As you read this, the Vermont Legislature is in its second week of the 2020 legislative session. In the four days of the first week, members of the House of Representatives returned to their committees, renewed friendships from the previous session, started work looking at legislation held over from the 2019 session, and began looking at new bills that had been introduced for action this year.

As a reminder, your five Essex Legislators will be returning to their committees assigned last year: Robert Bancroft to Commerce and Economic Development, Dylan Giambatista to Education, Lori Houghton to Health Care, Marybeth Redmond to Human Services, and myself to Appropriations.

As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, the committee that will prepare the 2021 fiscal year budget, I will be spending my time for the next five months surrounded by numbers prepared by the Governor in an effort to combine the Governor’s requests with my committee’s decisions as to what will be a fiscally responsible budget to present to the Legislature for the benefit of the people of Vermont.

My work on Appropriations actually began in December when my committee met for three days to look at the Governor’s recommended Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Adjustment. During the fiscal year the Legislature may decide it is necessary to adjust the current year’s budget. This change is implemented in the Budget Adjustment Act (BAA). The BAA is enacted into law similar to the end of the session Appropriations Act. The Governor submits proposed changes, differences are resolved in the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, a final version of the Budget Adjustment Bill is passed, and the Bill is sent to the Governor who may then choose to sign the Bill, not sign the Bill, or veto the Bill.

In looking at changes that might be needed in the BAA, last week my committee heard from Adam Gresham, commissioner of the Department of Finance and Management, Mike Smith, Secretary of the Agency of Human Services, the agency that accounts for almost 50% of the State’s almost $7 billion budget, Craig Bolio, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Taxes, Michael Schirling, the new commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, and Ken Schatz, the commissioner of the Department for Children and Families. In addition, my committee took testimony on the financial issues of the Brattleboro Retreat, the private not-for-profit mental health and addictions hospital that provides comprehensive inpatient, partial hospitalization, and outpatient treatment services for children, adolescents, and adults. The “Retreat” is in financial trouble and the Legislature will be looking to make a decision on how to resolve the financial issues.

I am always happy to answer any questions about what is happening in Montpelier or with issues you may have. I look forward to hearing from you. You can call me at 878-3514 and leave a message, or email me at: lmyers@leg.state.vt.us, or lindakmyers@comcast.net. I will get back to you as soon as I can. I appreciate the faith you have given me to represent you in Montpelier for the past 18 years, and I will work diligently to maintain your trust.

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