The legislative session wrapped up last week in a wild flurry of votes and negotiations and final compromises. I’m still unpacking all that we got done and all that is still needed next year.
Legislating is work I love, work that I’m prepared for, work that allows me to be of use. I’m honored to do it alongside some remarkable mentors and staff in the statehouse. But most of all, I’m incredibly grateful for the network of people, outside of the legislature, who’ve supported me along the way—sharing your stories, your time, and your priorities.
In the last four years I have been surprised to find how my skills were needed in the legislature and in my caucus—my ability to ask difficult questions, to weave together disparate ideas, and my persistent commitment to bring in the voices and perspectives of the disenfranchised. I was proud to be named vice chair of Ways and Means in my second term, mentored by an amazing chair who just announced her retirement. Together we passed the largest state level child tax credit and earned income tax credit in the country. We restructured our corporate taxes to hold multinationals responsible for their earnings. And we passed a massive restructuring of our ed finance system to build on the equity promise of Act 60.
Tax Day is here and Adjournment is in sight.
The last few weeks have been a whirlwind. We made it through crossover and we can see the legislation that needs to be carried for the next month to become law. My last newsletter and town meeting report covered most of the bills that are in the mix and you can find it on my website if you missed the email. Since the flurry of cross over bills, the floor has been quiet and House committees have been hard at work tackling legislation that the Senate sent over.
We’re halfway through the 2022 legislative session! Our work officially began on January 4, with legislators working remotely to protect public health as the Omicron surge peaked. On January 18, we returned to the statehouse in hybrid mode, a very welcome shift. We’ve passed some significant legislation in these first two months, and while I’ve been sending weekly updates to folks on my mailing lists, this midpoint reflection provides some summative highlights. Work on key priorities will continue, across the House and in collaboration with the Senate, as we debate bills and consider investments prior to our anticipated May adjournment. It is an honor to serve as your state representatives. Please reach out anytime with ideas, questions and concerns.
Town Meeting Day and WSESD Annual Meeting
Tuesday, March 1, 2022, 7am – 7pm
American Legion, 32 Linden St.
Every week when I return home from Montpelier a new flower is blooming on one of our houseplants. I’m sure this is a metaphor for something.
Happy Valentine’s Day— I hope you found some time to treasure and be treasured yesterday. As I said to my son recently— it might all feel awkward and commercialized and mandatory but we don’t spend enough time in this life appreciating each other or eating chocolate, so why not take advantage of the opportunity when you have it!
Yesterday was an incredible day to serve.
We passed Proposition 5– The Reproductive Liberty Amendment which will head to the voters for a state-wide vote of affirmation in November. This is likely the most important vote I’ll make in my service as a legislator. My life, my service, and the steady love I feel for those around me, wouldn’t be possible without the reproductive freedoms I’ve experienced in my lifetime and those opportunities are becoming increasingly scarce in this county. Reproductive liberty— the ability to parent, or not, is foundational to Vermonters’ ability to participate— in our communities, the economy, and to care and build our families.
Over the last week I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many advocates who work with folks statewide. Everyone has the immediate problem of their constituency right in front of them— housing prices, childcare, hiring challenges. Summary— things are hard all around right now and it’s challenging to get out of our own way of seeing when we have so few opportunities to gather. Sometimes the walls feel like they’re closing in on each of us and our scope narrows further. What is our government’s role in all this? Policies both fiscal and programmatic can make some more space, or close in the walls further— the child tax credit or family medical leave make space for families, while mandates without infrastructure or carceral solutions can close the walls in.
We just completed the third week of the session and the first week of hybrid legislating. Committees met in person and the “floor” was on zoom, though many people sat in the chamber with their computers. It was a surreal combination of velvet and the squeal of audio feedback loops, but I’m glad we’re taking steps towards working in person again. It was also the first time that my committee has ever met together in person. I was appointed to Ways and Means at the start of the pandemic during my first biennium, and then appointed vice-chair at the start of my second biennium, a year ago. It will be interesting to see how dynamics shift now that we’re in three dimensions.
We’re heading back to in-person (hybrid) legislating this morning. I’m looking forward to all that I can learn being face-to-face or mask-to-mask with my colleagues. I’m looking forward to the focus that a changing context brings me. I’m looking forward to wearing fancy shoes again. I’m even looking forward to leaving my house and feeling the trepidation of working amidst mediocre public health policies so I can legislate with open eyes. It’s going to be a wild ride, and we’ve set up hybrid options so that anyone who needs to quarantine or isolate can still dial in and represent their constituents but it will be the first time that many committees have ever met in person. Our work will change as a result, and I’m curious about all of it.
It’s getting a little scarier out there and also, somehow, more normal and that is somehow even scarier. [This is a hard time to be a parent](https://www.romper.com/parenting/here-we-go-again-omicron-edition), or to know a parent, or to work with kids, or to be a kid. It’s a hard time to be a teacher. Vermont schools are facing unprecedented challenges. As the Omicron variant surges, our state is experiencing the highest caseloads of the pandemic and this has significant impacts for our schools. At least half a dozen schools across the state closed one or more days last week and the Secretary of Education ended the week by announcing all existing testing/quarantine guidance would be thrown out the window.
Y’all, these are wild times we are living in. Wild times to be governing in, parenting in, loving in, and working in. As our case rates rise, I’m grateful for vaccines and tests and masks and new therapies. I’m scared and angry that we can’t always rise to the challenge— make our supply chains work for the people, protect employees, care for children. I’m hyper aware that I’m living through history, and overwhelmed by how monotonous and sad it often feels. I’ve been thinking about how we bring more joy and grief and rest into our lives in the midst of all this capitalism and disease. I’m trying to remember all the promise that so many of us felt at the beginning of the pandemic when we collectively paused and prioritized for a time.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that even fully vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor spaces where community transmission of the virus is “substantial or high.” Currently, roughly 85 percent of U.S. counties meet that threshold, which is defined as at least 50 new cases weekly per 100,000 residents. This includes every county in Vermont. Vermont has the seventh-highest case rate in the nation, up 70 percent over the last 14 days. Our hospitals and ICU units are at capacity, and our schools, students and families continue to suffer from the negative impact of ongoing quarantines. While our state once led the nation for its COVID response, we’re now breaking all the wrong records.
This Tuesday, September 28th is National Voter Registration Day, and Democracy is feeling a big precarious. Please make sure you’re registered to vote. Vermonters can vote in person or by mail, and both incarcerated Vermonters and those with past records are eligible. You can even register to vote at the polls! Voting happens more often than once every four years, we have local elections, school board elections, and Vermont’s legislative elections. And the process doesn’t start and end at the ballot box— elections require organizing and elected leaders need both accountability and support.
Thank you to everyone who turned out for the dinner last Saturday, or even just thought of coming when the invite passed through your inbox. We celebrated making it through a difficult year, connected with old friends and new, and raised a pile of money for the House Democratic Campaign Committee. That’s the last you’ll hear from me on fundraising for a good long while but if you’re still interested in contributing— can I suggest becoming a sustaining donor to my campaign? Just a few dollars a month makes a huge difference for ongoing communication expenses. Just click on the donate link at the bottom of the page.
The legislature is scheduled to recess at the end of this week and with so many balls in the air, I'm going to save legislative updates for my next newsletter. Instead, I have some thoughts on progressive taxation as we close out the session and some opportunities to get involved.
The legislature is scheduled to recess next month and we’re narrowing our focus to bills that will cross the finish line.
The Federal landscape continues to bring home the bacon with our powerful Senate duo.
Last weekend, Brattleboro Town Meeting Representatives spent 14 hours debating the budget for our lovely little town— and we emerged with a strong mandate toward progressive spending and inclusive governance.
It's Town Meeting Week, the midway point of the Vermont legislative session which runs from January-May. Legislative committees aren’t meeting this week, and I’ve had time to pause, catch up, and get ready for cross over week when we return.
How has it been just a few short weeks since the Inauguration? The relief is palpable in the virtual statehouse while we continue to grapple with accountability, urgency, and progress.
We started the session last week being sworn in remotely— the Secretary of State calling each of our names and reciting the affirmation, “I am Emilie Kornheiser, and I am here.”
Happy New Year!
The legislative session begins on January 6th and I will be sworn in remotely from the same spot in my house that I’ve been sitting since we came home on March 13th, 2020.
Thank you, I am so honored to have the opportunity to keep working with this community and in this nation, so we can someday say that government is truly for us, and by us.
Have you voted? Have you talked to someone else about voting? The election is just two days away. You probably don’t need me to tell you that.
This week is the last one of the biennium and when the dust settles next week I’ll draft a comprehensive summary and reflection for you. Right now, I’m still deep in the thick of final negotiations and getting the November campaign into high gear. We’re set to wrap up with a completed budget this Friday.
Last week I was proud to receive the Democratic and Progressive nominations for State Representative. This week I found out that I have a Republican challenger in my bid for State Representative. Next week the legislature reconvenes to finish out the biennium. Biden/Harris seems to be our hope for the future. There is still a pandemic: we’re struggling with what safe school looks like for teachers and for families, so many of us are out of work, and even the smallest decisions are fraught with consequence. All to say-- there is much going on for each of us these days.
Has it really only been a week since I last wrote? In that time we’ve admitted that children aren’t returning to their school facilities, we’ve closed down non-essential travel and most of us are staying home. Simultaneously, many of us are working harder: as front-line workers, caring for family, and adapting to new systems.
Today the Speaker of the House appointed me to the House Committee on Ways and Means.
The legislature recessed last Friday to work remotely and I can't believe the speed of change since then. While working to develop responsive policy, I’m continuing to gather and share information regarding the impact COVID-19 has on our community. I’m posting daily on facebook and available via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) anytime. There are many many links at the bottom of this message for you to do your own fact finding. This post is extensive with sections on economic challenges, housing, small business, utilities, seniors, access to healthcare, schools and childcare, community response, reliable links, and some poetry. Please feel free to read top to bottom or scroll until you find what meets your needs.
At other periods in American history infrastructure was considered a public good but in the last fifty years or so we've seen a slow turn from these values and towards market solutions.
The Vermont House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in support of S54, an act relating to the regulation of cannabis.
Family Medical Leave Insurance— one of the banner bills for the democrats this biennium— is a hard fought series of compromises.
After breakfast with the kid, and before heading off to work today, I visited a middle school class to talk about climate change.
Happy New Year!
The news was dark this morning, and in the first week of the new year, I must think of it as the darkness before birth. I must look for the light within. This holiday season I revelled in my Hannukah candles, I lit candles at solstice, and Christmas, and New Years Eve, and then last night, I lit candles again. We must light the flames we want to see, right?
The session starts on Tuesday January 7th and we’re all getting ready. Packing bags, organizing calendars, and lining up final details of legislation. There is much anticipation and uncertainty about what will take flight and what bills will be ground down by the wheels of deliberation.
It’s been an incredible “off season”— so many powerful conversations about how to make Vermont work better— to be for us and by us. I’m proud to be returning, with the fire of the season in my belly and each of your stories in my heart to fight for our community.
The legislative session starts back up in four weeks and there is much to do before we return. There are gatherings almost daily as we speak with coalitions and organizations to build a comprehensive story of what is needed. If there is an issue important to you please connect with a conversation, come to my office hours, or send an email. This project of democracy is only as good as each of our contributions.
Welcome back! As we ease our way into fall the energy shifts in our communities and the work of the legislature changes.
I’ve been waiting to update on this until I had definite information, but it’s been too long so I’m going to tell you what I know.
The end of the session is difficult for all of us— constituents and legislators alike—it becomes clear which bills will stay on the wall, whose babies will drown, and the endless compromises seemingly necessary to bring everyone on board.
Did you know that one of my colleagues wants to end Day Light Savings Time?
Montpelier has a delightful tradition of a Valentine bandit who leaves hearts everywhere, and the touch of whimsy was just what I needed this last week.
A dear friend of mine came to testify in Commerce and Economic Development this week. She shared the following quotes and definitions:
Today is Martin Luther King Jr Day. A day devoted to service, and this letter to you is my service for the day. I’ve been having feelings about not participating in the same way— how I can’t be at every march and on every action team. I missed the Women’s March and Homeless Awareness Day with my community. In these first days of the session I’ve grappled with a new form of service— slower, more detail-oriented, but still very collaborative. I’m more mindful of the slow arc of history and how the building blocks of today’s work can fit into the liberation of tomorrow.
Every day in the legislature I’m asking myself what I’m doing to carry forward the legacy of those who have fought before me. This could be drafting or supporting sweeping legislation for anti-bias police work or educational reform (the ethnic studies bill). But, at this point in the session the path to liberation is in the details: it means asking about data that our agencies collect (or don’t), ensuring that we do our own internal work, and making sure that my own strong voice is always, every day, making space for more voices from the margins.
In committee we’ve begun to lay the groundwork for a year of progress. Economic development means more than corporate tax incentives and subsidized electricity rates. In fact, tax incentives rarely make a dent and we want policy that works— and works for all of us. What does work? Strategies that improve communities and support small businesses: affordable childcare, communication and transportation infrastructure, a well educated workforce, and a regulatory environment that is both supportive and transparent. Here’s a great report from State Auditor, Doug Hoffer- [Making Economic Development Policy: Anecdote or Peer Reviewed Literature](https://legislature.vermont.gov/Documents/2020/WorkGroups/House%20Commerce/Auditor/W~Doug%20Hoffer~Economic%20Development%20Policy~1-15-2019.pdf)
Over the past week we heard testimony from throughout state government on issues ranging from employment rates to captivate insurance regulations to meat-processing facilities. Perhaps absurdly, I find all three of these topics fascinating. We have one more week of ground-work and then will start discussing a bill to ban non-compete clauses. If you (or someone you know) has been impacted by a contract provision on non-compete clauses, please be in touch.
In the midst of national conversations the happenings of the Vermont Statehouse are a model of tri-partisan leadership these days. . . Perhaps because we haven’t really started discussing legislation. . . Or perhaps it’s the government shutdown. Thanks to a combination of good luck and our incredible treasurer Beth Pierce, most Vermonters will see little impact. However, Vermont’s Department for Children and Families (DCF) will be issuing February 3SquaresVT benefits early, on January 20th. These benefits will be for the entire month of February. If you aren’t sure if this applies to you, call the Benefits Service Center at 1-800-479-6151 to speak to a benefits specialist. AND if you are a federal government employee currently not being paid, please apply for unemployment benefits with the Department of Labor.
In addition to being in touch about legislation, I’m available for “constituent service,” helping you correct any issues you have with the delivery of government service like healthcare and food stamps (just don’t ask me about parking tickets unless you think you can help me). Please don’t hesitate to reach out. I truly want a government that works for all of us.
In solidarity and hope,
We’re figuring this out, we’re making change, and we’re coming together!
We're really doing it: we're Committing to Community! More than 57,000 people have already voted in Vermont. Our town clerk ran out of stickers. There are free desserts all over town! This is the year. Right?
We did it! You did it. We did this together: the campaign team, more than 50 volunteers, more than 150 donors, and the entire West Brattleboro community. According to unofficial results, I am the Democratic nominee for Vermont House of Representatives in Windham 2-1.
It may be wet out, but it's a beautiful day for democracy!
Polls are open at the Municipal Center (230 Main Street) until 7pm.
If you know someone who needs transportation to vote, have them call or text Chad Simmons at 802-451-8627 to arrange a ride. (Rides will be available until 6pm.)
The primary is tomorrow—Tuesday the 14th—and I’m filled with such incredible gratitude for the team we’ve put together.
We need to have the courage to listen deeply, to go into the community, sit on doorsteps, and say “What matters to you?” That’s what it’s going to take for Vermont government to be the participatory democracy that we say it is.
It’s going to take each of us stripping away our righteousness and walking towards each other, with questions, with coalitions, and with excitement for this new future.
Our healthcare system is broken. I think we can all agree on that. People are suffering, dying, and going bankrupt because they can’t afford the care they need. This has to stop.
Election day is nearly here, and I hope you and your friends have been getting to the polls! To mark the last weeks of primary season, we're screening a new important documentary about voter suppression: Capturing the Flag, a film by Anne DeMare. Join us Wednesday, August 1 at 7pm in the Hooker Dunham Theatre at 132 Main St. Refreshments will be served!
The way I see it, good policy is built of three threads: what researchers can tell us (evidence-based practices), what people who implement policy can tell us (professional experience), and what communities can tell us (lived experience). I’ve built a career on listening, on making spaces for people to speak, and on finding strategies at the intersection of these three threads.
Emilie, her family, and campaign volunteers marched in the Brattleboro Goes Fourth parade, today. Some of our signs included "Work for Democracy" and "Everyone Help - Help Everyone."
Housing in Vermont has been at crisis levels for many years now. Brattleboro has one of the lowest vacancy rates in the country, and our wages don't come close to the more than $20 per hour needed for market rate housing.
Is your yard feeling left out of the political excitement this primary season?!? Fear not, our lawn signs are here!
Celebrate the First Day of Voting this primary season!
Vote at the Town Clerk's office, then stroll on up Main Street and join us on the Common for food, music, and fun.
Emilie will be MC'ing the Community Vision Stage at Tiny House Fest this weekend!
Meet Jennifer Jacobs, who helps organize our campaign volunteers. Jen is a small business owner with deep roots in our community. She says:
Proud to announce my first endorsement, from Vermont State Employees' Association (VSEA). Unions are the bedrock and lifeline for workers' rights in this country, and around the world. I couldn’t be more proud to be endorsed by this union, and I look forward to working every day in the legislature to support our public sector.
So many amazing folks are helping with the work of this campaign! Let me introduce you to Joyce Sullivan, a key member of our Events Team:
Follow this link to order!
Over the next few weeks, I want to introduce you to some of the amazing folks who are working on this campaign with me. Meet Sierra Dickey, our Campaign Coordinator.
Join Emilie and the campaign team for a glorious weekend in Brattleboro!
Here's where to find us:
On Tuesday, Emilie filed her petition to run for State Representative for Brattleboro District 1. Though only 50 signatures are required, Emilie's petition had more than 200.
Here is the full announcement:
Chicken, baked beans, coleslaw, and community! The barbecue takes place yearly on Western Avenue in the West Brattleboro village center. 11 am - 2 pm, but come early because they always sell out.
Sometimes it helps to speak the language of the people in power, or at least the people you are speaking to, so let’s make the case for an increased minimum wage and paid family leave using Governor Scott’s own words and logic:
Join Emilie and the campaign team at Camp for a Common Cause 2018!
Happy Mother’s Day! I’m running for office because I’m a mother. But not simply because I want to make the world a better place for my son—I think he’ll do that quite well himself....
I was proud of my state these last few weeks, as student activists made their voices heard, and our legislature listened: quickly passing a series of new measures to increase the safety of our gun culture. When we talk about guns in Vermont we often get into the same conversation about “here and away” or “the way things were.” Sometimes we enter the national dialogue and start talking about “rights.” These are all perfect frames to unpack and ask ourselves questions like “whose history?” and “whose rights”? What did the Abenaki think of those guns? Do we hear the stories of mothers whose sons and fathers shot themselves, or the thousands and thousand of women who have been threatened—“kept in line” by guns throughout Vermont history?
- May 2022
- April 2022
- March 2022
- February 2022
- January 2022
- September 2021
- August 2021
- May 2021
- April 2021
- March 2021
- February 2021
- November 2021
- January 2021
- September 2020
- August 2020
- July 2020
- March 2020
- February 2020
- November 2020
- January 2020
- September 2019
- July 2019
- April 2019
- March 2019
- February 2019
- December 2019
- January 2019
- August 2018
- July 2018
- June 2018
- May 2018
- April 2018
- December 2018
- November 2018
- October 2018