In my first report to the district, I’d like to give you a brief overview of the first week of the session and the environment in which I find myself working.
The first thing I learned is that are a number of things you miss out on as a freshman if, like me, you are not affiliated with a party – on your own picking a “good” seat in the House Chamber, on your own setting up housing, and no name tag on your first day! These are really small problems in the grand scheme of what is ailing Vermont; nonetheless, I appreciated the many legislators of all, and no, parties that went out of their way to give me helpful advice.
Several weeks prior to the session, Speaker of the House Shap Smith asked all legislators to list their top five committee choices and why you chose them. In order I listed Education, Commerce, Ways & Means, General Housing & Military, and Government Operations. I’m pleased to have been put on the Commerce Committee which is chaired by Representative Bill Botzow of Pownal and vice chair Mike Marcotte of Coventry. You can follow along with what that committee is doing, who they are hearing from, and what legislation they are introducing here: http://legislature.vermont.gov/committee/detail/2016/11
The choosing of a seat in the chamber is a big deal – there are seats in political “neighborhoods”, there are seats to get in and out of the chamber without drawing too much attention, there are seats for “being on tv”. Freshman legislators are asked to wait out in the hallway and then by lottery are called in one by one to choose a vacant seat. If you are lucky, as I was, you get called towards the beginning and are able to find a seat you prefer instead of one that is left. I am sitting directly in from of Representative Botzow, and have freshman legislators Alyson Eastman of Orwell and Kia Morris of Bennington on either side of me.
On the second day of the session, legislators had to cast their ballots for Governor. This was due to the fact that the Vermont Constitution requires the Governor to be elected by at least 50 percent of the vote. Legislators were able to choose from the top three vote getters in the November election; Peter Shumlin, Scott Milne and Dan Feliciano. This was a secret ballot, though many, including me, declared who they would be voting for in advance. I was encouraged to respect the results of the statewide election and vote for Peter Shumlin. I was contacted by many folks throughout the state and asked to recognize that more people voted for someone other then Peter Shumlin and to cast my vote for change. I believe I was elected because voters trust my judgement on issues. In this particular case, it was my judgement that I needed to respect the vote totals in my district towns. It is so incredibly important as an American, a Vermonter, and as a resident of your town to vote, and my vote reflects that belief. Peter Shumlin received my vote because I was not inclined to overturn the majority vote from my towns. Even though that required me to vote differently then I did in November.
There are a number of issues that I know will be of particular interest to folks in the district including education reforms, property tax reform, healthcare reform and new legislation on universal background checks. I want to encourage voters in the district to be in touch with concerns, issues and ideas. You can reach me best via email at email@example.com or by phone at 348-7131. I also hope to be active on social media and on my website http://www.laurasibiliavt.com