Nitka’s notes from the State House on Jan. 12, 2018

Dear Editor,

Although we are just at the end of the second week of the session, the State House is buzzing with activity. There is a daily schedule for all events or meetings taking place in the available spaces in the building, which includes a portion of the cafeteria in the morning. This is in addition to the daily calendars for House and Senate floor action and the witnesses scheduled to testify for each committee.

Some of the non-legislative groups convening here on one day were the Association of General Contractors, the Lake Carmi Campers Association who are dealing with a serious pollution problem, the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs who had a display in the so called “card room,” the Vermont National Guard in the Cedar Creek room, and the Vermont Legal Aid. Former Senator Bill Doyle’s class from Johnson State College observing committees, Founders Memorial School students from Essex Junction were on a tour, and the Governor was holding his weekly press conference. Extra legislative meetings that occurred were the Climate Solutions Caucus and the Rural Economic Working Group. All of these meetings are open to the public.

state house
Night skating outside the State House. Photo provided by The Rink at State Street.

Many reports that were requested during the last half of the session have been arriving and almost all are posted on the Legislative website. Others, not requested have also been received and are informative in their areas of expertise. “How are Vermont’s Young Children and Families?” from Building Bright Futures provides data and analysis on challenges and successes our young children and their families are facing. The opiate epidemic is having a significant impact in multiple areas of child and family wellbeing.

It also features some recommendations and strategies as to how to best serve and support these young children and their families. We have a decline in the number of children in Vermont, but we have an increase in the number of children going into the custody of the state. From 2011 to 2015, the population of children under nine years of age dropped from 58,321 to 56,093. From 2012 to 2015, the number of children under nine in the Department of Children and Families’ custody went from 366 to 695, and it has increased since those dates.

There are positives reported as well, and in most areas around the state there is improvement in readiness for Kindergarten. The report provides regional breakdowns of the information as well as by school districts.

With regard to a January 2018 report from the Department of Corrections, there is good news in that the incarcerated population is at 1,796 persons down from a high of 2,248 in 2010. This number includes 261 prisoners who are placed out of the state of Vermont. For those who follow prison numbers, there are 370 detainees currently being held. Windsor Prison, so called, has closed due to the high cost of housing prisoners at the facility.

There is a pleasant view outside the front windows of the State House as the skating rink on the lawn has returned despite a big blip that threatened its existence at the start of winter. It is being used, and there are lights for night skating. It’s not Rockefeller Center, but we may be the only State House in the country to have our own rink.

Visit Montpelier, have lunch in our cafeteria, and take a tour. Contact me at home at 802-228-8432 or anitka@leg.state.vt.us. I am able to read all of your emails and appreciate you sending them, however the volume received makes it impossible to respond to all of them.

Sincerely,

Senator Alice Nitka

Montpelier, Vt.

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