Tess Taylor Quits Legislature To Join Single-Payer Lobby

Mar 21, 2014

The assistant majority leader of the Vermont House is resigning her post to become a paid advocate for single-payer health care.

Representative Tess Taylor is a three-term Democrat from Barre who was elected to the House leadership team in 2012. She resigned effectively immediately Friday after accepting a job as executive director of Vermont’s Coalition for Universal Reform.

The nonprofit issue-advocacy is being funded by the America Federation of Teachers, which has pledged $100,000 in start-up money. The group has retained a top Montpelier lobbying firm to guide its electoral and Statehouse strategy. And Taylor says the organization will be “supportive of candidates that are supportive of single-payer.”

House Speaker Shap Smith says he’s “obviously disappointed that Tess is leaving,” but said he’s “excited for her.”

Todd Bailey is president of strategic communications and government relations at KSE Partners, the firm hired by Vermont’s CURE. He says the fight for a publicly funded, universal health care system won’t be successful without a well-funded campaign to push it through. And he says Taylor brings the administrative and political skills needed to lead the effort.

“She’s eminently qualified to run an organization that requires someone with both the administrative skills to run a small nonprofit and the political skills to run a grassroots advocacy and electoral campaign strategy,” Bailey says.

As a 501(c)4, VT CURE won’t be allowed to promote or attack specific candidates. But it is legally permitted to run what are known as issue-advocacy campaigns around elections season, and Bailey says that will likely be one component of the group’s strategy.

Bailey says the group may also spin off a political action committee that would engage in electioneering.