This time last month, I wrote that a legislative settlement on the budget bill was imminent. Here we are a month later without a budget resolution for the fiscal year that begins July 1st. At least two budget bills have been passed by the Legislature and vetoed by Gov. Scott as of this writing. This has been a difficult month for a great many Vermonters as a result. State workers, financial experts, and recipients of state funding for health care, housing, and other vital services fear a government shutdown. I continue to be hopeful that a settlement will be reached, avoiding a shutdown on June 30th.
Despite frustrations of the last month, this year has been an extraordinary capstone of my legislative career. As was announced in the Other Paper last month, I am not running for re-election this fall. It’s time to spend more time with my 95-year-old mom, other family and friends. These waning days of the session are definitely bittersweet as I reflect on my 16 years of service.
Looking back, I am especially proud of my work in two key areas: strengthening Vermont’s workforce and advancing safe, affordable housing. Paid sick days allow time off for personal and family care, while protecting workplace and public health. Family-friendly laws now require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers, encourage breastfeeding mothers in the workplace, and consider requests for flexible working arrangements.
Shining a light on sexual assault has led to more support for those serving in the military, particularly women. Pay increases for Vermont National Guard members called out on state service, increased school supports for military children, and increased assistance with college tuition all help make military service possible for Vermonters. Many military members will now have an easier time transitioning into the civilian workplace when credit for military service is applied to civilian professional licensing.
A new law on sexual harassment is being hailed as the most advanced in the nation. Prohibiting inquiries about salary history gives job applicants, particularly women, a chance to overcome a low paying job history and achieve equal pay for equal work. Employers are now required to give crime victims time off to attend court proceedings.
A good job can easily be lost and health compromised without the stability of a home. We’ve increased the production of affordable housing and taken steps toward ensuring that existing housing is safe and habitable. Strengthening our fair housing laws has given people a better chance of landing a home regardless of their race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious creed, color, national origin, disability, age, marital status, the presence of young children, or receipt of public assistance. We streamlined permitting for housing in designated downtowns and growth areas. Funding for rental housing subsidies, weatherization, and transitional housing for people leaving our prisons has been increased. Improvements in shelters and supportive services for those who are homeless and at risk of homelessness create stop gap stability for workers and families.
There is much more to do. I have confidence that two vital pieces of legislation vetoed by the governor this year will ultimately be enacted: a gradual increase in the minimum wage and paid family leave insurance. Given the big gap between housing costs and wages, we must continue work at the state and local level to create and preserve affordable housing.
Serving as state representative for our district has been an extraordinary honor and privilege. Thank you.
As I wind down my service over the summer and fall, I hope that residents will continue to contact me with any questions they have about state government. I’ve had many conversations with people, one-on-one and in groups, and I look forward to hearing from you.