LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: JANUARY 18, 2021 Happy Dr. Martin Luther King Day! Today is an important day to reflect on our ongoing work to right long standing injustices. As Dr. King said, “the time is always right to do what is right.” I’ve been thinking these words as I navigate the first few days of a virtual legislative session. How do we balance the strong push for the legislature to only address COVID and stabilize the economy and nothing more, with knowing glaring injustices demand our attention and response?
Top Constituent Topic: COVID Vaccines Several folks have reached out asking why educators or other essential workers are not higher on the COVID vaccination priority lists. I spoke with state staff at the Department of Health and created this helpful summary for folks. It explains the state’s priority logic and realities of the current COVID transmission rates and available vaccines.
Week(ish) in Review As the session kicked off I joined four issue-based caucus to help me stay apprised of bills and pertinent information for policy making: the Workers’ Caucus, Women’s Caucus, Climate Solutions Caucus and Social Equity Caucus. I was also elected Assistant Caucus Leader for the House Progressive caucus to support Progressives build policy strategy and caucus unity.
On January 7th, the House passed resolution J.H.R. 1 condemning the violent attacks on the U.S. Capitol. I co-sponsored the resolution and went further on to say with fellow Progressives that those acts were an act of domestic terrorism and a blatant example of how white supremacy is alive and well in this country.
We also passed H.48 to enable towns to navigate administering Town Meeting Day elections with the ongoing pandemic and public health needs. This bill allows towns to switch to Australian balloting instead of meeting in person, delaying elections if necessary, and allowing towns to opt to mail ballots to all registered voters if they so choose. Burlington currently plans to mail ballots to every registered voter. The City Council will make a final determination on this next week.
I also hosted a state legislator and city elected leader meeting to review the upcoming Burlington charter changes to brief legislators and enable them to address constituents with questions. Charter changes first go through the city council process, then to local voters on the March ballot and, if passed by voters, to the state legislature for final approval. I have taken the lead in regularly convening Burlington state representatives and Chittenden County senators to coordinate information sharing and policy discussions on issues that impact Burlington.
The Commerce Committee also held a joint hearing with the House General Committee to review a recent report which revealed women made up 73% of all unemployment claims in Vermont at the end of 2020 - likely the highest UI gender disparity in the country. My committee will hear more about unemployment in the next few weeks and I plan to see what targeted work we can do to address the disproportionate impact of the pandemic recession on women. The Vermont Commission on Women held an event where they more deeply explored the impacts of the pandemic on women’s economic well being, especially BIPOC women.
Emma’s Legislative Page. Follow along with what bills I introduce and co-sponsor this session on my legislative page here.
Watch my House Committee - Commerce & Economic Development. Every state representative is assigned one committee. This committee oversees unemployment, workers’ compensation, workforce development, consumer protection, insurance, banking regulation and COVID relief funding as it relates to business and worker stabilization/recovery. Our weekly agendas, list of folks who testified and many other resources can be found here.
Watch the House deliberations here.
Upcoming Topics in Commerce/Other Areas This week the House Committee on Commerce will hear testimony and likely vote on S.9 a bill to extend the workers’ compensation rules for workers who contract COVID-19. The current rules expire this month. Other committees will be taking up technical fixes to the educator health care bargaining law and begin to examine the newest wave of COVID relief funds from the federal government.
Upcoming Events with Emma
Tuesdays at Noon. House Progressive Public Caucus meetings. These meetings are streamed live this session and will be recorded. Tune in to hear Progressive representatives’ policy priorities and hear from guest speakers. Email me for the YouTube link.
Sunday Coffee/Tea with Emma, joined by Rep. Selene Colburn and Rep. Brain Cina. Sunday, January 24th from 4-5pm. Bring your ideas, questions and concerns. Learn the latest news from the legislature. RSVP here for the Zoom link.
Next week: Learn more about my upcoming bill drafting requests and much more.
Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, State Representative Elect Chittenden 6-2 (Old North End/New North End) email@example.com 802-448-0838 Social Media @emmaforvthouse
Picture description: Bar graph from Vermont Joint Fiscal Office showing shares of recipients of unemployment insurance benefits by gender and age in November 2020. Female identified people in Vermont made up almost 75% of all UI recipients compared to male identified people.