2021 Issues Focus

In the ten years I have served as the State Representative for Charlotte and southwest Hinesburg  it has been a privilege to serve on House committees dealing with energy policy and conservation. The threat of global climate change has emerged as one of the salient issues of the 21st century. As a strong advocate for renewable energy and energy conservation, I have been able to contribute to Vermont's policy goals of reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and associated greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. This will continue to be the primary - but not the only - focus of my work in the legislature.

These are my top priorities for the 2021 - 2022 session.

1. Restore Vermont’s economy in the wake of the Coronavirus.

No one could have anticipated the extent of the economic impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the economies of Vermont, the United States, and the world.  As the implications of the pandemic became more and more obvious, the government of Vermont quickly shifted gears and took steps to suppress the outbreak in Vermont and help our citizens adapt to the crisis.  Under the leadership of Governor Scott and legislative action to put federal Coronavirus Relief Funds to work for individual Vermonters, Vermont businesses and community action organizations, and with the fantastic cooperation of its citizens, Vermont has been able to suppress the virus better than almost every other state of the union.  When we return in January, either in person or virtually via Zoom, the legislature will continue to act to restore the economic vitality of the state.  This will continue to be our highest priority.


2. Reduce dependence on fossil fuels for heating and transportation.

As a member of the Energy & Technology Committee, I am very concerned about climate change and its effect on Vermont both from environmental, health and economic perspectives.  As a result of our renewable energy policies developed over the past decade, our electricity generation is the cleanest energy source in Vermont.  However, we have been lagging in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels in the heating and transportation segments of our energy economy. Our objective now should be to replace our sources of heat and transportation energy by cleaner electricity.  The most obvious ways to do this are with heat pumps and electric vehicles, both of which use more electricity but less fuel oil and gasoline. We have already taken steps by directing that $18.7M in VW emissions fraud settlement money should be used for EV infrastructure and EV buses. We also need to prioritize weatherizing Vermont's aging housing stock as well as encourage highly energy efficient new construction.  The best way to reduce energy costs is to avoid energy use.  By increasing insulation, we will burn less fuel for heating and allow homeowners to save money. 


3. Foster racial justice and equity.

America is now in a period of reassessing its commitment to racial and ethnic justice following the devastating consequences of the systemic racism that has led to the unjustified killing of so many people of color.  Lynching did not stop with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965. It just took different forms, more subtle and less visible.  Over the last three years it has become more open and enabled by people in power. Since the slow murder of George Floyd on national television, the people of America are recognizing that all too often black lives are discounted by society.  In 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, the Vermont legislature passed laws to ban the use of choke-holds, to improve police training on responsible use of force and to require intervention by officers if they witness other officers acting irresponsibly.  We will continue to improve police procedures to ensure unbiased policing in 2021. Black Lives Matter!

4. Ensure the integrity of Vermont's IT systems.

Cybersecurity is critical to the integrity of Vermont's computer systems and needs to be maintained at the highest level. In the last 12 months more than 11 million cyber attacks on state systems were detected. Protecting the personal data of Vermont citizens, the integrity of our elections, and the reliability of the operations and services provided by Vermont government must be one of the highest priorities of the Agency of Digital Services.  As a member of the Energy & Technology Committee, I will continue to work with ADS to monitor the status of our IT security. 

5. Invest in Working Families

Affordability is an ongoing concern for Vermont citizens.  Those hardest hit by affordability are lower and middle income families who are working hard to make ends meet. In 2018 and 2020, we passed a minimum wage bill that would improve the economy and put more money in the pockets of our lowest paid workers. We also passed a Paid Family Leave Insurance bill that would guarantee paid time off for a worker to take care of a sick family member, an elderly parent, or a newborn child. Both of these bills, which I supported, were vetoed and will be reintroduced next year. 

The pandemic has taken a huge toll on Vermont jobs and the ability of parents to work with kids at home due to COVID-19. But even before the pandemic one of the biggest constraints on economic development in Vermont is a shortage of skilled workers to fill existing job openings.  One of the complaints we heard from employers is that they have trouble attracting younger workers with families to Vermont. Between a shortage of affordable housing and the high cost of child care, young families find it difficult to move to Vermont. I agree with the non-profit Let's Grow Kids that making child care more affordable will help grow our economy. We need to recognize that investing in child care will provide more jobs at higher wages and make Vermont a better place for everyone, young and old.