It’s been an honor to serve in my first year as your State Representative. Your feedback, along with advocates, has been crucial as I dove into issues affecting our community in my work on the General, Housing, and Military Affairs Committee.
As too many Vermonters struggle to care for themselves and their families, my committee focused its work on bills gradually increasing the minimum wage over the next few years and developing a paid family and medical leave program. These bills promised to better support Vermonters in all aspects of their lives as well ashelping attract and retain talent, improve employee morale, and save money in the short and long-term. As a freshman legislator, it was fascinating to watch the bills undergo myriad changes as they made their circuitous route through the legislative process. Unfortunately the House and Senate could not agree, and these essential issues will have to be revisited in January.
My committee’s purview also includes a broad array of other topics, including housing and liquor control. Recognizing that safe, affordable, and secure housing is an essential component of healthcare for all, the committee developed protections for victims of domestic and sexual violence from being further victimized by facing homelessness or housing insecurity. To support some of our entrepreneurs, licensing and taxation for Vermont’s burgeoning craft brewers and distillers were streamlined, enabling growth as well as providing a fairer and consistent tax base for the future.
Veterans Affairs is also a part of my committee’s portfolio and here we focused on securing an honorable internment of any unclaimed Veterans remains at the Vermont Veterans Memorial Cemetery and encouraging our 10,000 veterans who were deployed since 1990 to sign up to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Airborne Hazards and Open Pit Registry. The House also modifyied the Adjutant and Inspector General of Vermont’s National Guard’s election process by the Vermont General Assembly, but with difference with Senate colleagues, the bill was held over until January for further discussion.
Columbus Day was renamed Indigenous Peoples’ Day, promising a more robust history for both indigenous and non-native Vermonters, celebrating the cultures, histories, and present-day lived experiences of Abenaki people and other original inhabitants of the Americas.
Many other initiatives moved into law this year though the work of other committees, as legislators prioritized bills to help communities and families thrive. Testing for lead in schools and child care facilities, making child care more accessible and affordable, reducing vaping and tobacco use among youth, and the development of a multicultural curriculum for all schools were some highlights for me to support on the floor of the House.
Environmentally, funding was secured to continue cleanup of our waterways, single use plastic disposable products were banned, polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) like those found in drinking and surface waters in Bennington County were regulated, and electric vehicle and charging stations incentivized. Transportation investments included paving, road maintenance, rail work, bridge construction, aviation, and public transit.
Workforce development strategies providedtraining opportunities for small companies, expanded weatherization programs, decreased barriers for new Americans to enter the workforce, and provided advancement grants for additional adult training and workforce education. Broadband build out supported local municipalities determining appropriate connectivity solutions.
Emotional testimony was heard at public hearings on two high profile issues – guaranteeing women’s reproductive rights and a 24 hour waiting period on gun purchases. It was in these moments that the citizens’ legislature was at its most animated as I listened to and learned from Vermonter’s lived experiences.
Unfortunately, our monthly legislative forums at the South Burlington Public Library are on hiatus until November.I will miss these opportunities to connect in person, but hope to meet constituents over the summer at community meetings, block parties, and summer concerts. I recently enjoyed a visit with senior residents at Grand Way Commons. Please be in touch if you have any questions or want to discuss your priorities for the legislature. I look forward to connecting with you.