Legislative Report 1/28/2021 - Reflections on a momentous week

 The first few weeks of a legislative biennium get off to a relatively slow start, not momentous at all.  Bills are just beginning to be introduced and assigned to committees for consideration.  Not only do new members have to get up to speed on subject matter of the committees to which they are assigned, but returning members assigned to different committees than before may have to as well. In other words, there is not a lot to report.

There were two exceptions, however. During the first full week we were back in session, the House quickly passed a bill that authorizes municipalities and school districts to hold town meetings remotely, use Australian ballots to vote on all matters including budgets, or postpone town meetings to later in the Spring. The Senate quickly followed suit and sent the bill to the Governor for his signature.  The Senate was also at work passing S.9, which extends certain workers’ compensation amendments related to COVID-19 that were enacted last year. These amendments give the benefit of doubt in certain circumstances that a worker who is diagnosed with COVID-19 is entitled to benefits under Vermont’s workers’ compensation laws. The House concurred with the Senate after fixing a date reference in the bill that had been overlooked.  The next significant action will be to approve the budget adjustment bill that the Appropriations Committee has been hard at work on since Day 2 of the session.

What really made the week special, though, was the change of administration in Washington, DC, as I joined most of my fellow Americans in welcoming the Biden administration with the hope of a less divisive political atmosphere for the next four years.  I was especially impressed with poet Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem. In it she says,

It's because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into and how we repair it

It is with sincere hope that Congress, the Senate included, will be able to join with the administration in an effective national response to the pandemic and hit the economic defibrillator once again to jump-start the economy.  The executive orders President Biden signed as soon as he took office will go a long way to reverse those of the previous administration that diminished the greatness of America.

For the past four years, a small package sat on my bookshelf waiting for its moment. In December of 2016, I attended a conference in DC and had an opportunity with other legislators from across the country to attend a briefing in the White House Office Building.  We were given favors of Hershey kisses in little packages with the presidential seal. I decided to save mine until the incoming President was no longer in office. I had almost forgotten about it until the night of the inauguration after watching the televised spectacular fireworks display on the National Mall.

It was time. After 4 years, the kisses were as sweet as I expected, capping off this truly momentous week.

I welcome your emails (myantachka.dfa@gmail.com) or phone calls (802-233-5238). 

Legislative Report 1/9/2021 - A New Beginning

Legislative biennium begins amid national turmoil

As the world reacted in shock to the events unfolding in Washington, DC, on January 6th, the Vermont Legislature was convening for the 2021 – 2022 biennium.  The storming of the U.S. Capitol for the first time since the War of 1812 by a mob egged on by a self-serving President, who refused to recognize that he lost the election, drew strong reactions throughout Vermont’s state government.  That afternoon Governor Scott condemned the lawlessness and called for the President’s immediate resignation or removal from office.  The following day the Vermont House passed with a vote of 130 to 16 a resolution sponsored by Democrats, Republicans, Progressives, and Independents calling for the same. (The text of the resolution can be found at https://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2022/J.R.H.1.)  In my lifetime only the 9/11 attack on our nation’s capital compares, and this time it was against the Constitution and our democracy itself by our own citizens.  This is not what America stands for, and we need the country to make a course correction immediately. I hope that the nation can begin to resolve our deep political differences starting today.

Here in Vermont the legislature began its work not in the usual fashion with pomp and circumstance in a packed chamber with friends and relatives looking on as members, new and returning, were sworn in, but from our own homes over Zoom.  The House unanimously elected its Speaker, Representative Jill Krowinski of Burlington, as well as the Clerk of the House, Betsy Ann Wrask. Members were assigned to committees, and resolutions were passed to formalize the rules and procedures under which the legislature will operate while the pandemic emergency order is in place.

Traditionally, the Governor would give his inaugural speech to a joint session of the House and Senate in the House chamber.  This year, in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, Governor Scott chose to deliver the speech on television in the evening.  He did briefly address the joint session online earlier in the afternoon, congratulating the historic ascension of women to almost all the leadership positions in the legislature.  In the House they include Speaker Jill Krowinski, Democratic Majority Leader Emily Long of Newfane, Republican Minority Leader Pattie McCoy of Poultney, and Progressive Minority Leader Selene Colburn of Burlington.    The Senate is led by Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray, President Pro Tempore Becca Balint, and Democratic Majority Leader Alison Clarkson.  Senator Randy Brock was elected as the Republican Minority Leader.

In his address to the legislature, Governor Scott acknowledged the necessity of working remotely, keeping meetings open to the public online, and working together for the benefit of all Vermonters.  He said that while the pandemic brought heartache to many, it also showed that Vermonters care for each other.  This care has made Vermont more successful in controlling the spread of the virus than many other states.  While we cannot know when life will get back to normal, there is a light at the end of the tunnel because of the vaccines that are now available and being distributed.  He reiterated his long-standing goals of growing the economy, protecting the vulnerable, and making Vermont more affordable, goals that are shared by legislators as well.  The hard work now begins on how to achieve those goals.

I welcome your emails (myantachka.dfa@gmail.com) or phone calls (802-233-5238).