Hartwell will leave the Senate after four terms representing Bennington District, which includes Wilmington. Through his tenure, Hartwell has been a critic of wind turbines, chair of the Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, and was the only Democrat senator to vote against Act 48, which established Vermont’s new health care system. Hartwell has decided to step away from public office for personal reasons. “A decision like this takes time,” said Hartwell “ The biggest factor is I really want to spend more private time with my wife Wendy on Cape Cod. Second, I’ve come to a point where I’ve expressed my serious concern about three to four important issues that the Legislature has, at various opportunities, chosen not to address. I’m still concerned about those things, but I’ve made my point, and I feel it’s the right time to leave.”
Two of those major issues are the governance and financing of both the state’s education and health care systems. With education, Hartwell believes the Legislature has to find solutions for its systems and its costs. “The Legislature and executive branch have failed to address education and it’s costing Vermonters so much money. We have a $1.7 billion system and we’ve done nothing to reorganize its governance. The House took a stab at it and it didn’t get done and it’s a serious problem.”
Hartwell voted against Act 48 because he felt the state should have implemented the federal program first, and then tinkered with it to make it work for the state. Now, Hartwell says, the state is stuck with a system that will cause higher taxes and health care premiums. “We’re engaged in a charade over health care,” said Hartwell. “It’s incredible that we passed Act 48, because getting to single-payer will cost a lot more money than anyone thought about, and the governor’s administration has painted themselves in a corner as they still haven’t come up with a financing plan.”
A 2013 bill, S.201, which Hartwell co-sponsored, would have put a moratorium on development of wind turbines until the system by which permits are granted by the Public Service Board could be reviewed. Hartwell said the Deerfield Wind project in Searsburg and Readsboro is a good example of what he sees as a closed door process for allowing wind projects to go forward. “It’s a very important issue that could have been dealt with in positive way, but now it’s all about having a fight. The Agency of Natural Resources was opposed to Deerfield Wind but the Public Service Board made their decision, and there is no zoning or Act 250 process that allowed the people any power.”
While Hartwell takes issue with many big-ticket items, he believes his work on the local level was equally important, maintaining good working relationships with individual towns. Wilmington, where Hartwell resides, is a town where he believes his presence has had a positive effect. In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, Hartwell said it was always his goal to be an expediter and a connector between the residents of the town and the help they required. “I will always remember talking to the land- and business owners who were stunned. You can’t wave a magic wand and get better, but you can press FEMA, and work with town agendas. There was an incredible amount of damage, but look at what’s going on now. The activity is fantastic. It only took a few hours to wreck the town, and it takes years to rebuild, and I’m just one person answering questions, but I knew it would get better and it would take time.”
Hartwell is currently working with business owners at North Star Bowl on Route 100 and Vermont Bowl Company on Route 9 to better mitigate their locations, which are still flood-prone.
Galbraith, a resident of Townshend, leaves the Senate following two terms representing Windham District. As the United States’ first ambassador to Croatia, Galbraith has a resume steeped in diplomacy and international relations, a field he has remained active in throughout his four years in the Senate. Galbraith made the decision to refocus his efforts on finding political solutions to the civil war in Syria.
“I’ve recently been involved in informal efforts to find solutions to the war in Syria, specifically working with the Kurds and Christians,” said Galbraith. “I’ve found I can’t do both jobs easily, and it’s a tough decision, but given my background, I have a comparative advantage in that area (international relations), and there are other qualified people who can and will represent Windham County in Montpelier.”
Galbraith works with a British nongovernmental organization that is developing an agenda for Christians and Kurds, who make up a large portion of the country’s 40% minority, in talks that are currently exclusive to the current regime and their extremist opponents. Galbraith has been working on the crisis for 18 months, and the work has become demanding as the war enters its fourth year. Galbraith previously worked with the Kurdish regional government in Iraq during the drafting of that country’s constitution in 2005.
Galbraith said he takes pride in both his failed attempts and his accomplishments during his four years of service. In Windham County, a solar net-metering bill helped Brattleboro become the only town in Vermont to install a five-megawatt solar facility on its landfill. He also negotiated a two-year extension for Vernon’s current lower state education tax rate (75%), to ease the financial ramifications of Vermont Yankee’s imminent closure. Galbraith also worked on securing relief funds for local towns following Tropical Storm Irene, as well as funding for SeVEDS.
While he will no longer have a hand in the issues, Galbraith said Windham County has challenges ahead. “We have to continue to address the closing of Vermont Yankee,” said Galbraith. “We need to find new opportunities for those who worked there, and deal with the larger impact on the community, but our situation is not totally dire either. We have low unemployment, high quality schools and health care, and a community where people care about each other. We’ll never have the advantages of having a large population, but these small, caring communities are why people chose to be in our part of Vermont.”
A bill he proposed in his first term led to a statewide ban on fracking, while bills to finance single-payer health care and ban corporate campaign contributions failed. He was also a vocal critic, along with Hartwell, of further development of wind turbines on state land, as well as the involvement of neighboring towns in their development. “Wind turbines should only go ahead with the consent of all affected, surrounding towns, not just the one where they are located. Our system of government is one of respect for local control, and if a town is against their development, they shouldn’t be forced to take it.” Galbraith also takes pride in voting against the school reorganization bill, which he believed would have been a detriment to the volunteer system of town school boards.
Known as a maverick who voted against his Democratic Party when he saw fit, Galbraith was vocal in his criticism of Gov. Shumlin’s administration’s plans for financing health care. “Act 48 said the governor would submit a plan by January 1, 2013, and he didn’t,” said Galbraith. “The governor is keeping secret the various proposals for single-payer financing, which has been a major focus of his administration. I see no justification for keeping this secret while the workings of the NSA are exposed daily in the press. He should come forward and tell us what his proposals and options are instead of keeping them under wraps, because that needs to be part of the political debate this year.”