Sunday, December 24, 2006

Robert T. Stafford

Robert StaffordRobert T. Stafford, who represented Vermont in the House (1961-71) and the Senate (1971-89), has died at age 93. The Barre-Montpelier Times Argus and the New York Times have published tributes to Senator Stafford. Jurisdynamics now follows suit.

Senator Stafford's distinguished career left its mark on numerous subjects central to the intellectual mission of Jurisdynamics:
  1. Senator Stafford was a staunch defender of the Federal Guaranteed Student Loan Program. Congress in 1988 acknowledged his his dedication to by renaming the guaranteed student loan program in his honor. Millions of students each year -- 14 million in 2006 alone -- receive low-interest loans now known as Stafford loans.

  2. Senator Stafford played an active role in the legislative explosion of the early 1970s that gave rise to the most important pieces of contemporary environmental legislation. He made noteworthy contributions to the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and especially the Clean Water Act. When Ronald Reagan became President, Senator Stafford, as the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, became chairman of that vital committee. He led the Senate in overriding President Reagan's veto of amendments that strengthened the Clean Water Act.

  3. Few politicians today leave a legislative legacy. Senator Stafford's influence extended beyond education and the environment. He also took a leadership role in designing the legislative basis for federal involvement in disaster relief. Jurisdynamics has devoted extensive attention to the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, a statute that remains the basic blueprint for federal intervention in the aftermath of natural disasters.

  4. Governor StaffordAs governor of Vermont from 1959-61, Robert Stafford displayed great foresight and leadership in the realm of civil rights by withholding his state's endorsement from tourist businesses that discriminated on the basis of race or religion.

  5. In retirement Senator Stafford remained true to those ideals. When Vermont legalized same-sex civil unions in 2000, a frail Stafford declared his support for the measure at a press conference in Rutland: "I believe that love is one of the great forces in our society and in the state of Vermont . . . . And even if a same-sex couple unites with true love, what is the harm in that? What is the harm?" This forum endorses that sentiment.
The Times Argus said it best: "At the time of his death, we are reminded that fearless leadership, combined with humility and common sense, can achieve great things. In his time, Stafford did."

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