Various constituents have asked what off-session days are like for a state legislator. Here is my best effort at describing a recent day outside of the January to May in-session timeframe. It is not atypical.
6 a.m. Step onto the ice at Leddy Arena for skating practice.
7:30 a.m. Get home to change clothes for the day and let the dog out.
8-10:10 a.m. Participate in a meeting of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility at Main Street Landing in Burlington. They count 680 members, reflecting the broad spectrum of businesses in Vermont, from every county except Essex. Their mantra is “People, Planet, Prosperity.” Their mission is “to foster a business ethic in Vermont that recognizes the opportunity and responsibility of the business community to set a high standard for protecting the natural, human, and economic environments of our citizens.” At this particular meeting, they reviewed their 2018 legislative agenda, honored Waterbury Rep. Tom Stevens for his work on minimum wage and family and medical leave (both passed by the Legislature, but were vetoed by the Governor), and discussed the broad outlines of their likely 2019 legislative agenda.
10:30-11:30 a.m. Observe Family Court at Costello Courthouse on Cherry Street. It was a case that started as a request for relief from abuse and shifted to a case involving stalking. The woman requesting the order represented herself; the man from whom she was requesting relief was represented by an attorney. The judge was gentle but no-nonsense with both parties. His patience was remarkable, as were his insightful questions, to both parties. I had to leave without knowing the disposition of the case.
11:45 a.m. Get home to let the dog out. (She is 20-years-old, and nature is unforgiving.)
12-1:30 p.m. Participate in a Kimball Avenue lunch meeting with the Vermont Developmental Disabilities Council. At least 60 percent of the council’s members must be self-advocates or family caregivers. They are appointed by the Governor for three-year terms. Other members represent agencies in state government or partner organizations in Vermont. Members work together to promote policies and best practices that will improve the lives of Vermonters with developmental disabilities and their families. The council is funded entirely with federal money, and so cannot lobby state legislators, but the council can and does educate us. At this particular meeting, we were able to talk one-on-one with several self-advocates and family members, hearing first-hand their situations, their needs. (FYI, under federal law, a developmental disability is defined as “a severe, often lifelong disability that affects people before they reach age 22 and substantially limits functioning ability in three or more life activities such as self-care, receptive and expressive language, learning, mobility, self-direction, independent living, and employability.”)
2:30-3:30 p.m. Observe Treatment Court back at Costello Courthouse. Treatment Court works with eligible defendants facing criminal charges resulting from their substance use disorder. The judge leads a team that connects defendants with the support they need to get on an even keel. The process includes rewards and sanctions, community supervision, and random drug tests. To “graduate” from the program, participants must take part in treatment, attend court hearings, and follow program guidelines. I was not prepared for the depth of caring, the empathy shown by the judge to every defendant - even to those who had slipped and to whom he awarded sanctions and very tough words, including the reminder of what not “graduating” meant, i.e. jail. I was also not prepared for how open and respectful these pretty rough-in-appearance defendants were with the judge. Lives on the edge were pulling back to a safer place for them and for their communities.
4 p.m. Get home to take care of the dog, eat dinner, change into concert garb.
6:45 p.m. Arrive at Winooski High School to “rock out” with the WHS Spartan Band at our fall concert. (I retired from WHS in 2008 and have played French horn with the band since the 1990s.)
8:30 p.m. Peruse books at Barnes & Noble. I come upon a lady who missed the bus and needs a ride. I deliver her to her residence and go home, to “stay put” till the next morning.
Please do not hesitate to contact me by email at email@example.com, by phone at 802-862-7404, at my home at 232 Patchen Road, on the street, or at Trader Duke’s from 8:30 to 9:30 on Saturday mornings.