Accelerating into February

We are now in week five of the 2017 legislative session. A number of bills have begun to advance out of committees and onto the House and Senate floor for consideration. Now that more bills are advancing to the floor for possible passage, I will post a weekly roundup of all of the bills that are passed through the House and how I voted for them. 

February is an important time in the Vermont House. The first weeks of session are spent getting up to speed in committee hearings. Little by little, priorities begin to emerge as committees hear feedback from Vermonters. The ideas that generate the most support and consensus are drafted into bill form and debated in committee. Once vetting is complete, the committee members vote to decide whether to advance the issue to the entire House.

In the Education Committee, we have been busy reviewing proposals to strengthen our education system. Testimony has been collected on a range of issues. We’re drafting several pieces of legislation, including a package of reforms to ensure proper rollout of Vermont’s universal prekindergarten system, increasing access to career and technical education, and potential tweaks to Vermont’s education finance system. I am optimistic that we will make progress in these areas this year.

Bills are beginning to advance in other committees around the State House, as well. You may have heard about some of the issues currently being debated in the House and Senate. Many uncontroversial bills go unnoticed and pass into law without much fanfare. There are some high visibility bills that generate a lot of comment in the media and around the state. Based on your emails, these issues include questions like whether Vermont should legalize adult marijuana use, how to pay for cleaning up Vermont’s waterways, and taking action against executive overreach in the aftermath of the President’s immigration policies.

I welcome your comments on any of the above issues. Your voice is important and can make a real difference. For instance, I recently received a lot of feedback about changes to motor vehicle inspection rules and made a point to pass along the views of community members to the Transportation Committee and to the Governor’s Office. It is critically important that you have the opportunity to be heard. I’m always happy to help facilitate a conversation to get to the bottom of issues of importance.

You can also attend a public hearing to make your views known. This week a committee held a public hearing on legislation to raise the minimum wage. I know that for many residents it’s difficult to travel to the State House to testify in the evening. You can always reach out to me or Rep. Houghton if you’d like to testify before a committee during the day. We’re happy to help facilitate an opportunity for you to provide information.

Another opportunity to provide feedback is at an upcoming public hearing on the FY2018 State Budget. Members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are holding a regional hearing on Monday, February 13, 2017 to collect testimony from Vermonters on the State’s priorities. The hearing will be held from 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. in the Janice Couture Room (108) of the Community College of Vermont in Winooski (1 Abenaki Way, Winooski, VT 05404).