By Joan Lenes
The 2016 Legislative session has begun. It is always an exciting time for me knowing we have about 18 weeks ahead of us as we work on behalf of all Vermonters. What will come up, what can we accomplish, what will I be extremely proud of and what will cause me disappointment are all questions I ask myself. There is always a certain rhythm to any legislative session, yet each one unique in its own right.
My committee of House Corrections and Institutions will begin right away to work on the Capital Budget Adjustment. It has been helpful for planning and long term budgeting to have a two-year Capital Budget. A two-year budget process is something that is being considered for the state budget as well because of the benefits of the planning it allows. I know my committee will take an extensive tour of the Waterbury State Office Complex. It has been completed after being destroyed by Tropical Storm Irene. It recently became occupied by our Department of Corrections and will continue to have departments move in until early spring. It is an amazing facility, the largest ever to be built by the State of Vermont.
I know that our House Education Committee has had special hearings this fall and will continue taking testimony from day one. They are examining Act 46, the education spending legislation that was passed in 2015. As a CVU and CSSU school director, I believe Act 46 is doing what it was intended to accomplish, to contain school spending. Cost containment has been a clear message from communities to help with rising property taxes. Feedback from school boards is that the allowable spending growth has come too quickly and severely. If any adjustments are to be made to assist in this transition, changes must be made in the first few weeks of the biennium because school budgets must be warned by late January in order to make the March election timeframe.
As the session progresses, Rep. Kate Webb and I will alternate weeks writing in the Shelburne News, offering you news of the work we are doing in Montpelier. Please reach us anytime with questions, concerns or ideas. Kate can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (802) 233-7798. I can be reached at email@example.com or
(802) 999-9363. If you would like to leave a message for either of us with the Sergeant at Arms call 800-322-5616. I will also be available every Tuesday morning 7:30-8:30 at Brueggers Bagel on Shelburne Road. I look forward to talking with you.