COVID-19, Events, Issues, Legislation/Bills

Town Meeting Day Update 2022

Tuesday is Town Meeting Day! Many towns are again holding their meetings online, but voting will be in-person, so if you haven’t already voted early, be sure to get out to the polls  Tuesday. There are lots of important elections and issues on the ballot in every town. Check your town’s website for the details. I’m grateful for the hundreds of local officials around Vermont who dedicate so much time, passion, and expertise to town and school governance.

Addison Senate District Town Hall Meeting
The Legislature is in recess this week, so join me and Senator Chris Bray for a virtual Town Hall Meeting at 7:00pm on Thursday, March 3rd. We will provide an update of legislative work so far this session and answer questions from the audience about policy issues and topics important to you! You can register for the event here to get the zoom link. The meeting will also be live-streamed on the Facebook. We hope to see you there!

Bills on the Move
This past week, the House and Senate agreed on an unusually extensive mid-year budget adjustment bill (H.439) that provides additional resources for a host of human services and pandemic relief programs, pays down state debt and deficits in various funds, increases funding for housing assistance, and provides over $70 million for workforce retention and recruitment grants for essential community health care and social service providers, corrections staff, and childcare workers. For more high-level information, check out this summary of the final agreement.

Last month the Legislature passed S.30 a gun violence prevention bill that would have closed the so-called Charleston Loophole by ensuring that gun purchases would not be authorized until a full federal background check could be completed, clarified extreme risk protection order and emergency relief from abuse laws to better protect people who may be considering suicide or be victims of domestic violence, prohibited guns in hospitals, and permitted large-capacity magazines at certain approved shooting competitions. Unfortunately, Governor Scott vetoed this modest but important legislation, offering what he called a compromise that in reality would not fully close what has been a deadly gun law loophole. Even with another frustrating veto, I will continue to advocate for smart legislation that will protect Vermonters from gun violence.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee passed S.206, a bi-partisan bill which I co-sponsored that would improve planning and support for individuals and families impacted by Alzheimer’s Disease and related disorders. The Committee heard some powerful testimony from people impacted by Alzheimer’s including several from the Addison District. Students at UVM and Middlebury College have organized a virtual roundtable discussion on “How Alzheimer’s Affects Students” for Monday, March 14th at 7:30pm where I and others will be speaking – register to join us here. I will have many more bill updates after the mid-session bill crossover date coming up on March 11.

COVID Update
Thankfully, COVID cases are falling in Vermont, but according to the CDC most Vermont counties, including Addison and Chittenden Counties continue to have “high” rates of transmission, which means masking and other precautions are still strongly recommended. Starting tomorrow, the Agency of Education has announced that schools where the vaccination rate is over 80% may consider lifting mask requirements. Most local schools are waiting for a couple weeks to make changes after assessing the impact of travel during last week’s winter break and until community transmission is out of the CDC’s “high” zone. If you haven’t already done so, please help keep our schools safe and reach the 80% vaccination rate by getting your kids age five and over fully vaccinated, and boosted for ages 12 and over. You can find lots of information about the safe and free COVID vaccine, including where to sign up for a shot, on the VT Department of Health website. If you have questions or concerns about getting the COVID vaccine for your child, please speak with your pediatrician.

Invasion of Ukraine
Last week, Russia invaded Ukraine, launching an unprovoked war on a democratic nation. The news and images from the war are heartbreaking. All of us should stand against this aggression and brutality, and in solidarity and support of the Ukrainian people and democracy. I know many of my constituents have connections to Ukraine and Russia, including several Ukrainian students at Middlebury College who are worried for their families back home. If there is any way I can provide assistance or support, please let me know. If you would like to help, please consider donating to the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund at UN Crisis Relief or Ukraine Crisis Fund at the International Red Cross. I hope with a unified and strong response from the United States and international community, we can put an end to this tragedy and bring safety to people in Ukraine, Russia, and the entire region.

Women of Color in the Judiciary
Last week ended with some good news for American democracy. President Biden announced the first nomination of a Black woman to the United States Supreme Court, current federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, and Governor Scott nominated the first woman of color to the Vermont Supreme Court, current Superior Court Judge Nancy Waples. These historic nominations are long overdue and very welcome as our state and nation grapple with gender equality and racial justice. As a member of the Judicial Retention Committee, I met Judge Waples last year when the Legislature reviewed her record and voted on her retention as a Superior Court judge. She is brilliant, fair, and compassionate and will make an excellent Vermont Supreme Court Justice. I look forward to voting to support her again.

Happy Town Meeting Day! Stay safe and warm.

 P.S. Check out the photo above of Lego Little City, a replica of downtown Vergennes that was an entry in the Bixby Library 4th Annual Lego Contest, for which I was honored to be a judge (it was a really hard job to chose winners out of so many great entries!)

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