Despite Corporate Lobbying, the Energy for Vermont’s Health Care Bill Came from Grassroots – AP Report

In an article picked up by media outlets nationwide, The Associated Press reviewed how much corporate lobbyists spent on influencing Vermont’s health care bill this year. While large amounts appear to have been involved, the AP concludes that much of the energy behind the bill’s passage came from the Healthcare Is a Human Right Campaign.

MONTPELIER, Vt.—Hospitals, doctors, drug companies, insurers and others with a stake in health care spent more than $750,000 lobbying at the Vermont Statehouse this year as lawmakers debated landmark legislation designed to put Vermont on the road toward universal health insurance.

But exactly how much was spent on the bill itself is impossible to tell. That’s because Vermont’s lobbyist disclosure law is vague, and the reporting system used to implement it is not specific enough to allow for a dollar-by-dollar accounting, according to lobbyists, good-government advocates and lawmakers. […]

Much of the grassroots energy behind the bill came from the Health Care is a Human Right Campaign, spearheaded by the Vermont Workers’ Center.

The campaign’s volunteers were a constant presence in the Statehouse. When two senators won initial approval of an amendment to deny coverage to undocumented immigrants, campaign members could be seen buttonholing senators in Statehouse hallways, demanding that the amendment be stripped from the bill, which it was.

Workers’ Center executive director James Haslam said in an interview that his group’s goal was that "democracy doesn’t become the arena of paid professionals, but just ordinary Vermonters taking action. That’s what we’ve seen and that’s what’s supposed to happen in a democratic system."