Dear Editor, – Nitka’s notes from the State House

 

The Legislative Lounge, which is actually our computer workroom, has been abuzz with Senators and Representatives finishing Town Meeting reports for the annual March event. There is a lot of frustration as they try to fit their various topics into a template that they haven’t used in a long time or maybe never. There is a lot of mumbling and words that aren’t lofty although this is a room with a history of lofty words, arguments, states of elation and crushing defeats. It is the former location of the Vermont Supreme Court before the court moved next door to its own building. All the statewide office holders were housed in the building in what are now small committee rooms. The Treasurer’s office was in what is now the Senate Judiciary room and the walk in safe is where I sometimes keep my lunch.

With all the report writing going on in the building, it was interesting to hear from another group of writers; that is, journalists who are the target and supporters of S-96. The bill proposes to prohibit any governmental body from compelling the news media to divulge a source and information obtained in the in the course of official news gathering. News media in the bill are defined as newspapers, magazines, television, radio, photographic or electronic means of disseminating information to the public.

Are bloggers included when they are compelled to protect a source? There is a lot of support for the bill but lots of questions to be answered first. The bill is in the Senate Government Operations Committee and is proposed to be changed from how it was introduced. Around the country about thirty states have “shield” laws for the press and in ten others there are court case decisions that protect the press. We heard testimony that our N.Y. neighbor has a one of the strongest laws to protect the media. It did seem odd to have the reporters who report on events in the State House sitting in the witness seat being questioned while other media people filmed them.

Former Senator Bill Doyle has made his survey available again, for the 48th time, for folks to complete and he has a few new questions. The surveys are available in many towns. He asks,

“Should Vt. create a lending program to provide capital for start-up businesses? Should Vt. increase funding for our state colleges?”

Visit the State House, have lunch in the cafeteria and listen to testimony in the committees on many of the bills. Contact me at home at 802-228-8432 or anitka@leg.state.vt.us

I am able to read all of your e-mails and appreciate you sending them, however the volume received makes it impossible to respond to all of them.

Senator Alice Nitka

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