Vermont lawmakers return to Montpelier for 2019 session

By  | 

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont lawmakers braved the ice and snow Wednesday morning and descended on the Statehouse for the first day of the Legislative biennium.

Like the first day of school, there's always excitement and optimism on the first day of the session. The leadership in the House and Senate isn't changing and neither are their goals.

Members of the House re-elected Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero, to the top post. In her opening remarks to the chamber, she called on colleagues to create opportunity for all Vermonters.

"Every Vermonter should have the opportunity to have a job that pays the bills or start a business of their own, to be able to access high quality health care, to get a great education, and to retire with dignity and security," Johnson said.

Just down the hall, the Senate picked Sen. Tim Ashe, D-Chittenden County, to remain as its leader. Two years ago he spoke of two Vermonts -- the haves and the have nots. He stuck with that same theme Wednesday.

"I challenge all of you, I challenge each committee you will serve on, and I challenge myself, to never let go of this one question: What can we do to improve life in the other Vermont," Ashe said. He says lawmakers must address the issues that are holding some Vermonters back. "In this other Vermont, kids grow up in households with drug and alcohol addiction, mental health challenges, all the other things that make some household challenges so great."

Back in the House, the speaker says she's focusing on keeping Republicans in the mix despite their limited numbers -- they lost 10 seats in the election and have just 43 members.

"A Republican came up to me and said a couple of months ago, 'Look, we were given a message in November and we can't be the party of no. We've gotta figure out how to be the party of yes,'" she said.

Johnson says she hopes to advance bipartisan legislation and not just progressive priorities, so a carbon tax is not likely to be in the mix.

"I don't see a lot of real strong support for massive increases in gas taxes," she said.

Wednesday was also full of ceremony and tradition with nearly 50 new lawmakers sworn in to office.

Governor Phil Scott will be sworn in for his second term Thursday and will give his inaugural address. WCAX will be carry live coverage of the address beginning at 2 p.m. Thursday.