Last month, I was sworn in as your new representative in South Burlington. I am grateful for the opportunity and look forward to working on your behalf in Montpelier. As a citizen legislator, I have a lot to learn and attended fiscal briefings on our $5.9 billion budget, education and health care financing, as well as the principles of our tax policy: fairness, sustainability/reliability, economic competitiveness, tax neutrality, simplicity, and accountability.
Already there are multiple issues in play: revisiting paid family leave, raising the minimum wage, school consolidations, updating Act 250, identifying long-term funding for clean water, proactively addressing climate change, discussing taxing and regulating a cannabis retail market, electing a new Adjutant General of our Vermont National Guard, codifying current law protecting the reproductive rights of Vermonters, and considering a number of constitutional changes.
I was assigned to serve on the House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs which will be my primary focus over the next months as programs, revenue and spending are put in place. The committee considers policy and budgetary decisions relating to “alcoholic beverages; housing; claims against the state; labor relations; military matters, including those relating to civil defense and discharged veterans, their dependents, and survivors; and all matters relating to subjects for which there is no other appropriate committee.” Given the open-ended nature of the committee, many issues pertinent to South Burlington will live with us. You can follow our weekly agenda here: https://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/detail/2020/13.
As you may know, the Vermont Legislature elects the Adjutant and Inspector General of Vermont’s National Guard. In preparation for the upcoming election, my committee was briefed by legislative counsel on Vermont’s statutes relating to the Guard, state and federal authority, and the election of the Adjutant General. Background testimony was given by Maj. Gen. Steven Cray, the current Adjutant General, and Ken Gragg, Deputy Adjutant General and Financial Director of the Military Department. The Guard also presented its annual report on sexual harassment and discrimination to the committee.
As I write this column, currently there are three candidates for Adjutant General: Lt. Col. David Graham, Brig. Gen. David Baczewski, and Col. Gregory Knight. The election is scheduled for Feb. 21 in a joint session of the House and Senate. Candidates have until one week prior to the election to register with the Secretary of State to be listed on the ballot. However, candidates can also be nominated from the floor during the election process.
My committee also hosted a joint hearing with Human Services learning from advocates and agency directors on Homeless Awareness Day. Particularly moving was testimony from those who shared their experiences and obstacles they encountered. We are looking forward to investigating policies that will alleviate homelessness across Vermont. Subsequent testimony informed my committee of shelters, weatherization, and eviction issues. South Burlington’s Beacon Apartments was cited as a successful example of integrated support services as part of permanent housing for the homeless.
During my campaign I heard from you about the importance of investing in affordable housing and healthcare, early education, livable wages, small businesses, and the environment, while striving toward a pragmatic economic bottom line. I bring your issues forward. I am eager for your input. It is indeed an honor to serve you. Feel free to contact me with ideas and concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am fortunate to be one of four South Burlington representatives, along with Maida Townsend, Ann Pugh, and Martin LaLonde. Thanks to those who joined us at the recent legislative forum at the South Burlington Public Library Jan. 28. It was an informative conversation and I look forward to our next monthly legislative forum at the library, Monday, Feb. 25, 6:30 to 8 p.m.