Dear Neighbors and Friends,
Thank you for keeping in touch over the last 14 months. The 2021 legislative session will go down in the history books, both in terms of legislator time spent on Zoom and the vast infusion of federal aid that has come to our Green Mountain State due to the global pandemic. We will never forget the hundreds of Vermonters who lost their lives, nor those of us still navigating grief or diminished health.
This pandemic has revealed the gaps and inequities in our system and has tested our institutions and forced us to think creatively. In Vermont, we’ve taken bold action to meet our challenges together and I’m proud of our state budget and the collaborative work lawmakers put in this session.
What’s important for you to know is that I carried your priorities with me into the session and worked diligently to ensure that the millions of dollars coming into the state were put to immediate and effective use in response to the crisis. I advocated for numerous high-impact, once-in-a-lifetime investments you’ll read about here that will accelerate recovery with the aim of leaving no Vermonter behind.
In my second term I was appointed Vice Chair of the House Corrections and Institutions Committee and named Democratic Co-Chair of the Women’s Legislative Caucus where I have focused on making strategic investments in infrastructure critical to pandemic recovery, reforming our criminal justice and mental health systems, changing the culture of corrections and championing legislation that addresses racial equity and the health and well-being of women in Vermont.
Our just-passed FY2022 budget strengthens systems and services to create an equitable recovery plan that invests in people and rebuilds the economy in all 14 counties. It brings broadband and connectivity to rural communities. It invests in child care to increase affordability and accessibility. It makes a massive investment in increasing affordable housing stock for low- and middle-income Vermonters. It prioritizes climate change, clean water, and begins to center racial and social equity in more of our investments.
This newsletter is longer than usual as it includes my end-of-session report and highlights from the 2021 legislative session. You can also visit my legislative page to see the bills I co-sponsored and how I voted on all the bills that came to the House floor.
It has truly been an honor to represent the people of Guilford and Vernon in the Vermont House of Representatives. While the session has ended, please know that I am available to answer questions, help you connect with resources, and listen to your priorities. I look forward to hearing from you.
State Representative, Windham-1/ Guilford & Vernon
Vice Chair, House Corrections & Institutions Committee
Co-Chair, Women’s Legislative Caucus
It continues to be an honor serve as the State Representative for the Windham-1 district. Thank you for your trust in me. The 2021-2022 biennium began as no other like it, with legislators working over Zoom maintaining our normal-in person schedule to do the people’s work. Our priority this session is on our economic recovery and the health and well-being of our communities, and to build back better.
This blog post provides an update on my work and some of the bills currently under consideration. Please reach out anytime to share your concerns or if you need help, or join me for one of my monthly Coffee with Coffey hours the first Sunday of every month from 3-4pm over Zoom. In the meantime, take good care, look out for your neighbors and stay healthy and safe!
Dear Neighbors and Friends,
I hope that this email finds you and your family healthy, happy and safe. It continues to be an honor and privilege to serve the people of Guilford and Vernon in the Vermont House of Representatives.
As 2020 comes to a close, I am reflecting on the past year and am filled with gratitude for the way our community has come together to help one another during this challenging time. The pandemic has revealed the inequities and the gaps. While we will continue to face challenges - there are also brighter days ahead. I have seen how by coming together we can creatively problem-solve to support our communities, our schools, local businesses and the most vulnerable Vermonters. This gives me great hope and inspires me for my work ahead in the Legislature.
As we head into 2021 and the start of a new biennium I wanted to share some information about the coming session and what I will be focusing on. Please know that I am available as a resource and an advocate, so don't hesitate to reach out if you need assistance.
The election results for Windham-1 are in, and I’m incredibly honored to earn the confidence of voters and be re-elected to serve Guilford and Vernon in the Vermont House!
I deeply appreciate the support of everyone who helped with the campaign. From the fantastic volunteers helping to make calls or hosting lawn signs to the financial donations and letters to the editor backing my race, your efforts on my behalf have been the backbone of this campaign!
In the days, weeks and months ahead we will need to come together and work together on our recovery due to this health and economic crisis. Between now and January my work will continue as I prepare for the next legislative biennium. I will continue to work on the needs of our rural community and on ensuring no one falls behind during this pandemic. I am looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting back to work and doing everything possible to ensure that the people of Vernon and Guilford have a strong voice in Montpellier.
If you live in my district, it is my privilege to represent you, and you should always feel free to contact me if you need assistance or want to let me know what’s on your mind. I will be hosting my Coffee with Coffey hours in the weeks ahead, and I hope you will join me and your neighbors.
with gratitude and hope,
State Representative Sara Coffey
Windham-1/ Guilford & Vernon
Thank you for keeping in touch throughout Vermont’s 2019/2020 legislative biennium. 2020 will go into the books as a memorable year. This pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our lives, including the usual rhythm of the Vermont Assembly. We have seen how our collective actions of staying at home, social distancing, and wearing masks in public have helped to flatten the curve in Vermont. We continue to have a shared social responsibility to protect our neighbors and to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In mid-March, the Vermont Assembly pivoted from working under the golden dome to working remotely from our living rooms and home offices over Zoom for an extended session. We worked through the end of June and returned on August 25th for an extended special session to complete our work on the FY21 budget and to advance critical legislation to address the health and economic needs of Vermonters and to take action on climate change.
I ran for office because I care deeply about the future of our small rural communities. As a first-term legislator, I have been working on the issues that matter to my constituents through active participation in the Climate Solutions Caucus, the Rural Economic Development Working Group, the Women’s Caucus, and the Social Equity Caucus. I co-sponsored legislation to expand rural broadband, address climate change, and increase investments in affordable child-care and housing. I successfully advocated to appropriate $3.5 million of Corona Relief Funds to the Working Lands Enterprise Program and $5 million for the creative economy. You can also visit my legislative page to see the bills I co-sponsored and how I voted on all the bills that came to the House floor.
As a member of the Vermont Assembly, I also feel a deep responsibility to speak up and stand against hatred and racial injustice and to work for equity. During this pandemic we have seen protests around the country and across our state calling for change. In an unexpected way, COVID-19 has provided the time and space for people to become more aware of our society’s injustices and come together to call for action, thus paving the way for some real transformative change. This gives me great hope.
Achieving equity in our society across race, class, and gender isn’t the work of only a few leaders in the Legislature; this is all of our work. I hope that you will join me in this work by learning and engaging in this conversation with your neighbors, contacting your elected leaders at every level, continuing with collective action, and raising your voice. It’s going to take hard work from all of us. We must collectively push forward to make these essential changes so Vermont is a state where all of us can thrive, not just the select few.
This newsletter is longer than usual as it includes key votes and legislative highlights from the 2019/2020 biennium. You can also visit my legislative page to see the bills I co-sponsored and how I voted on all the bills that came to the House floor.
While the session has ended, my work will continue into the winter as we prepare for the next legislative biennium which will begin in January 2021. My focus is on the needs of our community and on ensuring no one falls behind during this pandemic. Please know that I am available to answer questions, help you connect with resources, and listen to your priorities.
It has truly been an honor to represent the people of Guilford and Vernon in the Vermont House of Representatives, and I hope to earn your vote in this election and continue to be a strong voice for our rural communities.
Stay in touch and stay safe!
State Representative, Windham-1/ Guilford & Vernon
Dear Neighbors and Friends,
The 2020 Legislative Session began this past Tuesday, and it’s a great honor to return to work under the golden dome of the State House to represent Guilford and Vernon. As I did last year, I plan to send out regular updates, as well as links to information that may be helpful to constituents in understanding various proposals under consideration.
One of the things that I continue to appreciate at the Vermont State House is the culture of respect for the institution and each other. I will continue my work to listen, debate my colleagues and find common ground so that together we can address the social, environmental and economic challenges to ensure that all Vermonters have access to opportunities and a bright future.
Dear Neighbors and Friends,
I hope you enjoyed the holidays and that 2020 is off to a good start for you!
I have been busy these last few months attending meetings, forums and events, and reading legislative reports to prepare for the upcoming session that begins on January 7th. I want to thank everyone who has been engaged and working to make Guilford and Vernon great places to live and work.
As a new legislator I have focused my efforts on strengthening our rural economy, ensuring quality and affordable education and childcare, protecting our rivers, streams and lakes, taking steps to address climate change and reforming our criminal justice system. Some of the work is ground breaking, and some of it is in the fine details, but all of it is in an effort to help Vermont families and communities thrive.
Dear Neighbors and Friends,
I hope that you enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday. During this time of thanks, it's important to also think about our neighbors who are struggling to keep their homes warm, food insecurity or lack of access to affordable housing. It's a great time to consider what you can do for those who are less fortunate, now and throughout the year by volunteering or supporting some of our local social service and community organizations.
If you know folks who need assistance of any kind, dial 2-1-1, text your zip code to 828211, or visit the Vermont 2-1-1 database. There you will find connections to many programs and services, such as fuel assistance, legal help, transportation and employment. Currently there are over 10,000 services listed that are provided by local community groups, social service and health-related agencies, government organizations, and others.
In a little more than five weeks Vermont's 2020 legislative session will begin on January 7th. I want to hear about what you think of some of the major topics that we will be tackling at the State House. Please take a few minutes and let me know where you stand on some of the issues by filling out the 2020 Vermont issues survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/B9VDP98. Your responses will help me in advocating for the issues that you care about.
Dear Neighbors and Friends,
While I love the work up in Montpelier, there is nothing better than coming home. It's been wonderful to be back to enjoy this spectacular summer and fall, to have time with my family, to reconnect with the communities I serve, to work on issues and to prepare for the coming session.
The off-session has been very busy -- I’ve been meeting with constituents and community groups; organizing meetings to advance broadband, the creative economy and renewable energy projects in our region; traveling to Montpelier for the Joint Justice Oversight Committee meetings and to DC for the Women in Leadership conference; participating in local and state-wide conversations on higher education, corrections reforms, climate solutions and strengthening our rural economy. As a State Representative it's such a privilege to meet with a lot of people and hear about struggles and challenges and I try to help them cut through the red tape and connect them with resources. I also get to hear about the success stories and all the wonderful work that people are doing in our communities and it really inspires me and motivates me.
I am working to find solutions and build coalitions to collectively address the social, environmental and economic challenges we face and I wanted to share some of the issues that I have been working on and to let you know about some upcoming events and opportunities.
ADVANCING REGIONAL SOLUTIONS FOR RURAL BROADBAND
As many folks know, improving access to broadband has been a high priority for me. This year the Vermont House passed the boldest, most innovative policy yet to get high-speed internet service to the farthest corners of our state. The legislation empowers local municipalities to determine the connectivity solutions most appropriate for their communities and provides financing programs to get local initiatives off the ground.
Telecommunications are regulated at the federal level, so close cooperation with our federal delegation is key. In July we had a terrific meeting with Congressman Peter Welch to talk about the complex issues around connectivity in our rural state, and while challenges remain, coordinating our state efforts with work being done in DC will mean better access for Vermonters. You can read more about our meeting HERE: https://www.reformer.com/stories/common-ground-found-on-broadband,578557
Thank you for keeping in touch throughout Vermont's 2019 legislative session. Over the last 19 weeks I have been immersed in testimony, debate, deliberation and parliamentary procedure. We accomplished a great deal for Vermonters this session to build a stronger, healthier Vermont that works for everyone, not just the select few.
We worked together to build bridges and find our common ground, and as a result accomplished so much this session for Vermonters. We passed a budget without raising new taxes and advanced and a number of bills including some of my priorities to: expand rural broadband; invest in affordable housing and childcare; preserve women’s reproductive liberties; create a permanent funding source for clean water projects; address climate change and invest in workforce training and development. I am very proud of our collective work.
During the final weeks of the session, House and Senate leaders were trying to hash out a compromise on paid family leave and the minimum wage. I’m disappointed the legislature couldn’t work out a deal on these important issues. But it’s not easy—and nor should it be easy—to build consensus among 150 Representatives, 30 Senators and the Governor. In spite of this ending, we accomplished a great deal for Vermonters this session to build a stronger, healthier Vermont.
While we often hear about the issues debated on the floor, so much of our work in the legislature happens in the committee room. I serve on House Corrections and Institutions, where we focus on corrections policy and the capital budget. I believe that budgets and prisons are reflections of our priorities and values, so I have thoroughly enjoyed the work on this committee making fiscal and policy decisions that I believe will help build stronger and healthier communities throughout Vermont. You can read more below.
This blog post is a bit longer than usual as it includes many of the highlights from the session and more details of my work on the House Institutions and Corrections Committee. You can also visit my legislative page at www.legislature.vermont.gov to see the bills I sponsored and how I voted on all the bills that came to the floor.
It has been an honor to represent and serve Guilford and Vernon in the Vermont Assembly this year. In the off-session I will be doing a lot of work with my colleagues around the rural economy and criminal justice and corrections reform. Please be in touch via email SCoffey@leg.state.vt.us if you have any questions or want to discuss your priorities for the legislature when we reconvene in January 2020.
I look forward to hearing from you!
Town Meeting is one of my favorite traditions in Vermont -- it’s democracy at its best, where budgets and issues are respectfully debated among neighbors. It was great to talk with so many neighbors in Vernon and Guilford at Town Meeting this year.
Following the Town Meeting recess, I returned to the State House for “crossover.” This is the time when bills need to have moved out of their policy committees and voted up in either the House or Senate in order to "crossover" to the other legislative body to remain alive for the year. So, it's been incredibly busy and exciting time, and this update includes some of the highlights.
It is an honor to represent Guilford and Vernon in our citizen legislature in the Vermont House of Representatives. I have been commuting to Montpelier for eight weeks now, and every day as I approach the State House I am greeted by Ceres, the goddess of agriculture atop the golden dome. Ceres reminds me of who I am serving and of the importance of Vermont’s agricultural heritage. I am committed to working to build bridges, finding common ground and working together to find solutions to ensure that all Vermonters have opportunities and equal access to a bright future.
February update: connectivity, fish hatcheries, electing the next Adjutant General, protecting women's reproductive rights in VT & more
I’ve been commuting to Montpelier for six weeks now, and every day as I approach the State House I am greeted by Ceres, the goddess of agriculture atop the golden dome. Ceres reminds me of who I am serving and of the importance of Vermont’s agricultural heritage and our rural communities. Sometimes living in Guilford and Vernon, the southeast corner of the state, we can feel distant from removed from Montpelier, so I feel like a big part of my new job is to bring visibility to our communities and to be a conduit to share the discussions and debates that are happening with my constituents.
Today we celebrate the life and work of Martin Luther King. The words and actions of Dr. King remain powerful reminders of what our country stands for. He led with compassion and challenged hate with love. When faced with a fight he turned to peace. When confronted with wrong, he put all his energy into doing what was right, for as he said, “the time is always right to do what is right.” Dr. King’s words and actions can inspire all of us and guide us every day in our life and work. During these challenging times, I’m so inspired by Dr. King’s example, especially as I serve in the Vermont Assembly.
It’s been an incredible week filled with ceremony, fiscal meetings, speeches and lots of snow!
On Tuesday I headed up to Montpelier for a full day of fiscal briefings from the Joint Fiscal Office on various aspects of the State’s and on Wednesday morning, before my family and alongside my new colleagues, I was officially sworn in as the State Representative for Windham-1 to represent Guilford and Vernon.
As this year comes to a close and I reflect on the past year, I am filled with so much gratitude and hope.
I am so grateful to my family and to everyone who participated and engaged with me over the course of the campaign. It is an incredible honor to have earned the privilege to serve as the State Representative for Guilford and Vernon in the Vermont House of Representatives.
During the campaign I spoke with and listened to so many neighbors in Vernon and Guilford. Folks took the time to share their stories, express concerns and exchange ideas. On January 9th I head to the Vermont State House to be sworn in, and I will carry these stories and bring this optimism to my work in the legislature.