We live in a changing world. Corporate giants threaten the survival of family farms and businesses, natural disasters strike with increased intensity, and youth are challenged with a shortage of options. The issues that have faced Vermont for decades have only been pushed further by the current COVID-19 public health crisis, making this a critical time to rethink our systems as we rebuild our future.
Fortunately, our small state can make some big changes of our own. Instead of turning a blind eye to inequality, we can lend a hand to struggling Vermonters. Instead of sending money to oil companies and polluters, we can invest in a clean and green economy. Instead of relying on big businesses, our local communities can be sources of resilience and independence.
Whether it’s health care, education, commerce, or the environment, Vermont works best when it works for the people. Here are some ways that we can take steps in the right direction.
Resources for Recovery
Today in Bennington, 1 of every 5 children under the age of six are living in poverty. Our county has the 2nd highest rate of opioid overdose in the state, and yet has the lowest percentage of people receiving addiction treatment. There is no simple solution to these issues, but I believe that there are steps we can take. For example, an increased investment in Vermont childcare can give the next generation of Vermonters a head start. A universal lunch program can ensure that no child is left unfed during a school day. I support expanding Vermont’s Hub and Spoke model for opioid recovery, and I also support increased attention to mental health resources and for people with disabilities.
There is uncertainty around Vermont’s next generation of skilled workers as more Vermonters reach retirement age and businesses struggle to find employees. From childcare to trade schools, Vermont can provide a “cradle to career” path for kids to grow into successful adults. We can foster tomorrow’s workforce by promoting hands-on learning, technical schools, and community colleges. By investing in affordable housing, high-speed internet, and vibrant downtown centers, we can improve quality of life for current Vermonters as well as out-of-state professionals looking for their next home. I believe that we should also welcome immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers to contribute to our workforce, our culture, and our economy.
Green Economy & Climate Action
Every time Vermonters spend $1 on heating oil or gasoline, 75 cents leaves the state. We can keep that money within our local economies by weatherizing our homes, electrifying our vehicles, and generating our own renewable energy. By investing in disaster-ready infrastructure, smart transit, and efficiency technology, we can create good paying jobs, start new companies, and find solutions for the future. I believe that Vermont is ready to be a national leader in addressing the challenges and opportunities posed by climate change. As a representative, I would support the Global Warming Solutions Act, the Transportation Climate Initiative, as well as investments in climate specific workforce development.
While big box stores like Walmart and Home Depot are making billions of dollars in profits, they should be able to provide their employees a livable wage. Wage increases will help our local businesses by bringing more money into our communities. Even after being vetoed by Governor Scott and voted down by Bennington 2-1’s Representative Bates, Vermont is fortunately on-track to earn $12.50 an hour by 2022. I look forward to helping Vermonters earn a minimum wage of $15 an hour by 2024.
A parent shouldn’t have to choose between maintaining an income and caring for their newborn baby. Vermont recently proposed a publicly funded paid leave plan which was vetoed by Governor Scott and voted down by a single vote margin which included Bennington 2-1’s Representative Bates. I am proud to say that if I were in Bates’ place, Vermont would have paid family leave today. I also believe that to maintain healthy families, Vermont needs to maintain a parent’s choice in childbirth. While Roe vs. Wade may be threatened by the Trump administration, I will stand to defend women’s reproductive rights in the State of Vermont.
As Donald J. Trump infamously said, “Nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated!” Meanwhile, everybody can agree that our healthcare system needs serious help. I believe there are many steps necessary to transition to an effective public health system. I support moving away from a fee-for-service model of healthcare, controlling the prices of pharmaceuticals, and meanwhile investing in hospitals as assets to our communities. I also support a rekindled attention to Act 48, a bill passed in 2011 which had the ultimate goal of transitioning to a single-payer system.
ACT 250 Modernization
Act 250 is a bill that was passed in 1970 to put a review process in place for developments such as large construction projects. Act 250 serves our communities by creating a local decision-making process, and serves our natural resources by putting environmental protections in place. However, Act 250 could use some updating after a half-century in the books. I support District Commissions in which local communities are able to review proposed developments, but I also propose some standardization across communities so that the permitting process is more accessible to state-wide developers. I also support the proposed Act 250 exemptions to favor smart downtown development and reduce sprawl. I support Act 250 revisions that address climate change, reduce forest fragmentation, and continue the control of storm-water runoff.
Racial Equity & Migrant Justice
Vermont is not immune from the racial inequity that affects our nation. If we want to flourish as a state, we need to welcome people of all backgrounds to contribute to Vermont’s collective identity. As a representative, I look forward to continued support of the Racial Equity Advisory Panel as well as the Executive Director of Racial Equity create by Act 9. I also support VT Senate Bill 388’s proposed investigations of racial disparities in law enforcement and criminal sentencing. I also support fair and impartial policing in relation to the approximately 1,500 people who are migrant workers for Vermont’s dairy farms.
While I support gun ownership for hunting and recreation, I also recognize that gun legislation can benefit public health. After a close call in which a school shooter was caught before committing the act, Republican Governor Phil Scott signed-in three gun laws. In addition to these laws, I would support a waiting period for purchase of firearms (a law which Governor Scott vetoed), since a 72-hour delay has been shown to significantly prevent suicide rates. I also support VT House Bill H.610 which would close the “Charleston Loophole” as well as require alleged domestic abusers to hand over their guns to law enforcement while a restraining order is in effect.