by Rep. Dave Yacovone
To some people, traditions are very important. To suggest abandoning the traditional ham dinner on Easter might create a revolution of sorts for some families, for others, it is no big deal.
There are some in the Legislature who like tradition. Me, not so much really. A conversation came up recently regarding allowing legislators to work remotely from home. During the pandemic, it has been permissible to work from home if you had COVID-19 or needed to quarantine or had a family member who had it.
In the Legislature, the rules committee acts as if it is a governing body for a corporation. As its name might imply, it proposes rules to govern the day-to-day operations of the House. The full House votes on whether to accept them. Recently, the committee decided to allow legislators with disabilities to work from home with the approval of the speaker.
During the discussion, one legislator stood up, and while indicating she would vote for the measure, she expressed reservations, in part because it was a break from tradition, and in part because she believed working remotely was not an effective way to represent voters.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, of course, but I saw it differently. Tradition for the sake of tradition is not the way to run an organization. With modern tools, such as Zoom, to assist with remote communications, why wouldn’t we let someone work from home who was ill, was fighting harsh weather or was needed on the home front to help with a sick family member? The world is different today than it was many years ago when legislative rules were drafted requiring legislators to work in person.
To be sure some legislators are social gadflies who love the backslapping and face-to-face kibitzing that goes on in the Statehouse. While they like that kind of work does not mean they should impose it on everyone else. Some legislators can make a persuasive point with a pencil or a computer just as effectively as a backslapper can.
I appreciate that rules are needed but forcing legislators to work at the Statehouse in this age of remote work makes little sense.
The business world, where it makes sense, has adopted remote working because they see it as being efficient. The Legislature needs to do the same. In my opinion, anyone who thinks a legislator cannot work effectively from home remotely has a narrow view. In working remotely, legislators can multitask and watch other committees that are debating issues in real-time.
Yes, traditions are nice but the times we are in demand more than embracing what is comfortable.
The author, a Morrisville resident, represents Morristown, Elmore, Woodbury and Worcester in the Vermont House. He is a Democrat.