The COVID-19 pandemic is unlike any crisis Vermont has faced. We recognize this is a very stressful and anxious time for our neighbors, as public safety measures close many of the businesses and institutions we rely on.
We are all in this together, and we are committed to working with Shelburne town officials, the Administration and our Congressional Delegation to make sure our community is supported during these difficult times.
This past week, the House took action to pass a package of COVID-19 relief measures to enable our health care system to respond more nimbly and helpfully to situations arising from the crisis, to address Vermonters’ unemployment insurance needs, and to transition the legislature to remote meetings. The State House building may be closed, but our work continues. We are completely focused on next steps to address the COVID-19 emergency.
This past week our “money” committees – House Appropriations and Ways and Means – began meeting on Zoom, broadcast live on YouTube for anyone in the public to tune in and watch.
If you are interested in doing the same, many of the House Committees will be going live this week. Feel free to tune in by going to our legislative web page https://legislature.vermont.gov, scroll down to the green box that reads Scheduled Committee Meetings View Full List click on House Committees and all the House Committees will be listed.
This might be a great activity for your older children, civics in action. Surprisingly, the House Appropriations Committee heard last week’s meetings were ‘trending” on YouTube; how about that?!
Legislators, especially ‘citizen’ legislators, are often social people. We knock on doors, hold meetings, and occasionally give on soapbox speeches. The idea of transitioning to remote work seems odd at first but we have trained and practiced and look forward to joining the world of video conferencing as so many institutions and businesses do.
If you view a committee hearing that you would like to better understand or offer comments on, feel free to either write to the Chair of that particular committee and/or send a note to either of us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Our municipal government is also transitioning to electronic remote meetings, and to assist in this change the Legislature passed H. 681. This bill authorizes pubic bodies to meet electronically during the declared state of emergency due to COVID-19 without designating a physical location for the meeting or requiring the presence of members or staff at a specific physical location. It requires a public body to use technology that allows public access to an electronic meeting.
If feasible, the public body must allow access by telephone. The public body must include information on how the public may access the electronic meeting as part of the posted agenda. The legislative body of each municipality and each school board also are required to record meetings, unless unusual circumstances would make it impossible for them to do so.
Finally, this legislation authorizes public bodies, in the event of a staffing shortage, to extend the deadline for the posting of minutes for up to ten days from the date of the meeting. Hopefully, by the time you are reading this, the Governor will have signed the bill into law.
We hope you’ll take a moment this week to tune in to one of your House Committee hearings. Please know we are committed to working with you as we leverage federal and state resources to address this health crisis that has created so much turmoil for all of us. These are incredibly difficult times, but the more closely we all follow the CDC and Vermont Health Department guidance, the more effectively we can slow the spread of this disease and save lives. We are all in this together.