Delaney: New Session

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(Host) Commentator and former state senator Dennis Delaney considers the
opening of a new legislative session to be the closest thing we have to
a festival of democracy.

(Delaney) In just a few hours 180
Vermonters, culled by election a scant two months ago, will come
spilling out of our hills, towns and villages, to converge on the state
house in Montpelier. They will swear their oaths and take their seats.
Make no mistake, the first days of a new legislative session are a
genuine festival of democracy, brightening and warming the cold, dark
days of winter.

As a state senator I participated in this
auspicious moment many times, and if you ask me to describe the
atmosphere of the first days of a session I would have to say,
"anticipation". For now, the harmony of those whom the people have
chosen is as sure a presence as democracy can conjure up.

a biennium – the Latin word for a two year legislative cycle – is
gilded by the pomp and circumstance of a new governor taking office. The
other day I ran into a lobbyist who plied his trade in the state house
when I was a senator. We readily agreed that the inauguration of
Madeleine Kunin, Vermont’s first woman governor, was our best and most
powerful memory. January skies are often cloudy like a pearl, but on
Governor Kunin’s first day a brilliant sun coaxed a million sparkles
from a fresh snowfall as the governor-elect arrived at the state house
in a horse drawn sleigh. I had brought my teenage daughter to the state
house early that morning so she would have a good seat from which to see
Governor-elect Kunin take the oath of office.

My memory of
those days tells me as well that partisanship was less corrosive then.
The state’s business was conducted for the most part in a spirit of
cooperation. It’s a lesson our national legislators today could – and
should – admire and emulate.

But the second year of a biennium
is often a study in contrasts with the first – and not always a happy
one, as legislators realize that many of the high hopes of a year ago
have not been realized. Many bills have never been called to debate,
much less to a roll call. And to top it off, it’s another election year.
It’s time for legislative report cards, and citizens will be handing
out those cards at the polls. Reality is trumping optimism.

If I
could offer legislators just one piece of advice, it would be not to
forget the majority of Vermonters who may not have a cause or a special
need. Joe and Mary Citizen, off in a fishing shanty on the lake have
plenty to worry about – like how to get a job or hold on to one – and
not just where the fish are biting.

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