The first few weeks of a legislative biennium get off to a relatively slow start, not momentous at all. Bills are just beginning to be introduced and assigned to committees for consideration. Not only do new members have to get up to speed on subject matter of the committees to which they are assigned, but returning members assigned to different committees than before may have to as well. In other words, there is not a lot to report.
There were two exceptions this year, however. During the first full week we were back in session, the House quickly passed a bill that authorizes municipalities and school districts to hold town meetings remotely, use Australian ballots to vote on all matters including budgets, or postpone town meetings to later in the spring. The Senate quickly followed suit and sent the bill to the governor for his signature.
The Senate was also at work passing S.9, which extends certain workers compensation amendments related to COVID-19 that were enacted last year. These amendments give the benefit of doubt in certain circumstances that a worker who is diagnosed with COVID-19 is entitled to benefits under Vermont’s workers compensation laws. The House concurred with the Senate after fixing a date reference in the bill that had been overlooked. The next significant action will be to approve the budget adjustment bill that the Appropriations Committee has been hard at work on since day two of the session.
What really made the week special, though, was the change of administration in Washington, D.C., as I joined most of my fellow Americans in welcoming the Biden administration with the hope of a less divisive political atmosphere for the next four years. I was especially impressed with poet Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem. In it she says,
“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit, it’s the past we step into and how we repair it.”
It is with sincere hope that Congress, the Senate included, will be able to join with the administration in an effective national response to the pandemic and hit the economic defibrillator once again to jump-start the economy. The executive orders President Biden signed as soon as he took office will go a long way to reverse those of the previous administration that diminished the greatness of America.
For the past four years, a small package sat on my bookshelf waiting for its moment. In December of 2016, I attended a conference in D.C. and had an opportunity with other legislators from across the country to attend a briefing in the White House Office Building. We were given favors of Hershey kisses in little packages with the presidential seal. I decided to save mine until the incoming President was no longer in office. I had almost forgotten about it until the night of the inauguration after watching the televised spectacular fireworks display on the National Mall.
It was time. After four years, the kisses were as sweet as I expected, capping off this truly momentous week.