Nitka’s notes from the Statehouse, Jan. 24, 2020

Dear Editor,

This week, the governor gave his budget address without incidents occurring. The proposed general fund spending is $1.7 billion for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2020 and ending June 30, 2021. When federal money that we receive is included with the state money, the spending is $8 billion. This includes money toward roads, healthcare, the National Guard, airports, education, and much more. The Senate Committee on Appropriation on which I serve is just beginning work on the so called “Big Bill,” which is the budget. We are just finishing work on the Budget Adjustment which is a “true up” of the 2020 budget. If you want to weigh in on the budget, we are having a public hearing Monday, Feb. 10 at the Springfield Town Hall, 96 Main Street, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. In Rutland on the same evening, a hearing will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Longfellow School Building, 6 Church St. Hearing are also being held at other locations around the state on the same evening. Written testimony can be submitted as well.

The state recently accepted two grants. The Vermont Dept. of Health will receive $3.2 million spread over four years from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for the Vermont First Responder Emergency Opioid Response Project. It will provide first responders with expanded access to overdose prevention training, equipment, and medication. A grant of $54,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to the Vermont Dept. of Fish and Wildlife will be used to restore brook trout habitat in tributaries of the Connecticut River watershed. This would consist of providing woody materials along stream banks to increase pool frequency and depths. Trout Unlimited is also providing funding.

Judicial Retention, which is a review that occurs for judges every six years, has started and the judges who will be evaluated this year are David Barra, Michael Harris, Katherine Hayes, Martin Mally, John Valente, and Thomas Walsh. Surveys were sent during the past few months to court personnel, lawyers who appeared before them, guardian ad litems, and others to rate them with regard to integrity, judicial management, legal ability, preparation, overall performance, and whether they recommend them for retention for another six years.

The respondents submit their materials anonymously. The judges submit a sample of court decisions they have written as well as financial information. A public hearing will be held at the Statehouse Monday, Feb. 10, from 7 to 8:30 p.m., to hear testimony regarding these six judges. Subsequent to the hearing and interviews with the judges, the House of Representatives and the Senate in a joint session will vote by ballot regarding their retentions.

There is lot of testimony being taken in all the committees on many issues that you hear about in the news. Feel free to come and listen. All the committees are open to the public. Contact me at the Statehouse at 1-800-322-5616, on weekends at 802-228-8432, or anitka@leg.state.vt.us. Letters are good, too, at P.O. Box 136, Ludlow, VT 05149-0136.

Sincerely,

Sen. Alice Nitka

Windsor County

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