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A B i g H a i r y M o n s t e r

T
hat:s how Representative T om Little of Shelburne de-
scnbed the 100-page health care reform bill that's become
. the foc~point of attention this weekunder thegoldendome
mMontpeher. Little Sitsonthespecial House"GreaseT heSkids
Committee" set up byHouse Speaker Ralph Wright last year
At present the skids are as greasy as sandpaper. .
Little was addressing 300 members of the Lake Champlain
Regio.nal Chamber of C~mmerce whoturned out for aMonday
morning breakfast session at the Sheraton. During an hour's
worth of scrambled eggs and bacon, Little and his legislative
cohorts - Senators Susan Sweetser and Helen Riehle and
Representative Mary-Ann Parizo - len the audience with
more questions than they had when they arrived.
T heprospects for passing the "bighairy monster" appeardim.
Parizo recounted the Legislature's track record to date: awar
ave: the. E-board nominees, the defeat of the worker's compen-
sation bill onthe House floor and the health carereformbill due
to hit that same floor shortly.
"It scares me," said Parizo. "It's not been a good.year."
o.f course that was very goodnews for the Lake Champlain
Regional Chamber of Commerce, the first business groupinthe
state to wave the warning flag over health care reform. T he
Chamber's Statehouse lobbyist, Gerry Morris, callstheHouse
bill "too expensive and far too ambitious for Vermont's fragile
economy."
T he "big hairy monster" is also opposed by folks on the
opposite end of the political spectrum -liberal Democrats and
Progressives who have passionately and tirelessly fought for a
single-payer system which is, after all, the easiest model to
comprehend.
Where all this is leading is obvious - no health carereform
bill for Governor Howard Dean tosigninfront of thetelevision
cameras. And if things keep going the way they are, Dr. Dean
won't even beableto blame the Senate Republicans becausehis
baby won't even get out of the House. T heJ anuary whispers in
the Statehouse hallways about He-He's lackofleadership aren't
whispers anymore and "Where's the governor?" has become the
most asked question during the Ides of March.
At arecent press conference Dean had this to say about his
"big hairy monster": "I think these guys - this committee-
havedonean excellent job with the health carebill. It isreally a
bill that is not only worth passing but it's agreat bill substan-
dally, agreat bill interms of its substance. T here are obviously
things that 1don't think are perfect about it, that I'dliketo see
changed -don't ask mewhat they are'causeI'mnot goingtotell
you, But generally speaking, this isareally solidpieceof work."
Great sales pitch, eh?
Ho-Hocould certainly take afewpointers fromCongressman
Bernie Sanden. "I've been extremely impressed," Sanders
said Monday, "by the ability of the advocates of single-payer in
Vermont tocreate somuch public support for single-payer. T hat
youhave agovernor and aLegislature that isincapableof going
forward to proteet the rights of working peopleandlow-income
people- well, that's what politics isinAmerica." 01' Bernardo
may not be winning the health care battle at present, but the
single-payer fight has comealong, longway.
"I think wehave won the intellectual debate," hesaid. "And
I think there are no serious peoplenowwhocoulddeny that if
you'retalkingaboutcomprehensivehealthcare, universal health
care and cost-effective health care that the only way to gois a
single-payer approach. T hat the governor does not have the
courage for avariety ofreaaons todothat-that's hisproblem."
J ust how big of a problem it is can't bemeasured yet. But
anyone suggesting back on NewYear's Day that the Vermont
Legislature under the leadership of anoverwheirninglypopular
doctor-governor would fail to produce a health care reform
initiative of substance would havebeen laughed out of state.
Nobody's laughing this week.
T he Bernie Watch
Speaking of 01' Bernardo, the congressman refused to say
this week what kind of feedback he's received sincehelet the
word out he's seriously considering arun for the U.S. Senate
against Senator J im J effords. "T hat's something I'll talk
about at the appropriate time" he replied. "Now is not the
appropriate time."
Fortunately wewereabletoascertain when"theappropriate
time" will sh~w up on our clocks. "Within a month," said
Sanders.
You can sense the momentum building both at street level
and back road level for a "Sanders for Senate" campaign. T he
talk is that his "inner circle" does not favor ashowdownwith
J effords. His House seat is secure SO why take the risk? Of
course, it's their jobs that would beat risk, too.. .'
Meanwhile, J effords isrunning hardasifhe'scertain Benuewill
bein the ring with him in what will be the toughest challenge
J eezum J im has ever faced. He's evencampaignmgmwhat has
recently become "enemy territory" for himsincehevotedfor the
Bradybill- sportsmen's clubsandgun shows.T hereare 100,000
resident hunting licenses inVermont. T hat's alot ofguns. Last
weekendJ effords visited theLamoilleCountyFishand Game Club
gun showat People's Academy. "Hehandled himself well, "said a
sportsman friend inattendance, "but he'. not comingupwiththe
answers they want to hear."