Happy New Year!

The Vermont Legislature will begin its 2021-22 biennium on the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 6.

Legislators, including 30 newly elected members, are eager to reconvene to continue assisting Vermonters with the many difficulties presented by the pandemic, and most importantly, to help everyone get back to some sort of normalcy in their daily lives.

To protect the health and safety of staff, legislators and Vermonters at large, the House will conduct its policymaking virtually over Zoom during the months of January and February. Further into the future remains uncertain.

Having 150 members gathered in one space from all corners of the state is clearly unsafe during this pandemic. The Senate is likely to conduct its business at the physical Statehouse, as social distancing is more easily possible for a 30-member chamber.

To incorporate some of the pomp and circumstance of the first day of the session, the speaker and party caucus leaders will preside from the podium and floor respectively to invoke the spirit of the House. Elections for speaker, clerk, resolutions and other key motions will occur on that opening day. Members will take the oath of office simultaneously from home; they will also vote using a secure application on their mobile devices or by a voice-vote roll call depending on the nature of the decision at hand. All of the ceremonies will be streamed publicly via YouTube: legislature.vermont.gov. Consider tuning in.

The 45 days following the election have been busier than ever. Representatives are in strong demand during this timeframe as advocacy organizations, trade groups, businesses, nonprofit organizations, school districts and municipalities are eager to share their legislative priorities for the coming session. Also, I have been working on helping Shelburne businesses secure COVID relief funds, residents obtain unemployment benefits, parents find childcare so they can get back to work and assist our town leaders looking for grant opportunities to assist with revenue replacement.

My previous weeks have been filled with briefings on the U.S. and Vermont economies by the state’s economist and staff of the Joint Fiscal Office; the impacts of the $1.25 billion CARES Act investment in the state; emerging trouble spots on the horizon around food security; women departing the workforce due to childcare unavailability and cost; and the immense pressures that small businesses and the hospitality industry are under to survive, let alone thrive.

Rep. Kate Webb and I are looking to schedule community discussions for late January on a Zoom platform. We will be in touch with further information soon and hope that these meetings will provide an opportunity for you to ask questions and share issues of concern, as well as to hear the latest updates from our legislative work.

The House democratic caucus, to which I belong, held a day-long meeting on Saturday, Dec. 5, to discuss the issues of concern to constituents in our districts.

We spent six-and-a-half hours together sharing priorities, as well as beginning to design an interconnected strategy for COVID recovery that centers economic opportunity, social and racial equity, health care, affordable housing, childcare, infrastructure modernization including broadband and transportation, climate solutions, renewable energy, strengthening of education and the Vermont State Colleges System, workforce development, small business success, the rural landscape and supports for vulnerable Vermonters.

I wish you all a healthy, safe, restful, restorative time with family and the blessings of this holiday season. May we recall the moments of gratitude, hope and community that brought us together so beautifully this past year despite the immense challenges. As always, please reach out if I may be of service: jbrumsted@leg.state.vt.us or 233-2120.

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