March 14, 2012
Vermont Senate Should Heed Voters’ Cry, Call for Amendment to Overturn Citizens United
Statement of Aquene Freechild, Senior Organizer, Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign
It’s now or never to pass a resolution to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in the Vermont Legislature. The resolution calls for an amendment that would allow Congress to regulate election expenditures and call to question the notion that corporations have the same constitutional rights as people. If the resolution doesn’t pass out of either the House or Senate Government Operations Committee this week, it dies.
The resolution shouldn’t be controversial. Support is strong in both chambers of the Vermont Legislature and among Vermonters statewide. It would be a shame for this highly popular non-binding resolution to pass in 65 town meetings but fail to get a floor vote in the State Legislature.
Sens. Anthony Pollina and Claire Ayer of the committee are co-sponsors of the resolution. Sen. Peg Flory is expected to vote against it, while Sen. Peter Galbraith is opposed to the current text. Committee Chair Jeanette White has yet to take a position on the resolution.
The resolution isn’t new. The Senate Government Operations Committee has been discussing the resolution since it was first introduced in January 2011. And though changes in language to reflect the town meeting mandate have been discussed, nothing has been officially proposed. The version being weighed in the House (JRH 025) has 43 co-sponsors, including Committee Chair Donna Sweaney and Vice Chair Kenneth Atkins.
Vermont isn’t alone. Resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United are proposed in a dozen other states, several of which are expected to move this year.
This is the moment for the Vermont Legislature to secure its position in history as strongly opposing the outsized influence corporations hold in our democracy. We strongly urge the respected legislators to act now.
The Vermonters Say Corporations Are Not People partnership, which worked together on town meeting proposals, also is working to pass the resolutions at the state legislative level. The effort includes Public Citizen; Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, a Move to Amend affiliate; Vermont Peace & Justice Center; VPIRG; Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, founders of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Inc.; Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility; Move to Amend; Rural Vermont; Vermont Workers Center; Common Cause Vermont; Occupy Burlington; Vermont Action for Peace; and the Safe and Green Campaign.