Vermont lawmakers prepare to open virtual session

Published: Jan. 5, 2021 at 4:41 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont lawmakers return to the virtual statehouse Wednesday to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout.

State legislatures across the country are taking different approaches to how they gather as the pandemic rages on. Vermont lawmakers are opting to once again conduct their work fully remotely on Zoom.

During the last session, thousands of Vermonters collectively watched committee hearings online, opening the legislative process to the public. But conducting meetings remotely slows down the legislative process and at times makes it tough to communicate the nuanced details of bills and the issues. Much of the work that happens in the Statehouse is in small committee rooms, but discussions also happen in the cafeteria, hallways, and other places. Top lawmakers say they have to balance the traditions and work expectations with the restrictive environment surrounding Zoom.

“We have to be realistic and temper our expectations because you can not be as efficient over Zoom. You can’t have all of those rich, robust conversations over a table in a committee room,” said incoming Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, D-Windham County.

To make the committee process more efficient, Balint says she’s considering changing how meetings are conducted over Zoom and giving some people breaks when they’re not needed to review materials.

All of the ceremonial aspects of the new session including the swearing-in of lawmakers and committee assignments will take place online Wednesday, muting much of the pomp and circumstance that is usually seen at the Statehouse.

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