By Mike Yantachka, Rep
As the world reacted in shock to the events unfolding in Washington, D.C. on January 6, the Vermont Legislature was convening for the 2021–2022 biennium. The storming of the U.S. Capitol for the first time since the War of 1812 by a mob egged on by a self-serving President, who refused to recognize that he lost the election, drew strong reactions throughout Vermont’s state government. That afternoon Governor Scott condemned the lawlessness and called for the President’s immediate resignation or removal from office.
The following day the Vermont House passed with a vote of 130 to 16 a resolution sponsored by Democrats, Republicans, Progressives and Independents calling for the same. (The text of the resolution can be found online). In my lifetime, only the 9/11 attack on our nation’s capital compares, and this time it was against the Constitution and our democracy itself by our own citizens. This is not what America stands for, and we need the country to make a course correction immediately. I hope that the nation can begin to resolve our deep political differences starting today.
Here in Vermont the Legislature began its work not in the usual fashion with pomp and circumstance in a packed chamber with friends and relatives looking on as members, new and returning, were sworn in, but from our own homes over Zoom. The House unanimously elected its Speaker, Representative Jill Krowinski of Burlington, as well as the Clerk of the House, Betsy Ann Wrask. Members were assigned to committees, and resolutions were passed to formalize the rules and procedures under which the Legislature will operate while the pandemic emergency order is in place.
Traditionally, the governor would give his inaugural speech to a joint session of the House and Senate in the House chamber. This year, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Governor Scott chose to deliver the speech on television in the evening. He did briefly address the joint session online earlier in the afternoon, congratulating the historic ascension of women to almost all the leadership positions in the Legislature. In the House they include Speaker Jill Krowinski, Democratic Majority Leader Emily Long of Newfane, Republican Minority Leader Pattie McCoy of Poultney, and Progressive Minority Leader Selene Colburn of Burlington. The Senate is led by Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray, President Pro Tempore Becca Balint, and Democratic Majority Leader Alison Clarkson. Senator Randy Brock was elected as the Republican Minority Leader.
In his address to the Legislature, Governor Scott acknowledged the necessity of working remotely, keeping meetings open to the public online, and working together for the benefit of all Vermonters. He said that while the pandemic brought heartache to many, it also showed that Vermonters care for each other. This care has made Vermont more successful in controlling the spread of the virus than many other states. While we cannot know when life will get back to normal, there is a light at the end of the tunnel because of the vaccines that are now available and being distributed. He reiterated his long-standing goals of growing the economy, protecting the vulnerable, and making Vermont more affordable, goals that are shared by legislators as well. The hard work now begins on how to achieve those goals.