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.