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South Hero lawmaker to become House Speaker - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

South Hero lawmaker to become House Speaker

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Rep. Mitzi Johnson/File Rep. Mitzi Johnson/File
MONTPELIER, Vt. -

For the first time in more than 50 years, Vermont will have a new Governor, Lt. Governor, Senate President and Speaker of the House. Vermont will have a Republican governor, Progressive Lt. Governor, and a legislature dominated by Democrats, but new statehouse leaders insist all parties in our divided government will be able to work together.

This weekend Rep. Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) effectively cinched her claim to be Vermont's next Speaker of the House, the third woman to hold the job in state history. Her imminent succession settles the makeup of Vermont's new statehouse leadership, but not how the power dynamics will shift with a new Governor, Lt. Governor, and Senate President as well. "My proposal is not because of those things, but I think it works well in conjunction with the situation and the system we're walking into," Johnson said.

Johnson says she won't dictate the House's agenda but will extend a strategy she employed as the chairwoman of the powerful spending committee last session. The Democrat expects grassroots ideas to bloom from those deepest into the policy weeds, whether they come from long-serving reps, or one of the chambers more than two dozen new members. "Before we start jumping in and naming the things we have to work on, I want us to actually take that time to stop and diagnose things a little bit and look at what we should be doing," she said.   

"My first priority -- first and foremost -- is to reach out to every member of the Senate and really ask them to reflect on why they ran for office in the first place," said Sen. Time Ashe, (D/P-Chittenden County) who takes over as Senate President Pro-Tem after serving as that chamber's finance committee chairman. He says he expects the body to take up water quality, drug problems, college affordability and the rural economy.
     
The left holds a super-majority in the Senate, but many here served with Republican Governor-elect Phil Scott when he represented Washington County in the body. "There's going to be no shortage of opportunities for people to work with our new Governor and come up with solutions that reach across the aisle," Ashe said.

     

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