As Adopted by the Vermont Democratic Party Platform Convention
September 12, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the life of every Vermonter. This crisis isn’t just about masks, PPEs, tests, and contact tracing. In the wake of the 2008 financial catastrophe, and amid the global emergency of climate change and the awakening of the country to the neglected ravages of racism, the COVID health emergency has presented Vermonters with an urgent need to understand and address the inter-connected ways in which deep-seated inequities subvert, obstruct, and distort the promise of our state and the well-being of its residents.
We have learned, for example, that “essential workers” are among those with the least economic mobility in our society. We have been reminded that in an employer-based health insurance system, people whose jobs are at risk during a pandemic also risk losing affordable medical care when they need it most. We have confronted the reality that without universal access to broadband and personal computers, families can’t rely on telemedicine visits with a doctor or continue their children’s schooling from home. We have grasped with new urgency that two generations of real wage stagnation have left too many Vermonters vulnerable to food and housing insecurities, to hopelessness, and to the harmful effects of self-medications like opiates and alcohol. And we have faced the crippling consequences of the Trump administration’s failure to lead.
To meet these challenges, the Vermont Democratic Party is committed to these priorities:
- Equity: To vigorously examine and reform practices, processes, policies, regulations, and legislation that may inhibit or obstruct access to and participation in the life of our communities by any Vermonter for reasons of sex, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, religion, age, physical ability, mental health status, incarceration history, or immigration circumstances.
- Prosperity for All: To direct public and private investments focused on developing a 21st century economy that promotes shared and sustainable economic, social, and ecological well-being.
- Environmental Justice: To enhance the quality of every Vermonter’s life within the carrying capacity of our supporting ecosystem and to fully implement the Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act.
- Health Care for All: To establish health care as a human right by achieving universal, comprehensive, accessible and affordable health care for all and to ensure that all public health policies, including those related to the COVID-19 pandemic, are driven by science.
- Justice and Community Safety: To improve the well-being of our communities through a comprehensive approach to public safety that recognizes our individual implicit biases and the institutional racism inherent within the criminal justice system, and that ends the criminalization of poverty, addiction, and otherness, while embracing more effective alternatives to incarceration.
- Education Second to None: To secure Vermont’s future by investing in our children — sustaining our commitment to equal and excellent preK-16 education, improving affordable access to early child care, and extending affordable, first-rate, post-secondary learning opportunities throughout adulthood.
- Democracy: To strengthen Vermonters’ engagement and confidence in government by ensuring fair elections, spirited public participation, transparent government, and a free press.
To be sure, these planks are neither exhaustive nor separable. They are indispensable, interdependent elements of a vibrant and creative future for Vermont that is rooted in respect for each other, care for our communities, and a collective responsibility for our planet.
Vermont is made stronger when all people are uplifted and afforded equitable opportunity and access in all of our communities, whether rural or urban, and regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, class, religion, national origin, immigration status, age, physical ability, mental health status, or incarceration history. In addition to emphasizing equity here, we recognize that equity is fundamental to Democratic beliefs, and as such have intentionally interwoven our commitment to equity as an ideal, as well as equitable practices and outcomes throughout each additional plank of this Platform.
The Vermont Democratic Party affirms that Black Lives Matter. We recognize that systemic and institutional racism exist throughout our state. We acknowledge past and present inequities, and strive to dismantle the systems of oppression that continue to marginalize valued members of our community. To achieve this, we will:
- Examine and evaluate policies and legislation -- including the Vermont Constitution -- through a racial equity lens, regularly assess decision-making processes at all levels of government, and work towards diverse representation and equitable distribution of and access to power;
- Work to close the racial wealth gap by raising the minimum wage and enacting other legislation and policies that promote equitable hiring and retention practices, high quality jobs, and hold institutions accountable for engaging in predatory lending;
- Recognize that present-day Vermont occupies traditional Abenaki lands, acknowledge the challenges this has caused for the Abenaki people, and work to reduce health and socioeconomic disparities faced by the Abenaki community;
- Confront the deep inequities experienced by migrant farmworkers, a community critical to the success of Vermont’s agricultural economy, by addressing inadequate housing conditions, poor health care access, and food insecurity;
- Provide support and outreach to New Americans with linguistically and culturally appropriate services to enhance integration of New Americans into our community;
- Support racial justice curriculum in Vermont schools;
- Work to root out harassment, including but not limited to sexual and racial harassment, in our workplaces and other institutions, and take action to ensure those committing these injustices are held accountable;
- Remove barriers to participation in vital democratic practices such as voting and Town Meeting, to ensure equitable opportunity for underrepresented communities;
- Support policies and legislation that reduce and ultimately eliminate health disparities, such as the heightened dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic faced by Black and Latinx communities, and strengthen access to quality health care to reduce Black and brown maternal health disparities;
- Denounce divisive rhetoric and hate speech that generates division and fear towards marginalized individuals or communities; and
- To ensure a safe, affirming Vermont for communities of Black, Indigenous, and people of color, commit to continually educating ourselves and our communities about racial justice.
2. Prosperity for All
Our current economic structures and policies have led to enormous imbalances in wealth and income that the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare. To thrive and grow, we must overcome the crushing burdens of poverty that afflict so many Vermonters. Vermont must be a place where young Vermonters can stay and raise their families, and where older Vermonters can live comfortably and securely. Vermont must also be a beacon for New Americans and the energy and dynamism they bring to our economy. The Vermont Democratic Party stands for an economy that creates opportunity and prosperity for all Vermonters.
To create an innovative and prosperous economy that works for all Vermonters, the Vermont Democratic Party will work to achieve:
- High quality public schools;
- Life-long learning through increased support for trade schools, community colleges, state colleges, and the University of Vermont, and ensuring the survival of college campuses throughout the state;
- Access to capital and technical assistance for small businesses, non-profits, and cultural and creative enterprises;
- Support for employers providing ongoing training for their workers;
- Rapid expansion of high-speed internet and cell phone coverage to all parts of Vermont;
- Increased investment in Vermont’s private and public housing;
- Improvements to Vermont’s roads and rails, and the expansion of public and green transportation options; and
- Implementation of the Vermont Global Warming Solutions Act to keep Vermont energy dollars circulating in our state economy.
- A commitment to full employment;
- Modernization of the unemployment insurance system to provide prompt support for laid-off Vermonters;
- Work and lives free of discrimination based on race, gender, class, sexual orientation, immigration status, religion, age, or disability;
- The right to organize unions without fear and to bargain collectively;
- A minimum wage that is a livable wage for all, beginning with an increase to at least $15 per hour effective July 1, 2021, with annual increases tied to the Consumer Price Index thereafter;
- A comprehensive, accessible, and affordable Medicare-for-All universal health care system;
- Until such a national program is enacted, improvements and enhancements to existing programs that ensure affordable, high-quality health care access in all areas of Vermont;
- Paid family leave;
- A stable, robust, high quality, and affordable child care system, as we recognize that such a system is critical to Vermont’s economy;
- A public pension system for small businesses to ensure retirement security; and
- Full funding of state employee and teacher pensions.
- A roll-back of the regressive Trump tax cuts that have only been a handout to the rich and to wealthy corporations;
- A progressive tax system that eliminates loopholes and inequalities advantaging the wealthiest at the expense of the majority of Vermonters;
- Exemption of military retirement pay from state income tax; and
- Implementation of tax policies that encourage local investment.
3. Environmental Justice
Globally, Vermonters understand that climate change is real, that its environmental and economic impacts are being felt today, and that the failure to act now to limit global warming will change the lives of every future generation in inequitable and irreparable ways. Locally, we cherish Vermont’s splendid natural resources that enable farming, forestry, outdoor recreation, and tourism, while creating a healthy, sustainable ecosystem that cleans our air, sequesters carbon, produces drinking water, and serves as a healthy habitat for all living things.
To steward Vermont’s environment and to grapple with these critical environmental challenges, the Vermont Democratic Party relies on three principles: sustainability, measurable reductions in carbon footprint, and intolerance for pollution of any kind.
To achieve these principles, under the rubrics of climate change, stewardship, and clean energy and infrastructure, we strive to:
- Combat the devastating impact of climate change that threatens all life. Vermonters can rely on the Vermont Democratic Party to aggressively pursue the goals to attain 90% renewable energy by 2050. Adequate, steady, long-term funding is essential to realize these goals.
- At state and municipal levels, continue to press for funding to support environmental cleanup and restoration;
- Ensure accountability to our climate goals by fully implementing the Global Warming Solutions Act;
- Anticipate and act to reduce the impacts of climate change on future generations. We commend the work of the youth movement, but also understand that climate change is a current and pressing issue that needs to be addressed now;
- Refuse funding from fossil fuel companies, polluters, and those who profit from the degradation of our natural spaces; and
- Hold polluters financially responsible for the consequences of the pollution they create.
- Encourage the identification and protection of Vermont’s unusual ecological habitats and critical wildlife corridors, and ensure the protection of threatened and endangered species native to Vermont;
- Eliminate the use of non-essential single-use plastics and regulate unnecessary wasteful practices that litter our rivers and other natural waterways; and
- Recognize a fundamental right of all people to pure water, clean air, a stable climate, and a healthy environment.
Clean Energy Future and Infrastructure
- Transform our transportation, residential and commercial fuel, electricity, agriculture, waste, and industrial systems to be sustainable. We value the built and natural environment and work to bring them closer in alignment;
- End our dependence on fossil fuels;
- Oppose fracking and transition to renewable sources of energy and efficiency;
- Expand the role of Efficiency Vermont to be an all fuels utility;
- Reduce single person, single vehicle trips by incorporating telecommuting options, including expanding access to high-speed internet; and
- Assist farmers in making the transition to clean energy and sustainable practices.
4. Health Care for All
Universal, comprehensive, accessible and affordable health care is essential to human life and full participation in our society. The Vermont Democratic Party supports a single-payer, Medicare-for-All health care system.
Until Medicare-for-All is enacted, Vermont must take steps to ensure universal, affordable health care. There are steps we can take now that will better serve Vermonters and prepare us for implementing a single-payer system. These steps include:
- Implementing more prevention and early intervention services to avoid later high-cost care later;
- Strengthening primary care so that every Vermonter has low- or no- cost access to a primary care practitioner. This includes efforts to recruit and retain physicians and other health care providers to ensure health access for rural and other underserved areas;
- Ensuring access to reproductive health services;
- Eliminating racial, gender, disability, and geographic health inequities;
- Improving the overall health of Vermonters by addressing the non-medical determinants of health (e.g., food, housing) and impacts of trauma;
- Taking all legal measures to make affordable prescription medications available to all Vermonters;
- Ensuring coverage for every Vermonter by renewing and expanding programs such as Green Mountain Care, and to the degree necessary, a public option that Vermonters can buy into;
- Providing full access to behavioral medicine including substance abuse services for all who need or want those services; and
- Conducting, in 2021, an independent review of Vermont’s current health care reform efforts, evaluating the effectiveness of the Green Mountain Care Board and the Accountable Care Organization model, and recommending improvements or alternatives in support of the goal of universal, comprehensive, accessible, and affordable access.
5. Justice and Community Safety
Each Vermonter deserves to feel safe within their community. We recognize that relying primarily on punitive measures to address crime too often results in marginalization of the most vulnerable members of our society and disparate enforcement that represses racial and ethnic minorities. We recognize that our current approach to crime and punishment, not necessarily by intent, often exacerbates the underlying socio-economic problems that lead people to commit crimes, resulting in more crime being committed rather than less, and in unnecessarily violent interactions between police officers and the communities they serve (including the phenomenon of “suicide by cop”).
Accordingly, we seek to adopt a comprehensive approach to community safety; one that recognizes both our individual implicit biases and the institutional racism inherent within the criminal justice system, and which addresses the underlying drivers of crime and social unrest, including poverty, the lack of stable, affordable housing, lack of meaningful, lifelong educational opportunities, and lack of access to physical and mental health care. We must end the criminalization of poverty, addiction, and otherness.
To achieve these goals, Vermont Democrats will work to:
- Ban the practice of deploying military equipment for civilian law enforcement purposes, including the use of armored vehicles, drones, surveillance equipment, camouflage uniforms, and other symbols and weapons of war, and restrict the use of SWAT teams to situations where there is an imminent threat to life;
- Eliminate the doctrine of qualified immunity so that police officers are held accountable for abusive practices, and implement protections from retribution against police officers who speak out about misconduct by their colleagues;
- Prioritize, in our state and local budgets, the use of mental health and substance use counselors, peer support groups, recovery coaches, social workers, and other non-police interventions, to more effectively provide people in crisis the continuum of services they need (before, during and after that crisis);
- Demand accountability and transparency in policing, including by establishing effective civilian oversight structures, including police commissions and civilian complaint officers, empowered to receive and investigate complaints, hold public disciplinary hearings regarding police misconduct, and discipline police officers found to violate law and policy;
- Respectfully work with police agencies to reduce their use of lethal and non-lethal force on members of the community by establishing, and requiring satisfactory completion and certification of ongoing training on, a uniform, statewide use of force policy, including mandatory de-escalation and reporting;
- Require that all Vermont law enforcement officers wear and use functioning body cameras while on duty; and
- Enhance community and police safety by banning assault weapons and implementing a waiting period for firearms purchases.
Reform Prosecution and Prisons
- Reduce the number of Vermonters held in prisons, and eliminate entirely the use of out-of-state prisons, by reforming sentencing practices and embracing alternatives to incarceration, such as increased availability of mental health services, restorative justice programs, transitional housing, and job training;
- Eliminate the use of cash bail;
- Expand access to expungement, including by enacting a system to automatically expunge criminal records, so that those who have repaid their debt to society can make a fresh start;
- End the privatization of correctional services, including in-prison medical services;
- Re-examine existing prison sentences in light of our current knowledge of how systemic bias has led to disparate outcomes based on race and socio-economic status, and give State’s Attorneys greater authority to take a second look at and reduce existing sentences where these biases are found, and otherwise are in the interest in justice;
- Make Vermont the first state in the country to fully eliminate life without parole sentences; and
- Promote successful re-entry by providing incarcerated people with greater educational, technical, and professional training opportunities.
Reduce Reliance on the Criminal Justice System to Solve Social Problems
- Adopt an approach to the possession and misuse of drugs that is motivated solely by the principles of public health and harm reduction, rather than punishing undesirable private behavior, while avoiding the criminal justice system altogether;
- Ensure that cannabis is appropriately regulated and taxed in a manner that rights the historic wrongs of the War on Drugs and that recognizes the disproportionate impact prohibition has had on minority communities; and
- Revamp our approach to domestic violence by investing in prevention and resources for victims outside of the criminal justice system, including transportation, safe and stable housing, mental health services, and access to civil-law legal resources.
The Vermont Democratic Party believes that equitable access to a high-quality preK-16 public education system for all Vermonters, regardless of their socioeconomic status, is the cornerstone of a strong democracy. A commitment to this comprehensive system for all children and young adults in the state will result in better educational outcomes and the promise of a healthy, happy, and secure future for all students.
To achieve these goals, the Vermont Democratic Party will work to:
- Provide guidance and funding opportunities for school districts’ efforts to comply with COVID-19 requirements, such as training for remote teaching/learning, to keep students and staff safe and healthy;
- Implement policies that promote racial and social equity, including but not limited to revised curricula and equitable disciplinary practices (with guidance from the Racial and Social Equity Taskforce Workgroup);
- Provide comprehensive and on-going anti-racism and implicit bias trainings for all school staff;
- Encourage and support communities to provide full day, full year child care (age 6 weeks and up) for Vermont children within their public-school facilities;
- Secure significant investments in Vermont’s public and private child care systems to ensure that quality and affordable child care opportunities are available for all Vermonters;
- Ensure that child care workers receive a fair and livable wage;
- Improve and expand delivery of early education programs;
- Provide school-based family mental health services to address issues such as childhood trauma and substance use disorders;
- Provide all students with access to 21st-century technology;
- Increase 21st-century curricular offerings at high school technical centers across the state;
- Establish universal connectivity and provide affordable high-speed broadband access across the state to both schools and homes;
- Expand arts curricula across all grades, pre-K to 16, and broaden access to arts and cultural programming for all;
- Improve delivery of special education programs;
- Encourage school districts to revise curricular offerings to reflect more accurately our nation’s diverse and complex history and reinforce the importance of civic engagement, including voting;
- Support local decision-making, giving voice to communities;
- Encourage the state college system to expand and diversify its income by attracting small businesses, federal programs, day care, and other higher education opportunities to its campuses;
- Support more funding, grants, and borrower-friendly no- or low-interest loans, for the higher education system to make colleges affordable and accessible for all;
- Enhance lifelong learning opportunities, including support and funding for Vermont state colleges and trade schools;
- Ensure that wages and benefits for educators are fully funded, including meeting the state’s responsibilities for the teachers’ pension funds; and
- Replace reliance on property tax funding with a fair, income-based funding system.
The Vermont Democratic Party believes that all actions of government must be conducted with transparency, fairness, responsibility, and accountability. Democracy works when Vermonters can vote freely and easily and when the government is held accountable by a free and fair press, guided by an ethics standard applicable to all government employees and elected officials. We urge our Congressional Delegation to push for an end to unfettered money influence on our political system since the Citizens United decision.
The Vermont Democratic Party will work towards:
- Ensuring safe, free, and easy access to the ballot box for all Vermont residents at all levels of government;
- Increasing voter participation by continuing to break down barriers to voting such as language, work and family responsibilities;
- Evaluating the universal vote-by-mail of 2020 and extend it to all future elections;
- Supporting the United State Postal Service in order to preserve the right to vote and to ensure safe participation in the voting process;
- Conducting fair and transparent elections, with auditable paper ballots;
- Supporting communities who wish to extend voting rights for local elections, such as Brattleboro’s 16-17 year old voting and Montpelier’s non-citizen voting on municipal issues;
- Implementing campaign finance reforms that ensure transparency, limit corporate influence, encourage small-dollar donations, and offer a functional public financing option; and
- Ensuring a fair and open redistricting process which respects geographic and historic contiguity, creates compact districts, and upholds proportional representation.
- Empowering the State Ethics Commission with the authority and resources to create a code of ethics which will guide public servants, protect whistleblowers, and improve Vermonters’ confidence in government institutions;
- Strengthening open meeting and public records laws to promote public participation in, and oversight of, government functions;
- Defending a free press that increases political knowledge, encourages voter participation, and holds government officials accountable to the people; and
- Preventing the privatization of public assets and government services, including the postal service, veteran’s care, corrections, and mental health services.