Senate Update: Recovery-Focused Session Winds Down

by Kesha Ram, May 5th, 2021.


Dear Neighbors,


Wishing you renewal and joy as spring enters full bloom and we begin to see our friends and loved ones again. May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and I invite you to think about the contributions of our AAPI community while standing against violence and hatred toward Asian Americans, which has sharply risen during the pandemic.


We will also likely wrap up the legislative session toward the end of this month. There are many bills, provisions, and budget items in play, so I will not be able to address them all here, and I encourage you to reach out to me directly or attend our last in-session "office hours" with myself and Sen. Ginny Lyons next Wednesday, May 12 at 5 pm. Please register in advance for this meeting at https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAtd-2qqz8iGN1aLTvKIPtbiLpIwjm7T0LP and you will receive a confirmation email containing information to join and attend. If you have any problems registering or additional questions, please reach out to paige@vtdemocrats.org.


Unless circumstances change, this is likely to be the last session conducted remotely, and there is hope that we will build back better and provide robust relief to Vermont families. The major bills and issues that will likely be negotiated until late May include the budget, economic recovery grants, unemployment relief for businesses and families, revenue provisions, and pension governance and oversight reform. Within those, I hope to ensure there is a dependent benefit for unemployed Vermont families, that we remove taxation of federal business grants received in 2021 for small businesses, and that pension reform moving forward centers the voices and needs of our vital educators and state employees.


We have also not lost sight of future sessions and the other critical issues facing Vermonters. Among my major priorities are climate change, green jobs, and environmental health. I was proud to introduce S.148, which would ensure Vermont has an environmental justice policy overlaying its environmental, land use, and public health policies to ensure everyone receives environmental benefits and shares environmental burdens more equally. Otherwise, it is often low-income people and neighborhoods, as well as communities of color, that shoulder a greater burden of pollution, undesirable land use, and health impacts. This dynamic became even more apparent in the pandemic, but existed long before and Vermont is behind much of the rest of the nation in addressing these environmental health disparities and opportunities for sustainable growth.


Though my response might be delayed as the session comes to a close, I will make every effort to stay in touch with you. Please feel free to reach out with any thoughts, questions, or concerns.


All the best,


Kesha

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