The 2013 Legislative session opened today at the Statehouse.
Just after ten o’clock in the morning, Secretary of State Jim Condos brought the gavel down on the new session and the first order of business was the election of a House Speaker.
Two term Speaker Shap Smith faced no opposition and was unanimously elected to a third term in office.
Smith told his colleagues that he believes the nation’s political process in Congress has become too polarized and dysfunctional, and he says Vermont’s Legislature has the opportunity to set a better example:
"In the past four years in the wake of great economic and political stress and in the wake of tropical storm Irene," said Smith, "Vermonters have united both within this body and across the state to face our challenges, see within them possibility, and chart a course for a better future."
And Smith wants the House Natural Resources committee and the Commerce committee to work on efforts to help businesses cope with the effects of climate change.
"To take testimony from businesses and the people of the state of Vermont to learn the details of the effects of climate change, to learn what measures are being taken to adapt to this change and how we can lead the charge to prevent future degradation of our environment."
Meanwhile, House Minority leader Don Turner listed the implementation of a statewide teachers’ contract as one of the best ways to control education costs in the future.
"Because what happens today is one district ratchets up the cost of the next and the next and the next," said Turner. "So I envision a statewide contract that’s implemented maybe over a 5 year period not taking away anything they have but negotiating as a bigger group as we go forward."
Windsor senator John Campbell was elected to a second term as Senate President Pro Tem. He wants to create new higher education opportunities for Vermont’s high school students.
"Some of them just don’t want to really go into that 4 year program and they’re looming and going "oh my god I really didn’t like school that much the thought of having to go for 4 more years," said Campbell. "So I’d like to see the development of more two year programs and specifically tailor those to industries that we know are looking for people."
Governor Peter Shumlin will deliver his Inaugural Address on Thursday afternoon and then lawmakers will begin to review the hundreds of bills that will be introduced this year.