators successfully broke ranks.
“I voted yes but understand that there have been some concerns raised that were not addressed,” Sen. Jeannette White (D-Windham) said. “The issues concern the ability of those under 18 to sign contracts. State law says that only those over can sign contracts. Signing contracts is a responsibility of a select board member. I will work with the Town of Brattleboro to address these issues over the next year.”
Balint was a strong backer of H361, as she showed in a statement after the bill cleared the Senate: “As someone who got my start in politics by being an elected member to our Brattleboro Representative Town Meeting, I support this charter change. We have been talking about this for a long time in my hometown. And the vote was overwhelming at the representative town meeting.
“Vermont is held together by duct tape, twine, and civic engagement. We should do all we can to get residents engaged in our democracy early in their lives. I’m proud the Senate supported this charter change and I’m excited for the young people of Brattleboro who have fought for this opportunity over the past ten years.”