Sen. Clarkson: Firearms, minimum wage hike among issues in state Senate

By Sen. Alison Clarkson

The arrest of a Poultney teenager who was allegedly planning a mass school shooting at the Fair Haven high school should be a game changer in Vermont. We can no longer justify inaction on enacting common sense firearm safety measures. Yes, Vermont is a safe state, but we now know that school shootings can happen here.

We’ve known for a long time that firearm violence is a major contributor to Vermont’s domestic violence and suicides. More than 50 percent of Vermont homicides are related to domestic violence and, of those, more than 50 percent are committed with a firearm. Who knows how many domestic partners live in fear of threats of firearm violence. And we have one of the highest rates of teenage suicide by firearm.

Bills to help cut firearm violence

This year, the Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee is considering three bills which could help reduce firearm violence.

  1. S.6 is the Universal Background Check bill,
  2. H.422 aims to reduce domestic violence homicides by giving law enforcement the ability to temporarily remove firearms from the scene for five days, and
  3. S. 221 aims to restrict firearm possession by people who pose an extreme threat to themselves or their community.

As a long-time advocate and sponsor of firearm safety legislation and a sponsor of S.6, I support measures that keep firearms out of the hands of those who have committed violent crimes, domestic violence abusers and those with a serious mental illness.

For many years, constituents have asked me to help reduce the likelihood that a person will commit violence with a gun.  While I support the Second Amendment, and value Vermont’s hunting traditions, I think it is time the Vermont legislature acts on common sense firearm safety. Background checks are supported by 89 percent of Vermonters  (VPR/Castleton 2016 poll) and 82 percent of Vermont gun owners (Castleton 2013 poll). We need to make Vermont as safe as possible – for its children, its women and its families.

Increase in minimum wage

This past week, the Senate passed an increase in the Minimum Wage to $15 per hour over six years. We chose to leave the tipped wage at 50 percent of the minimum wage. And, we chose to increase the child care subsidy to hold harmless those families impacted negatively by the increase to their wages.

Two major obstacles to continued economic growth in Vermont are weak consumer demand and growing income inequality – and it is my hope that by raising the minimum wage we will reduce stress on Vermont’s working families and they can earn enough to live sustainably.

Growing income inequality in Vermont is a major challenge. Low wage workers have seen only stagnant wage growth – as their wages have increased by 10 percent since 1979. In contrast, high wage workers have seen their wages increase over 49 percent in the same period. Vermont’s minimum wage is still considerably lower than our livable wage, our basic needs wage. In enacting the minimum wage, President   Roosevelt meant that it would be the minimum amount people needed to live on. Windsor County has the second highest housing cost in Vermont. On average, you’d have to earn $20.33 an hour (our current minimum wage is $10.50 an hour) to afford a 2-bedroom apartment in Windsor County.

To help Vermonters earn a sustainable wage, to undo decades of damage to low income workers and to help alleviate the burden public assistance places on our state budget and resources I voted to support increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024. We heard the challenge businesses face, and chose a six-year path instead of four-year one. It is estimated that over 65,500 jobs will be positively impacted and over 2,225 jobs negatively impacted. Vermont will see income gains of $173 million and will see additional state revenues of $20 million. Many of my colleagues value giving people a ‘hand up’ and not a ‘hand out.’ Increasing wages is one of the most effective ways to give people a ‘hand up’ and improve the quality of life for Vermonters and Vermont families.

I appreciate hearing from you. I can be reached by email: aclarkson@leg.state.vt.us or by phone at the Statehouse, Tuesday through Friday,  at 802-828-2228 or at home, Saturday through Monday at 802-457-4627. To get more information on the Vermont legislature, and the bills that have been proposed and passed, click here.

Alison Clarkson is a Democratic state senator representing Windsor County. She lives in Woodstock.

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  1. Richard Ley says:

    Dear Sen. Alison Clarkson,

    I am a lifelong Vermont resident and I bought my first gun when I was 11 years old with money I earned mowing lawns. It was a hunting rifle that I used as I started hunting at that age.

    I grew up in a house with 6 children. We always had a loaded gun accessible in case of emergency.

    We were taught that we were not to touch the gun unless it was absolutely necessary..

    Of course back then we had parents that demanded respect and we were punished if we violated their instructions.

    It has been many years since I purchased that first gun and I must tell you that 6 kids never touched the loaded gun that was there for our protection.

    Nor have any guns I have owned had the temptation to shoot anyone.

    Everyone in Vermont already practices gun safety…

    WE ARE THE SAFEST STATE IN THE NATION!!!

    Out of the three bills introduced the only one that makes any sense is S. 221 aims to restrict firearm possession by people who pose an extreme threat to themselves or their community.

    This bill takes care of the issues of safety for everyone on an immediate basis and it allows the accused due process.

    The two other bills are already covered by existing laws.

    We do not need to add more laws..

    We need to enforce the EXISTING laws.

    We have laws to prevent drugs from being carried and sold in our schools and on the street but we have a terrible drug problem in Vermont that these laws are not preventing.

    We know that in these shootings drugs and mental illness are the driving factors.

    Whatever laws are added they only burden the hard working, tax paying gun owners in Vermont.

    One really has to be naïve to believe that criminals will follow the laws. Criminals will ALWAYS have guns!

    Passing s. 221 will achieve the necessary goal to stop an immediate threat.

    It is time to put the gun bills and hearings to bed.

    This time would be better spent concentrating on reducing the cost of education along with decreasing school enrollments and work on tax cuts and job creation in the state of Vermont.

    We are failing our population miserably.

    All I hear from people is they can not wait to sell and move from their loved state VERMONT. It is heartbreaking!

    We have become stagnant as a result of time spent on issues that only provide a warm fuzzy feeling for some but do not achieve any real safety.

    I thank you for your efforts but it is time to address the REAL problems facing Vermonters.

    Thanking you in advance,

    Richard Ley

  2. Stuart Lindberg says:

    Since 2013, state representative Clarkson has voted to raise fees and taxes on Vermonters by the astronomical amount of $303.5 million. Vermonters are struggling mightily under this heavy burden. Ms. Clarkson’s voting record can be found by following this web link. http://ethanallen.org/3209-2/

    The voters should know that In February 2015, Ms. Clarkson was shameless in calling for a pay increase for herself of $17 per hour for services done for constituents when the legislature is not in session. http://www.wcax.com/story/28131031/call-to-increase-pay-for-vt-lawmakers Sacrifice used to be a prerequisite for public service. Apparently this is not a concern for Ms.Clarkson. It should also be known that Ms. Clarkson is one of the most vocal opponents of school choice in Vermont Meanwhile, she chooses to send her own kids to the elite private Groton prep school in Massachusetts. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0qF54PIYH0

    Ms. Clarkson’s “progressive” imagination appears to have no moral boundaries. In February of 2015 she also co-sponsored House Bill 57. This bill gives the state the right to steal your body. Under this bill, “the state will start harvesting your body parts for its use. Although presumed to be altruistic, it is “moneytruistic.” This law is so bad on so many levels there is not time or space to decry how really bad it is.” http://www.valleyreporter.com/menu-opinion/letters/10452-the-state-to-steal-your-body

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