House Speaker Jill Krowinski issued the following statement on the priorities for the legislative session starting the second year of the biennium.
Today, we gaveled in to start the 2022 legislative session and continue the work after last year’s momentous session. Unfortunately, with COVID case counts at record highs, we are beginning legislative work remotely, which I know is disappointing to many. We will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in Vermont, and hear from health and science experts on how we can best return to the State House safely. However, that will not deter us from doing the important work that Vermonters in all 14 counties are counting on in order to recover from this pandemic and build more resilient, equitable communities across the state.
In one way or another, we have all been impacted by the pandemic. We have a lot to reflect on and be proud of, and while this has been an incredibly difficult time in our nation’s history, I believe that we can come out of this more united and stronger than ever. This pandemic has only further highlighted issues that we need to address in Vermont, and it is critical that we come together to build communities that support Vermonters and individuals from all walks of life. We cannot afford to ignore the many lessons that we have learned during this historic time, but rather, we must persevere to recover together and create a Vermont that works for everyone.
It is my priority to work with our Senate colleagues and the Governor to make significant progress on boosting our economic recovery; tackling the interconnected challenges of housing, childcare and workforce; enacting inclusive strategies to combat climate change and build a resilient future; and work to ensure the legislation we pass is reviewed extensively to make sure it creates greater equity for all Vermonters. These policy initiatives include:
- Investing Vermont’s remaining federal ARPA funds and building a budget that will boost recovery in all 14 counties and set the stage for a strong future
- Enacting forward-looking, inclusive strategies to combat climate change and transition to a sustainable way of life, while preparing for shifting and severe weather patterns
- Investing in higher education and workforce development to prepare Vermonters for 21st century jobs within the state
- Advancing clean water and the health of our lakes, rivers, wetlands, groundwater, and drinking water systems; ensuring a toxics-free environment that protects our natural resources
- Increasing access to healthcare, mental health and substance use disorder treatment services
- Passing the two constitutional amendments before us – the amendment to clarify the prohibition of slavery and indentured servitude in Vermont and the amendment that would guarantee personal reproductive liberty to all Vermonters
- Protecting public health and safety during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic through evidence-driven strategies, sound data and the advice of medical experts
- Supporting working families through affordable housing, a child tax credit, rural broadband buildout, and affordable, high quality child care
- Dismantling systemic and institutional racism and advancing racial and social equity as an overarching goal in every policy area
- And many other important issues, including reapportionment; education finance and the weighting study; addressing our unfunded pension
I am also excited to release the report that highlights the work that Senator Balint and I embarked on this summer and fall, when we met with Vermonters and discussed the investment of the federal funds we have received and the future of Vermont. Our virtual town halls, Investing in Vermont’s Future, was an unprecedented public engagement process to identify bright spots, chronic challenges, and opportunities to make critical investments across the state. We heard from many different people and organizations that shared their stories, life experiences, and hopes for the future of Vermont. It was inspiring to hear from so many, however, it also highlighted many challenges we need to address, especially from those that have historically not had a voice in the legislative process. We will be releasing the report in the coming weeks and I hope others will find the themes and personal accounts as interesting and as helpful as I do.
The pandemic has taken a toll on all of us, and I know that health care providers, parents, students, business owners, educators, and local officials are exhausted and looking for support in their day to day lives. I am certain that we can find collaborative solutions to support our families, friends, neighbors, and constituents as we continue to make sacrifices to support each other through this phase of the pandemic. We will be diligent in our work and I look forward to taking on the issues that are important to the future of our great state.