By Sen. Alison Clarkson
What a biennium this has been. It began in January of 2021 in the depths of the Covid-19 pandemic, conducted entirely by Zoom, and it ended in mid-May 2022, in the State House, in person — except for those members of the Legislature who had Covid or needed to care for a family member with Covid.
It was an historic biennium. It contained the first Vermont legislative session ever held virtually, the largest budget ($8.3 billion) ever passed in Vermont enabled by federal Covid relief support, the first unanimous override of a governor’s veto with the pension reform bill and for the first time, the Vermont Legislature was led by all women.
Part of the story of this biennium involves a resilient Legislature, working through difficult circumstances, responding to the unprecedented needs of Vermonters. The length of Covid’s impact on our lives and economy has required us to rethink assumptions, re-examine our laws, re-deploy our resources and renovate our public spaces. I am proud of our Legislature’s ability to work together productively to address the challenges Vermonters faced.
Unlike much of the country, I think Vermont’s democracy is in good shape. We strengthen democracy with every bill we pass, and in how we conduct our business. And, while we may disagree, we are seldom disagreeable. Ninety percent of our bills are passed with consensus votes. I believe that Vermont legislators serve in order to make progress on behalf of Vermont and Vermonters.
Another chapter of this biennium’s story tells the tale of the historic investments the Legislature has been able to make in Vermont and Vermonters due to the vast amount of federal stimulus dollars. Since 2020, billions of dollars have been invested in Vermont businesses to keep them afloat, in Vermont’s unemployed workers, in helping people stay in their homes and apartments, in distributing food to those in need, in housing the homeless, in educating and training Vermonters, in building new housing and renovating old, blighted properties, and in the free tests and vaccines made accessible to all.
This year we’re making transformative investments in Vermont’s infrastructure – both human and physical. From shoring up our fiscal house (pension reform to IT modernization), to maintaining essential services (mental and home health provider rate increases to childcare and education) to making strategic one-time investments in climate change mitigation, affordable and mixed-income housing, broadband, community, economic and workforce development – we are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in Vermont. In future articles, I’ll go into more depth as this story has many more chapters. Our hope is that in making these targeted investments, Vermont will emerge from this pandemic, stronger, more resilient and better prepared for the future.
Sen. Alison Clarkson can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 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: legislature.vermont.gov.