Now In Its 42nd Year, Town Meeting Survey Is Released

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(Host) For the 42nd straight year, Washington County Senator Bill Doyle is soliciting public opinion on a wide range of issues on his Town Meeting Day survey.

And, as VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, a few of the questions are ‘hot button issues’ that are likely to come before lawmakers in the second half of the session.

(Kinzel) Doyle launched his survey as a freshman senator in the winter of 1969 as a way to gauge his constituents’ support for Governor Deane Davis’ plan to create a state sales tax.

Since that time the questionnaire has grown into a statewide survey that’s filled out by roughly 12,000 people.

Doyle says he kept the survey going because he feels it’s a way to help stimulate public interest in Legislative issues.

(Doyle) "I know that people when they’re sitting around their dining room tables often will discuss this in the family and I think the more people know what the issues are they are more informed voters…and these are issues that haven’t been decided yet."

(Kinzel) It’s likely that a number of the issues on the survey will come before lawmakers in the next 2 months including a bill that backers call "Death with Dignity" and opponents refer to as "Physician Assisted Suicide."  On the survey, Doyle says his question uses the "suicide" terminology for a reason.

(Doyle) "Because that’s the way I asked the question 3 or 4 years ago. I didn’t want to change the question because there’s no comparison otherwise. It was pretty close then and I expect it to be pretty close now."

(Kinzel) The House and Senate Judiciary committees are looking at a variety of ways to reduce drunk driving in the state. Doyle wants to know if the public supports giving repeat offenders a mandatory minimum jail sentence.

(Doyle) "The people I talk to are really angry about it. They think the present law is too soft and that drunk drivers on the road are potential killers."

(Kinzel) This year’s survey also asks if Vermont Yankee’s license should be extended, if the state’s bottle bill should be expanded, and if drivers should be prohibited from using cell phones while operating a vehicle.

Do the results of the survey have much impact on lawmakers during the second half of the session?  Senate President John Campbell says the answer is definitely ‘yes’.

(Campbell) "Those are things that we all look at – we take a serious look at it when we come back because it’s amazing how many folks actually fill them out… I think what’s to me the most valuable is the fact that it shows Vermonters actually participating in this whole process of legislation."

(Kinzel) Doyle expects to have preliminary results of his survey in the middle of March.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

Visit VPR’s Town Meeting Day page for full coverage

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