The Vermont legislature’s last biennium ended following a temperamental special session that pit the Democratically-controlled legislature against the Republican governor. In November, voters sent Gov. Phil Scott to a second term and placed a Democratic veto-proof majority in both chambers of the legislature. During Governor Scott’s inaugural address last week, he called for finding common ground through consensus and compromise. Progressive/Democratic Senator Tim Ashe, who is serving his second term as ProTem, tells WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley he heard a couple themes in the governor’s speech.
“The first which was very much welcomed was the Governor’s expression that his team is going to work harder to collaborate with the Legislature. Observers will know the last two years it’s often been hard to find someone from the administration to work on the big challenges Vermont faces and so his expression to hit the reset button and work with the Legislature is one that I know we reciprocate from the Senate and hope that we can hit the ground running with a new relationship that works together. The Governor also focused a lot on demographic trends and I think it’s no secret to the entire Northeast that we don’t have the same population growth that we’re seeing in the Southwest or in cities in the Southeast. Whether there are any policies that a state government can adopt to reverse these macro demographic trends I’m a little skeptical. But the Governor said basically in his budget address we’ll hear from those. So there weren’t many specifics on that front but we’ll be all ears when things come forward. One discreet issue that I was very heartened to hear the Governor talk about was the need to test every school in Vermont for lead in the drinking water. A number of Senators, especially in Bennington County along with myself, were not happy to see that the administration was originally going to test every school within the next three or four years. The Governor has now said he wants to, just like us, to see that every school gets tested in one year which I’m very happy to hear because it’s so much easier to tackle these problems when we’re both on the same page rather than working at odds. So that’s an area in the speech that I really felt very very happy that the Governor articulated that position and look forward to working with his team to make sure kids are in a lead free environment at school.”