Welcome back! As we ease our way into fall the energy shifts in our communities and the work of the legislature changes.
I’m never sure if it’s the pull of the school calendar or everything getting ready to die around me, but fall always feels like a time of reconnection and new beginnings. My email has flooded with invitations to community meetings, forums, tours, and conferences, and the time-crunch to submit legislation before our deadline of December feels immediate. It’s also a time for reflection and connection, with the Jewish New Year, my birthday, and Thanksgiving, so my heart feels full as I stretch into a new season of work.
The legislative work we did over the summer happened behind the scenes— fertilizing and weeding for the fall harvest (how far can I stretch this metaphor knowing I didn’t do a lick of gardening this summer?). Standing and study committees met over the summer to plan their work ahead. As a new member of the Government Accountability Committee I was honored to take the lead on a series of trainings we’re doing for the whole body (senators and representatives) to strengthen our data driven decision-making skills and seed some key questions in each legislative committee as we begin the session. The Climate Caucus met multiple times this summer as we look to bring bold solutions to our work on behalf of people and planet. I’m heading up the creation of some Guiding Principles to shape our work— we want to ensure that any legislation is both effective and equitable. The Working Vermonters caucus is also coming together in the fall to look at laws that protect workers— ranging from union protections to wages and workers comp. I’m looking forward to seeing how a new, progressive, slate of officers at the AFL-CIO will shape what is being asked of us and how effective our union partners can be at mobilizing folks to come testify. The Women’s Caucus is focusing its work this biennium on reforming our prison system— both programs, staffing, and physical plant. This work happens in the cracks of many of our days— coordinating meetings, collaborating on ideas for upcoming legislation, and talking to our council who draft legislation. It's remarkable how much we all get done when we're not in session.
We are in the second year of a biennium so all of the legislation that didn’t pass last session is still “on the wall.” This includes the minimum wage increase, universal family medical leave, recreational cannabis, Act 250 reforms, and Brattleboro’s Youth Vote charter change. All are going to be taken up this session along with: student loan relief, solutions for our housing crisis, more criminal justice reform, a bill to create an Office of Child Advocate, real solutions to the Climate Crisis, as well as dozens of other good ideas (and likely some bad ones). I’m working right now to coordinate with colleagues around specific priorities and freshly drafted legislation. And yet there is still so much more to do: real healthcare reform, more progressive taxation, and institutional reforms towards racial and gender equity. Please be in touch so I have your voice at my ear when we set priorities.
Back at Work Since the legislature recessed in June, I’ve been back at work full time with Youth Services. As a program director, I spend my summer focusing on organizational change such as strategic planning and HR, as well as expanding our department's core services. You might have seen in the Reformer or the Commons that we launched two new social enterprises.
My time at Youth Services connects me to the needs of our community— through the real cost of our low medicaid reimbursements when my colleagues can’t afford snow tires, to the crush and hope as a young mother who grew up in state's custody and is attending her first days of college with no idea how she’ll pay for it. I get to hear from so many of you, as you volunteer, donate, come in seeking services and leave having improved our systems. Through my work I’m able to understand the real costs of chronic underfunding and uncoordinated services, of low unemployment rates and equally low wages, of the twin forces of frustration and hope as the whole community looks to us for answers. It’s incredible the duct tape and perseverance that holds our communities together and I’m grateful for all of our parts in it.