As I’m sure readers have heard, the Governor announced new guidance for indoor dining and an easing of travel restrictions to some parts of New England - both to begin June 8th. He also announced the resumption of driver’s license tests and learner’s permits as DMV begins opening limited services.
We must remember that Coronavirus still exists and continuing to take simple precautions will maintain our progress in staying healthy – make wearing a cloth face mask a habit when you leave your home, wash your hands often and continue physical distancing. It’s great to see everyone outside enjoying this wonderful weather while being vigilant against the disease. I enjoyed walking through the senior portraits at the Five Corners. It was inspiring to see the faces of those who’ve worked so hard to graduate to now be moving on to their next adventure. Congratulations EWSD Seniors!
It has been a busy few weeks on the virtual house floor. The House passed legislation that keeps our buildings operating, our infrastructure moving forward and gave preliminary passage to a 1st quarter 2021 fiscal year budget (final vote is Tuesday). H961 is a steady anchor budget for Vermonters, containing specific appropriations and levels of spending authority designed to maintain the basic functions of government while making no change to established or statutorily mandated programs and policies. Those important decisions will be completed with the full fiscal year budget process in August and September after the establishment of new official State revenue forecasts.
H961 contains three backstops in the event of unforeseen spending needs: the ability for funds to be moved around within a department as well as the option to present the need to the Emergency Board or the Joint Fiscal Committee. The bill also funds our debt service and retirement obligations. H961 appropriates $47.3 million from the Coronavirus Relief Fund in several areas including UVM and the Vermont State Colleges, VSAC, different components of the judicial system, Working Lands, and State Parks, as examples. Emergency Medical Ambulance services are also allocated additional funding.
The vote was 142-5 and the full bill can be found here:
Upcoming on the virtual house floor is Vote by Mail legislation that will allow for a ballot to be mailed to every voter. Not knowing what will happen with Coronavirus between now and election time, we need to take responsible action to address the health and safety of voters as well as those staffing our polling places. Unfortunately due to contracts with vendors, procurement of supplies, training of staff and voter education, we must make the decision now to have a safe system in place for November. Essex had a successful vote by mail experience, let your representatives know you want the same for the general election.
Legislative Committee Work
All committees are now in the process of determining the allocation of Coronavirus Relief Funds with final policy proposals due mid-week. My committee, healthcare, is starting from a place of deep appreciation for our healthcare workers and system. These dedicated workers stood up our healthcare response system and saved lives. Thank you!