D-Hyde Park, Lamoille-2, Belvidere, Hyde Park, Johnson, Wolcott
What are your highest priorities for the Legislature as a whole this session?
We enter this session at a time when our communities are under immense stress due to the ongoing burden of the pandemic. This is the backdrop of a legislative session when we are likely to steer into some of the most contentious policy issues facing our state; reproductive rights, pensions, redistricting, and major upheaval in education funding formulas to name a few. My highest priority is that collectively we reflect the leadership that our communities need during such challenging times. That we work in good faith on the many policy issues in front of us, leading with curiosity, openness and with a clear commitment to prioritizing the needs of those who are most vulnerable and stressed during this time.
What do you foresee as hot topics within your committee(s)?
The work of the House Judiciary Committee began with a presentation from the Council on State Governments delivering the results of a multi-year analysis of race-based data in Vermont’s criminal justice system. The results of this extensive analysis demonstrate conclusively that the Vermont court system has disproportionately targeted and sentenced Black Vermonters as compared with white Vermonters. The data will be a thread that runs through all our work from expungements to considering policy approaches to drug-related crimes.
What are some sleeper issues that you think haven’t been given enough attention?
One issue that is creating significant challenges here in Lamoille County, and rural areas across the state, is ensuring that towns have access to police, emergency and fire services. It is becoming increasingly challenging to staff public safety positions. Additionally, small town budgets are straining under the cost of public safety contracts. I believe the state has a role to play in ensuring that rural communities have equitable, financially viable access to emergency services.
What are your thoughts on having to legislate remotely again, and do you think it’s important to get back to an in-person setting soon?
I believe there is a universal interest among legislators to get back into the Statehouse, legislating in person, as soon as possible. As eager as I am to be in person, I am equally grateful to have legislative leadership that has been working incredibly hard to ensure the health and safety of legislative members and staff as well as the state as a whole. At this moment in time our essential health and educational systems are under incredible duress. This is a time to minimize any additional burden on our schools and hospitals. While legislating in person is preferred, it is not essential. If being remote allows for less impact on these crucial systems, then it is absolutely the right call.
What brought you at least a little bit of joy this week as you got the band back together again?
The massive excitable nerd that lives within me was over the moon to get back to committee work this week. I love committee work. It brought me immense joy to sit around the virtual table with my fellow committee members and dig into the bills before us, working together toward a shared goal of a more safe and equitable Vermont.