Legislature opens in person tomorrow, will meet remotely for two weeks

By Guy Page

The Vermont Legislature will reconvene in person tomorrow at 10 AM for the second half of the 2021-22 biennium tomorrow. Both Senate and House are expected to immediately vote to meet remotely via Zoom for at least two weeks.

The decision to not meet in person during the first two weeks of the session was made by the Joint Rules Committee last week, in response to concerns about the growing number of Omicron-variant cases of Covid-19. The committee promised to revisit the need for a remote Legislature two weeks after tomorrow. 

Vermont hit a single-day record of 1,352 reported cases Thursday Dec. 30, passing the previous day’s record of 940. Four more deaths were reported, bringing the official Vermont Covid-19 death total to 471.

During the in-person House gathering tomorrow, the downstairs public gallery will be closed to the public, and instead will be occupied by socially-distanced House members. The upstairs gallery press section will be open. The upstairs gallery public section will be limited to 20 people, on a first-come-first-serve basis, per order of the Speaker of the House, State House officials said today.

Vicki Strong update – Rep. Vicki Strong (R-Albany) plans to attend the first day of the Legislature in person. She hopes her request for a religious exemption will excuse her from the Joint Rules requirement that all lawmakers and legislative staff either show proof of vaccination or submit to a test. 

“I plan on respectfully attending the first day of the legislative session tomorrow morning. I have submitted my statement of faith, a religious exemption, and simply explained my reasons for not sending in a vaccination status,” Strong told Vermont Daily Chronicle today. “I will wear a mask going into the building but I hope that as the weeks progress they will loosen the mask restriction and allow us more freedom in that regard.”

But regardless, she will not comply with either, she has said in recent statements.

Statewide Mask Mandate? – Both Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski and Senate Pro Tem Becca Balint have said the Legislature may consider a statewide mask mandate, to replace the municipal mask mandate law enacted in November. At present, 92 towns are saying no to a local mask mandate, with 20 saying yes. Middlebury College political science professor Bert Johnson told WAMC today he expects to see legislative action on a statewide mandate. 

New look for old rooms – If/when the Legislature returns to in-person committee meetings, their committee rooms will look a lot different. For example, big public gathering rooms like Room 10, Room 11, and the Coat Room have been converted into committee rooms to provide more social distancing. They are also equipped with large video screens to allow committees to take witness testimony remotely. 

Even the venerable legislative lounge – the only State House room where lawmakers gather but the public is not been welcome – has been converted into the House Appropriations Committee room. 

11 replies »

  1. “Legislature may consider a statewide mask mandate, to replace the municipal mask mandate law enacted in November.”

    We need to be calling our legislators and supporting the efforts of Health Choice Vermont regarding masks, vax mandates and vax passports: https://www.healthchoicevt.com/

  2. My regards to Rep. Strong for her stand- and standing up to the panic theatre as it plays out.

    No doubt all manner of bills will be introduced to regulate behavior this session, as politicians use the fear generated to solidify more control over Vermont’s citizens and politics. It would seem a “vaccine” mandate will be introduced and debated- we need only to look at New York to see the absurdity of legislation pending in their Assembly. Bill A-416, now striken- was an attempt to allow a
    NY Governor or their representative to inter anyone deemed a health risk to NY, similar to current Australian Internment Camps for Covid cases. Think that’s impossible in Vermont? I wouldn’t bet the rent on that. The SARS-CoV-2 virus has impacted politicians thinking nationally and here in Vermont. It will take many legislators- as firm in their convictions as Vicki Strong to undo the damage already caused to Vermont’s people and Constitution.

  3. They won’t be happy until they are allowed to meet behind closed, locked doors, without cameras. Total anonymity from their work product and us.

  4. This is sad and scary stuff. While I support Rep Strong, she shouldn’t be applying for religious exemptions, but just pointedly saying No, I will not comply. As should all legislators and Vermonters for that matter. And of course the town mask mandate isn’t enough, now they want to force it state wide as they didn’t get the full control they wanted. And as someone said above, the legislators wont be happy till they are meeting in total darkness fully hidden from the public. If gondolas can operate at ski resorts then lawmakers can meet in public in full view of the public!

  5. every day people go to work and conduct business in person but the legislature goes remote. different standards for government

  6. So the vast majority of VT towns have either said no to a mask mandate or aren’t even bothering to consider one yet our legislators believe they know better than what Vermonters clearly want?

    • That about sums it up. Keep electing the same people…

      Definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

  7. Great. Another mask mandate I can ignore. Just like the last one.

    That Vaxx is really working wonders!

  8. Just remember folks this state is run by senile people. Any rules they come up with at this point can just be ignored. Night!

  9. I would pose my usual warning: “hold fast to your wallets, the Vermont General Assembly is going back in session”, but when do they really go out of session now anyhow?

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