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.