Notes from Seat 26: January 2021 Legislative Update
“This is Representative Erin Brady and I am here.” On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, the Vermont State Legislature convened for the 2021-2022 biennium. I participated in my first roll call representing my neighbors here in Williston with my children and husband watching not from the State House balcony in Montpelier, but from our dining room. The Legislature conducted the traditional ceremonial opening over Zoom this year, and then got straight to work, electing a friend and great leader - Rep. Jill Krowinski - to be Speaker of the House. She immediately charged us to “...chart a course that leaves no Vermonter behind” as we recover from the pandemic. Most importantly, we took an oath that morning - to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Vermont Constitution.
I expected my first update to the community would be focused on the local issues involved with the legislative session ahead. Instead, I’m writing to tell you about the Vermont legislature’s reaction to our national crisis. On just my second day in office, I co-sponsored and voted yes on a joint resolution of the Vermont House and Senate condemning the storming of the U.S. Capitol as an attack on democracy. While the statement had broad support, I am disappointed it was not unanimous.
Our institutions held, the insurrection was rebuffed, the election was certified and I appreciate Governor Scott’s powerful statement calling for the president’s resignation or removal from office. It will likely be some time before we know if President Trump and the rioters at the Capitol are brought to justice but it was immediately clear that the violent insurrectionists were treated differently than many peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters have been treated. Systemic racism was on full display.
I look forward to providing these monthly updates and sharing how democracy can and does work in our state. In the short term, the Legislature will be laser-focused on COVID response and recovery during this session. While huge challenges lie ahead in our recovery, I am optimistic the Vermont ethos of coming together and making personal choices to protect our communities will help us recover faster and stronger. One of our first actions will be a “Town Meeting Bill” (H. 48) to provide flexibility to cities and towns, school districts, and water and sewer boards for alternative Town Meeting procedures for 2021.
I was thrilled to be assigned to the Education Committee and look forward to bringing my experience as a high school teacher, an adjunct instructor in the Graduate Education department at SMC and as a school board member to my committee work. In the coming weeks we will be taking testimony to better assess the full impact of the pandemic on Vermont’s students. In addition to committee work, there are many issue caucuses within the Legislature and I have joined the Women’s Caucus and the Social Equity Caucus. Women and minorities have suffered disproportionately during the COVID crisis and I am anxious to work on policies and programs that support equity and opportunity for all.
While legislators do not have any staff, I will be working with an intern from UVM. I appreciate the incredibly warm welcome and support I have received from many veteran legislators, including Representative McCullough. I have joined forces with several of the other “freshman” women who were just elected and we have been meeting regularly since the day after the election to support one another, share resources and navigate this new opportunity together.
“I am here” means I will work with my colleagues to serve the people of Vermont. “I am here” means I am present in this moment with awareness of the needs of those in Williston as well as across Vermont and feel a deep real sense of responsibility. “I am here” means I strive to be accessible. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions, concerns or ideas anytime and I am happy to set up a time to talk or meet (virtually for now).