One week ahead of us before we break for Town Meeting week. This means crossover between the House and Senate is fast approaching. Our crossover date this year is March 11th for policy committees and March 18th for money committees. Any bill not out of committees by this date have little chance of passage this session.
Remember all committees and floor action have live streaming and are recorded for later viewing on YouTube. Agendas and streaming links are available on all committee pages at https://legislature.vermont.gov/
Please reach out to me or Rep. Dolan with questions, concerns, and ideas. Contact information: Rep. Lori Houghton (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Rep. Karen Dolan (email@example.com).
ESSEX JUNCTION INDEPENDENCE UPDATE
Friday was a historic day in the House. The City of Essex Junction Charter (H.491) passed second reading with a unanimous voice vote! The House will have a final vote Tuesday where we expect it will be a unanimous voice vote again and then the charter moves to the Senate. To recap, the votes were a unanimous yes in both Gov Ops and Ways & Means and now the House Floor. Rep. Dolan and I look forward to moving H.491 through the Senate and on to the Governor for signature before the end of this session.
Rep. Dolan spoke eloquently in favor of our community when she made the following statement on the floor: "Today’s vote marks a momentous milestone, moving us one step closer to the creation of the City of Essex Junction. H491, the bill before us, represents a collaborative and thoughtful path forward in a decades-old municipal discussion in the Essex Community. It has been an honor to work with the senior member of Essex Junction to shepherd this charter change through the legislative process, as H491 overwhelmingly holds the voice of our Village with 88% of voters supporting its passage.
The creation of the City of Essex Junction will allow two communities, who have tried almost every conceivable relationship, the opportunity to thrive as two separate entities for the betterment of all residents. I would like to share extreme gratitude to the many hands that contributed in efforts toward today’s vote. It truly takes a village to create a city and I ask for your support in continuing that work by voting yes on H491."
H.628, a bill that will make it easier for transgender and non-binary people in Vermont to amend their birth certificate to reflect their gender identity passed this week.
The current process is unnecessarily costly, time consuming and complicated. H.628 creates a path for the Department of Health to create a simple process — by self-attestation — to make this change. DOH must provide at least three gender marker options, including M[ale], F[emale] and X[non-binary].
This bill promotes equity by allowing all individuals, regardless of gender, to amend their vital records to reflect and affirm their identities. Final House passage is expected tomorrow, and the bill will then move to the Senate for further consideration.
If H.628 wins final legislative passage this year, Vermont will join 23 states that have made the process simple, and 14 that have added a gender-neutral marker on birth certificates.
House Government Operations continues their thoughtful work on redistricting of house seats. The below link provides the latest view of the proposed new Chittenden 8-2 district. As you may recall, Chittenden 8-2 is well over the constitutionally allowed number of residents per representative so lines had to be redrawn and some residents will be represented by Chittenden 8-1 starting next year. Rep. Dolan and I worked closely with Gov Ops and the Essex Delegation to meet the requests of our Board of Civil Authority. We will update the community when the maps have been finalized.
HEALTHCARE COMMITTEE UPDATE
Our committee worked on a broad range of issues this week including Health Equity, Hospital Sustainability, Insurance Coverage for Hearing Aids, Health Care Workforce Recommendations and Suicide Prevention specific to Firearms.
Hearing from Vermonters with lived experiences of the issue at hand is the most impactful testimony we can hear but is also often the most difficult to hear. On Wednesday a mother whose young son died by suicide by firearm shared her son’s story. Had the young boy not had access to a firearm, he may still be with us today. According to testimony from local experts, most hospital visits for self-harm are poisonings. Most suicide deaths are due to firearms. To read testimony about suicide by firearm and suicide prevention please see the link below.