By Todd Bailey
When our firm was founded in 1987 we were hired to help create an organization that would focus on land conservation and housing. At the time, lobbying was much more reactive than proactive. Despite that fact, the effort took a campaign in order for it to be successful. The result was the creation of the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, which just celebrated its 30th anniversary.
Since that effort took place in 1988, we’ve been hired to lead a number policy campaigns on some of the biggest policy initiatives in VT and beyond. Most notably, in 1999 we were hired to run a campaign to pass a first for our nation, a law that would start the country on a path toward marriage equality. The Civil Union’s law was a monumental success story and the first step in a very long but successful journey toward equality.
That campaign helped chart a new course for how landmark legislation could be passed in the state. It also demonstrated how a small state like Vermont could become an incubator for new ideas, and have an outsized impact on public policy debates across the country.
Since then we have seen laws pass in Vermont that provide a patient the right to choose when and how they die, an effort that led to the closure of Vermont’s lone nuclear power plant and a law created that implemented a renewable energy standard dealing not only with generation but also with efficiency which at the time had not been done in any other state and still hasn’t.
Ongoing efforts, like the campaign to legalize marijuana for adult use, are likely to move forward especially given the benefit we gain from the successes in states like Colorado and Washington as well as closer neighbors like Massachusetts. The debate about marijuana in Vermont has consumed a great deal of oxygen in Montpelier over the past two years, and will likely end in the passage of some form of legalization in the near future.
This rich history of pushing the needle begs the question: What’s next for Vermont? How does our state continue to lead on issues that are important to the nation?
We’ve tried – unsuccessfully – to pass a single-payer healthcare system. We have seen efforts to address the state’s gun laws, but these attempts have struggled to build momentum in the legislative process. What will grab the attention of the state’s advocates and leaders next?
Many of the most significant issues of our time will require long-term campaigns to pass new legislation, and given the current state of affairs it makes it more difficult to predict what the next big issue may be.
We’d love hear from Vermonters about what they think should be next. Is there an issue out there that you feel needs to be addressed that we are already working on? Is there an issue that has yet to be identified that needs to be taken up and addressed immediately?
Please comment on our Facebook page.