The Word in the House 3/28/2019 - The People's House

There are quite a number of museums in Vermont, including the Statehouse itself in Montpelier.  For 12 months of the year it is open to the public free of charge and includes guided tours. However, from January through the middle of May it functions as an active workplace as well. Besides the 180 members of the House and Senate, there is a full-time staff of lawyers and clerks who assist the members in researching and drafting bills, the Sergeant at Arms and her staff, the Capitol Police, and 30 young people (8th graders), divided into three groups, who serve as Pages for six weeks at a time.

Visitors to the Statehouse during the legislative session will also find dozens of professional lobbyists who are paid to represent the interests of the companies and organizations they represent.  They serve a purpose in bringing essential information to the legislative committees during hearings. This information is balanced by agency and department representatives and private citizens who have an active interest in issues under consideration. Most days there are one or more organizations that set up informational displays in the cafeteria or in the Card Room adjacent to the House chamber or in the Cedar Creek Room, named after the Civil War battle depicted in the mural that occupies an entire wall.

Most legislative work is done in the 14 standing committees of the House and the 11 standing committees of the Senate. This work takes place generally in the committee rooms.  Visitors to the statehouse are welcome to sit in on the committees at any time, no invitation necessary. Many non-legislators take advantage of these open meetings, and it can get pretty crowded in the committee rooms, especially when there is a topic of great interest.

I especially like when young people visit. Many of the high school championship teams come to hear a resolution read in their honor on the floor of the House. Not too long ago, the CVU Boys Volleyball team celebrated their third consecutive championship with a resolution sponsored by the six Representatives from the towns in the Champlain Valley School District. Although they may not yet be old enough to vote, students have also been making themselves heard on many important issues of the day, like gun safety, climate change, and equal rights. Last week a group of elementary school students from Shelburne and Richmond visited the statehouse to advocate for a ban on the sale of animal parts like ivory and rhino horns in the United States and in Vermont. They are to be commended for their participation in our democracy even without the right to vote. In fact, they have the most to lose if we adults in the legislature fail to do our jobs well, because they are the future. As Abraham Lincoln said, we “cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”

I am delighted whenever someone from Charlotte visits the Statehouse, Your House, in session Tuesday through Friday. If you decide to visit, have one of the Pages, the youngsters in the green jackets, let me know you’re there.  I’ll be happy to meet with you. And, if you can’t make it to Montpelier, I will again hold “office hours” for anyone who wants to talk to me in person here in Charlotte this Saturday, March 30, from 10 a.m. until noon, at the Charlotte Library. Of course, I welcome your emails ( or phone calls (802-233-5238) as well.

Legislative Report 3/20/2019 - Your Opinion Matters

Since former Senator Bill Doyle is no longer able to conduct the Doyle Poll, a tradition of Town Meetings in Vermont, I decided to create a survey that would help me gauge the opinion of my constituents with respect to some of the issues currently under consideration by the legislature. About the same number of people as last year took the survey, so I want to thank the 120 folks who shared their opinions this year.

Clearly, there is strong support for a 48-hour waiting period for gun purchases, for gradually raising the minimum wage, for a fee to support clean water initiatives, and for a tax and regulate system for marijuana sales. The question about whether affordable child care is an issue was answered by respondents of all ages including many who no longer require child care for their children. Comments from some of the respondents spoke to the cost of childcare and the impact of having to stop working to stay at home. Several persons who answered “No” commented that their grown children find it difficult to afford child care.

Establishing a Paid Family Leave Insurance Program for employees was favored by a 2 to 1 margin, but almost 20% were not sure. There are three different proposals under consideration, including a voluntary program favored by the Governor, each with different coverage and costs for employees and employers. This week the House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee voted out H.107, which is now being reviewed by the Ways and Means Committee.

While 60% of respondents are satisfied with their internet speed at home, the 30% who are not indicates a need for improvement. It was surprising that even some fiber customers were dissatisfied. Checking internet speed with a speed test application like and conferring with your Internet Service Provider may help identify a problem with your connection.

Questions 5, 8 and 9 were interesting as a group. Four cents per gallon of gasoline is well within the price differences seen on Shelburne Road, and much smaller than price shifts we can see over a few weeks. Heating oil prices ranged from $2.75/gal to $3/gal this winter. Respondents were much more accepting of a 4 cent increase to raise revenue for maintaining municipal roads than they were for helping Vermonters reduce fossil fuel consumption in home heating and transportation. At the same time many of the “No” votes on question 9 voted “Yes” on question 8, supporting efforts to address climate change.  It may be easier to relate to the damage being done to our vehicles by potholes and to spend money to fix them in the short term than it is to relate to future economic impacts of a changing climate and spend the same amount. Unfortunately, we are already seeing those impacts in extreme weather events, increasing insurance premiums, longer and hotter summers, and invasive plants and insects in our environment.

Here are all the results of the poll in Charlotte.

Yes %
No %
Not Sure %
Are you satisfied with your internet speed at home?
Should Vermont establish a Paid Family Leave Insurance Program for all employees?
Do you support gradually increasing the minimum wage from the current $10.67/hr to $15/hr over the next 5 years?
Do you think there should be a 48-hour waiting period to purchase a gun?
Would you be willing to pay 4 cents more per gallon of gasoline to maintain municipal roads?
Would you support a fee based on the size of development to fund cleaning up our lakes and rivers?
Do you support a tax and regulate system for recreational marijuana sales?
Do you support efforts to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels to address climate change?
Would you support an increase of 4 cents per gallon on gasoline and home heating oil to fund incentives for electric vehicle purchases and home weatherization assistance?
Is lack of affordable child care an issue for your family?

As your representative in Montpelier, I appreciate your input on these and other issues.  Your comments help me look at issues from several perspectives, and that is a valuable opportunity for me.  You can always contact me by phone at 802-233-5238 or email me at

* Note: The Vermont minimum wage is currently $10.78/hour, not $10.67/hour. Author's mistake. 

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