Thankfully, 2021 is here, and with it comes the start of a new legislative biennium. While we will be gathering virtually via Zoom rather than at the Statehouse this week, the work that state government needs to do to help families and businesses is real and urgent. In many ways we’ll continue where we left off in September, prioritizing the health and safety of Vermonters and looking to a brighter economic future that leaves no one behind.

In other ways, many things will be different this year. My friend, Rep. Jill Krowinski will be stepping into her new role as the Speaker of the House this week.  I have taken on a new job on the leadership team as the Assistant Majority Leader - Whip. Helping to set the agenda for the House is about listening to the needs of Vermonters and assisting our members and our committees in their work for the people of Vermont.

We know that COVID relief and recovery will require legislation across policy areas and committees. The pandemic revealed gaping holes in our safety net programs and brought long-term challenges like our lack of adequate investment in childcare and higher education to a head. This session we’ll get right to work on the immediate challenges of responding to COVID-19, like a bill that will allow Town Meeting Day voting to happen safely across the state. At the same time we must support a recovery that’s stronger and more equitable than our pre-COVID economy. We’ll begin this work by investing in our childcare system, doubling down on our early successes with CUDs to expand broadband and make sure that more people have access to food and housing across the state.

Solving the challenges of our immediate crisis, and the projected revenue shortfalls will be made a bit easier with the help of federal relief that was finally approved last week. These measures will help many Vermont businesses keep people working, but we know the drop in Unemployment Insurance relief and the small $600 checks won’t be enough to help the thousands of Vermonters facing hardship right now.

Part of that federal relief is unprecedented support for our transportation system. There is an opportunity to invest in our infrastructure, moving up paving projects and much-needed repairs while we plan for a lower cost, lower carbon future. With the over $50 million in additional federal transportation dollars allocated to our state, we have the ability to bolster and expand public transit options, help lower income families trade up their gas-guzzlers with Mileagesmart, and make our roads more friendly to biking and pedestrian traffic for decades to come.

You can watch the proceedings of the virtual House chamber and committees by following the streaming links at legislature.vermont.gov . It’s an honor to serve Saint Albans and Vermont, and you can always reach me at mmccarthy@leg.state.vt.us . Please stay safe and support each other by masking up and following all of the public health guidelines. I believe 2021 is going to be a tough, but better year for Vermont.

 

Rep. Mike McCarthy, Saint Albans

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