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.
SETTLING INTO THE SESSION - COMMITTEE WORK It was a busy second week at the State House as the 14 House committees settled in and began taking testimony. I serve on the House Committee on Corrections and Institutions which is a policy and money committee. Our committee considers a wide range of issues from the state capital budget and state bonding to security at the State House to school safety to historic preservation and cultural facilities grant funding to IT infrastructure in state government to policies at the Department of Corrections and more.
This week the Committee walked through the capital budget process and had an introduction to key staff, the work and the facilities that are overseen by the Department of Buildings and General Services of our Department of Corrections. In Vermont the DOC is within the Agency of Human Services, not within Public Safety or law enforcement – and this is a good thing because there can be better continuity and efficiency in serving people. On January 24th the Governor will be giving his State of the Budget when he will present the Administration’s FY2020 budget proposal and then the budget process kicks into high gear and my committee will hear from the State Treasurer as well and will begin its work on the two-year capital budget for FY2020 and FY2021. If you are interested in seeing what my committee or other committees are up to you can visit https://legislature.vermont.gov/ and you can see the week’s agenda and read testimony and reports and the bills that we are working on.
COFFEE WITH COFFEY During the session I am up in Montpelier Tuesdays through Fridays, and back home on weekends and Mondays. This past week I hosted my first Coffee with Coffey hours in Guilford and Vernon as a way to stay in touch with constituents during the legislative session. We had great turn out and great discussion with neighbors on topics ranging from the need for better internet service to workers’ rights to the need for more affordable housing and insurance for workers to updates on school mergers. My February coffee hours will be Monday Feb 11th from 5:30-6:30 at the Guilford Country Store and Saturday Feb. 16th at the Vernon Free Library.
ACT 46 + SCHOOL MERGERS Over the last three years Act 46 has taken up much energy and caused some division in our communities and tension with our neighbors. On November 30th the Vermont Board of Education issued its final decision on statewide school mergers to dissolve the school boards of Guilford, Brattleboro, Dummerston and Putney into one unified school district board, effective July 1, 2019. Since then, three lawsuits have been filed in Vermont challenging various aspects of the BOE’s decisions and the law.
With this newly emerging scenario, I believe that we need to press the pause button. This past week I joined a tri-partisan effort to propose legislation that would extend the deadline on forced school district mergers to give our school boards and our communities the time while the courts decide on these court cases. And, if the deadline extension is granted, I would advocate that the BUHS#6 finance committee would also give an extension on the current BAMS tuition arrangements during the transition.
I am committed to working with our local school boards and our communities to find innovative, cost-effective models that will allow our small schools to remain open and flexible so that they can be the centers we need to build strong and vibrant communities.
STAY IN TOUCH The issues we debate in Montpelier impact each and every one of us, and your voice and your participation in our democracy matters. I encourage you to voice your ideas and concerns at school board meetings, with your neighbors and at town meeting. And do not hesitate to reach out to me and your other elected officials.
During the legislative session I am best reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or getting a message to me via the Sargent at Arms by calling 802-828-2228.
The Vermont Statehouse is the People’s House, and it’s unique in that it is one of the few historic statehouses that is also still functioning as a facility for legislative action. The Vermont Statehouse and Legislature are open and accessible, and you are welcome to witness action on the floor or go into committee room. So please come visit and take a front row seat to seeing how an idea can grow and into a piece of legislation.
It is an honor to serve you and I hope to see you in the community or at the Statehouse.
Sara Coffey State Representative Windham-1/Guilford and Vernon e-mail email@example.com www.saracoffeyvt.com