This January sees a complete changeover of leadership in the capitol as we swore in a new Governor, Lt. Governor, Senate President Pro Tem, and Speaker of the House; there are several new caucus leaders and over thirty new House members. Change like this creates uncertainty as people find their footing, but it also creates a lot of new opportunities.
Tradition does hold sway however, and the start of the new biennium consisted of a lot of ceremony, many speeches, and dignitaries roaming around. It is also a time of committee assignments, administration appointments, and more speeches. Legislators, media, and lobbyists pore over this information as if panning for gold, looking for nuggets to indicate policy priorities and direction.
I too am doing this because in November I was elected to be leader of the Progressive Caucus. It was in that new role that in the opening minutes of the session I issued a formal challenge to the seating of a member whose election results are still under appeal and will likely be recounted. The objection was overruled but it made the point that some of our election law needs updating and refining. That improvement will happen this year.
Also in my new role I was honored to formally nominate the new Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson. Her request that the Progressive Leader nominate her is an indication of willingness on both our parts to work across party lines for the best outcome.
It may be a new session with new leadership, but the challenges facing Vermont are the same: stagnant wages, lack of affordable housing, a sputtering economy, an aging and declining population, and the ravages of opiate addiction. These are not unique to Vermont but are the same problems facing all of rural America. The problems are not partisan; in the speeches last week I heard commitments across the board to solve them, and I pledge to work hard for solutions in the same light.
My committee assignment is the new Energy and Technology Committee with jurisdiction over energy, telecommunications, and IT systems. I think we have our work cut out for us!