The Vermont House of Representatives has been doing a tremendous amount of work in the last several weeks. We passed an important transportation bill to make investments in transportation infrastructure and increase access to electric vehicles. We also passed an act relating to the governance and financing of Vermont’s childcare system.
We passed bills relating to broadband expansion, funds for town highway aid, funds for investment in the health and wellbeing of Vermont’s families and small businesses, and bills regarding homelessness and affordable housing. We are also making investments to address climate change through weatherization and support for the Clean Energy Development Fund. There will be significant money to support Vermont state colleges. My Windham-3 district mate, Rep. Carolyn Partridge, has written a thorough synopsis of our work, and I direct you to her website for more details.
There has been intense focus on “The Big Bill” (see H.439 on www.legislature.vermont.gov), our annual budget of almost $7 billion, which has passed the House and moved to the Senate. This bill funds the Department of Health – what a job they have done this year! – as well as all the agencies of state government – Fish & Wildlife, for example. The transportation bill mentioned above that funds our roads is a separate bill from The Big Bill.
You may have heard of the concerns that have been raised regarding the pension system for our teachers and state workers who have dedicated their working lives to Vermont and Vermonters, especially obvious during this past year. The issue with pensions is a very complex situation and can no longer be ignored. The problem originated some years ago, but House Leadership feels that we can no longer “kick the can down the road.” Addressing this problem has been divided into two parts.
First, the House will deal with the issue of governance of the pension system immediately. The governance group directs the investments of the pensions, and it is crucial that they have an in-depth understanding of the issues facing all aspects of the pension system. Second, a newly created Task Force will do a deep dive with stakeholders to find workable solutions to this crisis. They will be charged with making recommendations on this issue in January 2022. If you are interested in understanding more about this thorny situation, check out the Pensions 101 presentation by the Joint Fiscal Office at www.legislature.vermont.gov.
The Bottle Bill (H. 175) is a bill that hopes to reduce the waste stream by increasing the value of redeemables from 5 cents to 10 cents and by expanding recyclables to include wine bottles, plastic water bottles, and others. The expectation is that these materials can be reused and can reduce trash in our environment. In researching this bill, I learned that there are no redemption centers within 10 miles of the Bellows Falls area, which does not conform to the original goal of having a redemption option within seven miles of a community. I am curious to know if people in Windham-3 redeem their returnables, and, if so, where? If the process is too onerous, then people will not participate. Please let me know your thoughts through my website, www.lesliegoldmanvt.com.
I would like to end by letting you know that last week the General, Housing, and Military Affairs Committee offered us an opportunity to start the healing of an ugly part of Vermont history. The Vermont Eugenics Movement in the 1930s targeted Vermonters of American Indian heritage, including French Indian and Abenaki families, persons of mixed ethnicities, the poor, persons with disabilities, and others with sterilization without consent, institutionalization, and separation of families. All of these actions had devastating impacts and consequences that still persist today. J.H.R. 2 is a “Joint resolution sincerely apologizing and expressing sorrow and regret to all individual Vermonters and their families and descendants who are harmed as a result of state-sanctioned policies and practices.” It was an emotional and poignant moment to learn about and to acknowledge this history. The conversation with and healing for this group of Vermonters must continue. You can read the full text of J.H.R. 2 on www.legislature.vermont.gov.
Thank you to all who have taken the time to contact me with your questions and thoughts! You can reach me at my website, www.lesliegoldmanvt.com or call me at 802-869-2989. Also, please consider joining me and other Windham-3 constituents at our monthly Zoom meeting. Our next meeting is scheduled for Saturday, April 24, from 10-11 a.m. Please go to my website to find the link and register!