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.
Below you'll find:
*Drug Policy *In Committee *On the Floor *Bill Introductions *Covid Connections *Opportunities to Participate
We broke a new record in Vermont recently: the number of people dying of drug overdoses. Deaths such as these are counted by public health experts as “excess deaths.” It’s a rare moment when bureaucratic-speak illuminates truth. Too many of our friends are dying and we’re not doing enough about it. I’ve sponsored a cluster of bills this biennium to revise our approach to substance use from a punitive to a community based harm reduction approach. Three of these bills are getting airtime this week in House Judiciary. I’m grateful for the local partnership of the Windham County Consortium on Substance Use (COSU in thinking through effective intervention, connecting the perspectives of substance users, and the implications of potential statutory changes).
*H395, An act relating to addressing barriers to substance use disorder treatment;
*H397, An act relating to recovery supports for individuals experiencing substance use disorder;
*H419, An act relating to limiting drug-related criminal liability and civil forfeiture actions against persons associated with an approved safer drug consumption program;
*H.422, An act relating to decriminalizing possession and dispensing of a personal use supply of regulated drugs; and
*H644, An act relating to decriminalization of a personal use supply of a regulated drug.
You can find links to them all on my legislative page.
In the Committee on Ways and Means
We continued work on the child tax credit this week as we tried to figure out the administration of monthly payments and how to ensure that our state level payments weren’t going to be an impediment to folks seeking federally funded supports, such as food stamps. I was excited to cap off the week sharing details of the proposal with the Women’s Caucus.
We discussed the role and reality of rising property values as we reviewed the annual property valuation report and began work on a proposal to move our education taxes from a combination of property valuation and income to an entirely income based system.
On the floor this week we passed gun safety regulations, extended telemedicine provisions, created mechanisms for monitoring surface water withdrawals, and expanded options for safe disposal of pharmaceuticals. You can find links to all of them here.
Increasing Gun Safety with S.30. This bill prohibits firearms in hospitals and closes the “Charleston Loophole.” This provision will ensure that law enforcement agencies have time to conduct a background check before someone can purchase a firearm. Under current law, if a background check is slow to return results, a gun is issued, rather than waiting 30 days for a cleared check, as would be the case if this bill was signed into law. The third provision of S30 affirms a judge’s ability to order a defendant — as part of an emergency relief from abuse order — to relinquish their firearms while the order is in effect.
These are important steps to protect victims of intimate partner violence. Half of all Vermont homicides are related to domestic violence, and more than half of those crimes involve guns. These provisions will help families and Vermonters during the days following the filing of a restraining order and prevent folks with previous DV offenses from obtaining firearms. From here, the bill moves to the Senate.
More opportunities to participate:
*Weekly office hours, Sundays at 4pm. You can register here— come for an hour or just pop in with a quick question.
*The next Community Conversation will focus on our collective sense of safety— we will talk about criminal justice, mental health supports, economic realities— and the role of state government. You can register here.
*The Montpelier Happy Hour continues in 2022. You can listen to WDEV at 2pm on Fridays, subscribe wherever you find podcasts or catch back episodes on our website. This last week we talked to my colleague, Mike McCarthy about the process and politics of redistricting.
*Do you remember the ARPA priorities tour that so many of you participated in this Fall? It is my pleasure to share with you the final report of the "Investing in Vermont's Future" community conversations process. Thank you for your contribution to this unprecedented public engagement effort hosted by House Speaker Jill Krowinski and Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint. We heard from over 1400 Vermonters, and analyzed each comment to identify key themes that emerged across conversations. Click here for a link to the brief report summarizing the key themes that emerged. You’ll also find links to interactive data visualizations, where you can dig into key findings and supporting comments in the words of Vermonters.
*Testing: the federal govt launched mail order tests and mine are scheduled to arrive on Tuesday! You can sign up here.
*There is still significant funding to help pay the bills: mortgages, rent, utilities, internet, and heat. Even if you don’t have back bills yet, please be in touch with SEVCA to learn if you’re eligible. Or reach out to me with any questions.
*Boosters are now approved for ages 12+! Did you get your booster yet? Vaccine access is super confusing, difficult to navigate, yet widely available. Vaccines and boosters are available from most primary care providers, through Walgreens, through the DoH portal, through pop-ups at the VFW and Rescue Inc., and the hospital vaccine clinics accept walk-ins.
*Want to find all the Covid resources in one spot? Check it out? What’s missing, what should we add?
I hope you take good care, eat warm food, and enjoy the sun.