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A look at Vermont legislative priorities in the 2022 session

Published: Dec. 27, 2021 at 6:11 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont lawmakers are a week away from another legislative session sure to be dominated by the pandemic and federal cash.

There are a number of issues they will be tackling, and lawmakers say they are generally on the same page about what needs to be addressed, including the workforce, housing, broadband, child care, climate change and more.

The details of what those policies will be is still to come but we have an idea of how some of it will be funded.

Vermont is getting $2.2 billion from the new infrastructure bill and we still have $600 million from the American Rescue Plan. Lawmakers say those pots of money will be earmarked for investments in housing, broadband, clean water and climate initiatives outlined by the Vermont Climate Council.

The flood of federal cash largely smoothed out disagreements between the legislative and executive branches last year.

The pension issue was one of the most charged debates of last year. A task force of lawmakers, teachers, state employees and others has been working since the summer to come up with a solution to the $3 billion unfunded liability. A final report from the task force is due in the coming days. That will outline whether the state will raise revenues, cut benefits or some combination.

As for pandemic policies, the pandemic is still raging and omicron cases are expected to spike. Lawmakers have said they may explore a statewide mask mandate. Right now only towns can place those restrictions.

The forecasted omicron spike has some lawmakers still puzzling over how to conduct the session and allow for public access. Whatever form the session takes, however, committee meetings will continue to be livestreamed so people can watch online.

“That provides an opportunity for any and every Vermonter to participate and observe the legislative process, and I think that’s a good thing to have an electorate that’s informed and has an ability to understand the issues,” said Sen. Jane Kitchel, D-Caledonia County.

A key committee is slated to meet Tuesday for an update on how lawmakers will meet.

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