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Democracy Dispatch

Click here to access the Democracy Dispatch for 2022 and prior.

Mondays just got a little greener!

Welcome to the Democracy Dispatch podcast, hosted by Justin Marsh, political outreach director at Vermont Conservation Voters. Justin will be joined every Monday with folks from their team to update you about everything that happened in the Vermont State House the week before, and what to expect throughout the upcoming week. We will speak with legislators, environmental allies, go deeper on some policy initiatives, and sit down with special guests to discuss topics affecting our air, water, open space, and quality of life.

New podcast episodes launch every Monday during the Vermont Legislative Session.

Listen to the Democracy Dispatch podcast on the following services:

Spotify Podcasts | Apple Podcasts | iHeart Radio | TuneIn | Podchaser

Episode List:

S1, E10 (Mar. 20, 2023): The Environmental Role of the Attorney General’s Office

Guests: Attorney General Charity Clark, Sen. Christopher Bray

Attorney General Charity Clark is our state’s 28th AG, and the first woman to ever be elected to the position. In a candid conversation with Justin, she talks about her upbringing in Southern Vermont, how the intimacy of Vermont’s politics allowed her access to role models where she could see herself reflected, her passion for Vermont’s climate and environment, and the role of the AG in shaping that conversation.

Lauren talks with Sen. Christopher Bray (D-Addison) on the Deep Dive segment for updates on the Energy Efficiency Modernization Act, the housing equity bill, and the Affordable Heat Act.

Lauren and Justin discuss crossover week with updates on what made it across the line and what did not in the Session Shakedown segment.

S1, E9 (Mar. 6, 2023): 2023 Halftime Report

Guest: Lauren Hierl

Move over, Rihanna. We’ve got our own Halftime Show!

With the legislature on break for Town Meeting Day, it seemed like the opportune time to sit down with Lauren Hierl, executive director, Vermont Conservation Voters, to discuss the policy priorities outlined in the 2023 Environmental Common Agenda and provide a progress report on each. 

We update you on the latest surrounding the Affordable Heat Act, the Renewable Energy Standard, transportation affordability, environmental justice funding, smart growth housing, the 30×30 land conservation initiative, rivers, wetlands, and riparian area protections, PFAS, the updated bottle bill, and ranked choice voting.

S1, E8 (Feb. 27, 2023): Banning PFAS and Toxic “Forever” Chemicals

Guests: Rep. Dane Whitman, VNRC’s Kati Gallagher

Rep. Dane Whitman (D-Bennington) speaks about policy banning harmful PFAS and toxic “forever” chemicals from several items. His work on this effort last biennium earned him VCV’s Rising Star Award in 2022. He shares why PFAS are of concern to Vermonters and particularly the Bennington region for which he represents, and outlines the next wave of consumer products that include toxics that the legislature intends to further ban this biennium. Later, he outlines other important priorities his committee is taking up as we approach crossover week.

Lauren Hierl sits down with Kati Gallagher, Sustainable Communities Program Director at Vermont Natural Resources Council, for our Deep Dive segment. The two discuss the intricacies of smart growth housing policies which aim to address our state’s housing crisis. Lastly, our Session Shakedown segment gives the latest update on Affordable Heat Act (which should be going to a full Senate vote this week), and what’s next for policies being worked on in the House Committee on Environment and Energy. Read the full transcript here.

S1, E7 (Feb. 20, 2023): Is Serving in the State House Sustainable?

Guests: Rep. Saudia LaMont, Sen. Rebecca White

Rep. Saudia LaMont (D-Morristown) speaks about her experience as a freshman legislator and how the reality of serving differed from her perception while campaigning. She discusses the weight she carries representing several different identities in a mostly homogenous state, including being the third Black woman to serve Vermont, and what keeps her doing this work for her community. Later, she shares her advice for folks contemplating running for office. Spoiler alert: she thinks you should run! Sen. Rebecca White (D-Windsor) talks with us about two separate bills in two separate committees she serves on – the Affordable Heat Act and ranked choice voting. She outlines the importance of both policies for Vermonters, shares insights on some of the testimony her committees have heard, and the next steps for the bills. Plus: updates on the expanded bottle bill, the housing equity bill, and the 30×30 land conservation bill. Read the full transcript here.

S1, E6 (Feb. 13, 2023): Vermont’s Love/Hate Relationship with Act 250

Guests: Rep. Amy Sheldon, Rep. Kristi Morris

Act 250 is Vermont’s land use and development law, enacted in 1970 at a time when Vermont was undergoing significant development pressure. The law provides a public, quasi-judicial process for reviewing and managing the environmental, social, and fiscal consequences of major subdivisions and developments in Vermont. It assures that larger developments complement Vermont’s unique landscape, economy, and community needs. Rep. Amy Sheldon (D-Middlebury) has been active in several House committees where Act 250 is in the spotlight. In 2017, she was appointed as chair of the Commission on Act 250. In this episode, Sheldon breaks down the complicated relationship Vermonters have – both appreciation and concerns about Act 250, what changes need to be made, and what the future of the law looks like. Rep. Kristi Morris (D-Springfield) outlines the proposed expansion of Vermont’s Bottle Bill. Plus: updates on Affordable Heat Act, Transportation Affordability Act, and more. Read the full transcript here.

S1, E5 (Feb. 6, 2023): Roaring Twenties: Three Young Lawmakers’ Reflections

Guests: Rep. Larry Satcowitz, Sen. Becca White, Rep. Jay Hooper, Rep. Lucy Boyden

The Vermont Legislature boasts six members who are in their 20s. That number nearly doubles when looking at those serving in their 30s. But despite these figures, the reality is that Vermont’s legislative body is still quite a bit older than the average age of Vermonters. Sen. Becca White (D-Windsor), Rep. Jay Hooper (D-Randolph), and Rep. Lucy Boyden (D-Cambridge) discuss their experiences as legislators in the 20s. The three reflect on ageism both on the campaign trail and in the state house, the difficulties of serving as a young person, as well as why their voices matter. Rep. Larry Satcowitz (D-Randolph) walks through the 30×30 land conservation bill. Lauren and Justin give updates on the Affordable Heat Act, Smart Growth Housing, and the Transportation Affordability Act. Read the full transcript here.

S1, E4 (Jan. 30, 2023): Looking Back on 15 Years of Environmental Justice

Guests: Sen. Ginny Lyons, Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale

Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale (D/P-Chittenden Southeast) takes a look back at the environmental justice legislation that inspired her to run for the state legislature over 15 years ago. She explains the importance of equity in the conversation about the environment and climate, as well as the progress that has been made, and where work still needs to happen. Lauren has a conversation with Sen. Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden Southeast) about toxics legislation that would remove PFAS and other harmful chemicals from products like shampoo, lotion, and other cosmetics. We share the news that Rep. Kate Donnally (D-Hyde Park) has stepped down from her role in the statehouse and give updates on progress around the Affordable Heat Act, housing equity, land conservation, and more. Read the full transcript here.

S1, E3 (Jan. 23, 2023): Accessibility from State Trails to the State House

Guests: Rep. Seth Bongartz, Rep. Elizabeth Burrows

Justin has a conversation with Rep. Elizabeth Burrows (D/P-West Windsor) about her proposed bill that would make state-owned and managed trails more physically accessible. She speaks candidly about the limitations of serving for differently-abled legislators. Lauren chats with Rep. Seth Bongartz (D-Manchester) for our deep dive conversation about a bill to expand smart growth housing. Lauren joins for the session shakedown segment, covering insight from the week prior (the Governor’s budget address, the Climate Solutions Caucus’s walk-through of the Affordable Heat Act, and housing bills in both chambers) and what’s planned for the week ahead in the Vermont State House. Read the full transcript here.

S1, E2 (Jan. 16, 2023): Freedom & Unity: A Graphic Guide to Civics and Democracy in Vermont

Guests: Sen. Anne Watson, Susan Clark

Justin speaks with Susan Clark about her contributions to Freedom and Unity: A Graphic Guide to Civics and Democracy in Vermont, recently published as a collaboration between The Center for Cartoon Studies, Vermont’s Secretary of State office, and Vermont Humanities Council. Here in Vermont, freedom isn’t a free-for-all and unity doesn’t mean uniformity. From Town Meetings to cooperatives, and all the way up to the state house, Vermont’s approach to democracy is by turns unique, varied, and inspired. Lauren Hierl catches up with Sen. Anne Watson (D/P-Washington) for our deep dive conversation about the Affordable Heat Act, just moments after the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee reviewed the new proposed legislation. Lauren joins for the session shakedown segment, covering the week prior and the week ahead in the Vermont State House. Read the full transcript here.

S1, E1 (Jan. 9, 2023): The Winooski Dome Proposal Project of 1979

Guests: Rep. Amy Sheldon, Rep. Taylor Small

Rep. Taylor Small (P/D-Winooski) talks about the Winooski Dome Proposal Project of 1979, a PFAS bill set to be taken up this session, and climate priorities for her city. Lauren Hierl catches up with Rep. Amy Sheldon (D-Middlebury) for our deep dive conversation outlining her priorities for the new biennium as chair of the restructured House Environment and Energy Committee. Lauren joins for the session shakedown segment, covering the week prior and the week ahead in the Vermont State House. Read the full transcript here.