Legislative Update – 21 January 2022
Dear Constituents –
This week marked the first full week that Legislators were invited back to the Statehouse to work in 22 months. Members who had a COVID-related reason to stay at home were accommodated via Zoom, so a hybrid model similar to what the Senate is using was in effect. It was important to me to be back in person to be able to fully execute my responsibility to my constituents. Meeting other members in person throughout the day is crucial to the dynamics of being a Legislator. In just one week, I was able to mediate discussion between members who had opposing views, engage in spontaneous conversations with various parties who wanted to weigh in on the issue, and seek last-minute information on bills before us. On the flip side, having the hybrid option provided a recorded livestream for me to review in the evenings that I was made aware of – after all, we can only be in one committee meeting at a time !
On Tuesday, we heard the Governor’s Budget Address for the upcoming year, and we were able to pass the Budget Adjustment Act (updating funding provided by the previous year’s budget) by Friday. This was a much faster process than in previous years, but there were important recommendations included in the BAA that can be acted on immediately by the passage of the bill, H.679. Additionally on the House floor, we dealt with bills held over from last session; H.157 relating to registration of residential contractors and S.78 relating to binding arbitration for members of the Judiciary. Both of these bills were problematic to me in that they were not requested by the populations they affect, and both are adding more layers of bureaucracy.
In the House General Committee, we focused on Homelessness Awareness, holding a joint hearing with House Human Services and a vigil for our homeless population on Wednesday. Legislation related to this issue includes H.93 the Homelessness Bill of Rights. We also took up several bills relating to discrimation (H.320, H.329), land access/ownership equity (H.273), and employment leave (H.477). We heard updates and testimony from affordable housing advocates and organizations, as well as the National Guard on employment rights and tuition benefits.
I attended special issues caucuses throughout the week with the Older Vermonters Caucus, the Rural Economic Development Working Group, the Tourism Caucus, and the Womens Caucus. A myriad of topics were covered in each of these meetings, but one I found particularly relevant to our area was testimony from the operators of Jay Peak and Smugglers Notch ski areas regarding their challenges with the lack of Canadian tourists and the pressures on the housing market and childcare facilities that are driving a shortage of employees. Both of these attractions are important economic drivers to the economy of northern Vermont, and we will do all that we can within the Legislature to support their needs.
Please reach out at me at [email protected] It is an honor to serve you at the Statehouse.
Rep Lisa A Hango, Berkshire
Co-Chair, VT National Guard & Veterans Affairs Caucus