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.
Confirm your registration status on the Vermont Secretary of State’s website here.
My own legislative and electoral work wouldn’t have been possible without Angela Berkfield who passed away last week at the age of 43. Ange did so much for our community and I've appreciated the celebrations of her spirit and work that I've read here and participated in this last week. Ange showed me that it’s necessary to try, it’s ok to stumble, but the act of caring— of community care, of tough conversations, and open hearts, is necessary for us all. What we do in this life matters, and I’m continually honored that I get to serve each of you. ARPA Tour Vermont House Speaker Jill Krowinski and Senate Pro Tem Becca Balint Announce "Investing in Vermont's Future" Community Conversations.
Vermont has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make significant investments that will transform and shape the future of our state. Thanks to federal stimulus funds, a surge in state revenues, and more potential federal funds on the way, the Vermont Legislature is positioned to make historic investments in Vermont's pandemic recovery, address critical infrastructure needs, support Vermonters' health and well-being, and strengthen Vermont's communities, businesses, environment, and climate. This opportunity must be informed by the voices of Vermonters and the experiences of their day-to-day lives. Throughout the fall, Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski and Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint are reaching out to people across the state to listen to Vermonters on the issues that they care about, what they struggle with in their communities, and what they envision for Vermont’s future. These discussions will be used to inform policy and budgetary work when the Legislature convenes in January.
These virtual “Investing in Vermont’s Future: Community Conversations” will include regional discussions, intentional conversation with voices not typically heard in the Legislative process, and an online questionnaire. The online questionnaire can be found at this link.
Come join me at the WINDHAM COUNTY CONVERSATION This TUESDAY, September 28th from 5:30-6:30pm. Register for Zoom event at this link.
If you are interested in helping set up an intentional conversation with a community or group not typically heard in the Legislative process, please reach out to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Climate Action Plan Feedback
Join us at an upcoming meeting to discuss how climate change is affecting you and your community and offer feedback on proposed strategies for the Climate Action Plan. The Climate Action Plan will serve as the State’s roadmap for mitigating and preventing the impacts of climate change, and the ideas and feedback you share with the council will inform the final Action Plan, to be adopted by the Council on December 1st.
In 2020, the Vermont Legislature passed the Global Warming Solutions Act. The Act requires Vermonters to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and helps communities prepare to face more extreme weather caused by climate change. The Act also directed the Vermont Climate Council to develop a Climate Action Plan to guide this work.
The Action Plan aims to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next several decades, prepare and protect Vermont communities and landscapes from the greatest risks of climate change and create new jobs to enable this transformation. While climate change affects everyone, some people face greater risks due to where they live, their race, ethnicity, income, disability, health, age and/or occupation. Advancing solutions that address the needs of Vermonters facing the greatest risk is a key aspect of the plan.
September 30, 6 to 7:30 pm: Virtual event via Zoom October 5, 6 to 7:30 pm: Virtual event via Zoom for BIPOC communities October 6, 6 to 7:30 pm: Virtual event via Zoom
The Pupil Weighting Taskforce has reached it’s mid-point in our exploration of equitable funding structures for Vermont schools. We’ve wrestled with how to measure rates of poverty, how to improve transparency, and way to ensure funding reaches communities that need it. Over the next month, our Joint Fiscal Office is running models of various scenarios so we can understand and mitigate the impacts of any proposed changes. I’m excited that we’re exploring moving from a partly income based education property tax to an entirely income based system. If you would like to learn more, you can visit our committee page. We have a public hearing scheduled for October 29th from 11am-1pm, if you would like to speak please email email@example.com.
My colleagues asked me to chair the joint Unemployment Insurance Taskforce view here. The UI system in Vermont was desperately underfunded before COVID and now it’s broken. This last legislative session we set in motion a number of fixes including an increase to monthly benefits tied to the end of the federal supplemental payouts. Unfortunately, the administration hasn’t yet implemented this mandate (you can read more about it here. Our task force will be looking at a combination of short and longer term improvements to both benefits and trust fund stability.
The Joint Fiscal Committee met earlier this month to review revenue projections, approve grants, and hear updates on the spend down of federal grants. We also took the opportunity to push the administration on the planned wind down of the GA motel housing program. I’m glad to say they’ve reversed course and our neighbors have a temporary reprieve, to safely remain housed in area motels during the delta surge. I discussed the history, present, and future of this program with attorneys from Legal Aid and Josh Davis of Groundworks Collaborative on a recent episode of the Montpelier Happy Hour here.
Want to help Build Back Better? Want family medical leave, affordable health care, accessible childcare, and strong communities? Want a government that trusts in our voice and our vote? Want to talk about politics AND get stuff done? Come join the BRATTLEBORO DEMS!
The Brattleboro Democratic Committee provides a home base for people who want to participate in local and state governance. Come join like-minded folks who value good government - come join the BRATTLEBORO DEMS! The reorganization caucus occurs every two years and is a fun opportunity for all Democratic voters in Brattleboro to meet, organize and begin planning events in anticipation of next year’s midterm election. The Windham County Democrats reorg is on Monday October 18th at 6:30. We would love for you to join us. If you have questions or would like to participate in the committee, please contact Liz McLoughlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m starting to get ready for when the new legislative session begins in January. If you work with an organization that would like to meet with the delegation, please let me know. If you have an idea for legislation, speak now. If you want to help with some fall forums, reach out. To help me through the transition, I’m happy to introduce two new interns from UVM:
Hi! My name is Alison Hager and I’m a junior at the University of Vermont studying Sociology and Political Science. I’m originally from New Jersey, but I have been coming to Vermont since I was little to ski and enjoy the fresh Vermont air. In my free time, I like to read Sylvia Plath novels and watch Alfred Hitchcock movies (my favorite is Rear Window). I’m very excited to be interning under Rep. Kornheiser this fall, and help her strengthen Vermont community voices.
Hello! My name is Abigail Hageman, and I am currently a freshman at the University of Vermont with a major in Political Science. I am originally from Narragansett, Rhode Island, where I live with my mom, dad, younger brother, and my two dogs, Molly and Maisy. Vermont has been my second home for as long as I can remember, which is why I am excited to intern for Representative Kornheiser and aid in the fight to uphold equal rights and ensure that the needs of Vermont will be heard and met by those who care most.
In case you missed the news, a few weeks ago Senator Sanders joined us in Brattleboro to celebrate Labor Day. I was glad to speak at the event with Bernie. You can watch the full video here, and read an excerpt of my speech below reflecting on the confluence of Rosh Hashanah and Labor Day.
We welcome the new year with sweetness and abundance to set the tone and I can’t think of a greater show of abundance than the way that the federal government has stepped up in these last few months. Programs such as Extended UI, rental assistance, direct cash payments to families, and money for the state to meet our communities’ needs the likes of which we haven’t seen for generations.
We’ve learned what is possible when we invest in communities, when we aim for transformational change, when we build not just a safety net for families to fall into but a floor for them to stand on. We know that when the government invests, when we invest, directly in our community— that we spend it on each other, on our children, on food, on a little bit of breathing room. And so we’ve seen what happens when we commit to each other: through small acts of caring (masking, mutual aid.) how with both individual acts AND solid governance we can protect the health of our whole population.
So that’s the sweetness. What we’ve learned about each other, how we’ve showed up to make sure we each feel welcome, how justice can mean each according to need. That we’ve felt for a moment what it is to live that, and what it looks like when we don’t. But the Days of Awe (which begin tonight and end next week with Yom Kippur) are about more than that, they’re about reflection, regret, and atonement. About setting intentions.
Over the last year we’ve seen the cracks in our system widen and I’m grateful of how many more of us can now see and speak of injustice. As a community we’ve learned what work is essential: childcare, healthcare, groceries and cleaning staff. We know that supporting our neighbors, supporting women and work, supporting strong institutions matters. We’re banging pots and pans, we’re putting up yard signs. But are we showing up? Are we showing up for everyone’s labor? Does everyone in this community feel welcome? Does everyone feel able to ask for help and to provide it? (Because we’ll all struggle— this year definitely taught us that.)
When community works: when we’re respected with good conditions and living wages, when government holds some of the pieces for us (like healthcare and family medical leave and progressive tax policy) then we have more space for when our neighbor's car won’t start, or to love on our difficult child, or be curious in a disagreement at town meeting. We have dignity. We don’t need to fight for scraps, We don’t need to wait for it anymore. We can be here for each other, we are here for each other.
That’s the vision I’m carrying forward— with each of you— with amends for each moment we didn’t fight hard enough or rest lovingly enough, and with a renewed commitment to stand in solidarity with each of you.
Thank you and may this be a new year that is sweet for us all.
Vaccines are still available and you can bring a friend: Vermonters over 65 can start registering for boosters, and first and second shots are available for anyone over the age of 12. In Brattleboro there are appointments for both free testing and free shots available this week. Register for a vaccine appointment here (preferred), or call 855-722-7878. You will be asked to provide your name, date of birth, address, email (if available), phone number, and health insurance information (if available, but not required). If you have any challenges with sign up please reach out to me. There are pop-up clinics all around the state so if an appointment sounds complicated, you can find open sites at the same link or just walk into any pharmacy.
We recently were able to reinstate both rental assistance and utility assistance programs. You can learn more about both locally through SEVCA or by going to the Vermont State Housing Authority website.
Unemployment assistance continues to be problematic— extended benefits should be available and new work search requirements are complicated— if you need any help, please be in touch.
As always, please connect with me through: My weekly virtual coffee hour every Sunday at 11am is on hiatus; registration link here if you want to be notified when we start back up.
The Montpelier Happy Hour where I unpack legislation with Olga Peters each Friday. We’re on ITUNES now, you can subscribe here. These last couple weeks we discussed the Vermont Constitution, COVID and public health with Anne Sosin, Unemployment Law, and Housing Marginalize Vermonters.
My newsletters and social media feeds (facebook, twitter, insta links below.) You can find past newsletters on the “blog” tab of my website.
And please keep in mind, I’m still available for help navigating any services (or lack thereof) with you: unemployment insurance, housing challenges, health care. Now more than ever, I’m honored to do this work with all of you. Thank you, and please be in touch.
Yours in solidarity,