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.