Shumlin named next Senate President Pro Tem

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(Host) Vermont Senate Democrats have looked to the past for their leadership for the 2007 session.

The group has chosen Windham senator Peter Shumlin as the next president pro tem of the Senate. It’s a post Shumlin held several years ago.

Shumlin says property taxes, health care and the passage of a comprehensive energy plan will be his top priorities for the upcoming session.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Since Democrats have 23 of the 30 seats in the Senate, the winner of their caucus vote effectively will be the next leader of the chamber.

The contest pitted Senate majority leader John Campbell against former president pro tem Peter Shumlin who’s returning to the Senate after a four year absence.

The race is important because the president pro tem determines the flow of legislation to the senate floor and is the chief spokesperson for Senate Democrats.

Following his election at the Democratic caucus in Randolph, Shumlin outlined his priorities for the coming year.

(Shumlin) “I think Vermont voters are extraordinarily smart and they decided that they wanted to give us big enough majorities so that we could make bold policy initiatives on the challenges that we’re facing. Those include property tax and education funding, health care. They want continued progress there. The environmental policy that I think needs tremendous work and ag policy. And I think all four are going to need a lot of attention, a lot of courage and a lot of thought.”

(Kinzel) Shumlin says it’s also important for the Douglas Administration to acknowledge the new larger Democratic majorities at the Statehouse.

(Shumlin) “We have to work closely with the Governor. Obviously, Vermonters elected Jim Douglas Governor and they gave us huge majorities. But I think the difference this time is significant in that we truly do have the power finally to be an equal branch of government. And we need to get along. We need to work together. But in the end if cooperation doesn’t work, we have an opportunity to pass legislation that’s bold and thoughtful.”

(Kinzel) Shumlin says he also wants Vermont to regain its position as a national leader on environmental issues.

(Shumlin) “We’re now talking about global warming and the future of the planet. There’s a problem when the governor of California, the terminator, is the leader of the states on preserving our planet. I think we have a lot of work to do and I think we’re going to have to have to spend some political capital to get it done.”

(Kinzel) The full Senate will formally vote on the election of a new president pro tem on the first day of the session in January.

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

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