Notes from Seat 26: February 2022 Legislative Update
Last week I voted in favor of a $50 million tax cut for Vermonters. The proposal included a child tax credit of $1,200 per year to parents and guardians for every qualifying child six years of age or younger. The proposal would also exempt an additional $5,000 in social security income from state taxes.
The child tax credit would phase out at adjusted gross incomes of $200,000 for both single and joint filers. It’s fully refundable, which means Vermonters with little or no tax liability would get money back. H.510 passed by a roll-call vote of 102-46. From here, the bill moves to the Senate for consideration. One of the most pronounced lessons I’ve learned from 15 years as a public school teacher is the cumulative effect of inequitable opportunities and resources on young people and their families so I rose to speak on the House floor to express my strong support for this opportunity to support children and families.
The House has largely returned to in-person legislating, and while sitting in the grandiose House chamber (instead of my less grandiose kitchen), I could feel the gravity of our work as the House considered two amendments to the Vermont Constitution. I was honored and humbled to vote in favor of Proposal 2 amending Article 1, Chapter 1 of the Vermont Constitution to plainly state that “slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited.” Vermont outlawed slavery in 1777 when it ratified its first Constitution. But the wording is not absolute. As currently written, only persons over the age of 21 cannot be held in slavery. Additionally, a Vermonter over this age can be bound into slavery if they consent to being a slave. “Language is powerful,” said Rep. Hal Colston (D-Winooski) in presenting Prop 2 on the floor. “And the truth shall set us free.”
The House also considered the Reproductive Liberty Amendment (Proposal 5) recently. With support for Roe v. Wade eroding in the U.S. Supreme Court and growing concerns about diminishing federal protections for reproductive rights, the Vermont Senate introduced Proposal 5 in 2019. As I promised to do when I campaigned, I joined a majority of members in the House in voting yes to protect reproductive freedom. Should voters approve the amendment this November, Proposal 5 would be added to our Constitution as Article 22: “That an individual’s right to personal reproductive autonomy is central to the liberty and dignity to determine one’s own life course and shall not be denied or infringed unless justified by a compelling State interest achieved by the least restrictive means.”
I want to thank the people of Williston who reached out to me recently, especially about the Reproductive Liberty Amendment. I believe that reproductive health care decisions are deeply personal and should be made between a patient and their health care provider. If passed, Vermont will be the first state in the country to explicitly protect reproductive liberty in its constitution. Amending our constitution is the ultimate expression of democracy and the process is deliberately rigorous. Vermont law requires that a proposed amendment be passed by two consecutive legislatures and then go to the voters for the final decision. Willistonians will have a chance to vote on these two amendments during the November election. As we approach Town Meeting Day, the Legislature is hitting its stride. We’ll be putting together a budget that includes record investments in community development, childcare, healthcare and infrastructure. The once-a-decade redistricting process needs to wrap up by the spring and will change how Williston is represented in the Statehouse (spoiler alert - due to our growth, some Willistonians will likely no longer be in the same House district next year). In the Education Committee where I serve, we continue to focus on education finance and implementing a change to how school funding is distributed based on student needs. We are also exploring how to grow our amazing career and technical education resources and address our postsecondary access and attainment issues in response to broader workforce and demographic challenges. I am anxious to bring my extensive experience working with high school students to these conversations.
As we continue to return to closer to normal at the State House, I was especially thrilled to see that our first group of legislative pages (eighth graders who are selected through an application process) included Williston’s Cecilia Marino! I am honored to represent Williston during these challenging times and I strive to be accessible and responsive. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions, concerns or ideas anytime.