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Vermont administration officials hold policy briefings on key issues

Photo of Vermont Statehouse in winter
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Vermont Statehouse (file)

Members of Vermont Governor Phil Scott’s administration are holding a series of issue briefings for legislators. Each provides an overview of an issue the Republican will focus on during the legislative session and gives legislators an opportunity to question agency leaders.

Following the November election, Democrats and Progressives in the Vermont legislature have a supermajority, able to counter any vetoes by Governor Scott.

As the session gears up agency heads from the Scott administration are holding a series of briefings on issues the governor plans to prioritize.

During the first session the governor’s Press Secretary Jason Maulucci explained the goal of the meetings.

“These are intended to be very high level introductory briefings specifically tailored for folks who are not going to get more detailed information in your committees of jurisdictions," said Maulucci. "If you’re not on a judiciary committee, for example, this presentation is meant to be for your awareness so you understand the types of issues that we’re going to be bringing to the judiciary committee so when you hear about them over the course of the conversation in the legislature you at least have a general understanding of where we’re coming from and what our priorities are.”

Vermont Commissioner of Public Safety Jennifer Morrison led the first briefing on public safety, reviewing Scott’s 10-point public safety plan.

“In August the Governor issued this 10-point plan to address an uptick in violent crime that happened to coincide with an unprecedented law enforcement staffing crisis," noted Morrison. "So the Governor directed me and other agency and department executives in partnership with prosecutors and the judiciary to implement the plan to reinforce frontline law enforcement capacity and to prioritize the reduction and prevention and prosecution of violent crime.”

Legislators had a variety of questions. Addison-Rutland Representative Joseph Andriano, a Democrat from Orwell, asked Commissioner Morrison about rural response times.

“I come from a very rural area. There’s at least a perception that if you call 911 you’ll get lucky of someone shows up an hour later. What things are we doing to try to get response times to be better in rural areas?”

“The reality is that sometimes your resources, whether that’s a trooper or an ambulance service, may be coming from a long distance away," replied Commissioner Morrison. "So if you tell me that there’s an hour response time, I’m going to say yup that’s possible in many circumstances. I’d be remiss if I did not point out that we have 50 vacancies amongst our sworn ranks in the State Police. That’s a lot.”

Another policy briefing focused on climate and energy issues. Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore focused on the state’s passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act and work to create the Climate Action Plan.

“There’s a commitment to update the Climate Action Plan at least once every four years going forward. And there’s an extensive implementation section contained within the plan that should help inform decision making," noted Moore. "Many of the recommendations of the Climate Action Plan involve incentive-based programs and will rely on legislative action in order to be put in place.”

As Public Service Commissioner June Tierney explained weatherization and energy efficiency programs, she had a request for lawmakers.

“We are a small agency and the demands, all good, all well intended, all necessary that come from the legislature and the governor, they don’t ever seem to stop. So, you know, you need to keep that in mind as you sort out your priorities in the legislature as to what you want to do this session. If you’re going to assign new things, please make sure you assign them with resources so we can get it done.”

Upcoming briefings will review economic revitalization and affordability, housing, education and workforce, healthcare, economic revitalization and broadband.

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