2019 Issues Focus

In the eight years I have served as the State Representative for Charlotte 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. I will continue to work on these issues as a member of the Energy & Technology Committee.

These are my top priorities for the 2019 - 2020 session.

1. 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 (EVs), both of which use more electricity but displace 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. 

2. 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 4 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 newly-created Agency of Digital Services.  As a member of the Energy & Technology Committee, I will continue to work with ADS to support and monitor the status of our IT security. 

3. Reduce education costs through efficiencies in the Vermont school system.
A strong public education system that provides a high quality education to all Vermont students is essential for our democracy, economy and the future of our country. Although the cost of our public education system is still rising, the rate of increase has decreased. Act 46 of the 2016 session, which encouraged school district consolidation, has already generated savings for many school districts. This trend should continue as school districts continue to implement efficiencies. As student population changes, our educational infrastructure - buildings, personnel, resources - have to adapt in order to efficiently use our education dollars. Changes made in 2018 to the delivery of Special Education services should help to reduce costs while continuing to support special needs students. I support efforts to provide a high quality education at an affordable cost.

4. 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, 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 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 have to be reintroduced next year. 
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 hear 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.