Democracy Now!

Vermont

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  • As we broadcast from Burlington, Vermont, which is a sanctuary city, Vermont Rep. Peter Welch says there has been enormous citizen support toward undocumented workers. "You’re just seeing people across this country say, 'Wait a minute, that is not the America I know,'" Welch notes. He also discusses the need for local control over whether police departments enforce immigration laws and says, "It is appropriate for law enforcement to have discretion."

  • As Donald Trump approaches his 100th day as president on Saturday, his approval ratings are the lowest any president has had at this stage in generations. A recent poll by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal found just 40 percent of Americans currently approve of his job performance. Trump took to Twitter to call the poll "totally wrong." We speak to the pioneering Vermont politician, former Vermont Governor Madeleine May Kunin. In 1997, she became just the fourth woman in U.S. history to be elected governor whose husband had not previously served. Kunin was born in Switzerland in 1933 and came to the United States as a child. She later served as U.S. ambassador to Switzerland. In recent months, she has been a vocal critic of President Trump. She recently participated in the Tax Day march in Burlington, Vermont, and also wrote a piece thanking Trump for "waking us from our slumber."

  • Are immigration agents targeting undocumented organizers for their political work? That is the question many are asking after three prominent immigrant rights activists in Vermont were jailed by ICE in what local organizers are calling a clear case of political retaliation. We speak with Enrique Balcazar and Zully Palacios, who were freed Monday after spending 11 days in jail. Both are leaders of the group Migrant Justice. They were arrested by undercover ICE agents in Burlington, Vermont, earlier this month as they were leaving the Migrant Justice office. Balcazar, who is known as Kike, serves on Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan’s immigration task force, which was created to respond to the Trump administration’s immigration policies. A third activist with Migrant Justice, Cesar Alex Carrillo, remains jailed after he was arrested by ICE earlier. We also speak with immigration attorney Matt Cameron.

  • In Burlington, Vermont, at least three prominent immigrant rights activists have been arrested in recent days. All three—Cesar Alex Carrillo, Enrique Balcazar and Zully Palacios—are leaders or members of the group Migrant Justice. Balcazar, who is known as Kike, serves on Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan’s immigration task force, which was created to respond to the Trump administration’s immigration policies. For more, we speak with Will Lambek, organizer with Migrant Justice.

  • A former Vermont delegate for Bernie Sanders describes what it was like to be with Sanders during Tuesday’s roll call vote when he moved to give Hillary Clinton the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination by acclamation.

  • Voting has begun across New Hampshire for the first primary in the country. A half-million voters are expected to cast ballots. Just after midnight, voting took place in three small towns. In the Democratic race, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders got a total of 17 votes to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s nine. In the Republican race, Donald Trump, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich each received nine votes. We speak to Madeleine May Kunin, who served as governor of Vermont from 1985 to 1991. She is a professor at the University of Vermont and the author of "The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family." Kunin’s new article for The Boston Globe is called "When Bernie Sanders Ran Against Me in Vermont." She has endorsed Hillary Clinton.

  • In 1986, Bernie Sanders, then mayor of Burlington, challenged sitting Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin. Sanders largely ran on a platform to tackle economic inequality. We speak to Kunin about the consistency of Sanders’ message and why she and the political establishment have opted to back Hillary Clinton this year.

  • We turn now to Vermont, where a sit-in demanding single-payer healthcare erupted during Gov. Peter Shumlin’s inaugural address on Thursday. This comes after Shumlin backed down in December on his promise to create a single-payer healthcare system in the state. During Thursday’s sit-in, protesters sang songs and expressed their disappointment as they called out their demands and were arrested. We speak to James Haslam, director of the Vermont Workers’ Center, which coordinates the Healthcare is a Human Right Campaign.

  • In Vermont, incumbent Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin has nearly been unseated in a shocking upset. In a process unique to Vermont, projections now show the governor’s race will be decided by the state Legislature after neither Shumlin nor his Republican challenger reached the necessary threshold of 50 percent. The state Legislature remains solidly Democratic, so Shumlin will likely keep his seat. But Shumlin was not considered a vulnerable candidate before last night, and Scott Milne, his challenger, was a relative unknown. The election is seen as a possible referendum on healthcare reform after Shumlin has vowed to make Vermont the first state with a single-payer healthcare system. The state’s embattled health insurance exchange implemented under Obamacare has been down since September. We are joined by Peter Sterling, executive director of Vermont Leads, an organization that advocates for single-payer healthcare in Vermont.

  • Vermont is poised to become the first state to require the labeling of genetically modified organisms in food products. Governor Peter Shumlin said he would sign the pro-GMO-labeling bill as early as this week. The new law would take effect in July 2016 and would also make it illegal to label foods containing GMOs as "all natural" or "natural." Vermont could prove to be the tipping point in a national movement to inform consumers about whether their food contains GMOs. Twenty-nine other states have proposed bills requiring labeling this year, and two have already passed similar bills. But those measures only take effect when neighboring states also approve the requirements. We speak with Vermont State Sen. David Zuckerman, who first introduced GMO labeling bills more than a decade ago when he served in the House.

  • One of the country’s oldest and most controversial nuclear plants has announced it will close late next year. Citing financial reasons, the nuclear plant operator Entergy said Tuesday it will decommission the Vermont Yankee nuclear power station in Vernon, Vermont. The site has been the target of protests for decades and has had a series of radioactive tritium leaks. In 2010, the Vermont State Senate voted against a measure that would have authorized a state board to grant Vermont Yankee a permit to operate for an additional 20 years. Its closure leaves the United States with 99 operating nuclear reactors, and our guest, former nuclear executive Arnie Gundersen, says he expects more to follow in the aftermath of Japan’s ongoing nuclear disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant. "These small single-unit nuclear plants — especially the ones that are like Fukushima Daiichi — are prone to more closures in the future because it just makes no economic sense to run an aging nuclear plant that’s almost 43 years old, and to invest hundreds of millions of dollars more to meet the modifications related to Fukushima," Gundersen says.

  • Set to be implemented by 2017, Vermont’s healthcare overhaul goes well beyond the new federal law. The Vermont Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, enacted last month, will make Vermont the first state in the nation to offer single-payer healthcare. On Thursday, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin hailed the Supreme Court decision upholding the federal Affordable Care Act, but he said Vermont would probably be least impacted by it. "We’ve had a long history of healthcare reform and a real priority of taking care of our citizens," says Robin Lunge, Vermont’s director of Health Care Reform. "We’re not interested in waiting for the nation to catch up with us." [includes rush transcript]

  • In another "Super Tuesday" vote, some two dozen towns in Vermont called on Congress to push a constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. FEC ruling and address the issue of corporate personhood. Vermont could become the third state, after Hawaii and New Mexico, to endorse similar proposals. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has proposed a related amendment and has been an outspoken supporter of the measure passed Tuesday. "I suspect that you will hear [Sen. Sanders] today and in coming days really taking the message from the towns across Vermont to the Capitol and saying something has to be done about a Supreme Court ruling that has essentially opened the door to corporate cash buying elections," says John Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation. [includes rush transcript]

  • As Hurricane Irene bore down on Vermont on Sunday, the national media missed the story. Across the state, rivers rose to record levels, washing away 200-year-old covered bridges, communications and roads. Residents across the state lost internet. Radio Vermont WDEV broadcasters Ken Squier, Eric Michaels, Lee Kittell, Tom Beardsley and the station meteorologist Roger Hill stayed on the air for 24 straight hours, providing a link to stranded citizens and communities. Running on generators and with no internet, WDEV became the lifeline between communities that were cut off on all sides, as citizens provided one another with news, information and reassurance. As Vermont and northern New York were submerged, national media pronounced the storm over, and a dud. We speak with Ken Squier, owner of WDEV, an 80-year-old family-owned independent music, news and sports station that serves northern Vermont. Squier has been a fierce critic of media consolidation and advocate for independent media — albeit commercial media. [includes rush transcript]

  • Emergency officials say at least 22 people across eight states may have died as a result of Hurricane Irene, which spanned more than 500 miles at some points. After making landfall in North Carolina on Saturday, the hurricane was downgraded first to a tropical storm and then to a post-tropical cyclone as it hit New York City, flooding waterfronts and low-lying areas. Up to four million customers from North Carolina to Maine remain without electricity. Authorities say it could take more than a week to restore all of the power. Meanwhile, in Vermont, Tropical Storm Irene dropped heavy rains late on Sunday, causing flash floods, forcing hundreds of evacuations, and leaving 40,000 to 50,000 people without power. It is becoming the state’s worst natural disaster since the Great Flood of 1927. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin joins us for an update from Vermont, where nearly every community is surrounded by hills and valleys, with small streams feeding into rivers. Shumlin notes that since he was sworn into office seven months ago, "this is the second major disaster as a result of storms. We had storms this spring that flooded our downtowns and put us through many of the same exercises that we’re going through right now. We didn’t used to get weather patterns like this in Vermont. The point is, we in the colder states are going to see the results of climate change first." [includes rush transcript]

  • Hurricane Irene received a massive amount media coverage, but television reports made little or no reference to the role global warming played in the storm. We speak with someone with his eye on climate change and its impact. "We’ve had not only this extraordinary flooding, but on the same day that Hurricane Irene was coming down, Houston set its all-time temperature record, 109 degrees," says Bill McKibben, co-founder and director of 350.org. "We’re in a new situation." McKibben is among hundreds of people arrested last week during ongoing sit-ins outside the White House, protesting the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico. On Friday, the U.S. State Department’s final environmental review of the proposed pipeline found that the project will have "limited adverse environmental impacts." Protesters will begin their second week of sit-ins today, and continue to demand President Obama veto approval for the pipeline. "There’s never been a purer test of whether or not we’re prepared to stand up to climate change or not," says McKibben. [includes rush transcript]

  • Today Vermont is set to make history by becoming the first state in the nation to offer universal, single-payer healthcare when Gov. Peter Shumlin signs its healthcare reform bill into law. The Vermont plan, called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will attempt to stem rising medical care prices and provide universal coverage. We speak with Dr. Deb Richter, president of Vermont Health Care for All. She moved from Buffalo, New York, to Vermont in 1999 to advocate for a universal, single-payer healthcare system in the state. Gov. Shumlin calls her the “backbone” of the grassroots effort that helped persuade the Democratic-led state legislature to pass the bill this spring. [includes rush transcript]

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