What was different about this year’s session was more willingness than usual to work together. No doubt much of that had to do with Tropical Storm Irene, and Vermont’s reaction to the incredible damage wrought by the storm. Political leaders across party lines realized they had to work together.
Vermonters would stand for nothing less. After all, it would have been hard to explain to a family that had lost a home in the flooding that the reason the state couldn’t help was because Republicans and Democrats were fighting over some arcane component of a money bill. It just wouldn’t have been right, and to their credit, legislators realized this.
As Rep. Ann Manwaring explains on page 10, there was a lot to do in this session, and by most measures the Legislature accomplished quite a bit. Even Gov. Peter Shumlin was surprised at some of the things that passed through the Legislature and landed on his desk. He said as much when discussing the overhaul of the state education commissioner’s office, turning the posting into a governor-appointed cabinet-level position (see story, page 1). He noted that different governors had been trying to achieve that for the past 30 years.
This is not to say everything was sweetness and honey at the Statehouse. There were still plenty of disagreements, and a few open arguments. But there was no truly divisive issue this year: No civil unions, no Act 60, no big social issues to fracture legislators and Vermonters. We found that refreshing.
As Manwaring concludes in her report, there is still much to do. Of that there is no doubt. What we saw this winter and spring leads us to believe that much of that can be done, when leaders work together for common goals. We hope that when the Legislature convenes next year, after a fall election cycle that will likely see some mudslinging, state officials can continue the spirit of working together that was so prevalent this year.
Vermonters deserve nothing less, and should remind everyone who runs for office later this year they expect nothing less again.