2019 Vermont Legislature Convenes; Governor Scott Highlights Early Childhood Issues in Inaugural Address
The 2019 – 2020 Legislative Biennium began last week with new and incumbent legislators gathering at the State House in Montpelier for ceremonies and speeches to kick off the Legislative Session.
In their comments, Governor Phil Scott and legislative leaders House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and Senate Pro Tem Tim Ashe included numerous early childhood priorities that are on the Alliance's 2019 Legislative Agenda. These included early care and learning, affordable housing, and paid family leave.
Early Care and Learning
In his Inaugural Address on January 10, the Governor voiced support for strengthening early care and learning programs, and said he would provide details in his budget address on January 24 on a plan to use new revenue for that purpose.
In his speech, the Governor highlighted the need for more affordable housing in order to recruit young workers. He pledged that his budget will "propose a package focused on growing the housing supply by revitalizing properties and investing in existing neighborhoods."
Paid Family Leave
The Governor also referenced a voluntary paid family leave plan in his Inaugural Address. On Wednesday, he further described details for a joint program with New Hampshire during a press conference with Governor Chris Sununu in Littleton, NH.
The Governor's concept has elicited responses from legislative leaders and advocates over the past week.
Senate Pro Tem Tim Ashe stated in a January 10 VTDigger story that, "most experts believe that you cannot have a successful program if it's voluntary because too few people would participate and there won't be enough funds for people to benefit." House Speaker Mitzi Johnson had already identified paid family leave in VTDigger back in December as one of her priorities this session.
Additionally, early childhood organizations, including the Alliance, responded to the Governor's idea by publishing a statement supporting the Vermont Family and Medical Leave Insurance campaign's (VT FaMLI) proposal for paid leave as outlined in the Alliance's 2019 Legislative Agenda.
VT FaMLI held a press conference on Thursday, January 17 at the State House to hear from legislators and businesses on why a universal family and medical leave program is essential for the health, wellbeing, and economic security of Vermonters. Stay tuned for upcoming news from this event.