By REPS. JESSICA BRUMSTED and KATE WEBB
Happy New Year! The close of 2018 means we are just days away from a new legislative session.
At 10 a.m. on Jan. 9, 110 returning and 40 new House members will be seated and sworn into office. This is a formal parliamentary procedure, followed by the election of the speaker, the House clerk, and adoption of our system of rules by which we function. Upon completion, a message is sent to the governor stating that “the House is organized and ready for business.” Down the hall, the Senate will also organize.
The new membership will consist of 95 Democrats, 43 Republicans, seven Progressives and five Independents. The new strength of the left is not a power to be taken lightly. It was once said that the majority’s role is to set the course and the minority’s role to point out the rocks. As returning members elected by you, we are prepared to work to balance the will of the majority with the cautions expressed by the minority.
We anticipate a busy session with no shortage of issues. How can we ensure quality education today to develop tomorrow’s citizens? How can we help working families struggling to find high quality childcare or take time off to care for loved ones? What is government’s role in supporting a livable wage, ensuring access to affordable health care, and retirement security? How do we improve access to mental health services, reduce suicide deaths and provide more timely treatment for drug addiction?
Add to all this: finding a sustainable source of funding to clean up Vermont’s lakes and waterways, attracting and keeping a viable workforce, responding to climate change, and considering whether Vermont is ready for a tax-and-regulated market for marijuana.
All of this must take into account uncertainty at the federal level, adjusting to 21st-century changing markets and work patterns, an aging demographic and our own ability to pay.
As your representatives, it is important that you have access to us. It is also important for us to hear how the work we do in Montpelier is affecting our constituents at home. We will work to keep you informed through articles in the Shelburne News. We also will hold community meetings. This year we would like to try monthly Saturday morning conversations at Village Wine and Coffee from 8 to 9 a.m. on Jan. 12, Feb. 9 and March 9. Jessica is working to find a spot to meet in St. George as well, so stay tuned.
The best way to contact us is through email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. We are also available to meet by appointment in the area on some weekends and Mondays and in Montpelier Tuesday thru Friday.
Serving in the legislature takes a great deal of time and commitment and the responsibility of our actions weighs heavily on us, having earned your vote once again. It is also a great honor and we thank you for allowing us to continue our work.
Democrats Kate Webb and Jessica Brumsted represent Shelburne in the state House of Representatives. Brumsted’s district also includes the town of St. George.