(Host) Several dozen former lawmakers returned to the Statehouse this week for a reunion.
They talked to VPR’s Bob Kinzel about some of the landmark debates that have occurred in the Legislature.
(Kinzel) Walking through the hallways of the Statehouse on Tuesday afternoon was like taking a trip through the history of the Vermont Legislature in the last half of the 20th century.
John Murphy represented Ludlow in the Vermont House for 30 years – he was first elected in 1969. During his time in the House, Murphy was considered to be the leading voice in support of working people:
(Murphy) “Because there was no poorer kid on the block than me when I was young and I knew what it was for my father to work and support six children. I had five brothers and sisters and I knew that working people were to me the most important people on earth and I always took that part. And I would today if I were starting over. I wouldn’t do any different than what I did.”
(Kinzel) Judy Rosenstreich represented the town of Waterbury for two terms in the early 1970s. Rosenstreich was a key sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1973:
(Rosenstreich) “And while the Amendment did not get ratified by the requisite number of states, it once again showed where Vermont stood in terms of equality, human rights. And we’ve seen in more recent years – with civil unions – that Vermont still stands up for those principles.”
(Kinzel) Former Windham Senator Robert Gannett was considered by many people to be the conscience of the Senate when he served in that body for 20 years from 1972 to 1992. But years before his senate service, Gannett was elected to four terms in the House. It was during this time that Gannett ushered in the modern era of the Legislature.
Before the late 1950’s, the General Assembly only met for one year and did not return to Montpelier for the second year of the session. Gannett helped convince lawmakers that the time had come to meet every year:
(Gannett) “I just knew it made no sense to be appropriating and basing budgets on appropriations two plus years in the future. So I pushed and I pushed and finally got it through to have an adjourned session, it began. We were limited in order to get it through the Senate – I was in the House – we had to limit it to just a couple of things.”
(Kinzel) Former Brookfield Representative Dick Mallary had two legislative careers. Mallary was first elected to the House in 1961; he served as Speaker from 1966 to 1968. Mallary then was elected to the Senate in 1969.
He left the Senate after one term to serve as Secretary of Administration for Governor Deane Davis. Mallary then was reelected to the House in 1999:
(Mallary) “It was interesting because I was the only person in the House when we passed the civil unions bill who had been in the Legislature during the time that reapportionment occurred. There was a substantial similarity in terms of the emotion and the degree of soul searching that took place in the House in both of those occasions.”
(Kinzel) A number of the former lawmakers commented that debates at the Statehouse have become much more partisan over the years and they said they were pleased that they had an opportunity to serve when a different atmosphere prevailed in Montpelier.
For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.