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The leaders of the state House and Senate listed their priorities on Tuesday after gaveling in the session remotely, and the continued recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic topped both lawmakers’ to-do lists.

“This pandemic has only further highlighted issues that we need to address in Vermont, and it is critical that we come together to build communities that support Vermonters and individuals from all walks of life,” House Speaker Jill Krowinski said. “We cannot afford to ignore the many lessons that we have learned during this historic time, but rather, we must persevere to recover together and create a Vermont that works for everyone.”

“As we head into another session marked by the ongoing pandemic, my top priority is making the most of the historic federal stimulus dollars available to Vermont to improve the lives of working families,” Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint said.

Both lawmakers cited workforce development, housing and adopting recommendations of the Vermont Climate Council as priorities for the session ahead.

They also both cited the need to complete the work of amending the state constitution to clarify its prohibition against slavery and guarantee reproductive freedom. The latter of those initiatives is due to be voted on by the House this session; if it passes, it will then go to the state’s voters.

Krowinski, in her statement, cited “education finance and the weighting study” as a priority. Balint’s statement did not address per-pupil weighting reform specifically, but her chief of staff, Carolyn Wesley, said the issue is “definitely still a proiority.”

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Krowinski also called for “protecting public health and safety during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic through evidence-driven strategies, sound data and the advice of medical experts.”

Balint said the Senate’s first actions Tuesday were resolutions requiring members to be vaccinated or tested weekly, to wear masks when conducting legislative business, and to allow ongoing flexibility for remote legislating. “By the end of this week, we’ll pass out a bill giving towns flexibility in deciding how to hold Town Meeting to ensure healthy and safe participation in our local democracy,” she said.

Senate Minority Leader Randy Brock, R-Franklin, said Republicans’ top priority is to ensure that Vermont recovers from the pandemic and the state applies the unprecedented amount of federal relief funds wisely and for maximum effect. Brock said the GOP will be diligent in ensuring that there are internal controls applied to spending to ensure the money is directed to providing Vermonters help in the critical areas of need. Also on the list of priorities is supporting and growing Vermont’s workforce.

In addition, Brock said another priority is dealing with the statewide housing shortage, particularly the shortage of affordable housing. He said Republicans will introduce several bills to address this problem.

Both the House and Senate will conduct business remotely for the first two weeks of the session, then reassess whether they can return safely to the Statehouse for in-person legislating. The House voted 106-19 by roll call to meet remotely, and 18 of those no votes came from Republican members, including Rep. Sally Achey, R-Middletown Springs. House minority leader Patty McCoy, R-Poultney, voted yes.

The rest of the Windham and Bennington delegations present voted yes; members Rep. Nelson Brownell, D-Pownal, and Rep. Mary Morrissey, R-Bennington, were absent with leave.

Greg Sukiennik covers government and politics for Vermont News & Media. Reach him at

Greg Sukiennik has worked at all three Vermont News & Media newspapers and was their managing editor from 2017-19. He previously worked for, for the AP in Boston, and at The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Mass.