Town Meeting 2022 reminded me how resourceful and nimble Vermonters are. This was our second Town Meeting season conducted during the Covid pandemic. Most of us are now comfortable operating in the virtual universe and have grown quite adept at managing meetings on Zoom or Teams. So, this year, there were options.
Of the ten Windsor District Town Meetings or Informational Meetings I was able to attend, most were hybrid with people attending in person and virtually. Several were entirely virtual and only one was conducted fully in-person. A number of Informational meetings were held well in advance of the Australian Ballot voting, which was held on Town Meeting Day, Tuesday, March 1. And at least seven towns, Cavendish, Ludlow, Rochester, Baltimore, Londonderry, Stockbridge, and Weston, have rescheduled their Town Meetings to later in March, April, or June.
While I was honored to be asked to speak at all ten meetings I was able to attend, it was a real treat to once again be able to meet in person at some of the hybrid meetings and to catch up with so many. And for those virtual meetings, I was afforded the rare opportunity to sample more of our Windsor District municipal life without having to drive an hour or 45 minutes between meetings. I really appreciated getting a flavor of the issues our towns are addressing and seeing municipal government successfully adapting to new forms of civic engagement.
Only 40 towns in Vermont had a fully ‘in-person’ town meeting. And, in Windsor County, Barnard held that distinction. I was glad to be able to join Barnard’s meeting. It was great to visit with so many, despite the fact that no delicious lunch was served. And, it began with an in-person vote for the Selectboard.
As a state senator, I represent about 55,000 people in 26 towns. With 977 square miles, Windsor County is physically the largest county in Vermont. The District also includes Mt Holly (Rutland Co.) and Londonderry (Windham Co.). It is often hard to get to know people and towns you don’t live in and that are so far apart. So, a silver lining to this brutal Covid pandemic has been the ability to attend meetings I couldn’t have otherwise, simply because of the constraints of schedules and travel time. Meetings on virtual platforms have meant that, in addition to town information sessions, legislators have been able to attend more chamber, supervisory unions, regional development, regional planning, Selectboard, human service meetings, and special forums than ever before.
Our virtual world has also enabled more civic engagement at the state level as well. All of our Legislative Committee meetings are accessible on YouTube via a link on each Committee’s webpage on our legislative website listed below. If you are interested in following a bill or an issue, explore which committee it is been assigned to and find out when it is being taken up by checking out the agendas posted for the week.
After our Town Meeting break, the Senate will be returning ‘in person’ to the Statehouse. With the rapid decline of Omicron’s impact, many aspects of normal life are returning. For two years, we have been legislating almost entirely on Zoom. It will be wonderful to work together, face to face, again. Upon our return, the Legislature begins a fairly intense week or two of ‘Cross Over’. To become law, bills need to be considered and passed by both the House and the Senate. Cross Over is that period in which all of the bills we hope to enact into law need to be voted out of our committees, and get passed by whichever body it originated in – the House or the Senate. Once passed by one body or the other, the bills ‘cross over’ to the other body for consideration. Cross Over is assumed to be roughly the half way point in the legislative session.
I appreciate hearing from you. I can be reached by email: email@example.com, or by phone at 802-457-4627. To watch Legislative Committee’s in action, and to get more information on the Vermont Legislature, the bills which are being debated now, and those which have been proposed and passed, visit the legislative website: www.legislature.vermont.gov.
Vermont State Senator, Majority Leader
Windsor County District