Eighteen weeks later, the Vermont Legislature adjourned for the year. Here’s a snapshot of some of our work.
To start, once again, we passed a balanced budget that is fiscally responsible and makes vital investments in Vermonters.
We also passed quality-of-life bills that contribute to why we love living here.
For instance, when Vermont put Reproductive Rights in our Constitution last year, we hoped our work was done on that topic.
However, as we saw those rights in other states erode and even disappear, we took action and passed a Shield Bill. This allows for women in other states to come to Vermont for health care and lessens the fears for them — and their medical provider — about retaliatory actions back in their home state.
For our school children, Universal Meals for all kids was utilized during COVID, and the benefits were clear. Being hungry was checked off the list of things kids and parents didn’t have to worry about. We don’t charge for books or transportation or ask kids to chip in on the heat and light bills. Your Legislature figured food should be offered similarly to all kids.
On the downside, our Governor doesn’t agree, and we hope he doesn’t include this in what looks like a long list of bills he will veto.
Workforce, housing and childcare are all inextricably linked these days, and your legislators know that for our state to thrive, we need to make investments there. We did. Again, though, these items may end up on this Governor’s long list of vetoes.
The need for gun safety reforms continues to write headlines across the country. Mass shootings are increasing daily, and on a more local level, guns are used in Vermont to make our suicide rate one of the highest in the U.S. We passed a bill that includes a waiting period to buy a firearm. After hearing research that slowing down someone’s access to a firearm when suicidal ideation is present can save lives, we voted to put this in action. This is a similar dynamic in domestic violence situations.
And with climate chaos providing weather extremes here in Vermont and across the world, the need to act has become more urgent, especially as the price volatility of oil has become just as scary as the volatility of putting a lit match directly to oil or gas.
The Affordable Heat Act we passed, over yet another veto from the Governor, starts to address those concerns. Clean heat can be more affordable than the status quo, and we owe it to ourselves and our children’s future to continue on the path towards a more diverse and cleaner, less expensive heating future. This especially includes for low and middle-income Vermonters, for whom the initial outlay for one of many 21st-century heating systems is prohibitive.
There’s more to share, and a more comprehensive report can be found on my website (www.windham4.online). We’re also not quite done with this session. It looks like there will need to be a Veto Session to address the Governor’s continued adherence to his policy of Veni, Vidi and Veto.
Having a part-time Legislature limits what we can do in our 18-week legislative session, and we know there’s more to do. So, we’re already looking to how we can augment this year’s work — even as most of us head back to the year-round jobs that put food on our tables and allow us to pay our bills.
Admittedly, Governor Scott did an admirable job with COVID. He and his team are to be commended — including our own local hero on that COVID team, Mike Pieciak. He’s now doing some great work as our State Treasurer.
COVID is over, though. It’s time to move ahead and make investments in Vermonters to help us do just that. To create a better, brighter future that will help Vermonters continue to enjoy living here and also maintain and attract the younger people we need for that better, brighter future.
As we settle into being back home in our communities with our family and friends, we also look forward to hearing from you about what we’ve done and what you think we can do more and better in. And, please, if something comes up with the state government that isn’t going smoothly, be in touch. That’s why we’re here.