Annual Doyle survey focuses on health care

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(Host) Washington County Senator Bill Doyle is distributing his Town Meeting Day survey in over 150 communities this year. The survey contains a number of new health and environmental questions.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Doyle first circulated a Town Meeting Day questionnaire back in 1969 as a way to gauge his constituents’ support for Governor Deane Davis’s plan to implement a sales tax in Vermont to deal with a budget deficit.

In the years that followed, Doyle began to distribute his surveys throughout Vermont. They’re now available in all of the state’s 14 counties. It’s a non-scientific survey but it’s expected that roughly 10,000 to 12,000 Vermonters will fill them out.

Doyle says there’s a common theme to many of the questions on this year’s survey:

(Doyle) “This is the year of health care. Health is going to dominate this year’s General Assembly and I went to the bin where all the bills are and I read the titles and I read the statement of purpose and I took most of these right from the bills that were introduced. These are new ideas – new bills with a new Legislature.”

(Kinzel) The survey asks whether health insurance companies should be allowed to adjust their rates if a consumer is a smoker; should doctors be allowed to help terminally ill patients die; and should the state mandate that all cigarettes be self-extinguishing.

Doyle has also included a number of environmental questions, including an expansion of the bottle deposit law, the creation of a new deposit program for automobile tires and whether windmills should be allowed on Vermont ridgelines.

Another question asks if Vermont should require schools to teach a government civics class. Doyle has some first hand experience in this area. He’s a professor of government at Johnson State College and says there’s no doubt that his students’ knowledge of civics has declined over the years:

(Doyle) “It not only comes from my perceptions but it’s the perceptions of parents and other Vermonters who are just amazed at the lack of background in history and government, and of course you do want students to know that the Civil War came before World War II.”

(Kinzel) Doyle expects that preliminary results from the questionnaire will be available in a few weeks.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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