After the pleasure of meeting with many of you at Town Meetings last week and having a few days of downtime, this week rapidly evolved into a very different week than last. Our concern over the COVID-19 state of emergency is heightened, and many of our efforts have been directed towards addressing those concerns. For the latest information on the Legislature’s response to this crisis, and to avoid duplication, please refer to the update being developed by Rep Fegard and myself on her website https://www.charenforhouse.com/updates.html
This week began on Monday with a great outing on a beautiful, Springlike day to the Gagne Farm in Highgate for the Governor’s annual ceremonial tree-tapping, an event well-attended by Administration officials, local school children, family, friends, and neighbors. Thank you to the Gagne Family for hosting us and reminding us what Franklin County is all about!
On Tuesday, my House General Committee set priorities for bills that needed to be discussed and voted on in time for the March 13 crossover deadline – collective bargaining, Eugenics Survey apology and reconciliation task force, updating military veterans’ intake forms, adding Abenaki place names to State Park signage, an omnibus alcohol bill, rental housing rehabilitation, health, and safety, and establishing a Provost Marshal position at the National Guard. In addition, I was given an update by VTRANS regarding work to be done on RT 120 in Franklin, which I passed on to your town officials, so please reach out to them for the latest information on that issue.
On Wednesday at the Rural Economic Development Caucus meeting, we heard from a representative for the Working Lands Enterprise Fund about projects for value-added agricultural and forestry products in the dairy, forest products, and foods sectors. These grants are available to help rural business operations diversify to offer new products that will fuel a growing Vermont market for all things grown and manufactured at home in our State. For more information on programs and grants, please visit their website at www.workinglands.vermont.gov.
By Thursday, it became quite clear that many of our set priorities would be replaced by brainstorming in Committee how each of our areas of jurisdiction would be affected by, and required to respond to, the growing crisis of COVID-19. All plans to take up other bills were scrapped in order to draft legislation around emerging needs in Health Care, Human Services, Housing, Corrections and Institutions, and Education. As a result, my committee has an 11-page tentative housing bill addressing the needs of the homeless, renters, and homeowners ready to work on if the need should arise when we are called back into session, the full House passed out a 25-page bill written by the House Health Care Committe Friday evening that specifically addresses issues around obtaining consistent, affordable healthcare during this emergency situation (details on the web address listed above), and other committees also have their own drafts of legislation dealing with Commerce and Human Services needs. Remaining committees continued to work on budgeting and infrastructure priorities, which are changing on a daily basis. Crossover has been extended to a date uncertain, and we are officially adjourned until March 24. All public events at the Statehouse are suspended until April 1.
This remains a working week for us – we will be in our home districts and available to answer inquiries as best we can while we monitor the rapidly changing landscape via the internet. Please do not hesitate to reach out to any of us with specific concerns.
It is an honor to serve as your Representative.
Representative Lisa A Hango