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!
In honor of Black History Month, the statehouse is hosting a show that started at the Root Center in Brattleboro. Their website describes the project this way: “. . .the I Am Vermont Too photo-story project shines a light on the diversity of identities and experiences of People of Color all across the State of Vermont. It looks to provide an opportunity for reflection and dialogue for majority-white communities who may be unaware of their participation in perpetuating racial stereotypes and harming People of Color. . . The I Am Vermont Too project is a medium for People of Color to tell our own stories and convey that this type of racism has a significant impact in our lives. This is the first known statewide, multi-generation project done only by People of Color living and going to school in the state.”
The Branches of Government seem to be canceling each other out these days, as the governor is wielding his veto pen a little too freely. On Friday the Senate passed our Brattleboro Charter Change after 4 years of movement in the House and some pandemic interference. The governor has signaled that he plans to veto. Brattleboro voters believe in our youth and understand the value of bringing them deeper into the community. By trusting our youth with the vote, we show them that their voices and their actions matter. I just can’t believe that the governor, who talks so much about local control and our demographic challenges can’t permit Brattleboro voters this responsibility.
Last session, we passed S79, a rental registry bill to increase safety for renters and apartment owners and to get our head around how many rental units we even have in this state. The governor vetoed it and we’re working on an amended version.
We also passed a contractor bill which the Senate just took up and passed and the governor just vetoed, a bill that brings needed consumer protection to the realm of home and residential construction. H.157 creates a residential contractor registry within the state’s Office of Professional Regulation to protect consumers against fraud, deception and breach of contract. Vermont is one of only eight states without any regulation of building contractors. Registration, recommended as the lightest-touch regulation, will help professionalize and improve the work of our residential construction industry. Tighter, better insulated buildings, and especially weatherization of older homes, requires advanced understanding of the interactions of the building as an energy system, in order to optimize comfort, durability, and health and safety, as well as energy efficiency.
And the gun bill— S30 passed last week— closing the Charleston Loophole, clarifying our relief from abuse order procedures, and banning guns in hospitals. These are common sense protections and, importantly, further protect victims of intimate partner and domestic violence. The governor is expected to veto this bill.
If any of this is as objectionable to you, as it is to me, please send the governor’s office a note or write an op-ed in your local paper.
In the Committee on Ways and Means this last week we discussed legislation to formalize telehealth licensure, an expansion of current use statute, education finance, and voted out a bill that exempts land owned by Abenaki tribes from property taxation. As the bill reads: “Vermont lands are the historic and current territories of the Western Abenaki people. The General Assembly acknowledges the Abenaki people as the traditional land caretakers of Ndakinna (En-DAH-kee-nah), which includes parts of Vermont, New England, and Quebec.” H. 556 recognizes the historic wrong committed when the land was taken and provides a statewide and municipal property tax exemption for property owned and controlled by Vermont-recognized Native American tribes or by a non-profit organized for the tribe’s benefit and controlled by the tribe.
On the Floor this Week
I already shared last week’s top legislative wins: the Child Tax Credit and the Reproductive Liberty Amendment! I’m still enthralled by this accomplishment and have enjoyed reading coverage in the national press. While I often resist the siren call of Vermont exceptionalism, we really are leading the way with these two! We also passed new workers compensation insurance rates and a bill to clarify requirements regarding employers providing leave for crime victims. You can read more here.
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, scheduled for March 16th at 7pm, 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 seems to have some technical challenges in our podcasting apps. You can still listen to WDEV at 2pm on Fridays, or find us on my YouTube channel. Please subscribe wherever you find podcasts or catch back episodes on our website. We’ve recently talked about the new Child Tax Credit and Pensions and are gearing up for a show about vetoes.
*Testing: the federal govt launched mail order tests and mine arrived! You can still sign up here. They come in little orange boxes.
*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.
*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, celebrate the wins, and enjoy the mud on the roads or shimmer of the ice on the trees.