by Nat Frothingham
MONTPELIER — In the two months or so since Jan. 5, when he was sworn in as Vermont’s newest lieutenant governor, The Bridge has been in touch with David Zuckerman three times.
Just as the 2017 legislative session was getting underway, Zuckerman talked with The Bridge by phone and listed — in no particular order of importance — what he sees as the major issues facing the Legislature.
He mentioned health care, property tax reform, possible changes to Act 46 (the public school consolidation law), water quality issues and economic development. As he talked about economic development, he was careful to draw attention to the plight of many working Vermonters who are and have been facing stagnant wages.
In our first phone contact just after the Legislature assembled, Zuckerman looked out on the changed politics in Washington, D.C., with a new president in the White House and Republican majorities in the U.S. House and Senate, and commented, “We are partly on a holding pattern.”
When asked about the future of Vermont Health Connect, the controversial, computer-driven, state-run health care marketplace, Zuckerman asked this probing question: “Would Vermont Health Connect and Obamacare even exist in another year?”
In a second (mid-February) contact with Zuckerman (who has served as both a Progressive and Democrat for 12 years in the Vermont House, and then for four years in the Vermont Senate), he observed that things don’t happen too quickly at the beginning of a session.
Then once again, he hit on the uncertainty of things in Washington, D.C. “Everyday there’s complete uncertainty,” Zuckerman said about the new administration “as President Trump changes his mind: black and white, up and down.”
Zuckerman also expressed concern about President Trump’s tendency to disrespect the independence of the nation’s three branches of government: legislative, judicial and executive.
While it’s still too early to predict legislative outcomes in this year’s session, Zuckerman — who has pushed hard for cannabis reform — said it looks like the Vermont House will vote for a “grow your own” option. “My objective,” he said, “would be to take further steps on a complete program.” He noted that both Maine and Massachusetts have such complete programs, and that he sees threats from an underground market.
A third contact with Zuckerman on Sunday, Feb. 26 provided an opportunity to see Zuckerman reaching out to students, faculty and staff on the final day of the Winter Weekend learning program of the Governor’s Institutes of Vermont.
This winter’s program offered four learning “strands” in “Advanced Painting and Drawing,” “Astrophotography,” “Robotics,” “Performing and Writing Comedy,” and “Youth Leadership.” Although the learning schedule was packed into three days, the program provides a chance to 79 Vermont students from 56 schools across the state to embrace a learning project, or even follow a passion, with other committed students.
Zuckerman moved from “strand” to “strands” taking it all in, talking to students and faculty. At the “Painting and Drawing Strand” one student talked about what she had learned about the learning process. She said she had not liked her work initially but pushing through that moment of feeling blocked and disappointed everything made it possible for her to produce something that she liked.
As the 70-plus students assembled for a cafeteria-style lunch, Zuckerman introduced himself as a farmer, small businessman and the state’s new lieutenant governor. He told the students he was launching a youth initiative to encourage them to get involved with state government, and meet and talk to their legislators online, through his own newsletter or face-to-face.
“They’re everyday people, just like me,” he said — to laughter and applause.
To contact Lt. Governor David Zuckerman, please go online to: ltgov.vermont.gov/
To be in touch with the Governor’s Institutes of Vermont, please go online to: www.giv.org