We begin again. Last week the Legislature reconvened in person in Montpelier and passed a resolution to meet virtually for at least two weeks, hoping then to return full-time in person for this second year in this biennium. In the meantime, we will be meeting on Zoom — not preferred but essential while the contagion continues to escalate.
In the coming months, there is a lot at stake for the future of Vermont. With enormous federal dollars still coming in to help redress the economic impact of the pandemic, we will focus in on how to utilize these funds prudently. These one-time funds cannot be used to undergird ongoing programs but are already game changing for our state’s housing shortage, broadband buildout and infrastructure needs.
Many momentous decisions are on our legislative agenda, including the unfunded pension liability in a way that’s fair to teachers, state employees and taxpayers; equitable education financing; and amending the Vermont Constitution to guarantee personal reproductive liberty to all Vermonters. If passed, this amendment would then be on the statewide ballot in November for voters to have the ultimate decision.
The Vermont Climate Council’s report needs to be operationalized to assure the state’s environmental and economic resiliency in the years ahead. Increasing access to child care, health care and mental health services are also desperately needed. This year, the state undertook its 10-year reapportionment of legislative districts. With population growth in South Burlington, it looks like we will have gained an additional fifth representative in the Vermont House.
Here are some of the issues I worked on over the summer and fall off-session. Last month I wrote about the need to focus on workforce development, but not leave the worker behind by modernizing Vermont’s outdated wage laws and increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. Another issue I have worked on for three years is expanding the Recovery Home Network statewide, which is so desperately needed with overdose deaths at an all-time high for a second year in a row.
I also introduced legislation to better understand the health effects associated with mold and mycotoxins in water damaged buildings and enhancing food allergy awareness in restaurants. I am also asking the state to repeal the taxing of performing arts admissions for nonprofit theaters and performing arts organizations.
To discuss any of these issues in person, join me and your other elected statewide legislators at our upcoming legislative forum on Monday, Jan. 24 from 6:30-8 p.m. Check out the South Burlington Library’s event page for Zoom details. Hopefully, later this spring we can have these in person at the library. I am looking forward to the conversations.
Rep. John R. Killacky is a Democrat who represents South Burlington in the Vermont House of Representatives.