Today, the citizens and elected officials of the Green Mountain State can take immense pride in their leadership in the nationwide pro-democracy uprising sparked by the Supreme Court’s disastrous ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
Vermont’s legislature has now become the third in the nation to approve a resolution demanding a constitutional amendment that ensures the rights of We the People. The Vermont House’s overwhelming, tri-partisan vote ( 92-40, including 5 Republicans) came on the heels of a similar wide margin (26-3) in the Senate last week, and follows the passage of resolutions in Hawaii and New Mexico. A majority of Maryland’s legislature has also signed onto a letter to the state’s congressional delegation calling on it to support an amendment.
The resolution, authored by State Senator Ginny Lyons, is a rebuke of the judicially-invented ideas that corporations have the same constitutional rights as living, breathing human beings and that money equals speech. Organizing around those principles, Public Citizen joined with scores of organizations and grassroots activists in Vermont to simultaneously pass measures demanding a constitutional amendment at 65 town meetings on March 6.
The resolution passed today specifically cites the mandate conveyed by that statewide burst of direct democracy, which The Nation’s John Nichols dubbed “The Great Vermont Uprising Against Corporate Personhood.”
The vote also came just one day after Vermont activist Georgina Forbes, one of the local organizers behind the Town Meeting Day effort in March, told her story to a packed congressional summit on overturning Citizens United held at the U.S. Capitol. She described how hundreds of people from all walks of life, Democrats and Republicans alike, “stood at the dump, outside of the post office, in front of the general store and spoke with our neighbors and gathered names on petitions to get this article on the ballot” and then to build toward success both last month and in the state legislature.
Yesterday, members of Congress hailed Georgina and the other members of the Vermonters Say Corporations Are Not People coalition, along with state and local elected officials from Maine and New Mexico, as a national model for this essential movement. Today, their hard work continued to pay off, as the state of Vermont is now official in declaring its readiness to ratify a strong constitutional amendment.
American patriots around the country are gearing up to follow suit. Similar resolutions have been introduced in 20 other states, and have passed at least one chamber in Alaska, California and Iowa. In June, Resolutions Week will see even more cities and towns nationwide join the Vermont 65, New York City, Los Angeles and over 100 others that have demanded a constitutional amendment.
Vermont’s citizens, meanwhile, have every reason to take a deep breath and celebrate their tremendous string of victories. And then, of course, they’ll roll up their sleeves and get back to work in making sure that the rest of the country follows suit in the months and years to come.
Sean Siperstein is a Legal Fellow with Public Citizen’s Democracy is For People campaign. Follow the campaign on Twitter @RuleByUs, as well as the hashtag #Democracy4 Sale, for the latest on the money and politics and the campaign for a constitutional amendment!