QUESTION: Vermont is one of a handful of states that has a part time citizen legislature. As you are running for office, you are also seeking a job within the state of Vermont. Although some take pride in Vermont’s citizen legislature, some say the compensation for legislators prevents a full spectrum of Vermonters from being able to run for (and hold) office.
Do you think Vermont should rethink the way legislators are compensated, and how would you like it to change?
ANSWER:The Vermont Legislature is at a crossroads, and this is a very important issue: do we wish to remain a citizen Legislature, or do we want to employ State Representatives and Senators full-time? And what does fair compensation look like for these public servants? Currently, we are neither a true citizen legislature nor a professional one - we are hovering in between. During the pandemic, our obligations to our constituents certainly were year-round, and many of us worked accordingly without additional compensation, except when we were in Special Session. In normal times, Vermonters could be well-represented with a short annual session of citizen legislators IF the number of bills introduced were capped, and IF parties agreed ahead of time to only take up bills that affect the revenue of the State, infrastructure projects, or public health and safety. Recently, there have been nearly 1000 bills introduced each biennium, and many of them are duplicative or special interest agendas from a legislator’s pet project in their home district. This does not serve the State well, costs taxpayers additional money for time in session, and unnecessarily takes away from legislators’ home lives and “day jobs”. Our legislative session either needs to be streamlined, or it needs to be professionalized, but the current in-between status precludes many Vermonters from seeking office.
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