The Mountain Times

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News from the Ledge

This is not about hiking, nor is it about a fiscal cliff, but is a brief window into the first week of the "leg" of legislative session. "News from the Leg" would read even more confusingly than "ledge" which works when you say it.

The first three days in the House Chamber were largely ceremonious and included official foundational confirmations and swearing in by oath. Though we were all anxious to get to work on issues, these are important elements of establishing a unified working body of government. It was at various moments dutiful, inspiring and heartening. It is a good way to begin.

Surrounding the ceremonious sessions on the floor were early caucus sessions that I chose to attend, such as the Vermont Commission on Women, energy, and house rules. Each day of session, there are also organizations that present staff and displays to share information on their work, such as physical therapists, HOPE (reducing homelessness), Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and Vermont Workers Center. Evenings offer various receptions and the Governor's Open House which replaced the inaugural ball to instead raise money for ongoing Irene Disaster Relief.

The Governor's address puts a strong focus on education as the foundation to improving our economic future. Initiatives to strengthen early education as well as math and science curricula in high schools led the list. He also includes a plan to be sure no school student goes hungry, so that learning is optimized for all. Affordable college and career readiness from elementary through high school also rise to the top.

All of this pleases us, but now the challenge is to accomplish these changes while dealing with forced compromises of our education programs due to lower local enrollments and high per pupil costs.

I will push for evaluation of current school funding formulas to revise them from regressive formulas to progressive ones, which balance the burden across income levels. I will also be looking to support economic development, partly through the education initiatives, but also through areas such as  transportation infrastructure, including rail connections that will benefit  Rutland County.

I know that Act 250 is often cited as a deterrent to economic development, but it is more likely a policy that checks unbridled development and makes Vermont more resilient in the downturn times. Despite its successful achievements, the associated permitting processes can perhaps be streamlined to be more manageable for new business plans.

In the area of energy, Rutland is host to an energy innovation center that should bring a cluster of related initiatives that support our moving away from fossil fuels. The proposal for wind development on our western ridges has not been welcomed, and I will look closely at a proposed moratorium, with a goal of assuring local control around the state.

For more information visit me on Facebook (GallivanforVtStateRep,) join my email newsletter, email or call 483-2854.