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Challenging Corporate Personhood

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Thursday, March 03, 2011

Vermont state senator Virginia Lyons, who recently introduced a bill in that state's Legislature to redefine personhood (and by extension citizenship) as only applying to human beings, has been continuing to gather support for her bill in both the general population and the business community.

Representatives of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility testified in support of the bill at a hearing of the Legislature's Government Operations Committee, where the resolution will await a vote and may also be subject to "modification." Prominent Vermont businesses and businesspeople including Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry's also spoke in support of the bill.

The proposed resolution is likely to get a further push at a forum organized by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, which will be held at 2 p.m. on March 5 at Montpelier High School and feature a keynote address by noted progressive radio and television host Thom Hartman, followed by a panel discussion by Lyons, Cheryl Hanna, constitutional law professor at Vermont Law School, and Rob Weissman, president of the progressive activist group Public Citizen from Washington, D.C.. For more information on the event visit http://sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/events/event/?id=799218a0-3947-49e3-a822-5c63cd0ffe82.

Lyons introduced the bill on the first anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which she and many others have described as not only having veered sharply away from a century of legal precedents but also having unleashed a tsunami of corporate power in government through newly unrestrained political spending.

Senator Lyons also has been contacted by legislators from several other states, including Washington, Texas, Maryland, Wisconsin, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York, and New Jersey, who have expressed interest in introducing similar resolutions in their own states. In response to a question about what other meaningful steps could be taken to preserve a truly democratic government, such as banning paid lobbyists from access to legislators, Senator Lyons replied, "Every year I consider introducing either a rule change for the House and Senate or a resolution to keep registered lobbyists from the State House for one day a week or month. I may do that sooner or later." The full text of Senator Lyons' bill can be read at www.leg.state.vt.us/database/status/summary.cfm?Bill=JRS011&Session=2012.

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