The Work Has Begun

While the new legislative session doesn’t start until January 4th in Montpelier, the work has already started for newly elected legislators.  Invitations from various organizations start coming almost as soon as the election is over, both by snail mail and by email.  Everyone wants your ear.  With limited time and the inevitable conflicts in scheduling, I have had to pick and choose the meetings and conferences I could attend.  I’d like to give you a brief summary of some I’ve attended and my impressions.

High on the list was the CCS budget development meeting on November 11th.  The purpose of this session was to look at the discretionary items in the budget in light of the 2% challenge to spending issued by the Vermont Department of Education.  This challenge translates to about $186,000 for CCS.  The question is: what cuts can be made to get to that number without severely impacting the programs and services for the students?  Several people voiced frustration that the arbitrary 2%, the Challenges for Change target, does not take into consideration the cuts in last year’s budget or the desires of the community for the kind of education we want for our children.  Some suggested that the budget be developed as usual, trying to be as cost-conscious as possible and ignore the 2% guideline.  Many other suggestions were made regarding programs, services, and salaries and benefits.  I plan to keep aware of school budget development and exchange information with my legislative colleagues so that we can make better informed decisions affecting education.

The evening before the budget meeting, I attended the “Keeping Vermont Children Safe” forum in Colchester.  The focus of this event was to support adoption of “Aaron’s Law”, a Child Access Prevention law, in the next legislative session.  Aaron Xue was a high school student in Essex Junction who took his life last year using a firearm that was supplied by a fellow student who brought it from home.  The law seeks to require safe storage of firearms in the home whenever children can potentially access them.  Studies have shown that safe gun storage laws can reduce the number of children killed by unintentional shootings by up to 50%.  Moreover, guns are the most deadly and irreversible means for suicide victims of all ages.   These and more facts can be found at, in particular the link under Resources for “Ten Facts about Gun Safety in Children.”  I intend to sign on as co-sponsor of this bill when the session gets under way.  

I have also attended several other meetings and forums and will be attending a three-day new legislator orientation session this week.  The work has begun.

This article was published in the November 18, 2010, issue of The Charlotte News.