By CHRISTOPHER ROY
Express Staff Writer
LOWELL – Republican Mark Higley thinks having a conservative voice in Montpelier is important and that’s why he’s seeking his third term for the Vermont House.
“The numbers are definitely against us,” said Higley of the Republican Party. “Out of 150 in the House, there’s only 48 of us who are Republicans. In the Senate, out of 30, there’s only eight and the governorship is held by a Democrat. It’s important to have some form of balance.”
Higley is the representative from the Orleans-Lamoille district. Prior to this year’s redistricting, Higley served the Orleans-Franklin District. Highley is going up against Progressive Katherine Sims.
Higley, who serves on the Government Operations Committee, said the committee deals with topics like looking over town charters and election laws. The committee recently worked on rewriting the public records access bill. The biggest piece, said Higley, is that any person or company that wins a lawsuit over obtaining public records can get reimbursement for his or her attorney fees. The previous wording said the plaintiff may get the attorney fees reimbursed and the courts made the final decision.
During the past session, Higley’s committee worked on a bill that requires police to immediately notify local fire departments when there is a search and rescue effort in their community and a bill that changed the definition in the workers’ compensation law to provide that volunteer firefighters, rescue, and ambulance squads be covered while acting in any capacity under the direction and control of their departments. Higley’s committee also worked on political redistricting.
If re-elected, Higley wants to make it more affordable for people to work and live in the state as much as possible, which includes fighting legislation that does the opposite. Many bills have good intentions, but many of them have unintended consequences, Higley said.
Higley said he didn’t vote for and doesn't support single-payer healthcare. He tried, unsuccessfully, to add amendments, like exempting employers with fewer than 50 employees from buying on the insurance exchange. Higley also said single-payer healthcare has too many unknowns for him to support.
“They don’t know what the cost is going to be; they don’t know what the benefits are going to be,” said Higley, who spoke to medical professionals about the bill. Under this new plan, the government could look at outcome verses volume. “Doctors are concerned what that means.”
Higley, who supports "big wind," said 75 percent of Lowell residents supported the project. He said the same controversy arose when Jay Peak Resort first started. Higley said people told him that "big wind" is the best thing to do for their children and grandchildren and possibly to get off fossil fuels and foreign oil. “It’s not all about the money,” said Higley.
Higley thinks Vermont Yankee should continue to operate. “I think Vermont has been giving them a raw deal,” said Higley, who admits he doesn’t know the safety aspects of a nuclear plant.
Higley is concerned that budgets are going up and revenues are going down. The atmosphere in Montpelier is there is a concerted effort to find money, something Higley said would be a detriment instead of a benefit. One problem, he said, is lawmakers are looking at reducing the sales tax and creating a service tax.
Higley thinks the Act 250 permit process needs to be streamlined so that businesses will have a clear understanding of the rules.
Higley, who supports a Walmart in the Newport-Derby area, said St. Johnsbury refused the store so it went to Littleton, N.H., and now the Littleton community is doing well. “I think it would be a plus to the businesses in Newport rather than a detraction,” said Higley.