New legislative session underway at capitol
by Ann Manwaring
Jan 17, 2013 | 816 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ann Manwaring
Ann Manwaring
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We’re off once again in Montpelier. Last Wednesday was the formal opening of the new biennium, a two-year session of the General Assembly. It was a day of pomp and circumstance – but mostly the playing out of tradition that has guided our state since our beginning. All members take the time honored oath found in the Vermont Constitution. It is pretty clear in expressing what our duties as legislators are, and they have a great impact on me. So I share the first part of the oath here with you:

“You do solemnly swear (or affirm) that as a member of this assembly, you will not propose, or assent to, any bill, vote or resolution, which shall appear to you injurious to the people, nor do nor consent to any act or thing whatever, that shall have a tendency to lessen or abridge their rights and privileges, as declared by the constitution of this state, but will, in all things, conduct yourself as a faithful, honest, representative and guardian of the people, according to the best of your judgment and ability.”

Of course, contained in those words is the path that we elected officials have to tread as we negotiate the ever present tension between what one person believes to be his or her rights and another person’s elbow. We live in an ever more complicated world, sometimes seemingly made that way because of the actions of government, but also made that way because of the actions of one or another individual or group of individuals or corporations, actions which call for redress for others or for all of us as the larger community of citizens.

I am glad to be reminded of the larger purpose and responsibility before we enter the day-to-day work before us in the Legislature. Once again I am pleased to be appointed to the Appropriations Committee. I like serving on this committee for a variety of reasons, one being that numbers are a comfort zone for me. It isn’t just being sure that the numbers add up correctly and are balanced on the bottom line that intrigues me, it is what all those numbers with dollar signs in front of them actually do, what results or outcomes can we expect if we spend one amount or a different amount. And increasingly the question will be what services or benefits to the community at large will have to be reduced or eliminated as purse strings continue to tighten, as every signal from Washington promises that they surely will.

This is the sixth year that we have started our deliberation with the need to fill a hole, this time estimated to be $50 million to $70 million. I suppose it is good news that this is only half as much as it was at the height of the economic downturn. But before we even start on the new budget for the next fiscal year, we have to complete work on the midyear corrections to the current budget, known as the Budget Adjustment Act, or BAA for short. This is a series of items needing more money and another list with available funding.

While the net change in this BAA is essentially neutral, there are several trends upward that are most troubling for future budgets, largely in the human services arena, but also in the judiciary.

Even though the issues we need to wrestle with get tougher every year, I want to say to all of you that I am most grateful for your support and for returning me once again to represent you in the Legislature. I welcome your involvement in any issue you believe to be especially important in your life. Please email me at sandbox@sover.net or call me at (802) 464-2150. Or during the session, leave a message at the Sergeant at Arms office at (802) 828-2228.

If you plan to be in Montpelier I’d love to see you. Just stop at the Sergeant at Arms office on the main floor of the capitol and a page will bring me a message where and when to meet you. You are always welcome at the state capital and to attend any committee meetings that might interest you. Please follow our schedule on the legislative website at www.leg.state.vt.us.
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