By Sen. Alison Clarkson
Town Meeting week certainly was different this year. While I missed the in-person visits, delicious food and touring around Windsor District, our virtual Zoom town informational meetings enabled me to participate in 10 gatherings. Without having to drive half an hour or 45 minutes between meetings, I was afforded the rare opportunity to sample more of our Windsor District municipal life. I really appreciated getting a flavor of the issues these towns are addressing and seeing municipal government successfully adapting to this form of civic engagement.
From Andover’s discussion about allowing ATVs to use town roads to Reading’s debate on moving from a three- to a five-person Select Board, and from Woodstock’s update on the renovation of the town hall to Hartford’s illuminating candidates’ forum – each town’s meeting was educational and very interesting.
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 (in Rutland County) and Londonderry (in Windham County). 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 horrific Covid-19 pandemic year has been the ability to attend meetings I couldn’t have otherwise, simply because of the constraints of schedules and travel time. Meetings on Zoom or other 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, Select Board, human service meetings and special forums than ever before.
Of course, our Zoom 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. 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.
Upon returning from our Town Meeting break, 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 they 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.
In a normal year, this is assumed to be roughly the halfway point in the legislative session. However, with Congress poised to pass the next Covid Relief bill/American Rescue Plan, we may be in session a bit longer as we work to appropriate this vast amount of relief and economic stimulus for Vermont.
Alison Clarkson is a state senator from Windsor County. She can be reached at: [email protected] or 457-4627.