COVID numbers in our region continue to be of concern, with community spread seen as the primary driver, so please take the necessary precautions to keep our neighbors safe!
It was another busy week in the remote Statehouse, beginning early on Monday with a meeting of the Franklin County delegation with Franklin Watershed/Lake Carmi Campers Association members to hear their priorities for the legislative session and a recap of progress that has been made. Lake Carmi is a valuable asset to our region that has been enjoyed by generations of Vermonters, and it is Vermont’s only designated “Lake in Crisis”; it is well-deserving of our attention in the Legislature.
Later that day, the Champlain Valley Superintendents Association hosted a Legislative priorities meeting on Zoom, providing a laundry list of issues that we should be paying attention to – pupil weighting, school construction, ethnic studies, and early literacy are all a priority for the CVSA this biennium.
It is important to note that the date to introduce long-form bills is February 23, and the crossover date is March 12 – this is the date by which the House must pass bills to the Senate if they are to be taken up by both chambers this year. Please recall that this is only the first year of a two-year cycle, so anything not passed by adjournment of this session can be taken up again next January.
On the House floor, there was debate about H.81, a bill relating to collective bargaining for healthcare benefits for public school employees, which passed without amendment. Nearly another 50 bills were introduced, the Budget Adjustment Act passed, and H.89, a liability exemption bill for the Agritourism industry was debated and supported. Additionally, the House approved an appointment to fill a vacancy on the Judicial Nominating Board, and the Joint Assembly re-elected the Sergeant at Arms and the Adjutant General of the Vermont National Guard in uncontested elections. Because we are operating remotely, and the ballot was contested, members were instructed to cast paper ballots for three UVM Legislative Trustees and mail them in to the Statehouse.
Caucus meetings this week focused on a Broadband bill coming out of House Energy and Technology (Rural Economic Development Working Group) and the Vermont Event Planners Association with regards to COVID restrictions/loss of revenue (Tourism Caucus).
I also attended the second of four lunchtime briefings on the State Employees and Teacher Pension Funds – a who, what, where, and why of how they work and what the issues are that they are facing.
In the House General Committee, our week was packed with bill introductions and testimony – H.211 (Recovery Residences), H.96 (Truth and Reconciliation Task Force), J.R.H 2 (Eugenics Apology), H.149/H.188/H.295 (Adjutant General qualifications/selection process) and information sessions on the Vermont Housing and Conservation Coalition and Pathways VT. To wrap up the week, we put the finishing touches on our Committee’s memo to Appropriations on the Governor’s FY’22 Budget. Although there were a few items that the Committee was not united on, for the most part we were in agreement, particularly if supporting legislation can be passed to stand up those budgetary asks.
I look forward to “seeing” many of you on Zoom for the second Franklin Co Legislative Breakfast on Feb 20 and at Town and School informational meetings throughout this week and on March 1. Please do not forget to vote – you may request an absentee ballot from your Town Clerk or vote in person on March 1. Thank you for the opportunity to serve. Your comments and concerns are welcome at [email protected] or www.hangoforhouse.com
Rep Lisa A Hango, Franklin-5