Vermont Senate leaders talk 2021 accomplishments, upcoming veto session

Vermont News

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — On Wednesday, leaders in the Vermont Senate gathered in front of the State House to highlight what they feel were the key accomplishments from this legislative session.

The gathering came one day after Gov. Phil Scott vetoed two bills that would have allowed non-citizen residents in Montpelier and Winooski to vote in their local elections. The charter change amendments passed with 71% approval in Winooski and 65% in Montpelier.

In his veto letter, Scott called the non-citizen voting measures an “important policy discussion that deserves further consideration and debate.”

Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint (D-Windham) reacted to the governor’s decision on Wednesday. “The charter changes that we see in this building are almost always signed off on by the Governor, so I feel like this is a statement that he’s making,” Sen. Balint said. “You can bet we’ll be back for a veto session.”

The two-day veto session is set for later this month, and the question of whether non-citizens can vote in Montpelier and Winooski elections will likely be just one of several debates to be had.

“There are a few bills that didn’t quite make it over, and I anticipate that if we do have time, we will try to get them through,” Sen. Balint said. “It is completely acceptable for us to take up any remaining issues that are close to passage in that session.”

In the meantime, Senate committee chairs spent Wednesday morning highlighting key investments that were made this past session, including climate change initiatives. “Forty million additional dollars over the last year to reduce fossil fuel use and to build Vermont’s clean energy economy,” said Sen. Christopher Bray (D-Addison), chair of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy.

Lawmakers’ $150 million investment into community-led efforts to expand broadband service was also a topic of conversation, and Sen. Ann Cummings hopes it’s just the beginning as lawmakers in D.C. explore a larger infrastructure package.

“I think this is going to have a huge impact on Vermont,” Sen. Cummings said. “I think we’re all looking forward to more money so we can get more fiber out there.”

$190 million in the state budget was allocated toward affordable housing investments, and Sen. Alison Clarkson noted that prior to this year, the state’s largest allocation toward that cause was just $35 million. “From new affordable housing to expanding capacity in shelters, to supporting those moving out of homelessness, this is so big,” Clarkson said.

Sen. Randy Brock noted that Vermont’s Remote Worker Incentive Program got a boost this year as well. The program has sparked similar efforts to recruit workers in other states, and with more effort behind the program, Senator Brock hopes it can help make a dent in Vermont’s economic troubles.

“The beauty of this, and one of the reasons I like it, is every program we look at costs money. This program produces a profit,” Sen. Brock said.

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