It is still early in the legislative session; therefore many bills are still in development within committees. Over 600 bills have already been drafted for consideration. However, many may never leave their committee of jurisdiction for consideration by the full House.
Bills I co-sponsored that did pass on the floor of the House include creation of a group to advise the State Board of Education on the adoption of ethnic and social equity studies standards, taxation of electronic cigarettes, and preserving the right to abortion. These now go on to the Vermont Senate. As well, in a joint session of the House and Senate, Col. Gregory Knight was elected Adjutant and Inspector General of Vermont’s National Guard.
Much of my work as your elected representative in the Vermont House is spent in the General, Housing, and Military Affairs Committee. Here we worked on a paid family and medical leave bill financed through an insurance premium, shared equally by employers and employees. Self-employed individuals can opt in. Testimony on the bill was heard from numerous small and large business owners, lobbyists, and advocates from various perspectives. Testimony illuminated the importance of this bill to better support Vermonters in all aspects of their lives.
Employers testified about how these kinds of programs help attract and retain talent, improve employee morale, and save money in the short- and long-term. Further iterations on the financial modeling and tax income ramifications will be developed as the bill moves to the House Ways and Means and Appropriations Committees. The Governor’s alternative voluntary paid family leave proposal has not yet been introduced as a bill, but will be vetted within my committee as well.
Another bill we are working on seeks to protect victims of domestic and sexual violence from being further victimized by facing homelessness or housing insecurity. The bill provides a number of avenues for victims to make their homes more secure if staying in their home is their preferred outcome. It also allows the early termination of a lease if leaving their home was the safest option. It prohibits landlords from denying access to housing to victims. Compelling testimony was heard from stakeholders and survivors. This bill is a further example of how the committee’s work on housing intersects with many other issues facing Vermonters – safe, affordable, and secure housing is an essential component of healthcare for all.
One bill I sponsored that was just introduced for consideration - a pilot program with the Vermont Veterans’ Home in Bennington addressing food security for veterans. I will keep you informed on its progress, as it promises to develop a collaborative model to be replicated state-wide. You can see a full list of the bills and resolutions I co-sponsored at https://legislature.vermont.gov/people/single/2020/30949#sponsored-bills.
It was fun to host future politicians from South Burlington High School’s Democratic and Republican Clubs in the State House. The students met with the Governor, LieutenantGovernor, attended party caucuses, and observed committee hearings and floor debates in the House and Senate chambers.
I also visited South Burlington’s `Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility for women with other state legislators. Powerful lived experiences were shared as we listened and learned about the realities women who are incarcerated face and barriers for reentry.
Thank you to those who attended last week’s lively Legislative Forum at the South Burlington Public Library. Hope you can join me and your other elected officials at the next forum on Monday March 25 at 6:30 pm at the library, once again moderated by Vince Bolduc.
VT House of Representatives
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