The Vermont Legislature adjourned our historic session May 21. The first half of the biennium session was historic as it was conducted 100% online via video conferencing.
I am a first year House member so I do not have much to compare the virtual session to. From my perspective, I felt the work went extremely well. Public access to all committee meetings and floor sessions were maintained. The public could watch real time or later as they choose.
Consider the positive environmental impact of 180 members of the Legislature not driving to Montpelier from all corners of the state. Say nothing of being home with family in the evenings.
I was placed on the Education Committee, not my first choice. The learning curve was steep since my background is electrical construction work. The Ed committee composition included legislative veterans and three first years like myself. Everyone’s opinions were taken seriously and all 11 members worked well together to produce some really good work.
A primary focus for most of our work focused on the pandemic and its effect on students. We passed, and the governor has signed, a comprehensive literacy bill that when fully implemented will aid in screening students early with reading issues and lift as many students as possible to competent reading level by forth grade. Having good reading skills early in life will have a significant impact on student success.
Also passed during the session, and awaiting the governor’s signature, were two important bills: a community school pilot project that will wrap the entire community into our schools’ work and a school assessment bill that will inventory all schools and the condition from both a educational stand point and a physical perspective.
Lastly, two school environmental concerns are being assessed. All schools will be required to test for radon and PCBs. Note: this is only the assessment phase. Any possible remediation will need to be addressed later. I sincerely hope we are not opening Pandora’s box of very expensive issues. Regardless, we need to know what is out there and start the process.
It appears the second half of the session will be in Montpelier – a whole new learning curve to look forward to.
Rep. John Arrison
Cavendish and Weathersfield