Vermont Legislature Outlines Ambitious 2013 Goals


Shap Smith, recently sworn in as speaker of the Vt. House, has ambitious plans for 2013. (Courtesy/VTDigger)

By Molly Talbert

Last Wednesday, Jan. 9 the 2013 Vermont legislation session began in Montpelier.

The Speaker of the House, Shap Smith (D), opened the session with an address outlining several challenges that he would like to tackle in 2013. These include: education reform, universal health care, coping with climate change, drug addiction, infrastructure improvement and budget constraints.

Governor Peter Shumlin (D) chose to focus on one issue, education, rather than give a broad outline about his legislative goals for 2013.

“My goal-and the single objective of my administration-remains to grow jobs and incomes for working Vermonters. Our education system, from pre-kindergarten to higher education, is the state’s greatest economic development tool,” said Shumlin during his speech. “Our kids routinely test above the national average, and excel in a wide range of disciplines. We have a great system that we must make even greater.”

Several Middlebury College students were able to attend the event when the class Organizing for Social Change took a fieldtrip to Montpelier.

Barrett Smith ’13, a member of the class, and Anna Shireman-Grabowski ’15.5, who is auditing, highlighted a few of the issues that stood out to them while observing the proceedings.

Put People First, an initiative by the Vermont Workers’ Center, is working with Migrant Justice to allow migrants to obtain drivers’ license.

“Migrant Justice has been working diligently on this issue for over a year, framing the issue as … the human right to movement, and telling important stories about the realities of migrant farmworkers in Vermont who have faced the negative consequences of not being able to go to the hospital or the grocery store when they needed to, due to lack of transportation,” Hanna Mahon ’13.5, who interned for Migrant Justice last summer, wrote in an email.

Since Vermont is a rural state without very much public transportation, people without driver’s licenses aren’t able to drive to hospitals for health care or to the grocery store for everyday food items.

The “People’s Budget” is another issue that Put People First is working on in 2013. Shireman-Grabowski highlighted the “People’s Budget,” citing it as a “paradigm shift.”

The “People’s Budget’s” goal is to allow citizen’s to give their input to legislators before the annual budget is made. Rather than deciding on a budget and then allotting the money, citizens would decide what the important issues, what they think can be cut and what shouldn’t be cut, and then the budget would be decided. It is a restructuring that would allow people to “hold up each other’s issues,” said Shireman-Grabowski, because the community would be deciding what is important. It would be a way to identify what a community’s needs are and then appropriate money rather than cut back on important programs.