Legislative Update – Jan 2020

Full Steam Ahead

Reflecting on the first two weeks of this year’s legislative session, it seems as if we just returned after a long weekend rather than close to an eight month recess.  These first weeks have included the Governor’s State of the State along with the introduction of over 300 new bills for committees to consider. Here is just a snapshot.

House Human Services has received more than 30 of these. We have already begun work on several: (H. 424),An act relating to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children; (H. 663), An act relating to expanding access to contraceptives; and (H. 572) An act relating to the Maternal Mortality Review Panel. We held a public hearing on Homelessness Awareness Day, heard a report on one Pre- Kindergarten Education Study, had an update on the lead testing in drinking water at schools and childcare centers; and heard an overview of the current state and proposed redesign of developmental services in Vermont.

The VT Commission on Women and Change the Story VT presented highlights from their recent research. While Vermont women work at a rate that is higher than the national average, they are a disproportionate share of Vermonters who live in poverty. The cumulative impact of women’s lower earnings over a lifetime of work is significant—for women and for Vermont. For example, women over 65 have a median annual income of $19,566, about $11,000 less than men. As a result, 44% of Vermont’s senior women do not have enough income to meet basic expenses. Researchers estimate that if women earned wages equal to that of men who are comparable (in terms of age education, and number of work hours), women’s higher earnings would add an additional $1.2 billion to the state economy. Taking steps to address this is a priority of mine.

As I reported last month, South Burlington residents, along with Vermonters across the state, have identified climate change as a priority issue for the legislature. In response, I’ve co-sponsored, along with 86 other legislators, the Global Warming Solutions Act.(H 688) which is about bringing accountability and strategic planning to how Vermont responds to the climate crisis we face.  H.688 updates our greenhouse gas emissions goals aligning them with the Paris climate treaty and VT’s Comprehensive Energy Plan and making those “goals” statutory obligations of the state.  H.688 draws together a half-dozen state agencies and over a dozen subject matter experts to form the Climate Action Council which will develop a Climate Action Plan.  Within the confines of this Plan, the Agency of Natural Resources will adopt rules, programs, and strategies to meet emissions reduction requirements of the Plan. Importantly, the Council and Plan will address not only issues around GHG reduction, but also how VT addresses the vulnerabilities we face from increasingly severe weather events and the unique challenges faced by rural and lower income communities.  Adaptation, resilience and hazard mitigation are all key aspects of a comprehensive response to the challenges in front of us. The Energy and Technology Committee in the House will take the lead in examining and refining it before it ever comes to the floor for a vote and possible amendments.

This week I along with the vast majority of House members voted to support Prop 2. Chapter I, Article 1 of the Vermont Constitution is historically significant as it is the source of the anti-slavery provision that made the Vermont Constitution of 1777 the first state constitution to outlaw slavery. However, the existing language has been interpreted to only prohibit adult slavery and permit slavery for the payment of debts, fines and costs.  Proposal 2 would clarify that slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited.

Your feedback is critical to helping me bring your voice and ideas to the State House. It’s an honor to serve South Burlington in the People’s House. Please stay in touch and I hope to see you at our Legislative Forum this Monday January 27 at 6:30pm in the SB library in the UMALL.