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,