Despite the challenges of legislating over Zoom, the session was extremely productive. With the additional $1.052 billion in COVID federal support, major one-time investments will have a long-lasting impact on Vermonters. Approximately half the money was allocated, as we have three years to spend these funds.
Included was $109 million targeted to economic, workforce and community revitalization, $99 million for affordable housing plus $51 million to rental assistance, $150 million for broadband build-out, and $52 million for technology modernization, in addition to $50 million for climate action and $115 million for clean water investments.
My committee, House General, Housing, and Military Affairs, developed the resolution adopted by both the House and Senate that acknowledged and apologized for our state’s eugenics policies and practices that led to forced family separation, sterilization, incarceration and institutionalization for hundreds of Vermonters in the first half of the 20th century.
Unions, the National Guard, alcohol and sports betting were also on our agenda. School employees gained bargaining rights to consider different out-of-pocket health insurance premium shares for support staff, teachers and administrators. Statutes were updated to reflect the current roles of the Vermont National Guard and alcoholic beverage laws were amended to support businesses trying to rebound from the pandemic.
The Department of Liquor and Lottery will study how other states have been impacted by sports betting and report back to my committee for consideration.
Sadly, two consumer protection bills did not make it across the finish line. However, this is the first year in the biennium, and hopefully both will be addressed when we return in January. One establishes a registry of rental housing to support housing safety and the other bill is a contractor registry to protect against fraud, deception, breach of contract and violations of law.
Throughout the session, I worked with the women’s caucus to address sexual misconduct and systemic issues in the women’s prison in South Burlington. Both an independent corrections monitoring commission and an investigative unit were set up, and state law expanded to criminalize sexual contact between department of corrections employees and anyone under the department’s supervision. And, training and certification standards for correctional officers will be developed. As well, $1.5 million was allocated for planning and program design for a much-needed new women’s correctional and reentry facility.
Over the summer hiatus, I will be working on several issues that came into high relief during the pandemic. These include paid family and medical leave, modernizing Vermont’s wage laws and increasing the minimum wage to $15, expanding recovery homes to help those dealing with substance use disorders and establishing a homeless bill of rights.
While we suspend the monthly legislative forums with the South Burlington Library until January, I do look forward to speaking with constituents at summer events at Veterans Memorial Park and at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for our new South Burlington Library library in July.
I was part of the library foundation’s capital campaign and helped raise money to equip the new rooms, expand technology and diversify the collection.
Always glad to speak with neighbors, so feel free to contact me off-session at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rep. John Killacky, a Democrat, represents South Burlington in the Vermont House of Representatives.