By Sen. Alison Clarkson
The 2022 Vermont Legislative Session is off and running. As this is the second year of our Biennium, we dove right in on Tuesday, Jan. 4. Sadly, this is also the second year in which the Covid-19 pandemic is impacting our ability conduct our business in person at the Vermont State House. Given the anticipated post holiday surge of Covid cases coupled with the tidal wave of the Omicron variant just hitting Vermont — it seemed the prudent move to begin our 2022 session remotely to protect the health and safety of the public, our members and staff. While we are disappointed to have to delay in person work — it is wonderful that we have an effective electronic alternative — and can meet via Zoom.
As a result of the Legislature’s pivot to online meetings the public now has the greatest increase in access to our work in our history. Every committee meeting is available to watch in real time on YouTube. Those links can be found on our legislative webpage: legislature.vermont.gov .If you are interested in following an issue, I encourage you explore this website. Each committee webpage has the agenda for the week, the YouTube links, the bills in that committee and all the reports and documents supporting the committees work.
Never has Vermont’s legislative work been so transparent and accessible.
Our Legislative priorities revolve around four key areas: workforce, housing, climate change and the continued work of responding to Covid-19’s persistent challenges and the needs of Vermonters. Plus, it is a year with a number of things we must do: reapportionment (precipitated by the Census), vote the two Constitutional amendments out of the Legislature and to the public for November’s election, act on the climate council’s recommendations, and respond to the recommendations made by some key off-session task forces which addressed: pensions, education finance and the weighting formula, and health care affordability. In addition, addressing social equity issues is a priority. Of course there are the perennial requirements for a Legislative session like the budget and judicial retention. And, we only have five months to do this work, as we usually adjourn in mid-May.
This session, I continue to serve you in the Senate as vice-chair of Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs and on Senate Government Operations. In addition, I am the majority leader in the Senate. I have been appointed to work on the Senate Reapportionment Committee and State Workforce Development Board. I am also a member of the Climate Solutions Caucus, the Women’s Caucus and the Social Equity Caucus.
We have a lot to do in short order. In response to Covid-19’s continuing impact on our ability to gather safely in person, Senate Government Operations moved swiftly to enable the safe functioning of democracy. We set a new record — passing out three bills in the first four days of session, two of which have passed the senate floor already, and one of which has made it to the governor’s desk to be signed.
For a second year we needed to make it possible in 2022 for towns to move Town Meeting, to vote by Australian ballot, to hold informational meetings and public meetings remotely, and for local candidates to not have to collect signatures.
I appreciate hearing from you. I can be reached by email: [email protected] or by phone at 802-457-4627. To watch legislative committees 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: legislature.vermont.gov.