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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Senate Leaders Radically Revamp Committee Chairmanships

Posted By on Thu, Jan 10, 2013 at 7:13 PM

click to enlarge committee_on_committees.jpg
In a dramatic overhaul of the leadership of the Vermont Senate, a top panel announced Thursday that six of the body's 11 committees will be led by new chairmen.

Just minutes after Gov. Peter Shumlin delivered his second inaugural address Thursday afternoon, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott briefly convened the Senate to name the new leaders, putting an end to weeks of speculation among political insiders.

"The appointments are some of the most creative we've seen in years in the Senate," said Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell (D-Windsor) in a press briefing shortly after the announcements were made. He was joined by Scott and Sen. Dick Mazza (D-Grand Isle), who collectively made up the "Committee on Committees," charged with assigning colleagues to the 11 panels.

(Mazza, Scott and Campbell are pictured above, l to r.)

Among the biggest changes?

  • Democrat and Progressive Sen. Tim Ashe (Chittenden) was elevated to the chairmanship of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, which writes the state's tax laws. Ashe replaces Sen. Ann Cummings (D-Washington), who relinquished the post after she was defeated by Campbell in November for the leadership of the Senate.
  • Longtime Senate Natural Resources Committee chairwoman Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden) was knocked off her committee perch. She'll be replaced by Sen. Bob Hartwell (D-Bennington), a vocal proponent of a three-year moratorium on ridgeline wind power. Renewable energy supporters have feared such a move.
  • Republican Sen. Kevin Mullin (Rutland) will succeed former senator — and fellow Republican — Vince Illuzzi as chairman of the Senate Economic Development Committee. That's a decision that will surely be received poorly by Vermont's labor community, which has had an ally in Illuzzi in past years.
  • Mullin isn't the only Republican to win a plum committee chairmanship. Sen. Peg Flory (R-Rutland) will take over the Senate Institutions Committee, which last year was chaired by Hartwell.
  • Lastly, the Senate Education Committee, which will be charged with writing Shumlin's ambitious education-focused agenda, will be chaired by Sen. Dick McCormack (D-Windsor). That panel was led last year by Mullin.

The selection of Ashe to chair Senate Finance appears to be a rebuke to Shumlin, who allegedly lobbied for Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington) or Sen. Mark MacDonald (D-Orange) to lead the committee. As Shumlin looks toward funding his health-care overhaul while avoiding raising broad-based taxes, several senators said the governor was worried whether Ashe would toe the party line.

But Mazza, whose committee selected Ashe, said pressure from the governor's office had no impact.

"You can't base a decision on what the governor is wanting," Mazza said. "You can't be swayed by pressure from I don't care what administration."

Ashe said he wasn't convinced Shumlin was lobbying against him.

"What I do know is that I've worked well with the governor both when he was the President Pro Tem and also as governor," Ashe said. "I'll continue to be the independent but collegial partner that I've always been. I don't know that he played that type of role. I think he knows it's inappropriate to intervene at that level."

MacDonald and Sears, who both angled for the Finance job, said they weren't happy to lose out, but would surely get over it.

"Of course I was disappointed with Finance, but you take those disappointments in stride," MacDonald said as he left the Senate chamber. "That's the prerogative of the Pro Tem."

Said Sears, "Yeah, I mean, I woulda loved to be chair of Finance or chair of Appropriations, but it wasn't in the cards this time around."

Lyons, who was not present for the announcement, said earlier in the day that, "there aren't really legitimate reasons" to bump her off Natural Resources, except, she said, "They're looking for someone who's less environmental."

Calling Lyons "an incredibly bright woman," Campbell said he simply thought it was time for a change on the committee.

Campbell, Scott and Mazza each said that the selection of Hartwell as chairman of Natural Resources was not motivated by his support for a ridgeline wind moratorium. Campbell and Scott both support a temporary ban, while Mazza said he's a "supporter of wind energy" and hasn't taken a position on a moratorium.

"We did not center around one issue for any committee chair and any committee member," Campbell said.

(Disclosure: Tim Ashe is the domestic partner of Seven Days publisher and coeditor Paula Routly).

---

Here's the full list of committee membership:

Agriculture
Sen. Bobby Starr (D-Essex-Orleans), Chair
Sen. David Zuckerman (P/D-Chittenden), Vice Chair
Sen. Chris Bray (D-Addison)
Sen. Bill Carris (D-Rutland)
Sen. Norm McAllister (R-Franklin)


Economic Development
Sen. Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland), Chair
?Sen. Philip Baruth (D-Chittenden), Vice Chair
Sen. Don Collins (D-Franklin)
Sen. Ann Cummings (D-Washington)?
Sen. Bill Doyle (R-Washington)


Health & Welfare
Sen. Claire Ayer (D-Addison), Chair
?Sen. Sally Fox (D-Chittenden), Vice Chair?
Sen. Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden)
Sen. Dick McCormack (D-Windsor)
Sen. Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington)


Judiciary
Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington), Chair
Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia), Vice Chair
Sen. Alice Nitka (D-Windsor)
?Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham)
?Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden)

Natural Resources
Sen. Bob Hartwell (D-Bennington), Chair
?Sen. Diane Snelling (R-Chittenden), Vice Chair
Sen. Peter Galbraith (D-Windham)
?Sen. Mark MacDonald (D-Orange)
?Sen. John Rodgers (D-Essex-Orleans)


Transportation

Sen. Dick Mazza (D-Chittenden-Grand Isle), Chair
?Sen. Rich Westman (R-Lamoille), Vice Chair
Sen. John Campbell (D-Windsor)
Sen. Peg Flory (R-Rutland)
Sen. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia)

Appropriations
Sen. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia), Chair?
Sen. Alice Nitka (D-Windsor), Vice Chair
Sen. Sally Fox (D-Chittenden)
Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington)
Sen. Diane Snelling (R-Chittenden)
?Sen. Bobby Starr (D-Essex-Orleans)?
Sen. Rich Westman (R-Lamoille)

Education
Sen. Dick McCormack (D-Windsor), Chair
Sen. Don Collins (D-Franklin), Vice Chair
Sen. Philip Baruth (D-Chittenden)
Sen. Bill Doyle (R-Washington)
Sen. David Zuckerman (P/D-Chittenden)


Finance
Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden), Chair?
Sen. Mark MacDonald (D-Orange), Vice Chair
Sen. Chris Bray (D-Addison)
Sen. Peter Galbraith (D-Windham)
Sen. Bob Hartwell (D-Bennington)
Sen. Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden)
Sen. Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland)


Government Operations
Sen. Jeanette White (D-Windham), Chair?
Sen. Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington), Vice Chair
Sen. Claire Ayer (D-Addison)
Sen. Bill Carris (D-Rutland)
Sen. Norm McAllister (R-Franklin)

Institutions
Sen. Peg Flory (R-Rutland), Chair?
Sen. Ann Cummings (D-Washington), Vice Chair
Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia)
Sen. Dick Mazza (D-Chittenden-Grand Isle)
?Sen. John Rodgers (D-Essex-Orleans)

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About The Author

Paul Heintz

Paul Heintz

Bio:
Paul Heintz is a staff writer and political editor for Seven Days. He wrote the "Fair Game" political column from May 2012 through December 2016.

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