Vt. Legislature's opening features activist rally - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. Legislature's opening features activist rally

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Whether black, red, green or purple, in English or in Spanish, a colorful group of Vermont advocates came to Montpelier Wednesday with one message-- put people first.

"We all feel like in the past we've been fighting against each other or we've been pitted against each other. We're not going to do that anymore," said Karen Topper of Green Mountain Self Advocates.

Lobbyists from across the state came together under the umbrella of humanity, asking that bills be passed and money be appropriated for problems as diverse as their individual backgrounds.

"What I hope is that the bill will be passed so a union can be formed," said Rev. Donna Coletti-Lowre, a union advocate for Homecare.

"Freedom of movement by supporting access to driver's licenses for all Vermonters regardless of our immigration status," said Natalia Fajardo of Migrant Justice.

Every lawmaker will receive a card with a list of requests from "Put People First." Each card comes with one guarantee-- that this won't be the last time you see these advocacy groups.

"We're going to be here all of the time," Topper said. "We're going to be here until we get our message heard."

Many of the issues are unresolved from the last session, like the request to create a child care union, grant undocumented workers driver's licenses or increase taxes to fund programs for disabled Vermonters.

"This year twice as many people have signed up for services than there's money for," Topper said.

As with the start of any session, there's no guarantee these bills will pass. But they were promised the next best thing-- that the issues will be heard.

"We are neighbors, we are friends, we are sometimes adversaries, but we are a community and as a community we can make Vermont better," said Rep. Shap Smith, D-Vt. House Speaker.

Kicking off a colorful and likely controversial 2013 legislative session.

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