Greetings from the Statehouse:
It is this time of the legislative session that Committees are trying to finish work on their respective bills so they can be brought to the full House for consideration and voting. This timeframe is necessary so that the Senate will have time to consider the House bills before the session ends. And in reverse, so that we will have time to consider theirs. It has been termed ‘crossover’.
In my Committee - Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife, we have been working on several bills now that the Act 250 bill been voted out. These include- An act relating to non game migratory birds. Funding for the Fish and Wildlife Department. Concerns about inter basin transfer of surface waters. Free hunting and fishing licenses for the Abenaki. A clean water topic. A bill related to the intrastate trade of endangered species and ivory.
The House also passed H.688-The Global Warming Solutions Act. This Act will require Vermont to meet strict emissions targets: reduction of greenhouse gas pollution to 26% below 2005 levels by 2025, 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and then 80% below by 2050.
The approval of the bill will hold the State accountable for developing and achieving greenhouse gas reduction goals. This could result in costly legal battles if the State does not meet these.
This bill does not state how to achieve this end. A large group of people called the Climate Action Study Panel will come up with a plan by the end of 2021. There will certainly be a cost to this Act which will result in more spending.
Considering that Vermont contributes almost no carbon footprint compared to the rest of our Country and the World, is this aggressive plan going to be good for the economy and the residents of Vermont? Or will it make it more expensive and difficult to live and thrive here?
It was terrific to see so many young people engaged in the workings of government this week.
The 2019 class of Eagle Scouts were honored for their accomplishments with a resolution in the House. Congratulations to Islanders Nate Scandore, Francis Ellis-Monaghan, Dominick Wilder and to an Islander’s nephew, Ross Macy for their accomplishments Congratulations as well to their families, Scoutmaster Brian Allen, and scout leaders for getting them across the finish line!
High school students from around the state met with me and testified in House and Senate Education committees on proficiency-based standards and higher education costs. The Youth Climate Lobby had clear and well-informed questions for me, as well as members of the committees on Appropriations, Energy and Technology, Education and Natural Resources regarding efforts to curb climate emissions, spur a green economy, and protect Vermont’s natural resources for their generation and beyond.
Lastly, we said goodbye to the first group of Legislative Pages, 8th graders who work in the statehouse for 6 weeks. Let me know if you might be interested in serving. Applications are due in September of your 8th grade year. Here is an excerpt of my message to them:
“We hope that in your time with us, you’ve gained an appreciation for the care and feeding, the compassion and compromise, required to make a living democracy successful. Our country’s founders dared to imagine a government whose power came from the governed- from the people. Collective decision-making, by and for people with wildly different experiences, priorities and values is messy. Done thoughtfully, it is hard. And done right, it is time-consuming. I deeply believe it is well worth the nurturing and the investment. But the dream of our founders survives only as long as The People are informed, engaged, inclusive and civil. On the national level, that conversation is playing out about who we are as people of these United States and how we want to define our future. Here in Montpelier, that work takes the form of debates- at times intense, at times tedious- about whether some provision should be permissive or required, around prioritizing individual rights or collective well-being, and which investments of the many requests are most likely to create a stronger, healthier future for our state. Every day in this building, we are reminded that making that vision a true reality is difficult and important work.”
Please reach out to us with your questions or concerns: Speaker Mitzi Johnson at 802-363-4448 or email@example.com and Rep. Lee Morgan at 802-318-0227 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The hot topic of this past week was Paid Family Leave. The Governor had vetoed the bill and it was again taken up in the House with hopes of overriding his veto. After much discussion and debate it was voted on again. The two thirds majority needed was not attained and the bill did not become law. Although I did not support the bill, the concept of paid family leave is a good one and I am in hopes that someday we can form a bill that everyone can agree on.
In my Committee (Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife), we are still working on the rewrite of Vermont’s Land Use and Development Act (Act 250). The plan is to have it out of our Committee soon where it can be discussed and debated by the full House.
As of this writing, the Governor has not taken action on the Minimum Wage bill that we sent to him.
As we all know, the weather was not very cooperative this past week. Although the Statehouse was just about empty this past Friday, I had to be there. It was a very slow commute and pretty much uphill both ways. There were many vehicles in the ditches along the way. The Police and Road Crews really did a great job, and I want to say Thank You.
Thank you for allowing me to represent you and have a good week.
Please reach out to us with your questions or concerns: Rep. Lee Morgan at 802-318-0227 or
email@example.com or Speaker Mitzi Johnson at 802-363-4448 or firstname.lastname@example.org
If you visit the Statehouse this time of year you won’t see many long debates in the House chamber.
Instead, House committees are deep in the work of developing and refining proposals, some of which will make it to stage where those bills are voted on by the full body.
About 1250 ideas in the form of individual bills have been introduced between the House and Senate, and only a fraction of these will become law. Some are duplicates. Multiple legislators will have a similar idea after seeing a news report, like limiting what DMV can do with your private information, or members of the House and Senate will work to have the same bill introduced in both chambers to give it better visibility and a better chance of passing.
Some are tiny technical corrections bills. Some are not detailed proposals, but rather are conversation starters. Some are requests for appropriations or tax breaks that will get incorporated into the larger budget bills.
Here are some of the highlights of conversations happening in committee around the statehouse to try to build an even better future for Vermont: expanding the number of apprenticeships to successfully move more people into the work force; modernizing Act 250 to make development easier and more predictable in areas appropriate for growth and better protect forests for water quality, carbon sequestration and habitat protection; understanding the “weighting study” that looks at whether the education funding formula treats pupil counts in rural and more “urban” schools fairly; digging into the reported abuses at the women’s correctional facility; tackling climate change and building our resiliency for the increasing storm and changing weather patterns; finding ways to address our growing nursing shortage; and, of course, building a budget that most effectively addressed Vermonters’ needs.
Please reach out to us with your questions or
concerns: Speaker Mitzi Johnson at
802-363-4448 or email@example.com
and Rep. Lee Morgan at 802-318-0227 or
This legislative session began on Jan. 7, and got off to a fast start.
Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife (my assigned committee) picked up right where we left off.
The major focus is still on the rewrite and update of Act 250, with hopes of having it leave our committee this session. We have also been looking at the cannabis bill and making recommendations on the parts that relate to natural resources.
At this point in the session we are spending most of our time in committee meetings, with work in the House Chamber being minimal. When we do meet, the focus is on the introduction of the many new bills and their assignment to the various committees. There are hundreds of bills that have been and still are being introduced, most of which will go nowhere.
The topics to keep an eye on are, paid family leave, transportation climate initiative(TCI), cannabis, minimum wage, Act 250, and several firearms bills.
During the first week of the session the Governor gave his state of the State Address. Shortly after the start of the address climate change protesters interrupted the proceedings. The Governor gave them more than ample time to make their point. But when they wouldn’t stop, the police assisted them in leaving the House Chamber, and the proceedings went on.
This is a election year, and in the State House there is already a lot of discussion about who is going to run for what office. There are lots of rumors, conjecture, and speculation floating around the State House.
Some people have made decisions, but a number are still pondering and weighing their options. It will be interesting to see how it all works out.
Thank you for contacting me about your concerns and ideas. I can not immediately solve problems, but I can have conversations with people about things that you feel are important. I have to vote on bills that impact our voting district as well as the whole State so the more you can help me the better. Some of bills I vote on are quite complex and have far reaching ramifications. I am well aware that I don’t and can’t please everyone, but keep me informed and I’ll do the best I can. Thanks again.
Please reach out to us with your questions or concerns: Rep. Lee Morgan at 802-318-0227 or firstname.lastname@example.org or
Speaker Mitzi Johnson at 802-363-4448 or email@example.com
As is tradition for the Speaker of the House, I kicked off the session with the opening day remarks to the House of Representatives. I’d like to share with you the requests I made to my colleagues:
“The first ask is for civility and respect- for each other, for the many people that work throughout this building, and for the many Vermonters that come to us to weigh in on the issues affecting their lives.
The rhetoric at the national level is unprecedented. It is dangerous. It threatens our ability to engage in the productive discussion and debate that is foundational to our work. And I see signs of it creeping into our beloved human-scaled, community-based democracy here in Vermont.
That disregard of civility and respect will NOT happen here on my watch. I expect you to hold me accountable to that standard as well.
This leads to my second ask. It’s one that each of us- myself included- will probably find challenging at some point over the next few months.
I’d like you to trust that every person you interact with here in this building is honoring Vermont’s past and caring about its future, honoring Vermont’s past and caring about its future.
In my time here, I cannot think of a single person whose entire purpose was to be angry and obstinate or to ruin Vermont through whatever your version of disaster looks like.
Every person you meet here is working to protect something to which they feel loyal or is trying change a situation to reduce harm or improve hope.
You may not agree with their goals or their methods, but if you start with the premise that they are attempting- as you are- to create an even better future for Vermont, it may lead to a more productive discussion of what is important to each of you, and a better understanding of how to get there together.
My last ask is hopefully a little more fun. Get to know a few more colleagues. Break bread with someone outside your committee or party, or age group, or county.
One of my favorite evenings of the session is an annual dinner at the home of colleagues- my friends- who are across both the aisle and the state.
Building relationships is critical to having difficult and productive conversations. Ask someone who thinks differently than you do, ‘Which worries for our future keep you up at night?’, and ‘What inspires you?’
This is a team sport, and it’s up to us to make our teams as inclusive as our state. We’ll do this work better if we understand each other.
Our different experiences, cultures, ideas, and backgrounds, weave stable communities and a healthier future for Vermont.
I look forward to continuing that work with each of you. “
Please reach out to us with your questions or concerns: Speaker Mitzi Johnson at 802-363-4448 or firstname.lastname@example.org
and Rep. Lee Morgan at 802-318-0227 or email@example.com