It is true that the final days of the Vermont Legislature were marked by negotiations falling short on two important bills concerning paid family leave and minimum wage.
Since the Legislature convenes using a “biennial” (two-year) time period to get its work done, the body will have next year to address unfinished business on these and other policy priorities.
The outcome of this first year in the biennium reminds us that it is not easy to pass a bill. Well-crafted legislation takes hard work of many people, collaboration within and across political affiliations, and time invested to listen to all points of view and to resolve differences.
It then takes finding consensus among the 150-member House of Representatives, the 30-member Senate, and the governor.
However, the Legislature did accomplish a number of important priorities that we can take stock of. Upon the governor’s response to the remaining bills, my district mate, Rep. Maxine Grad, and I will finish up a summary legislative report. In the meantime, I would like to acknowledge a few of our most notable accomplishments (although most are awaiting governor approval):
• Supporting our economy Broadband expansion: Passed H.513 to help communities across Vermont create and implement broadband solutions.
• Workforce development and economic development: Passed H.533 and S.162 to support workforce development and training across many business types.
• Affordable, quality child care: The state’s fiscal 2020 budget includes funding to help low-income families pay for child care.
Fairer, more just Vermont
• Ethnic studies: Passed H.3 to bring ethnic studies into school curriculums. This bill should help reduce bias and harassment and foster a greater understanding of and appreciation for our cultural and ethnic differences. Signed by the governor.
• Women’s reproductive rights: Passed H. 57 to codify currently protected women’s reproductive rights. Signed by the governor.
Cleaner, healthier Vermont
• Clean water: Passed S.96 to provide dedicated funding for restoring waterways across the state. The bill also introduces a new funding delivery system to achieve cost-effective water quality improvements.
• Lead testing in schools and child care facilities: Passed S.40, to test and remediate lead in the drinking water of schools and child care facilities with funding to support remediation.
• Single-use plastic bag ban: Passed S.113 to ban the use of single-use, throwaway plastic carryout bags at the checkout register. Plastic stir sticks and plastic-foam food and beverage containers will also be banned, and plastic straws can be provided upon request. These do not biodegrade and can last for hundreds of years in landfills or as pollution in our landscapes and waterways.
• Phasing down of hydroflourocarbons: Passed S.30, to phase down these chemicals that are used as refrigerants but are potent greenhouse gases.
As I reflect back to the beginning of the session, a wise Vermont mentor of mine offered me some good old Yankee advice: “Don’t pass a bill if you don’t need it.” One could interpret the statement as similar to another well-known adage: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
I stayed mindful of this sound advice, as I continue my commitment to address important issues of our community and of Vermont, for us and for our future.
I wish to take a moment to thank you for your attention and to thank those who have joined me at one of my community events. I also want to especially thank the businesses that have allowed me to host these events: Moretown General Store, Warren Store, Three Mountain Café, Sweet Spot, Big Picture Theater and Café, and Mad River Taste Place.
As we head into the summer, I plan to attend as many community meetings, events and farmer markets as I can. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me and let me know what is on your mind: email@example.com.
Rep. Kari Dolan, a Democrat from Waitsfield, also represents Duxbury, Fayston, Moretown and Warren in the Vermont House of Representatives.